I sit here writing this with a sort of daft smile on my face feeling happy and content.
I know exactly the reason for that and that is because we have just had the most enjoyable, relaxed and much more than that but 100% SUCCESSFUL family holiday!
This is breaking news for us as the above has not happened since DS was a little baby and we went to Devon. He was 13 months old and the weather was glorious! One of my favourite memories was cradling him as he fell asleep snuggled in my arms as Daddy and I sat in the shade looking out at a beautiful view watching a little steam train chug across the landscape. I've never forgotten it or the warm fuzzy happy feeling I felt as I sat there.
We have tried allsorts of different types of holidays since with DS over the years but either there has been a safety issue with anywhere we have gone, it was too loud or too busy, it was too stressful, there wasn't suitable activities for DS.....yeah I can go on and on with loads of reasons why other places have not been quite right.
A good while ago, I discovered somewhere that claimed that they were an autism specific holiday centre! Straightaway, I needed to know more!
The Thomas Centre in Lincolnshire is owned and family run by parents of autism.
Reading their website, I loved their vision and aims for the holiday centre - it sounded perfect for us.
The only aspect that put me off was that it was expensive!
I pondered over this and pondered some more....
I thought of past holidays and how difficult they had been, some more than others. I thought that if a stay at the Thomas Centre was really as good as it sounded then I would happily pay extra for my son to be in a safe and enjoyable environment and also an accepting one. I would also be happy to pay for a holiday where I can relax with him instead of constantly scanning our surroundings for potential dangers and risks to him (I am sure that I am not the only one who does this! ;))
So it was deemed worth a try and we booked a long weekend to trial it and to see how DS got on.
Jan and Richard are truly marvellous hosts! They are very welcoming and very much 'get it' being parents themselves.
The Thomas Centre has been very much well thought out - Jan & Richard have covered absolutely everything! :) The place is immaculately clean and furnished to a very high standard.
We stayed in Victoria House which is a 3 bedroom two storey house. There are bungalows available too with full wheelchair access.
The Welcome Basket was the fullest I have ever received. It was as if Jan & Richard had done some detective work to what our favourite food and drinks were as there was DS's favourite cereals and orange juice as well as my fave chocolate biscuits and a large bottle of wine :)
The Thomas Centre is very flat so I was able to see DS at all times. Also the grounds are very quiet as the nearest neighbour and road is some distance away.
DS enjoyed visiting Josie's Corner which is a sort of community room with squishy sofas, books, toys, games and tables for colouring, drawing and craft activities.
There is also a sunken trampoline, bikes, trikes and a huge barn which houses skittles, table football, table tennis, snooker and a soft play area. So even if the weather isn't great then there is always something to do.
The indoor pool was somewhere we visited everyday whilst we were there.
DS loves swimming and I loved how we used the pool privately.
Families book their preferred hour slot for the pool which means they have exclusive use of it for that hour :)
The Thomas Centre has good WiFi (a must for DS's iPad) and some great hints and tips from Jan & Richard themselves on ideas for great days out as well as autism friendly pub restaurants and the best take-aways that deliver to your door to name just a few.
A couple of major supermarkets deliver to the Thomas Centre which Jan & Richard suggest maybe doing an online shop scheduled to be delivered on your arrival day to take the strain off your car.
We did have a few days out but we found that DS preferred to stay on the centre's land so we kept trips out to a minimum for this reason.
Then again, who can blame him? There was a woodland area to explore and two fab play areas as well as everything else I have mentioned.
The weekend went so fast and I could see that DS wasn't ready to come home which really has never happened before!
To summarise, all members loved this break at the Thomas Centre. DS really enjoyed it and we kept commenting to each other how happy he was there!
Like a domino effect, because he was thoroughly loving it so were us adults!
I found myself a lot more relaxed and able to enjoy the break myself which as a parent carer is just fantastic!
I loved how families understood each other and our children, it was refreshing saying good morning to our 'neighbours' and them smiling away at DS when playing out in his pyjamas as he escaped out of the house onto the play area :)
So was the experience worth the price? Most definitely!!
So much so that we have already booked to go back!
My only regret is not discovering it sooner!
Here is the website, I highly recommend and just to be clear that I have received no payment or any incentive of any kind to write this, these are all my own words and views :)
Love Amanda xx