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Heritage Short Breaks

About the project

Our Heritage Short Breaks help families with a child with autism spend time away from their home environment, and the day-to-day demands of their lives, to explore the diverse cultural heritage of the UK. Last year (2019) we linked parents and children from inner London - including the Full of Life Charity (link) and College Park School (link) - with a school in a very different environment: the Suffolk coast. St Felix School, Southwold is a small family-orientated school with a strong tradition of pastoral care, and is in the process of further developing facilities for autistic children. In a secluded location close to a salt marsh ideal for walking and observing beautiful and rare birds, it provides a safe space from which families can, with our help, explore the rich cultural heritage of the surrounding area, including that relating to the seaside. “This kind of environment is essential to our children’s wellbeing; the quietness of the night, nature speaking to you, is priceless. You can tell me there are plenty of nice parks in London, but nothing beats that. It has pushed me to explore, to think there are other places to go in England.” Parent taking part in a Heritage Short Break, 2019.

The feedback from parents was some of the most positive received in the 10 years that OIP has been operating. Particular highlights were: Spending time with families who share similar experiences, who would not judge them as parents, and with whom they could work cooperatively to manage daily tasks and keep the children safe. 

Being away from London, in a rural setting with wildlife, tranquillity and star-filled nights. Encountering the sea, often for the first time in Britain, and experiencing aspects of ‘a traditional British seaside holiday’ such as the beach, fish and chips, the pier, the sights and sounds of the amusement arcade, and the lifeboat museum. Changes in their children’s mood or behaviour which, w apparently quite subtle, were very significant in the context of the child’s history and needs: “He only uses two-word sentences, but when we were there he was saying ‘I’m going upstairs’ or ‘I’m going outside to play’, ‘we’re going on an adventure, a jungle-walk!’ The environment makes a big difference… Now he is back and school and telling them all about it.” Following the short-break, the families taking part decided to keep in touch and plan how to engage more with cultural resources in London. They came up with the idea of visiting various museums in search of treasure and this led to our current project Treasure Hunt. Heritage Short Breaks for this year have been postpones, but we aim to commence them again in 2021. We are very grateful to The Brain Trust Charity (link), The National Lottery Awards for All scheme, Waitrose and C. Lidgate Butchers for supporting our Heritage Short Breaks. Many thanks also to Anne Thornton-Patterson for crowdfunding in support of the 2019 short break.

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