Merlin’s Magic Wand helping children benefit from the magic, that is unless they have autism!

23 Nov

Day 255: Magic Wand

Image by amanky via Flickr

When you have a child on the autism spectrum life is that bit harder, no matter how much you dress it up it’s not easy! We as a family have been judged and judged again, Little man has often been left to feel his not “Normal” that he doesn’t deserve the experiences that other children have, he feels this because at the tender age of 11 his been discriminated against more times than I care to remember! 

 2009/2010 my son missed out on nearly every single school trip that his then mainstream school embanked on. Why? Well, he was either conveniently excluded on them days, not given letters, or just remained in school in the hope I’d never hear about it! Disgusting I know.

 It was the most stressful time of mine and my son’s life, we had no choice but to take the discrimination route and just as the Tribunal date neared we settled the case happy that the school had finally given up the lie! I remember my son throwing his whole self into brick walls and scratching his arms till they bleed when the head teacher called late in the evening to inform me my son was excluded the following day and would therefore miss the one trip he had so looked forward to for months! My child was labelled a liability and a health and safety risk.  

 Thank goodness for charities like Merlin’s magic wand, the charity that creates magic for disadvantaged children, especially those with a disability and young carers like my daughter. 

 He missed all his school trips but at least come the summer holidays we would have our trip to Chessington World of Adventures to look forward to! The Merlin’s entertainment group really were creating magic for children like mine. 

 Little man didn’t feel so different as he raced around one of Merlin’s attractions, smiling from ear to ear. 

 As a parent of a child who benefits from such an awesome charity I did my bit to donate and even considered over coming my fear of heights  by embarking on a sponsored skydive next year to raise some funds in the name of this awesome charity & the NAS.

 Lately I’ve been running some competitions here on the blog to win tickets to a number of Merlin’s attractions, It’s basiclly a sponsored competition isn’t it! However unlike many other companies and brands do, Merlin’s didn’t offer any compensation to the blogger, after all it’s free advertising to the brand and many bloggers spend time writing and checking each entry before drawing the winner. Many of the other bloggers I know refused to do this, they just don’t have the time to run a competition and the fact their isn’t really a thank you for doing so added to this (after all this wouldn’t happen in newspaper or magazine).

 Nonetheless, I didn’t vacillate when it came to such competitions and was happy to help, after all look how Merlin’s have helped my child and millions more like him on the autism spectrum. This was me giving them something back alongside my readers! So, why not!

 Yesterday I visited my Facebook page (A boy with Asperger’s) only to discover something that hurt and angered me!

 This is what I read…

 Dear Merlin’s Magic Wand Applicants,

 For those of you wishing to take advantage of our complimentary tickets for 2012, there has been a change in the way that Merlin’s Magic Wand will manage applications in 2012, for those families whose children are on the Autistic Spectrum or who have any Autistic related disability.

 This year (2011) Magic Wand handled over 5000 applications, nearly 50% of these were from families with children with ASD.

 Our Charity has very limited resources and funds and unfortunately we are no longer in a position to be able to manage these applications as efficiently as we wish. Therefore we have had to put in the following process in order for us to continue to work with families of Autistic children.

 Applications from individual families will no longer be accepted. You will need to contact your local National Autistic Society Branch (NAS) in order for them to apply for tickets on your behalf. If you are not a member of your local NAS, you will need to contact any other organisation that you are a member of (incl Special Needs School) that specifically handles children on the Autistic Spectrum. They will be able to submit an application on behalf of all their members.

 The NAS are aware of this new procedure and the regional offices will be asked to contact the families on their books to see if they wish to take advantage of our attractions complimentary tickets.

 We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause, however, this change needs to be made so that we can help as many children as possible and for us to continue our promise of giving children magical experiences.

 Thank you

 Hilary Birkinshaw Charity Manager

 Nicky Elliott Applications Manager

 The Merlin Magic Wand Charity

3 MarketClose/Poole/Dorset/UK/BH15 1NQ 

Fax: +44 (0)1202 667867

 This was posted on the wall by one of the admins I have appointed on the page.

 I read this three times and was utterly disappointed to learn that basically Merlin’s our heroes were kicking us in the teeth just like so many have and will continue to when you’re a family that consist of a child with autism.

 From reading this a number of times I am in no doubt that this is yet another act of discrimination against our children! How can it be interpreted any other way when it quite clearly reads, 

“This year (2011) Magic Wand handled over 5000 applications, nearly 50% of these were from families with children with ASD.”

 Before going on to state that they will no longer accept applications from families of children with ASD directly and this must now be done via NAS or through application from a special school!

 As mentioned I fought a discrimination case and we come out the other side smiling, I’ve helped a number of families who also have children with autism who feel they are being discriminated against. 

It’s even harder when a group of children are being  singled out and treated differently than children with other types of disability especially when it is being done by a children’s charity!

Above Little man enjoying a trip to Chessington world of Adventures thanks to Merlin’s Magic Wand in 2010

Here is Merlin’s promise which I’ve taken from the Merlin’s Magic Wand Website

Magical and memorable experiences

Unfortunately, many children, through circumstances which are not of their own making, are not in a position to be able to experience many of the things that most children take for granted, including trips to theme parks and attractions. 

This may be through difficulties in the home, or maybe because they have to care for a sick parent or relative. Sadly, sometimes children suffer abuse or have serious health problems which prevent them from having a normal life. 

We hope that by making available magical and memorable experiences, at one of Merlin Group’s many and varied attractions, Merlin’s Magic Wand Children’s Charity can bring some pleasure and improvement to the lives of some of those children.

 I do wonder if Merlin’s are fully aware of the laws surrounding disability discrimination. Surly the big guys at Merlin’s run this decision past it’s legal team?

 Here’s something they should have read…

 Service providers are not allowed to discriminate unlawfully when providing goods or services to people. Discrimination when providing services means:  

  • refusing to provide a service, providing a lower standard of service, offering a service on different terms than you would to other people.

 So, yet again, because you can’t see autism it makes our children less worthy of a smile?

 Has Merlin’s ever considered the fact the reason the applications sent from families of children on the autism spectrum is so high is because there are a massive number of children with autism that actually benefit from this type of help? Autism is more common now than ever yet the misunderstanding and judgemental crap is still smacking them in the face with crap such as this!

 Merlin’s what were you thinking?

 From what I understand Merlin’s Magic Wand is a charity for disadvantaged children and that’s not only those with disabilities! Example… A single Parent can apply for help from Merlin’s simply stating how disadvantaged their children are simply because she is so broke, Merlin’s will then make the decision whether to issue the tickets or not!

 The point I’m making is, our children should be allowed to enjoy the things that children are meant to enjoy without having to fight tooth and nail to do so. 

The fact that Merlin’s are stating it is only the families of children with autism who need to take this new route of action is discriminating and god dam flagitious. Our children didn’t ask to be born with autism and we as parents spend much time and energy trying to install self-confidence into our child with autism or aspergers syndrome. I tell my son he is no different from other children, he just has some extra special ways, yet his not silly he knows that the world is a harder place to live in when you have a “Label” such as his! Its imperative that children on the autism spectrum don’t get left on the sideline, but receive the same opportunities as others their age.

 Not every family of a child on the spectrum are members of the NAS and sadly this may shock you Merlin’s but do you know how hard it is to get your child into a special school? Your changes will not affect my application as my son goes to a special school but only after one hell of a battle, one that almost killed me! Now your asking parents of children like mine who haven’t been as fortunate as me to win the battle with the education system, to battle  your application process. Yes, sadly I find this barbaric and have trouble understanding how you think your actions are even justifiable? 

 Merlin’s are not saying this to the parent of a child in a wheel chair, just to the parent of a child with autism… Why? Because you can’t see autism just from looking at the child, there is no physical disability so our children are sadly pushed aside.

 I ask would Merlin’s state this about a child’s race or religion? I don’t think so!

 They have more and less stated that they hope by taking such action the application number will fall and they can help more worthy children to have fun.

 Will, I be sharing this with my 11-year-old son? No, I don’t want him to feel rejected not by a charity that he is thankful to, not to one that he trust, I wont do that.

 Since making the discovery I have visited the Merlin’s magic wand Facebook page which has a wall full of comments from parents, advocates and adults on the spectrum. Sadly I have not read any statement given from Merlin’s. I await such a statement, I would of course like to hear why? and hear it from them!

 I didn’t receive the email about the changes, I don’t know why, maybe I will in the next few days, they obviously have a number of parents to upset given they have stated that half its applicants are families of children with autism. 

 I will finish the current competition I have running solely because I have opened it and it wouldn’t be fair on those who have entered to suddenly remove it, however, I won’t be running another competition on their behalf simply because I’m not just a mother who writes a blog I’m a mother to a child on the autism spectrum who writes a blog and it would seem that right now Merlin’s couldn’t give a flying f*** about that!

So, there you have it, Merlin’s Magic wand are bringing smiles to the faces of children all over the world, that is unless they have autism!

Please leave a comment and share your views, especially if your child or loved one will be affected by the changes. Like I always say, in order to raise a subject and get heard we need to spread the word, so lets do it!

26 Responses to “Merlin’s Magic Wand helping children benefit from the magic, that is unless they have autism!”

  1. Caroline November 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    The National Autistic Society have posted a statement on their facebook page;

    National Autistic Society
    Hi all,

    We’re aware some people have had questions about our involvement with the charity Merlin’s Magic Wand. We hope this will address those concerns.

    Children with all disabilities, including those with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, can apply directly to Merlin’s Magic Wand for free tickets to Merlins’ 25 top UK family attractions.

    The NAS is currently only exploring ways in which we can help Merlin’s Magic Wand reach more families who have children with autism.

    The announcement by Merlin’s Magic Wand of our involvement was premature and once we have finalised precisely how the NAS will be involved we will let you know.

    Both the NAS and Merlin’s Magic Wand want to reassure anybody who might be concerned that there never has been, nor will there be any charge for tickets allocated through the scheme.

    Applications for tickets can be made through their website

    Hope this helps clarify things and thanks for everyone’s patience.


    What does everyone think of that?

  2. Sacha Alexander November 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    I understand that as a charity they only have so much money in the pot…. But they have gone about it in the wrong way. Why not limit the amount of times everyone whatever your disability can apply. To make us parents seek a referral from nas or special schools is just putting more stress on already stretched resources and just for MMW to say yes or no which is what they do anyway. I appreciate there are people who take the pee by asking for more tickets so friends can go but why not ask for proof of who lives with the disabled person. We have a local charity that provide holidays for disabled kids. You can apply every year but they will provide for those who haven’t been first, then if any left those who have been can go no matter what the disability and you must provide proof of who is in the family living with the disabled child and if you have a half or step sibling they will let them go but you need the proof which isn’t that hard to do. Why don’t they just do that. I’m sure it’s not too hard to work out. I have used MMW once and am greatful and have donated to them and I would be happy if they said only apply every 2 or 3 years so others can benefit. But I am horrified in how our kids are yet again the ones told to go do one!!! Absolute disgrace. X

  3. caroline lewis November 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    i feel so upset about this, i emailed merlin but guess what no reply this is disscrimanteing surely any other dissabled child can apply, unless they are autistic, x

  4. Lynn November 23, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Thank you so much for encompassing all my thoughts about this outright discriminatory act. I am fuming about it. I have never used Merlin’s wand, even though my child has ASD, but any blatant discrimination as this makes my blood boil. I will be sharing your blog on my facebook page. I have already commented to Merlin’s wand and surprise surprise, no response as yet. They have no bleedin’ idea xx

  5. Darren November 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I’ve just been reading your blog, found it by accident on Google News or something and it caught my eye ‘cos I too have Asperger’s.

    I found it quite bad that at the beginning you stated that schools still haven’t changed their attitude in this modern day and age with regards to disability discrimination.

    I went to school way back between 1989 and 1994 and during this time I was regularly banned for having ADHD (now I’ve been re-diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD), this was of course long before any DDA come into effect. It’s weird ‘cos the school I went to was “supposed” to be one of the best schools in the country – Lymm High School, in Lymm, Cheshire – certainly not the best for diagnosing Autism, or dealing with kids with Autistic conditions.

    I remember the worst thing that happened to me was my trip to Eurodisney, something which I’ve longed so much since to do. The school arranged a trip to Eurodisney in the Easter after it was meant to be opened. Eurodisney was meant to be opened in December, but it got delayed to Easter. I was one of the first pupils who put their name down for it, and it was supposed to be done on a first come first served basis.

    When Eurodisney delayed opening they moved the opening date to Easter, so if the school had chosen to go then we would have been there for the opening ceremony (wow!). Sadly though the school decided that due to the lack of applicants during Easter, and the fact there was a risk that the park wouldn’t be open they would move the date to Summer.

    Suddenly they had an influx of kids all wanting to go, now again this was done on a first come first served basis, priority being given to those who’d applied for the Easter trip as they’d applied first. However they decided that because they didn’t know whether they could cope with me with ADHD they banned me from the trip.

    This was the same action they took with other trips, including other trips to France, Tyn-Y-Felin, etc.

    Eventually in the 5th year they did relax a bit and “allow” me to go to Granada Studios to watch our team enter “Hunt The Pie” – it was a kids game show that had about one series before being axed. I went there and I was absolutely as good as gold. They were so surprised at how well I behaved, having behaved far better than some of the kids who’d decided to fight with pupils from the rival school Bridgewater High (for some stupid reason the programme directors had decided to film 2 shows of Hunt The Pie in one go, one with Bridgewater High vs a Manchester school, and the next one with Lymm High vs a Manchester school – funny thing was both episodes the Manchester school won – but obviously not realising that Lymm and Bridgewater both hated one another – funny thing for me was that I didn’t mind because I had next to no friends at Lymm, and most of my friends were in Scouts and they all went Bridgewater, so if anything I would have probably ended up siding with Bridgewater!

    Sadly though that wasn’t the end of being banned from things…

    In 2005 I thought things were looking up, school days were long gone and I was free to do various things without the worry of being discriminated against – oh how wrong I was.

    Since I was in school I’d been a member of the Scouts and still am today. In 2002 I started helping at International Scout Events, I decided to prepare myself for 2007 (The World Jamboree when it came to England) I would try and do an international event as a member of IST every year, and also apply to do Eurojam which was the tester for the World Jamboree. In 2002 I did Chamboree which was Cheshires Jamboree, then Auchengillan (Scotland), then Red Rose. All these were fine, and then came 2005 –

    I applied for Eurojam – the previous year I’d had a small argument with a leader over the way she was behaving with me, she was being very nasty and very vindictive, accusing me of making a website for the scouts when I didn’t have permission (without bothering to check whether I was entirely at fault – it turned out the DC asked me to do the website, but neither him nor me realised that they should have asked the CC who should have asked her – but instead she went hell for leather at me, which considering I was a volunteer and provided the website free of charge I really didn’t appreciate), also she stopped me from getting my Queen Scout, and tried to stop me from completing my D of E by refusing to acknowledge the extension that the D of E had applied because of my special needs, in the end I did complete my D of E Gold, but still haven’t been presented with my badge for my uniform by the scouts – some people have told me to just go and buy it from the scout shop but I wont, everyone else gets theirs presented to them so why should I be treated lower than that just ‘cos I’ve got special needs?

    Anyway I applied to Eurojam and I got a letter back from the CC stating that he couldn’t allow me to go as a member of IST with Cheshire Scouts because he was concerned about my communication difficulties – erm,,,, yeah that could be something to do with me having Aspergers – one of my friends in scouts explained to me the exact reason – and she told me that because there would be a lot of press there he couldn’t take the risk that I might say something against the scouts whilst I’m there and embarrass the Scouts right before their centenary – so it’s less embarrassing for the scouts to have someone then go round and tell everyone that he got banned from Eurojam because the scouts are so blind to Autistic conditions? – The funny thing was the main part of all this argument with the leader came about in 2003, and that was when I was at Auchengillan Jamboree, during my time at Auchengillan we got interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland – and then the year after our team got interviewed by Waddecar FM, now surely if I was at risk of saying anything bad about the Scout association I had two major opportunities to do it then!!!

    But wait this discrimination doesn’t stop there –

    After Eurojam I was told that I had to keep it quiet about what had gone on and not tell anyone, if I did say anything to anyone then the CC would also ban me from the World Jamboree in 2007 – of course he knew how much I really, really wanted to go to that!

    So I kept absolutely quiet about it, did exactly what the CC wanted of me, and thankfully he did keep his word and let me go to the WSJ – one nice touch was on the WSJ it was my birthday and the CC give me a birthday card which had two cats playing with wool on the front, and on the back the card was titled “Sorry” I think this was his way of apologising for Eurojam as well as wishing me happy birthday.

    After the WSJ I decided that it was time to get back involved properly with scouting, since the Eurojam incident I’d just been a member of Fellowship and only helped with them if I really wanted to or had to. I decided to go and try and train to be a leader – it took me about 2 years later to be finally recognised as an “ASSISTANT” – it also involved numerous arguments with the leader of the group – for ages I kept saying I’d like to go and help with the Explorer unit, and I kept getting told “your no good to us as a leader because you have Aspergers and you wouldn’t cope as a leader, and so you have to stay with Fellowship”. I felt this really unfair because for those 2 years I was helping as an assistant with a group, and despite this was being forced to pay capitation to Fellowship (which the group are meant to pay if your a leader) and because Fellowship was on a Monday I couldn’t even go to their meetings so was paying for nothing (plus I was also funding their website – wow I was really being made a fool out of!)

    Anyway as I got made Assistant I started to get more and more used to them, and thankful that they were finally accepting me for being autistic, and then they dropped the big one!!

    2011 – The next World Jamboree – this time only over in Sweden, not too far (next two are in Japan and America), I thought brilliant I’ll apply for that one… I’d had lots more experience as I’d done numerous other international events since then, even one in Southern Ireland (first time I’d been properly abroad – with the exception of the Isle of Man).

    So I applied – the deal was they took the first 500 applicants, and then an additional 500 in case there was something seriously wrong with the first 500.

    The e-mail I got stated I was in the first 500. I thought great – I’d arranged with the place I worked at at the time to have the morning off work to ensure I’d be online to fill the form in the minute it went live and get my name down into the first 500.

    I got invited to the selection day (this was a day for the first 1000 who applied). About 2 weeks after the selection day I got an e-mail telling me that they’d dropped my application, then later my CC came to see me regarding the decision, this is a new CC from the last time.

    The CC told me that the reason they’d dropped my application was because they considered the fact I had Asperger’s and they didn’t believe I’d be able to cope on my own in Sweden, as they were concerned the Swedish wouldn’t understand Asperger’s at all (ok – whilst being told this I was sat there thinking what this idiot doesn’t realise is where Hans Asperger did most of his research into Aspergers – yep in Sweden!!!) and that unlike last time, this time they couldn’t guarantee any type of support (hmmm… don’t really recall any type of support last time other than the fact that the old CC was constantly looking for me here, there and everywhere and that they put me in the staff canteen working long shifts every day with no breaks).

    I actually couldn’t believe this – because the old CC had let me go to Ireland only 3 years before and he’d never been concerned that I couldn’t make it to Ireland, and that I wouldn’t have support there – I didn’t have support there, but I think I did pretty well there, and did well organising myself to get there as well, including arranging a lift with people from Merseyside to get myself there, which I did all on my own with no help from anyone else!

    He did insist to me that getting them to drop me from Sweden wasn’t an entire blanket ban on all international events and that he was more than happy for me to apply to other events. So I did, I applied for two other events – and guess what – both of them came back stating that they’d received negative references from the UK Scout Association, and the UK Scout Association would only tell me that they’d used the same references as for the WSJ – so in effect this was a blanket ban.

    Anyway after this insult, I couldn’t believe it, I thought it’s took me over 4 years to start trusting Cheshire Scouts again, and then they drop this one on me. A number of my friends advised me to go to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about it and do them under the DDA for discrimination, luckily for them though something wonderful happened – we moved house.

    Hopefully now we’re in a different area and under a different county they will be more understanding when it comes to Aspergers.

    This next year I’ve applied to go to Finland Roverway as IST, let’s hope they don’t discriminate again (even though I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to get there or how I’m going to pay for it – last year I did have a plan which involved Eurolines, but Eurolines don’t run to Finland!).

  6. Ruth Mackay November 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Giving then taking, it’s just not on, obviously got no conscience and no idea of the distress they’ve created.

  7. Caroline November 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    @Imogen. You are lucky that your child can cope without the need for any ‘special treatment’ many of our children cant and DO need help such as exit passes etc.

    ‘but I can see why it might be that Merlin are needing to restrict applications to those children who have autism *and couldn’t otherwise manage*, rather than getting a pass *simply because* they have autism.’

    Surely anyone whos child COULD manage [like your child] WOULDNT apply for these tickets anyway?

    I think that we shouldnt have to reprove our childs diagnosis or the severity of their condition.

    I have paperwork that goes into detail about my sons ASD I would be happy to forward that to Merlin with my application, I dont think I should have to prove it further than that.

    Not everyone is a member of the NAS, not every area has a local group and remember these local groups are funded by donations and fundraising and run by volunteers unlike Merlins magic wand which is funded by a huge company that makes several hundred million pounds a year!

    Im glad that this new criteria doesnt affect you [I mean that-im not being sarcastic!] but it affects lots of us and it WILL mean that lots who would’ve been helped by MMW will no longer be, we have to fight and struggle every day for the things that most people consider basic [education/healthcare etc] I think its really wrong that many will now struggle for this sort of help too, in fact what it actually means is that many will just not have any fight left and just wont bother…..hmm maybe that is exactly what they are hoping for?

  8. Crystal Jigsaw November 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I think they should be prosecuted for this. It is positively disgusting and very discriminatory. We parents with autistic children have enough to cope with and our children are excluded far too much as is it. This is yet another example of the ignorant biggots in our society today.

    CJ xx

  9. Deb at aspieinthefamily November 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I am appalled and saddened by this. The reason why so many families with ASD children have approached them is because of sheer need. there is simply not enough resources and support for families like ours. We have to continually fight for even the most basic of rights – both health and education and now to fight for a day out is simply utterly depressing. It just shows total ignorance and lack of understanding of autism and aspergers and how it impacts on family life.

    What concerns me most is that we have to be a member of the NAS to be eligible but that is an added cost that not everyone may be able to afford so again it excludes those who are not members. As for special school, not all autistic children can get a place in special school; there is simply not enough provision and in case this criteria excludes those autistic children being homeschooled or, like my son, are suffering from school phobia or school refusal and are isolated at home. Very unfair criteria as far as I am concerned.

    Deb (Mum of a son with ASD and daughter with aspergers)

  10. katrina pattison November 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Its astounding how companies can get away with such blatant discrimination!

  11. imogen November 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    I know that I’ll be in a minority here, but I can kind of see where they are coming from. Autism is now being so well recognised that children who meet autism spectrum diagnostic criteria don’t *always and automatically* need special arrangements to access these kinds of places. My son, for example, has aspergers, but he has always been fine on the rare trip to this kind of place we have done (with 4 kids it gets very expensive!) and he doesn’t need any special arrangements like jumping queues. As far as I can see they aren’t saying that any child with autism can’t access their passes, just that they are requiring some sort of independent validation that the child’s needs are significant and severe on the autism spectrum. I personally don’t think my son should have access to a special pass because we are lucky in that the expression of his autism (severe difficulties with social talking, but reasonable with change) doesn’t prevent him accessing the park ordinarily. Of course I understand that isn’t the case for every child on the spectrum (or even most children on the spectrum), but I can see why it might be that Merlin are needing to restrict applications to those children who have autism *and couldn’t otherwise manage*, rather than getting a pass *simply because* they have autism.

  12. Maureen November 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    I can’t understand how they managed to so blatantly discriminate against a group of people in this day and age. They should be ashamed of themselves. Thanks for writing the blog.

  13. Chris Brown November 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    They’ve said it themselves..
    “Discrimination when providing services means… offering a service on different terms than you would to other people.”

    I don’t see any way around that without some really embarrassing (for them) wriggling, which would not look good, to put it mildly.

  14. Galina V November 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    I must confess I never heard of this charity and we never took any advantage of free tickets, but I sympathise with the parents of children who otherwise would have benefited from the fund. I am not surprised though at the situation, as sad as it might be. The last couple of times my son went to Legoland, it was most stressful. We were not helped in any way, even when we stated that our son has autism when buying those extortionally priced tickets. I could never understand why the parents have to pay so much for the crap entertainment, when it is obvious that they only go there to accompany their children. My son cannot do the queues and we were not allowed to jump the queue even once. The people around stared with disgust, the assistants were bored and most unhelpful. I swore there and then never to go back.
    Now we are offered days with the local charity Guideposts for my son to attend play groups during the school break. In the past they took him on a few trips, some were stressful, some were successful. I guess they decided that he is not a trip material any longer, as when I apply for the days with the trips, we never have those days offered. And my son loves travelling. It is the waiting bit that is difficult for him. But he loves being on the bus or train, and I feel he is being excluded on purpose, in case he proves to be in his difficult mood.

  15. J Clarke November 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    From the way I read the explanation from Merlin, it is blatant breach of the disability discrimination laws and should be reported to the health minister.

  16. Jo Perera November 23, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Words fail me ! I hope you dont mind but I have shared this on my FB page. I work for the local branch of my NAS and will be sharing this also with our families who are going to feel as devastated as we are as a family with a child on the spectrum. Nothing good ever lasts. Its just another good thing in a long line that has been taken away. Shame on them 😦

  17. Donna Smith-emes November 23, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Thank you for blogging, I totally agree this is utter discrimination. I help to run a parents support group for children with an asd and between us we have been to the merlin group attractions a number of times, all of us have children with an asd and have all thoroughly enjoyed having a day out, using the exit passes to enable us to have quality time as a family, doing ordinary things like every other family. Yes we still have meltdowns, yes people still stare but it’s a day out that otherwise we couldn’t dream of doing. I have 5 children, 4 of which have special needs, none have a statement . . . yet . . . as it is virtually impossible to get the right support, trust me I’m still trying and will not give up, but Merlins have just been added to the list of people who actually don’t give a stuff about us. It’s disgusting, I hope the powers that be are ashamed of themselves.

  18. emma varley November 23, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    I totally agree this is completely unfair…. my son has been laughted at, stared at, people pointing fingers at him and he is only 6yrs my son has very complexes needs and yet again someone else comes along and kicks us in the teeth… thanks a lot merlin don’t u think as parents to these very wonderful children we deserve one thing that we don’t have to fight for…

  19. Louise Serena Douglas November 23, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    its absolutly sickening that our children are being discriminated against, yet again, but even worse that its by a company we had come to love.

  20. lynne November 23, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    This deceision by merlin saddens me like u my son was left out of every mainstream school trip which is why last year for the first time we accessed merlin and was given tickets to alton towers. We took ryan for his bday and had a great time. I like you have had to fight blood sweat and tears fir 7 years to get my son in a special needs school and succeeded eventually so merlins deceision wont effect me but morally it doesnt sit well with me at all. I dont know what merlin are thinking other than trying to make things easier for themselves by cutting numbers but it would be nice for once if things were made easier for us. This is going to affect lots of parents and upset lots of children who look forward to what is possibly there one and only trip. Talk about kicking us when we are down. If all children with asd are like my son there self esteem and confidence are low at the best of times and this deceision is not going to help at all. What a shame merlin.

  21. SDW November 23, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Wow! That is a powerful blog post and I am sharing it if thats ok. We have to pick and choose where we take our son for days out and the cost of tickets to Alton Towers and the fact that he will suffer a number of melt downs during the visit makes it an un affordable option for us. The time MM gave us tickets we had a great time despite the meltdowns. I feel very angry at their decision. The fact that 50% of their applications have been for ASD kids shows the enormity of the situation in society. The fact that I have been told by the health service to put in a formal complaint about lack of services for our kids……. I think we have a case for discrimination here. I will be blogging about it later today and I am going to be writing to MM and copying in various officials in government

  22. clairelouise82 November 23, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    Thank you for some great advice, that’s most kind. I will contact the station and yes start an E petition.x

  23. Matt November 23, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    The Charity is run by a Board of Directors (Andrew Carr, Colin Armstrong and Adrian Mahon) who administer the funds and grant awards.

    Leaving posts on the Facebook page will get you nowhere as that page like all Merlin group pages is likely administered by “someone in marketing”, usually the young intern or new marketing team member who knows about FB and “these kind of things”.

    I would suggest (as an ex employee of Merlin and as a contractor at Merlin attractions) and as a dad of 2 boys with Aspergers, that you set up an e-petition and get as many names as possible onto it. Then send it directly to the Board of Directors with the DDA & Equality guidelines.

    I’d also recommend talking to Radio 2 and the Jeremy Vine show. He loves a good topic to get people upset about and a chance to bash big business.


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