Having a child with Sensory Processing Disorder can mean that family days out are hard or at least harder than for the average family. As Adam has a strong fight or flight response we have to be aware of any potential dangers risk factors for every outing. So far we have avoided theme parks. The idea of queues, the noises and the sensory over stimulation has been overwhelming. That was however, until we heard about Thomas Land at Drayton Manor.
Drayton Manor Theme Park is home to Thomas Land, Europe’s only dedicated theme park to the favourite character. Last year it underwent a huge £2.5 million expansion and is now bigger and better than ever been before. There are over 25 rides and attractions designed specifically for little ones. As Adam loves everything transport, in particular Thomas the Tank Engine, we hoped that the incentive to meet Thomas, along with a little preparation, would make the day easier and stress free.
We visited the Theme Park when only Thomas Land was open. This meant the park itself was quieter than normal. As Thomas Land is located right next to the main entrance of Drayton Manor it meant we could enjoy the fun immediately. As this section of the park is housed within large gates it straight away put us at ease. Adam is a runner and the gates would help him feel secure.
We gently eased Adam into the day by taking a ride on Rosie down to farmer McColl’s Farm. We were the first passengers on the train so were able to sit in the first carriage. Although most passengers usually disembark at the farm we stayed on board, watching Rosie turn around on the turntable and enjoyed the ride back to Thomas Land.
As Adam had previously seen the rides on the Drayton Manor YouTube channel he wanted to go on Harold’s Helicopter Tour. Here he could pilot his own helicopter and see across Sodor.
Whilst flying Harold Adam spotted the Rocking Bulstrode. This was a ride we hadn’t expected him to like. We were the only people on board and this was the first time Adam had experience having a bar pushed down on him to secure him. At first the ride moved backwards and forwards like a traditional pirate ship ride but then it started to turn too. I am so glad I filmed Adam’s reaction as it turned out to be one of my highlights of the day. Adam can shy away from some experiences due to Sensory Processing Disorder but on the ride he was in his element.
Just look at him giggling away!
From then on the day was action packed. Adam had turned into a thrill seeker went on every ride at least once. He loved Bertie Bus which took him up and around, the Diesel’s Locomotive Mayhem which spun him around fast, the Captain’s Sea Adventure and he rode on Sir Handel on the Blue Mountains.
Whilst being a passenger on Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy with Adam flying the plane, I concluded never to let Adam be a pilot. He discovered that if he kept pressing the button it made the plane go up and down fast and made Mummy scream!
Adam’s favourite ride was Flynn’s Fire Rescue. Although it wasnt working fully due to the colder weather, Adam loved going up and down on the ladder behind the fire truck.
As Adam had enjoyed all the rides so far we decided to try him on the Troublesome Trucks Runaway Rollercoaster. It was the first time Adam had to queue for a ride for any length of time but luckily he was distracted by Thomas who was getting ready to take his next passengers on a journey.
The Troublesome Trucks Runaway Rollercoaster proved to be such a big hit that we went on it at least three times. I love that Adam copied the other children who had their arms in the air and discovered the enjoyment of screaming on a rollercoaster.
We would recommend going on Winston’s Whistle Stop Tour early on in the day. We had to queue for over half an hour. However, Adam enjoyed watching the children play in Emily’s Adventure Play Area. Unfortunately this was the only area we didn’t get a chance to explore as we ran out of time. On Winston’s Whistle Stop Tour we did get a brilliant view of Drayon Manor and Adam spotted the huge rollercoasters. He already has those marked out for when he is older.
My husband and I couldn’t believe it when Adam asked to go on the Cranky Crane Tower Drop – this ride isn’t for the faint hearted! It drops and bounces up for some time but Adam loved it.
We had expected Thomas Land just to have rides. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find it contained a 15-acre zoo which is home to over 100 species of animals from around the world. We met meerkas, ring-tailed lemurs, owls and Adam’s favourite – the Sumatran Tigers. Drayton Manor also has a Discover Thomas Exhibition, Spencers Outdoor Activity Park and a Dino Trail.
It is hard to believe that Thomas Land is just part of the theme park. Drayton Manor features some of the biggest, wettest and scariest rides around. It is also home to the Yogi Bear 4D Cinema. There is something for every age!
Preparation is key. Luckily Drayton Manor has an informative website that makes this easy. This meant we could prepare Adam beforehand and he could see that each of his favourite characters would be there. We watched their You Tube channel several times the day before so that the rides would be familiar.
There is a handy list of height restrictions on the Thomas Land website. This meant that we knew already what rides we could encourage Adam to go on by himself and which ones required one of us to accompany him. Luckily the day before we had practised measuring Adam against the wall. The ride attendants do check every child who is close to the height restriction. If we had not prepared Adam for this it could have been a sensory trigger. Each attraction is clearly marked with a height chart at the beginning of each ride.
The short descriptions about each ride on the Thomas Land website meant we could prepare Adam for what would happen. If we had to queue for a ride we were able to use that opportunity to show him the ride and how excited the other children were. This worked well for every ride apart from one which we simply tried again later on in the day.
The ride operators could not have been more helpful. They were kind, polite and interacted well with the children. This put Adam and ourselves at ease whilst queuing.
Drayton Manor does provide further assistance for guests with additional needs. Check out their website for more information.
We certainly had an action packed day. We arrived at 9.30am and left at 4pm and still felt we could have spent much longer there. Adam was already planning his next visit to Thomas Land as soon as we reached the car!
Disclaimer: We were given a Press Pass to Thomas Land. VIP event at Drayton Manor. All thoughts and opinions are our own.