The school summer holidays are fast approaching. While this can be a welcome opportunity for some family time it can also be a stressful time for parents and caregivers whose children have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

For children and young people on the autism spectrum the loss of the routine and structure that school offers can be disorientated and destabilising. The National Autistic Society has some useful tips for preparing for the summer holidays. These tips can also be useful for any child who struggles with change and transitions, whether they have an autism diagnosis or not.

In this blog, we take a look at some days out ideas to help you get the most out of summer. Included in this are some ways to save money or enjoy discounted days out. So whether you are parent carer, a young carer or are simply looking for summer holiday ideas, take a look at what’s available…

Sports, activities and holiday camps

A good starting point for finding activities for children and young people with SEND is Family Directory through the Dorset Council website. They have a list of places that offer activities in Dorset and whether they cater for SEND young people.

Super free summer activities for young people aged 16-25 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

Dorset Council have worked with local organisations who are offering a range of free fun activities around Dorset this summer. All activities need to be booked direct with the provider.

They include fun days, workshops, sports and youth club hang-outs and they are a great way to learn new skills.
Find out more.

Summer in Dorset

The Help and Kindness website also have a directory specifically for summer exclusive activities happening across Dorset and whether they are able to accommodate those with additional needs.

If your child is eligible for free school meals this is free of charge.

Diverse Abilities is a Dorset based charity, their Project My Time and Coping with Chaos projects offer activities throughout the summer holidays. You can find out more on their website.

Take advantage of the Dorset Carers Card for discounted days off

Did you know that the Dorset Carers Card gives you discounted or free entry to many of Dorset’s attractions? Places to visit which have an offer for Dorset Carers Card holders include several gardens (Larmer Tree Gardens, Athlehampton House & Gardens, Minterne Gardens and Bennetts Water Gardens.

Museums offering discounts include Shaftesbury Abbey Museum & Gardens, Dorset Museum and The Keep Military Museum.

Or perhaps head to one of the model villages at Corfe Castle or Wimborne.

There are also plenty of activities that you can use the card for, explore the Dorset Carers Card website to see the latest offers.

If you help to look after someone and you don’t yet have a Dorset Carers Card please do get in touch. Cards are free to carers signed up to Carer Support Dorset.

Find an autism-friendly screening near you

If you care for someone with autism, you may be interested in the autism-friendly cinema screenings at Cineworld Weymouth and ODEON Dorchester. If you live nearer to the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area, the Poole Cineworld and Bournemouth ODEON also offer these screenings. Find out more on the dimensions website.

Sign up to the Max Card

The Dorset Max Card is available to all Dorset-based children and young people with special educational needs or disability and registered on The Xchange and young carers.

The Max Card means you can access free or discounted activities or benefits at a range of leisure activities across Dorset.

The list of venues that accept the card changes all the time, so make sure you contact the venues directly for prices, restrictions and opening times.

For an Xchange application form, please email

Spend time connecting with nature

It is proven that spending time with nature can benefit your mental wellbeing. For ideas on how you can connect with nature locally, take a look at the Picnic in the Parks website. Here, you will find lots of inspiration and free ideas for connecting to nature across the county, including family walks from your front door and much more.

You’ll also find lots of ideas for things to do, including walks, attractions and more on the Visit Dorset website.

Wheelchair friendly walks can also be found online, including on the Accessible Countryside website, who list facilities and accessibility information available for their managed woodlands.

Finding out more

If you would like any additional information on anything mentioned in this article, please get in touch by calling 0800 368 8349 or contacting