This year is the 60th anniversary year of World Autism Acceptance Day, a day to raise awareness and acceptance for those on the autism spectrum and create a society that works for autistic people.

What is autism?

Autism is a range of conditions classified as neurodevelopmental disorders, meaning that the development of the brain and wider nervous system in people living with autism differs from typical neurodevelopment.

Therefore, the way people living with autism think and process information is different to most people within the typical population.

People living with autism are also vulnerable to mental health problems such as high stress and anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and mood disorders.

Autism can have a range of signs, and these can differ between boys and girls and between children and adults. The NHS has a useful overview of signs of autism both as an adult and child.

If you are not sure where to go for support if you care for someone with autism, our article on Caring for someone with Autism is a good place to start and gives you an overview of local services in Dorset.

Parent and carer training

If you are new to your caring role, supporting someone who has recently been diagnosed with autism or just want to find out more about how you can support someone with autism there are a range of online courses and information that can help.

Gina Davies Autism Centre: Offers a range of live online sessions either 1:1 or in groups.

Sign: Have a  useful downloadable booklet that gives an overview of information to gather when a child is diagnosed with autism.

Independent Provider of Special Education Advice: Offers free and independent legally-based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all kinds of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). They also provide training on the SEND legal framework to parents and carers.

Finding autism-friendly activities and venues

Across Dorset many organisations host autism-friendly events, which can help the person you care for still get access to fun activities and services. We have listed a selection below:

Bridport Leisure Centre hosts an Autism Hour every Tuesday from 2.30pm – 3.30pm.

This session is a safe and sensory-friendly environment with exclusive use of both pools and changing rooms.  Find out more on their website.

Dorset Museum offer after-hours relaxed opening select days.

You can explore the galleries and exhibitions with screens turned off, sound levels at a minimum and light-touch activities in the Learning Centre. Find out more on their website.

Sherborne Museum offer out-of-hours visits for those on autistic spectrum

You can find our more and how to contact them on their website: Sherborne Museum – Dorset

Cinemas offer autism-friendly screenings

A range of major cinema companies hold regular monthly autism-friendly screenings in selected cinemas across the UK. Changes include:

  • Lights will be kept on
  • Volume will be lowered
  • No advertisements or trailers
  • Customers can bring their own food

On selected dates Monkey World holds autism-friendly days.

The park has always prided itself on the access facilities available, from a range of mobility scooters, to the primate sensory statues around the park.

To help autistic visitors and their families further, on selected dates, visitors with autism can access the park at 9am, an hour before public opening time, to avoid the rush at the gates.

The park will also have a sensory trail especially for the day, and dedicated chill-out spaces.

Many shops offer a quiet hour

Supermarkets such as Tesco, Morrisons and Lidl have introduced quieter sessions where lighting and noise are reduced.  This is also true of some shopping centres, so look up your local centre to see if this is something they offer.

If you are on the Autism Spectrum or care for someone who is, we can help. For information, support, and advice phone us on 0800 368 8349 or email us at