What is Legoland Windsor?
Now, if you are from the UK. Most of us have at least heard of Legoland Windsor. It is a Merlin Attractions owned theme park in the Berkshire countryside, within an hours drive of London (traffic permitting). It is influenced by Lego and is ideal for children under the age of 13. Rides range from pre-school to primary school. If you like thrills and rollercoasters, you may be better visiting nearby Chessington World of Adventures or Thorpe Park.
Costs in Involved
Like most theme parks, Legoland isn’t cheap and the average price per ticket is £50-£60 per person. Under 3’s go free. They often do deals with Kelloggs, where a parent gets in free with a visiting child, this is usually towards the summer months but can offer significant savings.
My daughter and I have Merlin Premium Annual passes (Please see my other post on perks and costs involved). She’s nearly 12 and loves theme parks, so I invested in Annual Passes last year. My son has special needs and I’m not currently sure, whether the cost of the annual pass would be worth it (watch this space). My husband gets in free as a carer. So entrance wisely it cost us £15.00 for our son as we used a Friends and Family discount (perks).
I would suggest booking in advance as you could save up to 30%.
The Disabled Visitor
Driving towards the Legoland car park is easily signposted, I especially love the extra touch of mini lego characters. Disabled parking is located near the premium parking and right at the front of the entrance. We couldn’t have parked any closer. The picture of us in front of the blue railings is a foot in front of our car!
Like most theme parks now, you are greeted by security doing a bag search. They are lovely and high fived us all through the gate and at the end of the day are for our own safety.
To the average family, a trip to Legoland is like any normal day out but to a child with special needs, it could be all kinds of hell. Long queues, long noises from all directions, music, lots of people, unfamiliar surroundings, I could go on. But why should learning difficulties or social disorders stop our children from experiencing the norm? Especially when Legoland Windsor assist in helping cut out a little of the stress.
Thomas is eight years old now and I want him to experience things that other children his age do, just with support and a lot of advanced planning. I had heard rumours that Merlin and Legoland especially had changed their Ride Access Pass. I was keen to understand how it would work and why a few families were upset with the change.
With hindsight, I should have pre-booked our ride access pass, as that queue was empty and we spent 15 minutes with a distressed eight-year-old! The man at the Ride Access Pass explained all the details and we went on our way.
The Q Bot System
So the new Legoland version uses the QBot system. It’s basically a virtual queue. So for example, we love The Dragon rollercoaster and reserved our ‘space’ in the queue. It gave us 30 minutes, so we found a couple of five-minute queues and the time raced through. It did get busier and we found that by 4pm, the thought of waiting 45 minutes to get on any of the rides was just too much but I like the system. It’s a phone based system (remember battery charger although you can borrow phones). There are limitations, I agree it would be handy if one queue is 45 minutes that you could be able to add a second ride.
So our time counts down and we approach the ride through the Qbot entrance, pretty much enter straight away and don’t feel guilty for queue jumping as we have been queuing ‘virtually’ for the same time as the people at the front of the queue. It is however frustrating when your child wants to go straight back on but the queue is 40 minutes! That being said, I do like how it works, it probably won’t work for everyone but have a snack, drink, toilet break, face painted, lunch, look around the shops, it soon ticks down.
Legoland Windsor is a resort with two onsite hotels. The Legoland Resort Hotel includes everything for the die-hard Lego fan including The Bricks Family Restaurant and themed rooms, while nearby you can spend the night with Knights and Wizards in the Legoland Castle Hotel. Added bonus staying on site, closer to the park and an extra 30 minutes park access to some of the rides.
If you can’t stretch your budget for an onsite hotel, there are plenty of nearby budget hotels including Hilton Bracknell and The Copthorne Hotel both which are in easy reach of the park.
A Few Negatives
There has to be a few right?
- Now TV giving away free sticks – Now I’m all for a freebie but we passed them five or six times and it grew irritating!
- Some rides need an update. Vikings’ River Splash for example, we barely got a dribble of water on us, the bucket had been removed and nothing sprayed water anymore, it was a little disappointing.
- The NEW Wafflemeister – I love a good waffle, who doesn’t? I was excited to see one at Legoland Windsor, however, it should have come with its own queue time! I left the queue after queueing for ten minutes without moving!
My Top Five Tips for Navigating Legoland Windsor
- Pre-Visit – Check out Legoland Windsor Resort for all the update news, opening hours, new attractions or any ride restrictions.
- Pre-Visit – Make sure you have a fully charged phone and bring a second portable battery charger. My S9 lasted until 1.30pm before I needed an extra charge during lunch.
- During your Visit – Have fun, it is such a lovely family day out, there is a changing places accessible toilet in the main Heartlake City area and various disabled toilets dotted around, that need radar keys.
- During your visit – If it gets too much and you need a time out, there are plenty of picnic spots, with grassy areas to chill out or maybe take a look at the Total Sensory Space, its located in Heartlake City and is perfect for chillout. Unfortunately, during our visit, it was quite busy so I struggled to take photographs. There are a few on Legoland Windsors Resort.
- After your visit – Don’t forget to download photographs (if you have any) and consider your next trip.
So there are a few of my tips for navigating Legoland Windsor with a Special Needs child and probably for most children under the age of seven.
Despite our original reservations, we managed a full day in the park. We tried out the City Walk Pizza and Pasta Buffet for lunch and wasn’t disappointed, we even saved 20% due to having Annual Passes. It’s all in the planning, taking the day as it comes and having no expectations. We’d already made the decision that should he struggle after an hour we would call it a day but he loved it. I can’t thank the staff enough, they were all accommodating, happy to help and on hand if we needed any advice.
Have you been to Legoland Windsor recently? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Do you think the Q Bot system works as part of the ride access pass? What do you think of the Merlin annual passes? Please drop me a comment below or click follow to read more posts like this in the future!
Thank you for Reading…
I came across an article recently where a parent/Mum spoke about her constant juggle with her home and work life balance. It got me thinking about my own work/life juggle. If you would like to check out the article written by Tania Tirraoro please check it out here at Special Needs Jungle.
I’m not going to lie, I wanted a career! It was important to me, it was one of my life goals. Happy and content mum means equally happy and satisfied children! I wanted it all… excellent career while juggling childcare and home life. For the most part, it worked, after having my eldest (11) I had no choice but to return to full-time work. Unfortunately, mortgages don’t pay themselves! I was lucky my Mum worked afternoons, so she had my daughter all day on a Monday and every morning. It was a life saver, as my employer was far from flexible. Childcare was one of our most substantial expenses and even with my mum’s help, it was still over £800 a month!
For three years, I worked up the career ladder, moved companies and continued to juggle family life. After having my son (8) things were going to be very different, he was born with Strep B and developed meningitis at three days old, please see my other post ‘My Son was Born with Strep B’.
Suddenly I had a baby that needed physio, occupational therapy, consultants, tests, scans, hospital appointments and needs beyond an average child. I was ever hopeful that my employer would understand my need to work part-time, it wasn’t your average circumstances. I didn’t return to my old job, it was no longer suitable and for a year I muddle along. I quickly realised how I saw flexible working, wasn’t how my employer did. I was continually taking holiday to attend appointments, having unpaid leave because nursery called as he had a temperature and the push came when I had to cancel three of his appointments. Appointments that once cancelled take three months to get booked in. I was having an emotional week, I walked into work and almost instantly nursery called and he’d been sick (he had reflux). I felt guilty for not giving work my 100% attention and I felt more guilty that my son’s needs were now suffering. He wasn’t doing well at nursery, he was struggling with his development and I went home that afternoon and wrote my resignation letter. The relief I felt was one of the best feelings. I never wanted to leave, but it wasn’t about me. Thomas needed his Mummy and nursery wasn’t going to fill the hole.
It was a decision that I have never regretted. It gave me time with Thomas to attend his appointments, plan for his future and spend the time that I just wasn’t getting while I worked. I worked part-time for a hotel, working a couple of evenings around my husband. It worked for us at the time.
Call me naive, but at this point, Thomas was still a toddler and developing averagely on time if not a little behind. He attended nursery two days a week, as I felt he still needed the social side of it and secretly I was hoping that once he was settled, I could get a part-time job and give up the evenings! Having taken the financial drop in pay, reducing the nursery costs, we lost most of our child tax credits. We muddled on for a few months until I cut nursery down to one day a week, it was pointless, but still, I wanted him to be like his sister and learn from others.
It just didn’t work, so I resided to the fact that it was best to remove him altogether. Fast forward two years, I thought the answer was return to education and get a ‘proper’ degree. He was young, at a nursery and it would work around it and for the most part it did but suddenly he wasn’t hitting his milestones, nursery kept calling me asking me to collect him for various reasons and then the file straw, I was two days late paying an invoice due to them undercharging, and they told me that they felt it best that he left.
I guess back then, I still had this idealistic view that I wanted him to have a healthy life. Like most parents with special needs children, we want what is best for them and them to feel included. My dreams of a mainstream school were quickly fading when his epilepsy was diagnosed. He attended a special needs nursery, who were terrific!
Six years on, I was still working evenings having struggled to find a part-time job that contained the flexibility of hospitality. Degree under my belt, but for what it’s worth it hasn’t advantaged my career, but it made me feel better.
How it Works for Us…
Three years ago, during my degree my husband came home from work one evening, told me he couldn’t do it anymore. We’d had a tough night with Thomas, neither of us slept well, and it made a decision we’d been struggling to make more comfortable. He would give up full-time work, become Thomas’ full-time carer and I’d continue my degree. He now works part-time from home, around Thomas’ school drop-offs and pickups.
I tried last year to return to full-time work, financially one of us needs to work full time. It wasn’t, however, that easy. I wanted something locally so I could be at home within 15 minutes, but it was impossible. Most of the commutes were at least 30-40 minutes each way and as a family, it would never work. I realised very quickly that part-time hours would be our only option,
Our biggest struggle is the school holidays, we have one or two decent child care providers in our area who can caterer for disabled children and as you can imagine they fill up quickly and limit the sessions that a child can attend. Unfortunately, we don’t have parents who are able to offer their services for a variety of reasons we rely on school, holiday clubs and a playscheme one or two a month on a Saturday. We are still lucky in that respect, but I do panic with all the government’s budget cuts concerning disabled funding that within a few years they will be closed.
I like to call these types of posts ‘the get to know me’. No real reason but to share a little bit about our lives and our world. Do you struggle with work/life balance? Have you had to make changes to your working life to adapt to the balance? Please share your own stories or blog posts below.
Thanks for reading…
I’m now officially in my mid to late ’30s. I was struck to realise that I have been left school for 20 years this year! I was born in the ’80s but grew up in the ’90s. My parents divorced in the part of the ’90s which saw my ‘homemaker’ Mum suddenly find herself a single parent, with bills, two children under 10 and no income.
Bless my Mum, she’d left school at a time when secondary moderns were at the forefront of education and she left school with no qualifications. If you wanted flexible hours around school childcare (before the likes of after-school clubs), you worked in retail, care or cleaning. My mum dabbled in all three pretty much most of my childhood.
I grew up knowing that when it came to having my own family, I would have an education, work experience and career. I wanted to be able to offer my own family yearly holidays, weekends by the sea and days out.
At the time of having my daughter in 2007, the rules concerning maternity leave, pay and rights were shifting. You could have a year off, nine months of ordinary leave and three months additional leave. It caused a lot of confusion at the time. Lots of my family members telling me that I had to return to work or ‘pay back my maternity pay’. But more parents were using child care, both parents were working and flexible working hours was something you could ‘apply for’.
It was new to so many employers that the lines were blurring between what was required and what wasn’t. It caused a lot of confusion, myself included. I spent my maternity leave being underpaid due to an administration error. My HR manager at the time had to search the internet for my rights as I worked in a very male-dominated workforce and there was no maternity policy!
I actually spent what should have been time enjoying my daughter, being pressured to return to work. I’d been off three months when the first email arrived. Office drama, new director, when was I thinking of returning? Geez, I don’t know in six months?! But it didn’t end there and they piled on so much pressure that I gave in and returned when she was five months old. I wasn’t ready, there is a lot more to the story concerning my return, I will not bore you now! But I struggled…majorly.
I remember at the time having coffee with friends who just weren’t able to return to work as they couldn’t afford the childcare and their rights to flexible working were declined. Employers just couldn’t see the benefit of including part-time or flexible workers on their payroll.
That was nearly 12 years ago and I was shocked recently to learn that one of my friends took her employer to a tribunal because she requested flexible working hours and they didn’t deal with the request effectively. She won her case but it surprised me that with so many families now having both parents working that employers can’t see the benefit of flexible working.
On googling ‘flexible working’, I received over 21k hits! Mostly negative. I thought I would share some of the reasons why I believe we could benefit from becoming a little more ‘flexible’. This covers remote staff, part-time, flexible full time and anything in between.
1. Family – No more taking unpaid leave, using up annual leave or making up hours, with a little flexibility in our working schedules we could take that gym class, attend our daughters’ assembly and collect them from school. Not only this but with organisation, employers would be able to make arrangements.
2. Increased feeling of personal control – The introduction of facetime, skype, emails and social media has meant that as individuals we have communication on the go. This gives an added bonus to being in control of our own schedule. Meetings don’t have to be office based, a quick skype call and this gives us added power over our work environment.
3. The Dreaded Commute – Avoids traffic and the stresses of commuting during rush hours. You know how it is, you rush out the door at 7.45am makeup half done, coffee in hand while munching on a banana. You hit the main road and ‘boom’ a 30-minute commute turns into an hour. Working from home or starting at 10am instead of 9am means that you could be at your desk faster, logging on to those all-important tasks at 8.30am.
4. Environmental Considerations – Reduced consumption of employee commuting time and fuel costs. With ‘eco-friendly’ being an essential part of the workplace, employees are being rewarded at some companies for car sharing. Perhaps the bigger picture is with effective management of employees that could work from home or come into work less.
5. Happy Employees are Productive Employees – We all want to enjoy our jobs, whether it be time away from the kids, to keep our skills relevant or just to have adult conversations. An employee working 40 hours a week, with an hour, commute each way isn’t going to feel as empowered and productive as someone who works three days in the office, two days at home.
1. Team Environment – In team-oriented departments, teams still need to meet, which requires set guidelines. Some people take advantage of the flexibility and use that as an invitation to work from home which really means watch Netflix with their email screen open. There needs to be an extensive amount of trust, perhaps using a management board like ‘trello’ for example to keep staff motivated when not in the office.
2. Management Team – Some managers, who are used to seeing when their staff members come to work, watching what staff do all day at work, and knowing when people leave for home, have trouble adjusting to the new management style which requires trust. Hands-on managers (micromanaging) don’t adapt well to having employees away from the office, they often feel out of touch or struggle to keep track of their tasks.
3. Other Colleagues – Office-oriented people sometimes view their work-at-home colleagues as slackers because they can’t physically see their productivity. It has been common for employees to work at home to be seen as less productive, this isn’t true always true. But I think internal employees often feel that they are sat at home wearing PJ’s, munching on popcorn while watching Netflix. This isn’t always the case.
4. Availability – Compressed work weeks can make client handovers complicated—clients expect service 5 days a week during business hours and can be fussy when an employee isn’t in on Friday. It can be hard for clients to understand that at 2pm, you suddenly become unavailable or that on a Monday you won’t answer their email. Some companies cope well with this by including an email footer.
5. Job Types – Not all jobs can be flexible. Jobs that require customer-facing responsibilities only allow certain types of flextime. Whole days working from home are not an option.
Overall, the advantages generally outweigh the disadvantages and a good manager can handle the difficulties. Employees are keen to find employers who now offer more flexibility in their approach to work.
We obviously have a long way to go, perhaps you would like to share some of your own thoughts? Maybe you are an employee who works with flexibility, or perhaps you want to?
Thanks for Reading…
On Tuesday 26th March 2019 it was Purple Day! For those of you who are unaware of what ‘Purple Day’ is, it is the international day for epilepsy. It is a day where people around the world come together to raise awareness of the condition and make a difference to those affected by epilepsy.
Finding out you have epilepsy is scary at any age. Finding out our son had epilepsy just after his third birthday was terrifying. We were in the middle of moving house, lots of upheavals, messed up routines and living in limbo. It was like any other day, I was off to work (I worked shifts at the time) and I sat and watched as he ate a biscuit. He suddenly started coughing, almost choking. There was something odd about it as he went blue in the lips, they were smacking, starry-eyed and dripped excessively. Before it had really started, it was over and he cried and seemed dazed. I gave him a cuddle and we all assumed he choked on the biscuit. I went off to work and left him to his evening but on arriving at work. I had five missed calls from my terrified husband. He’d had the same gazed expression, choking appearance, blue lips etc every 15 minutes since I had left. He was tired so suggested they do his usual routine, put him to bed and hopefully he’d be okay. An hour later and another 10 missed calls, it was apparent that something was wrong. He’d been doing it while asleep. I was a 30-minute drive from home so shaking like a leaf I approached my Manager. I explained the situation and called 111 from the car (I have a hands free kit connected to my car). They were speedy and dispatched an ambulance.
When I arrived home, I met the ambulance crew who had just arrived and were assessing him. He was still having episodes every 15 minutes and seemed confused and dazed. My husband was a bundle of nerves. Off to the hospital we went for medication and observation. It was confirmed it was epilepsy, highly likely linked to his brain damage and cerebral palsy and so began our epilepsy journey.
We have never been seizure free and every six-eight weeks we usually have an episode. I thought I would take the time to share what we have learnt over the last five and a half years.
1. Seizures – No seizure is the same, no episode is the same and you will continuously wait or expect the next one and sleep seizures really are a thing!
The media has always lead us to believe that seizures are the ‘drop’ ones where you drop to the floor, shake and go unconscious, we quickly realised that there are:
1. Focal/Partial Seizures – Can remain conscious and aware.
2. Absent Seizures (Petit Mal) – Can appear to be staring or doing normal things.
3. Convulsive Seizures (Tonic-Clonic) – Usually the person will loss full conscious and will drop, jerk and have no awareness and will awake dazed and confused.
4. Drop Seizures (Atonic) – There is awareness of attack, just abruptly hitting the floor.
5. Clonic Seizures – Part of the body has jerky movements
6. Tonic Seizures – Infrequent and usually associated with other conditions, they involve facial muscles the upper body, usually involving loss of bladder/bowel control.
7. Myoclonic Seizures – Jerky movements, that can affect any part of the body.
At some point or another, Thomas has had the misfortune to have experienced five out of the seven types.
2. Medication – There is no magic cure, five years on and although they are under control, he still is prone to ‘clusters’ and I mean a day of ‘clusters’. His record his 19 in a day! We have rescue medication for this.
3. Triggers – It would have been easier, had a trigger been obvious. Apart from stress and citric fruits like fresh oranges. Nothing was ever confirmed but to some people triggers include flashing lights, stress, lack of sleep, certain food, drinking alcohol and changes in the weather.
4. Dealing with anxiety as a family – You can never prepare yourself for the news that your child has a life-changing condition. When I first found out I ‘googled’ and wished I hadn’t. There was so much information, too much information that it was hard to understand how we would live like this. Different medications meant different side effects, then there is the controversy surrounding medication and development delay; unfortunately, we didn’t have a choice.
It was hard, in those calling ambulances, trying to remain calm for our six-year-old daughter and trying to get Thomas the help he needed it. After the few hospital trips, I realised that it was unnecessary stress for Thomas as he was kept in overnight for observation and never understood why he couldn’t leave.
It does get more comfortable, but at the back of my mind is. ‘Will it is today.’ Having never lived it, it’s hard for others to understand the strain it puts a family under. Always watching, waiting for the next one.
We’ve learnt that epilepsy has no consideration for family events, days out, Christmas, birthdays. When one is coming, it will come and plans change. We’ve driven to theme parks only to have a seizure in the car on the way. I’ve had days out plans and had to cancel them. I do not mean to sound selfish, really it’s just about the circumstances that ‘normal’ life gets put on hold for 24 hours.
Epilepsy First Aid
1. Keep calm.
2. Protect the child from further injury
3. Do not restrain the person.
4. Do not insert anything in the mouth.
5. Roll the child on his/her side after the seizure subsides.
6. If a seizure lasts longer than five minutes or repeats without full recovery, seek medical assistance immediately.
7. Talk gently to the person after the seizure.
For young children and their families, it can be terrifying. Today, seven more children will be told they have epilepsy, it will change their lives forever. This Purple Day, the money you raise will help more children and their families come to terms with epilepsy, know they are not alone and give them the confidence to deal with their diagnosis.
Having a son with epilepsy changed our lives. I wish that we’d been offered counselling, support dealing with anxiety, help as a family, I wish that someone had sat us down and said ‘I’ve been there, let’s have a coffee?’ Sadly, all too often like us you are given a leaflet and told to ‘google’ support groups.
Was this the same for you? Do you wish you’d received more support? Do you think things should change? Perhaps you are still struggling with your epilepsy or your children?
Thanks for Reading…