Important talks with Manor Walks

 A few weeks back my family had an unpleasant, upsetting experience at our local shopping centre. I’ll keep it short – Reilly had a meltdown in Asda and my husband took him out, he bolted through the centre to the other side. A security guard then wouldn’t allow them back through to myself and thing 2 even though my husband explained Reilly had autism and was overwhelmed. The guard was completely unsympathetic, the air turned blue and my husband had to walk right around the outside of the shopping centre carry Reilly at night with cars, lights, noises, darkness etc and it’s a fair distance to boot too so you can imagine the state of Reilly and dad by the time we were reunited.  I got home and eventually calmed Reilly’s meltdown after 45 minutes. Thing 2 left to sleep at Grandmas as he gets upset at Reilly being upset and can’t bare to watch.

I settled myself down with a cup of tea and had a Facebook rant, a huge one. I was extremely angry.  This opened a private dialogue with Sarah Turnbull at Manor Walks and I was invited along to talk to Bruno – Manor Walks Manager, Ian – Security Manager and Sarah to discuss what had happened. I attended that meeting today with my sister in law Kelly, moral support and she’s well versed on autism.

I was thrilled to find out they’d already begun staff training to recognise and understand what autism is with the North East Autism Society and were genuinely very keen to make amends, were very apologetic, absolutely mortified at the lack of humility shown and importantly they also invited me to become an ambassador to work with them to improve shopping at Manor Walks for people with autism and their parents and carers. I say people because this is not just about children. Autistic children become autistic adults at the end of the day and are still affected by sensory issues and the same judgemental glares that us parents are subjected to by other shoppers. The ultimate aim is for Manor Walks to reach the North East Autism Society’s charter standard and meet all their criteria to become autism friendly.

I will put 100% into working with them to make visiting Manor Walks less stressful. We decided immediately on an autism awareness day right through the centre aimed at educating shoppers and staff of the issues surrounding autism, we all know a little understanding goes a long way.   A shopping event was discussed too with lights low, music off, autism aware staff on duty etc I know this is popular at Christmas was autism families at Toys R Us stores and has been really successful.

Autism needs to be accepted it’s here to stay. I’ve been told numerous times “he needs a smack” “mine would never behave like that” insinuating I’m a bad parent, I’ve also heard “he’s too old for nappies”.  Well judgey woman and friend thanks ever so much for your autism parenting advice based on episode 1 of the A Word and Rain Man in 1985 but I think I’ll give it a miss and politely ask you to jog on.

Please let me know of any ideas you would like to see implemented and I will make sure they are passed along at our next meeting. Leave no stone unturned – trolleys, parking, lighting, eating, seating, queueing –  if you think it can make a difference share your ideas. I am confident that this will turn out to be a really positive experience making all our lives a little bit easier.  I will be posting further updates regarding Manor Walks as and when they come up.

There is an excellent charity Autism Northumberland based upstairs in Manor Walks already providing great services and facilities to families affected by autism and well worth a visit. I know their opinions on transforming Manor Walks will be greatly valued. 

Published by

Christine Stephenson

Really busy mam who runs her own charity, has 3 sons and learning about autism every day. Contact me at

24 thoughts on “Important talks with Manor Walks”

  1. I wonder if there could be a way yo set up a little dedicated area which would allow parents to take their children to help settle them if they do end up getting a little bit overwhelmed

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  2. Great news about the positive outcome! I wonder if it could be possible for Manor Walks to create a room where parents, children and also adults with autism could go if they start to feel overwhelmed or go into sensory overload. Sort of like a ‘calming’ room,maybe with low lighting and calming decor. I don’t have autism and sometimes if there’s loud music on in shops I just can’t handle it and become incredibly irritable and just want to leave the place and go somewhere quiet, so I can only imagine what someone with autism feels like. X


  3. Wow!!!! What a breakthrough!! I agree with the wifi, my son also relies on his iPad to calm him. Also what about a chill out zone, such as a sensory room something along those lines. This would help loads if my son was leading to or having a meltdown. I think every shopping centre should take note of this. Well done!!!


  4. I would love to know how to describe autism to my son. He’s 5. He made a comment about a child having a meltdown. I explained that he might not be naughty, but he might have autism or something like that. But what descriptive word can I use? Illness? Problem? I want him to be compassionate and I don’t want to give him the wrong words, obviously he will repeat at some point what I tell him.

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  5. Amazing what has come of this rant it’s hard enough for parents shopping with children who don’t have special needs so imagine it’s 10 times more hard for parents who do it’s great manor walks has implemented training and gaining an understanding well done all round xx

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  6. Its not just children with Autism or AHAD that are problematic when shopping…lots of children have meltdowns and stress related tantrums in shops many times i took my son out of shops for a good talking to and avoided shopping with children whenever possible which i know is not possible for many parents and grandparents….yes grandparents as well go through the tantrums ….so when considering children with special needs hows about also considering a place where maybe for a small cost mums could leave children in safe care whilst they shop ?


    1. I really cant comment on children without special needs Christine. I have 2 other children and I don’t have any issues with taking them shopping, yes they’ve had tantrums but a tantrum is very different to a meltdown. The main thing is during a meltdown there is no persuasion out of it, you can’t give them a good talking to. There is no regard for there own safety and they often end up hurting themselves. I think childcare when shopping for children without special needs is a really different issue. I will mention your point though when all the information is passed across, just my main focus is special needs 🙂


  7. I think a sensory room will work so to allow meltdowns to take place and just space away from crowded shops for children and adults with autism and adhd


  8. Well done to the management of Manor Walks for their comeback response. It is a credit to you that you have seen the error of your ways. Admitting that you were wrong is never easy. Moving forward and taking the time to correct your mistakes is commendable. I hope that you are able to find a happy solution for the families of autistic children and autistic adults.
    If, a sensory room cannot be provided within Manor Walks maybe a facility room with Concordia where there is a more relaxed and calming atmosphere compared with the busy shopping mall.

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  9. As a mother of a autistic boy who lives in the cramlington area I think this is a really good idea. Iv only just tried to take my son into manor walks as it’s so much for him as he also had spd. I think wifi and calming room is a great idea. They may even be able to get charity funding to make the room a sensory room. I think dimmed lights and low music and also some shops are to hot which cause irritable behaviour as well. I hope to hear what the outcome will be. Xxx

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  10. After reading the last bit of the post I can’t whole heartly agree that Northumberland autistic society is great as my son was badly treat by a member of there staff in concodia. My husband tried to explain my son was autistic and that he also worked for north east autistic society and the staff member had no compassion towards my son or his needs for someone who works with this everyday so maybe they need a bit more training on this condition also. Xx

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  11. My son doesn’t have autism but does have some sensory issues. He is especially sensative to loud noises & is terrified of fire alarms. It would be good to put a warning out in the centre & in the individual shops prior to the weekly fire alarm testing. Some shops do but some don’t.


  12. This is great news! I think staff maybe need to be given signs to look out for, for example in adults with autism a little bit of patience goes a long way – they might not know to get their purse/wallet out early or might not be the most talkative or polite at the till. I work with young adults with autism and i often find staff can be an issue with being irritable unless it’s very clear that i am there supporting them.


  13. So pleased for you. About time autism and all mental health problems should be talked about. I myself am disabled and cannot walk very far. Could you ask if some seats could be put in near the door at Sainsburys. I am not the only one requesting this, my mum and a lot of her friends have said they really struggle to get to the bus stops without being able to sit down. thankyou

    Liked by 1 person

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