Mum helps Liverpool lead the way with autism friendly festive activities

A Liverpool mum, whose son has autism, has set up the city’s first ever series of festive events allowing autistic children and their families to enjoy the fun of Christmas, without any added stress.


Julie Simpson whose 12 year old son Joe has autism, has organised a fortnight of activities across Liverpool through her community business enterprise Autism Adventures. Julie has joined forces with some of Liverpool’s top festive family attractions to create the series of events exclusively for people with autism.

The activities will start on Monday, 30th November with a Silent Santa event – a quieter and calmer version of Santa’s Grotto– at Dobbies Liverpool in Speke.

This will be followed by a Christmas party at Go Kids in Speke on Tuesday, 1 December and an ice skating session on the ice rink at the Ice Festival at Chavasse Park, Liverpool One, on Sunday, 6 December before the final event takes place on Monday, 14 December at Santa Land in Calderstones Park.

Julie who is from Speke, founded Autism Adventures in May 2015 after campaigning to raise awareness of autism across Merseyside.

The business is a social enterprise which provides suitable play settings for families affected by autism, as well as offering training for local businesses to help them offer a better service to those with autism and their families.

Julie said:

“My husband and I have always found it difficult to go along to your regular family activities, because there’s still a misconception about autism. People don’t really understand that Joe is autistic, partly because there aren’t any obvious visual signs. They just think why is ‘that kid’ acting weird or misbehaving.

“When you see a grotto as a child, you never forget that magic. I wanted to make sure Joe and others like him don’t miss out on the fun of Christmas, so I decided to do something about it.

“When you have a child with autism you often feel a sense of isolation and feel they can’t participate in a lot of activities. It is really upsetting to a lot of the families not to be able to go to see Santa as a family. But these events provide a range of activities for the children to enjoy the festivities with their families, which they are often denied.

“Each event has been designed to create a setting that can help young people to play and develop in an environment that is tailored to meet sensory needs. Specially trained staff will run the events and the environments will be adapted with quieter music and brighter lighting to help remove the anxiety of being in unfamiliar surroundings and improve the children’s experience.

“There will also be pre-booked slots for Santa’s Grotto and the events will be closed to the public so the children won’t have to wait in a queue to see Santa.

“Events like these are great fun for the children but they also offer families the opportunity to relax together and enjoy the festivities in a quieter and calmer setting, which, I know from experience, they don’t often get to do.

“My ultimate hope is for Liverpool to become the UK’s first ever Autism friendly city.”

Angela Murray, community and events manager at Dobbies, Liverpool, said:

“Julie approached Dobbies last year and we worked together to provide a suitable and enjoyable grotto event for autistic children. Following its success, Dobbies Liverpool is proud to be providing an autism-friendly grotto experience again this Christmas.

“Going to see Santa is a fun festive activity for families and a truly memorable experience for a child, and that experience should be open to all children.”

For more information visit or phone Julie Simpson at Autism Adventures UK on 07894 291 681.

Julie is currently taking part in Spark Up, a 12-week business accelerator programme run by Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, to help develop her social enterprise business.

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