Plans to build autism holiday centre in North East

A social enterprise is planning on building a holiday centre in the North East to support people with autism.

Organisers at The Retreat have begun looking at potential sites for the centre that will cost just over £1 million. After recently viewing some locations in the North East, Northumberland is set to be a leading candidate.

The company came up with the idea for the holiday centre when speaking to parents and carers about their experiences and receiving feedback.  The Retreat is aware of how difficult it can be for parents when booking holidays. It will be available for every parent, carer and individual with autism in the North East and beyond.

The holiday centre is designed to be specifically suited for individuals with autism to enjoy themselves in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

Christopher James, founder of the Retreat, said: “We spoke to other carers and parents about experiences, everything from behaviours in public places, negative comments from other parents to holidays that only lasted two hours, we all agreed that a place nearby would be perfect.

“We want to make the world a better place and put people before profit. The North East is a fantastic place with wonderful people and many attractions but it needs a Retreat. In the world of autism this would put the North East firmly on the map.”

Christine Stephenson, from Newcastle, is a parent of five-year-old Reilly who has non-verbal autism.

Last summer they travelled to Ibiza on a family holiday which she had to prepare for a lot more than other parents, as she had fears her son would have a meltdown on the aeroplane or go missing.

She said: “I would absolutely use the holiday centre, going abroad for us is incredibly stressful as is travelling any great distance by car.”

Anna Kennedy, UK Autism Ambassador, runs her own autism charity to create opportunities for people with autism. She has two sons who are on the autism spectrum and they’ve been unable to go on holiday for more than 12 years.

She said: “I am asked if I know of suitable places to visit for either children or adults on the autism spectrum. There a few dotted all over the UK sadly not many.”

The Retreat are accepting donations to help start-up costs


  1. I think this is a fantastic idea that will appeal to hundreds of families with autistic children in the North East. We would definitely consider using The Retreat for holidays in the future so I really hope this comes to fruition!

  2. This will be a fantastic establishment for many of those who are in need! Special needs families matter as much as anyone else..may there be many more across the UK in the near future 🙂

  3. Brilliant idea would definitely go here with my autistic son and family saves all the stress of worrying about what other people think especially when we’re having a meltdown .Hopefully parents will get to chill to knowing all of us have special needs children.

  4. Could do with something like this in the sothwest.

  5. This would be amazing we have tried to go on holiday twice in the past 12 years and had to come home as my son hasn’t coped at all with the environment due to his sensory issues

  6. Angelina donnachie

    Great idea ! People need this !

  7. Barbara malcolmson

    A great idea, I have a 12 year old eith learning difficulties and autism, I would definitely use it, its so hard to find somewhere safe and suitable!!

  8. Brilliant idea….would certainly be one of the top places to visit with my child. Thumbs up from Malta 🙂

  9. Amazing idea!! Is so vital. Praying this becomes possible

  10. this would be amazing I have 2 grandchildren with autism and safety and activities for the children would be amazing and great that it’s in north east to

  11. Brilliant idea. Holidays we so stressful and to have one place to go to agein and agein would be great

  12. Can I ask please why is it stating for autism . What about all the other disabilities and complex/additional needs that are out there. My children are already excluded from set activities cos they don’t have bloody autism . Why somewhere that sounds so wonderful esp for families like my self. Its autism this or that. What about all the other needs on the spectrum. Surely why not have a place for families with those whom have needs. Where additional. Complex. Physical needs. Why is everyone else excluded unless they have autism. Why please.

  13. I own an outdoor activities business, I deliver a broad spectrum of activities for children & young adults who are on either end of the spectrum.
    I currently run Outdoor learning sessions for, The Alnwick Garden Trust, The Toby Henderson Trust & Calmer Therapy. As well as Grove school in Berwick, this includes play therapy & forest school themed sessions, where child learn without actually realising it.
    It would be an absolute pleasure to help move your project forward.

    Kind regards Mark Tuff

  14. Brilliant idea would definitely go there with my 2 boys

  15. brill idea but what about other additional needs such as DS. good luck

  16. What an amazing idea…something we’ve talked about being ideal, so to see someone trying to make it happen? fantastic! Good luck .. could you include a dog friendly area please? My ASD son couldn’t be parted from his dog x

  17. Samantha Battista

    I think it’s fantastic,I have an autistic daughter and struggles to find anywhere to take her on holiday due to her needs and other people’s ignorance xx

  18. Brilliant idea but the vast majority of autistics don’t like to be called “people with autism” wording is important. Best wishes.

  19. I would rather spend a week at this centre than and in some European city surrounded by hen nights and stag dos .

  20. Great ideal…. however their are so many levels and needs of autism… Hopefully this will cater for them all…

  21. As a mother with a child with special needs. Why just autism? Why not a holiday home for all special needs. We all find it hard to go in holiday

  22. We would go there on holiday sounds brilliant

  23. Mrs Denise Close

    This would be absolutely brilliant as I have a grown up son with autism, and a friend who has 2 young boys with autism and the way people look at you if there’s a meltdown is unbelievable. My son’s trained as a chef, but because of his autism can only get a job in McDonald’s or burger king, which is such a waste. Would the retreat be taking staff with special needs also?

  24. Tracey Abdullahi

    What an amazing idea
    I’m a mother of a 26 year old son with Autism and understand the difficulties of having a fun stress free holiday with a child/adult with Autism and would love to use such a place

  25. Oh .my .god . we need more of these pretty please. We can’t even go to the play centre any more as they closed the SEN session because they wanted more money (after just opening 2 successful tea rooms too) Its a dream come true this but we need more than 1 please

  26. I agree hunny

  27. Agree 🙂

  28. As much as this Is great idea but I feel it could still be a burden on family’s on how to get to these places like my self I don’t drive and have a child with autism adhd and spd and doesn’t do great with long journeys so think this is good for people who drive etc but not for those who can’t really get there

  29. malcolm jamieson

    Will definitely bring my son here,not only will he love it and maybe make freinds it will be good for parents to meet others in simular situations and maybe form friendships.

  30. Absolutely needed I work for Resedential home for Children with Autism we would definitely use this service.

  31. Wow i would love somthing like this for my 2 boys

  32. My 2 boys would love this places the suport isnt wat it can be life is hard and this place sounds like heaven

  33. I think this is a wonderful idea, however my son has no diagnosis, but definitely has autistic tendencies, meltdowns, etc so is it open to other abilities/needs too

  34. I would definitely bring my daughter who was diagnosed with autism last year,we haven’t yet had a holiday as a family as my daughter struggles with travelling

  35. This is a fantastic idea I have a grandson aged 22 with an ASD and I wish this had been around when he was younger it might have made life just a little easier, cos when he reached the grand old age of 17 he seemed that he was forgotten as there is nothing for him now no clubs or societies to join cos he is “too old” now.

  36. Angela Griffiths

    we sure do <3

  37. I supose its like us …..Autismers…… being excluded from other disabilities groups but we dont cry and bitch …hurtful wording …we are all hurting and suffering 1 way or another…..grow up

  38. This is a fantastic idea, having 3 adults on different end of the autistic spectrum…holidays can be difficult for people

  39. Samantha Jamieson

    I would like to know what in particular is being done to make it autism friendly. So far the only information is that it will be a non judgemental environment, which while helpful, there is so much more needed to make somewhere autism friendly.

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