By Kevin Stock
Late last year a group of Autism Together staff and service users were specially invited to the opening of a brand new sensory viewing room at Liverpool FC for those on the autism spectrum. We had the chance to experience the new venture whilst watching the Liverpool v Southampton game where Liverpool won 3-0 – what an honour!
On our arrival we were greeted by a steward at the entrance of the car park to the Kenny Dalglish stand who guided us to our own reserved parking space. At this point we asked about going to the club shop, requested by service user Ken. Simon, who was hosting us for the afternoon, explained that we would have to do this first before going to the hospitality suite. Ken braved a very busy shop to buy a book and a keyring which he was very happy with.
After this we headed back to the car park and to our stadium entrance where we were greeted by lots of kind and welcoming staff from Liverpool Football Club; we took the lift upstairs and were shown to our very own hospitality suite, complete with sensory equipment and our own bathroom.
The staff were very kind and offered us drinks and gave us menus for us to order some food from for half time. In the sensory suite itself we could choose to sit on one of the high chairs, watching out the window over the pitch, at the table in the middle of the room or on the beanbag which was next to the sensory tube. We were also given a complimentary match programme each. Ken and Kane enjoyed relaxing on the beanbag for a short period.
We had a great view of the pitch and Ken and Cameron joined in with ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ when the crowd started singing. Liverpool went 2-0 up in the first half so it was all smiles at half time when we sat around the table for a bit of food. Kane and Cameron enjoyed hotdogs and Ken enjoyed a meat and potato pie. Graeme opted for a bag of Maltesers instead as he wasn’t as hungry.
The second half brought more joy as Liverpool scored a third and topped off a special afternoon for Ken, Kane, Graeme and Cameron. We were asked if we would like to stick around for a bit after full time but we decided it was best to head back as soon as possible to reduce the waiting time.
We are all so grateful to LFC to have the opportunity to be the first to try out the sensory viewing suite, and can say for certain that, as one of our Autism Champions, LFC are demonstrating that small changes can make a huge difference to somebody with an autism spectrum condition.
Kevin Stock is House Manager with Autism Together. Liverpool FC is working to become one of our Liverpool Autism Champions.