The monthly tours, which have been developed with input from the North East Autism Society, will last about an hour, with the home and away dressing rooms, players’ entrance, media suite and pitch side among the areas covered.
For over-16s, prices are £10. For under-15s they are £4.50, and one carer can go for free. Bookings can be made by individuals or groups of up to ten people and bookings must be made in advance.
Questionnaires can be sent out to the carer/parent so the club can understand the needs of each visitor. Photos have been taken of all areas of the tour and also a video, which includes entering and exiting lifts. These will be offered to everyone who books, so visitors know exactly what to expect in every area.
Brynley Davis and Chloe Barker, a teaching assistant from Brynley’s school, Thornhill Park in Sunderland, were part of a group taking part in the club’s first Autism-accessible tour of the stadium, which included time in the dressing room, an opportunity to walk through the tunnel to fans cheering and music playing, as well as the opportunity to find out historical information about the team and their famous stadium.
“When we first told him about the St. James’ Park tour he literally couldn’t believe he would get to tread the path Shearer once took to the pitch, or to sit in the manager’s seat,” said Chloe. “He wouldn’t stop talking about it – but it exceeded our expectations on the day.
“It was just the best day of his life. That moment where he ran through the tunnel and heard the crowd cheering was magical. He talked about nothing else for weeks.
“I would highly recommend it to other families, or adults who need that extra support to come along and book in. I loved it too; while measures were in place to make sound softer, and to help Brynley with accessibility, it wasn’t dulled down or had bits missing – it was just a great experience and the team leading were amazing, very understanding and patient. It couldn’t have been better.”