‘Game changer’: New Teesside virtual reality attraction and its quieter sessions ‘without judgement’

A new Teesside attraction that is supporting families who have autistic children has been praised.

The Gaming Hideaway is a virtual reality gaming centre at The Pavilion Shopping Centre, Thornaby, and it has been holding special events that are so popular they have already been increased from monthly to twice a fortnight.

The Gaming Hideaway has increased its special events, due to popularity, to two a fortnight

Owners Kaiyn and Rachel Crooks were keen to support families who find days out challenging due to autism, so their facility started hosting special autism events.

“I love working with the children with autism.

“I go home and I’m on a high after doing those events, just from seeing the kids’ faces!

“The children know they are surrounded by other autistic kids and we limit the number of users to 18 rather than 24 so it is less overwhelming in terms of the amount of people.

“People are making friends here now and interacting with one another, which is so nice to see,” Rachel said.

Autistic people are welcome to attend the centre at any time, but during the autism events there is space for people to take a break if needed, in one of the escape rooms that is transformed into a quiet area.

The music and volume on all the simulators are turned down and the events allow parents to interact without judgement with other parents who may be facing similar challenges.

Children enjoying the Autism Sessions at The Gaming Hideaway

“We have some kids who whizz around from machine to machine and some who need to go and take a break after each machine, which is fine.

“At the very first session, most of the kids didn’t mix with anyone, now they’re mixing with each other.

“It’s lovely to see them making friends and getting comfortable here,” Rachel said.

Rachel praised her staff for how they have adapted to supporting the children and helping them have a great time.

If a child can’t tolerate a wrist band, staff give them to the parents instead, and all staff are calm and relaxed with the children.

“They are not just there to manage things, they are there to interact with our customers too and make sure they have the best time.

“They do such a great job,” Rachel said.

Article first published on the GazzetteLive website on 3rd July 2021 and was written by Anna Twizell. Images: Sarah Walker Writing Services