'They are amazing' - Ipswich's Wiff Waff bar holds superheroes party for children with autism
PUBLISHED: 20:25 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 20:42 31 July 2019
They dressed up as everything from Superman to the Incredible Hulk - but the real superheroes at this event were the children themselves.
For while young people with autism are frequently misunderstood, this event at an Ipswich Waterfront bar celebrated all the amazing talents which make them special.
As the summer holidays approached, Malcolm and Emma-Jayne Watkins noticed there were not many activities designed for children with learning difficulties.
Having worked in children's care homes, Mrs Watkins knew that posed a huge challenge for parents - because many mainstream activities are not suitable for their children.
Even public areas like the beach are unsuitable, because their children are given funny looks from others who mistakenly think the youngsters are being naughty.
So with Mr Watkins recently taking over manager of Wiff Waff in Key Street, the couple decided to hold a free superheroes-themed party designed for children with learning difficulties.
The aim was to give those children a space to play in an accepting, normal environment.
However Mrs Watkins said the superhero theme was particularly appropriate, given the extraordinarily high intelligence and skills people on the autistic spectrum show.
"It couldn't have gone any better," Mrs Watkins said of the event on Wednesday, July 31, which was attended by dozens of children.
"The parents have been saying how amazing it is. They can come here, have a break and don't have to worry about what their children are doing.
"They could also meet other parents in the same situation.
"In Suffolk, there are no resources for these children.
"For many children with autism, routine is the most important thing. In the holidays, that is all out.
"It's hard for parents and it does get them down.
"Everyone here is completely different in their own way. They are amazing and if you get the time with them, you can see how amazing they are."
Spider-Man made a surprise visit at the event, which also included the chance to play games such as table tennis and crazy indoor golf and make use of a sensory tent.
There was also a photo booth to give families a memento of the day.
Wiff Waff will hold similar events for children with autism during the school holidays, with a Greatest Showman-themed event on Friday, August 16 and a Disney-themed event on Friday, August 30.
Both take place between 10am and noon on their respective days.
Mr Watkins added: "We had chatted to lots of different people and realised there are limited events for those people, so we came up with the idea of holding an event for them here.
"It is difficult for them to find activities to take the children and hard for them to find places where they feel comfortable. They get funny looks from other people.
"They can come here and feel they are in an accepting, normal environment.
"A lot of parents have said it's been the first time they've gone to something like that. Here everyone is in the same situation and everyone understands."