A new autism-friendly guidebook has been created by staff at Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum to help visitors make the most of their trip.

Keen to meet visitors’ needs, staff consulted the North East Autism Society and local groups to ensure the new guide offered practical information and visual guidance.

The guide shows large photographs of all aspects of visiting the museum including pictures of North Road railway station, the bus stops on North Road closest to the museum, as well as the car parks. This helps to give reassurance about where to get off public transport and what the car parks look like.

The guide also covers light levels, sounds and smells that may be found in the museum itself, and how staff can be identified.

It has already proved a hit with visitors, who have given some very positive feedback, as follows:

“We work with children and young people with additional needs. We were able to download the Visitor’s visual story and access statement – thank you very much, so helpful and very useful.”

“The Visual story helped to consult the young people realistically about whether they would like to come on a visit. It also helped us to coax a young person off the bus as we could show the exact doorway entrance and encourage them to have a look for the things in the pictures.”

“The trail was fab, the museum is very interactive- the staff were fab also and we loved that there was a workshop (Locomotive Rhythm), and our young people were skilfully coaxed to get involved, but not pressured.”

“Lovely museum and Autism friendly – brilliant!”

“We travelled here for my autistic son’s birthday treat. Great little museum, packed to the rafters with train and heritage exhibitions. Christmassy trail for the kids which they loved. I cannot express how amazing the staff are here, friendly, informative and so welcoming. And the best bit of all is that it’s autism friendly! Only museum I’ve ever been where we felt completely relaxed, the info guide for autistic people is a brilliant addition and I’d urge other museums to follow suit. Cannot fault this little, well-loved museum and we will definitely be back.”

Sarah Gouldsbrough, acting museum manager at the Head of Steam said:

“All our staff and volunteers work hard to ensure all our visitors enjoy their time at Head of Steam and want to come back.

“We’re delighted that the new guide is proving a useful addition and look forward to welcoming more visitors to enjoy our ever changing exhibitions and events programme.”

Copies of the new guide can be downloaded from the Darlington Borough Council website at www.darlington.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/head-of-steam/families-and-accessibility or can be borrowed from reception during a visit to the museum.

For more information about Head of Steam visit www.head-of-steam.co.uk or call 01325 405060.