“Game Changer”: Teesside’s new virtual reality attraction and its quieter “no trial” sessions

A new Teesside attraction that supports families with autistic children has been praised.

The Gaming Hideaway is a virtual reality gaming center at The Pavilion Mall in Thornaby, and has hosted such popular special events that they have already increased from two to fifteen days each month.

Owners Kaiyn and Rachel Crooks were willing to support families who were having difficult days due to autism, so their facilities began organizing special autism events.

Read more: The community work of the Stockton Youth Project to increase participation

“I love working with children with autism.

“I’m going home and I’m up to it after doing these events, just seeing the children’s faces!

“Children know they are surrounded by other autistic children and we limit the number of users to 18 instead of 24, so it is less overwhelming in terms of the number of people.

“Now people make friends here and interact with each other, which is very nice to see,” Rachel said.

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

The music and volume of all simulators are rejected and the events allow parents to interact without judgment with other parents who may face similar challenges.

Harry McBean enjoys the racing car simulator at The Gaming Hideaway

“We have some children who go from machine to machine and others who have to go for a break after each machine, which is good.

“In the first session, most of the children did not mix with anyone, now they mix with each other.

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

Rachel praised her staff for how they have adapted to support the children and help them have a good time.

If a child cannot tolerate a wrist strap, the staff gives it to the parents and all the staff is calm and relaxed with the children.

“Not only are they there to manage things, but they are also there to interact with our customers and make sure they have the best time.

“They do a great job,” Rachel said.

The gaming center opened its doors on May 17 and hoped to attract schools and families with its range of the latest versions of games and virtual reality experiences.

The business has used the magic of virtual reality to allow customers to participate in lunar landings, go on a mission to Mars, explore ancient Egypt and even dodge fire-breathing dragons, to name just a few examples.

Alison Rae, who accompanied her son, said: “The events with autism are awesome and our son Hamish said he felt more relaxed and could enjoy it.

“The position of the coffee area was, I think, a change of game for parents whose children need closer supervision.

“We will definitely be back with Hamish.”

Since they opened their doors, business has grown and Rachel and Kaiyn now have some autistic clients who have been to every session and have gone from occasionally taking a break in the quiet room to not wanting to get away from it. its virtual reality. headphones and games.

Sofia Clayton loves her games on The Gaming Hideaway
Sofia Clayton loves her games on The Gaming Hideaway

The local charity branch Autism Parents Together organizes parent-supported activities for children and youth in the Tees Valley.

It recognizes that social exclusion is a challenge for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families, and therefore organizes activities for caregivers and siblings that allow them to build a support network.

The charity has praised The Gaming Hideaway for the autism events it has hosted.

Nicola McBean, CEO of Autism Parents Together (Tees Valley), said: “I think it’s great that The Gaming Hideaway is dedicated to supporting autistic children and their families.

“Exclusive sessions on autism are particularly useful.

“By reducing the number and being patient and understanding, autistic children and their families are much more able to access these sessions successfully.”

Nicola said her own boys enjoyed their visit, and that ten-year-old Harry especially enjoyed the virtual reality games.

Karen Clayton, head of the charity, said: “Watching our daughter have a lot of fun means everything to us as parents.

“Having autism, Sofia is a sensor finder and virtual reality simulators are on the same street.

“The Gaming Hideaway with exclusive autism sessions means the events are quiet and relaxed for the kids, the staff is understanding and bright with the kids, which makes us feel like relaxed parents.”

Visit The Gaming Hideaway and Autism Parents Together for more information.

The manager, Charlotte, said: “The Gaming Hideaway is an amazing place where our families can go and enjoy the games in a fantastic setting.

“The staff is fantastic and willing to help organize any game and help any child.

“My boys had a great time: Riley said it was the best day in history, Cole loved the 360 ​​VR machine laughing and laughing while he was there and West didn’t want to leave.”

Autism events are held every second Tuesday from 15:45 to 17:45 or from 18:00 to 20:00.

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