Christmas is definitely my favourite time of the year – the whole of December is filled with parties, trips to see Santa and preparing for Christmas plays. 

This year we have booked to go to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. 

The website promises plenty of ramps, a wheelchair accessible pod on the big wheel and use of the Ice Rink in a wheelchair! 
It sounds too good to be true but I am hoping that we will all be able to experience a magical Christmas.

We went to see a father Christmas in a large shopping centre in a popular city last weekend and the experience has left me feeling somewhat deflated.  

When I booked I stated that Bella was in a wheelchair but her understanding and speech was fine. 

The children were supposed to make wrapping paper, food for the reindeers and write letters for Santa before meeting him. 

The Santa himself was very good, he was chatty and Bella thought he was wonderful. 
However, the company just hadn’t quite taken the time to realise that all children are different and what might work for one may not be right for others. 

When I booked the tickets it ask for any special needs to be described. 

I said Bella used a wheelchair but that her speech and understanding was not affected.

When we arrived the young elf took one look at Bella’s chair and panicked slightly, he said he would take us around to another queue, so we left the buzzing atmosphere outside Santas workshop (where there were no steps or barriers to stop us being in it!) to stand facing the crowd completely on our own. 

There were elves entertaining the ‘other’ crowd so we already felt sorry for Bella. 
The head ‘elf’ then came over and said we would go in first and then we could go in to see Santa first so we didn’t have to queue, that sounded fine. However, we came in and got shown to a table – big enough to sit 8 children and got settled – in the meantime they let the other 50 or so children in and started sitting them at the opposite side of the room! 

We ended up having this huge table all to ourselves, it felt like we were being hidden away.

The elfs were keen for us to get through so the activities she was trying to do so they were rushed and packed into 5 minutes instead of the 30 minutes promised!  

Luckily Santa was really lovely chatty and we had a nice photo taken with him but the whole experience left me feeling really upset. 

Bella is in a wheelchair, but she still enjoys taking part in activities and being around people. 

It felt very secluded and I found the whole experience embarrassing.
I felt too upset to make a complaint and make a scene but I have emailed the company politely expressing my embarrassment. 

We paid the same amount as everyone else to be there, there were no disability discounts so I felt we massively overpaid for the time we got.

How can other children learn to accept everyone when those with extra needs are treated completely different or hidden away from the rest of society? 

I can only hope that we have a much better experience in a few weeks time when we go to London.

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