The Autism Show and Naidex report!

New Walk Walking Stick Flyer promoting stylish acrylic walking sticks with the slogan "Made to Stand Out not to fit in"

Our Social Activities Co-ordinator Charlie attended The Autism and Naidex exhibitions to see how good they were for Autistic people. Below are their reports.

The Autism Show – 14th -15th June 2022

I went down as an individual, and took 2 friends with me also. We were joined on the second day by my mum. It was quite an amazing 2 days, meeting other like minded folk wanting to learn and absorb as much as they could about things that could help or hinder autistic people. There were autistic adults taking in things for themselves and neurotypical adults taking in things for others, i.e., those they support, teach, or care for. There were autistic children exploring the space too to see what new fidgets there might be or trying out the various equipment on display.

The speakers were split into 3 separate spaces, and we used silent disco headphones to listen to the various opportunities. One of the “theatres” was solely dedicated to autistic people or “those with lived experience” and over the 2 days they spoke on a wide range of topics. For example, getting a diagnosis, getting and keeping a job, being an activist, reasonable adjustments etc. It was great to stop and listen to what they had to say.

In the biggest “theatre” there were speakers on some amazing topics: Interoception and why we don’t always know when we are hungry, thirsty, hot or cold; Stress not Behaviour and how we need to move away from thinking about “bad” and “good” behaviour; Anxiety and how it can be experienced in so many ways. The majority of the speakers were Neurotypical but they work with, support, care for, or simply spend time with autistic people all over the spectrum. Some of them gave a good speech, but it didn’t always sound quite right, some really got the audience involved and made them think differently about things. It was interesting to listen and participate even if I thought they were talking rubbish as I wanted to see where they would take me.

I really enjoyed talking to the different people on the stands; I had a great time at a stand representing a trust that runs various private SEND schools, often out in the countryside, (I told the head to get herself diagnosed as she was a lot like myself); and I had a great discussion with one of the staff from Brain in Hand who were sponsoring the Autistic people’s “theatre”. I came away with a promise of support to get Autistic Nottingham a stand at the Autism show next year and maybe even some speaker’s slots too… Woohoo!!

I picked up lots of freebies, leaflets, cards and contacts.

The Autism Show – 14th -15th June 2022

We went down as a team to this event, the biggest all-disabilities show in the country. On the way down I decorated my walking stick for the Pimp My Mobility competition, chaired by The Grumpy Gits. I didn’t win, which was a shame as there were cash prizes…

It was both similar and nothing like The Autism Show (TAS). Whereas TAS was a fairly small event not taking up a whole hall at the NEC, NAIDEX took up 1 and ½ halls. It was joined to the Neuro Science show next to it and next door to that was UK Care Week. TAS was on at the same time as a Craft Show and a nerdy Science show for school children… TAS and NAIDEX both used the silent disco, 3 channel headsets, but NAIDEX had Tech’ people for each individual “theatre” space (of which there were many small ones and one large one), TAS instead had one main set of Tech’ hidden behind a sort of fake wall. NAIDEX had far more stalls, but there was too many solely to do with motorized wheel chairs and motor scooters. I didn’t realise there were so many kinds…!! Also, cars that have lifts and space for your wheelchair I can appreciate being very important but there was more than one company with more than one car on show, which take up a lot of space. Oxfordshire County Council were there too, but no other councils… A bit odd.

I listened to a dad of an autistic daughter, who had both his daughters helping him with his talk and his wife in the audience nodding along. It was very good, he was honest about the mistakes and difficulties they had in the early years, both daughters talked about different things too. It wasn’t pretentious and I was worried about “warrior dad” syndrome, but he was nothing like that.

There was the company who invented The Virtual Dementia Tour, who have now invented The Autism Reality Experience. I sat and listened to his explanation and the story behind why they created it. I had experienced the VDT when I was working in care and thought it was fantastic, so I was hopeful. It sounds very interesting. They put gloves, goggles and headphones on, and then try and get you to do tasks. The idea being this is an example of some the things autistic people MAY experience and if you then experience it, it might help NT’s to work/support/care/teach autistic people better. I didn’t get to go in myself, and was a little wary too; I was worried it might be too over-stimulating… Maybe I will get another opportunity, as its very expensive to hire them.

The most exciting speaker was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, retired ParaOlympian and the only Peer in the House of Lords who is a wheelchair user. She was amazing and I was just a little bit excited. She has led somewhat of a charmed life; although disabled from very young, she had parents who fought for every opportunity for her, who wouldn’t let her jump the queue for schooling (as that’s not a good life lesson), who gave her the very best of everything that they could. She went to university, she got into sport, she became a wheelchair sprinter and marathon competitor, and she went to the ParaOlympics. Then when she retired she was given a Peerage, and suddenly she is in the House of Lords… doing politics…. After her talk she stayed for questions and then came off the stage. I may have sat at the very front just so I could ask her for her autograph….

There were all sorts of interesting stands: stick man communications with some great badges, lanyards etc to help others to understand you (the milder version of the neon sign); sleep position cushion company and a disability skiing company; a sexual pleasure company with specifically designed products for disabled people*; a prosthetics company who design fantastic different limbs for people; and the best one yet – a walking stick company started by a lady who uses both a wheelchair and a stick. They are all bright colours, textured, glittery, with lights and without, and quite fabulous.

I picked up lots of freebies, leaflets, cards and contacts. Below are the ones I thought people would be interested in.

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