The Autism Show

The world of autism is definitely giving us experiences that we would have never had if we hadn’t landed in ‘Holland’, and this month has brought two. The first being attending The Autism Show at London’s ExCel.

We only found out this was happening because Darren saw it advertised whilst out and about at work, and because he showed an interest I thought it right that we try to go together. I feel like I live and breathe autism everyday and Darren only gets to look in through a window because he isn’t able to attend every appointment, I was hoping this may give him a better understanding of both autism and Ethan. 
Not only is The Autism Show a place to connect with different retailers, schools, care homes, autism friendly holidays and any company that would be able to help you if needed, it is also a day filled with seminars and workshops. We therefore decided that it was best to leave Ethan at home and go on our own. Don’t worry Nanny kindly offered to babysit Ethan, so he wasn’t home alone. 
So on Friday the 14th of June we headed off to London on our first official date for years to The Autism Show!
Like normal we arrived at the London ExCel bright and early but by the time we had worked out the car parks pay and display machines and found the entrance for The Autism Show the doors were just opening. 
We started our day looking in the sensory room, Ethan would have loved it. On the floor there was a game projected where you jump on balloons to burst them. Ethan has a game like this on the iPad, which he loves, I’m sure we wouldn’t have been able to get him out of there. 
We then made our way round all of the exhibitors to see what they offered. At the moment I think Ethan is a little young for what was offered but its great to know that there are so many places out there to help autistic children and adults. We collected lots of information, which I am yet to go trough, but I will keep it in a safe place for future reference. 
What was nice to see was the amount of parents that have started their own businesses because they couldn’t find a service for their own child and they decided to take the plunge and offer this service to other parents. An example of this is one family have opened a holiday home as they could never find a suitable place to take their son. I had actually already found this place on the Internet so it was lovely to talk to them in person. Another couple had made applications to help their child with English and they now have a complete set of PC programmes on sale. They are also branching out into the app market so I will be watching their website ready to download it for Ethan when it becomes available.

After taking a break and enjoy our packed lunch, boy how things have changed, we decided we wanted to listen to some of the seminars and workshops.    

We decided we would start with Michael Barton and his talk on ‘How to maximise autistic strengths and minimise weakness – straight from the horse’s mouth’. It turns out we had seen Michael before on a TV programme, he is the author of It’s Raining Cats and Dogs: An Autism Spectrum Guide to the Confusing World of Idioms, Metaphors and Everyday Expressions. We found his talk very amusing and it really makes you think about the neurotypical brain and how we may be the ones that have it wrong! I mean who come up with the term It’s raining cats and dogs anyway?!

Listening to him made us realise that we will have to explain everything to Ethan, and by not doing this problems could arise.

He described his journey into London and all the signs he saw along the way, which for a neurotypical brain make perfect but for someone on the autistic spectrum opens up a whole new set of questions and problems. He explained that with the autistic brain everything is seen in back and white and everything is taken literally, so you really have to think abut what you say. For example

  • Guide dogs only on a shop door would translate as this shop only serves guide dogs so it would stop him going into the shop.
  • On the tube escalators there is a sign that says dogs must be carried therefore he can only use the escalators when carrying a dog. This is made even worse if the sign says dogs and children must be carried!
  • The yellow line on the floor that you can’t cross until the train is in the platform. The announcements clearly state ‘Do not cross the yellow line’ which in turn then causes a problem as how do you get on the train if you can’t cross this line.

You can really see how everyday life can be such a challenge with all the misleading signs in the world, it really did open our eyes.

We then decided we wanted to watch Autism’s Got Talent, yes you did read that correctly. Autism’s got talent is an event organised by Anna Kennedy OBE.

Anna Kennedy is a truly inspirational mum, she has two autistic sons who were turned away from mainstream education so she remortgaged her house and set up a school that would cater for their needs. She didn’t stop there as there are now two schools, a college and a respite home and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Her hard work has been recognised as she was awarded and OBE in 2012 and won Tesco Achieving Mum of the Year this year.

So what is Autism’s Got Talent? Its a place for people on the spectrum to showcase their talents and achievements, I found this truly inspirational and very moving.

Now my very short experience in the autistic world has revolved around autistic children for obvious reasons. My only experience of teenagers and adults is from watching TV programmes and they, more often than not, always focus on the worst case scenario and this is therefore why the future scares the life out of me. Watching Autism’s Got Talent helped to put me at ease and I found it such an emotional experience that I was fighting back the tears.

The show started with three boys singing a Westlife classic, it wasn’t the the most amazing performance of the song I had ever heard, but the fact that these boys had no problem coming out and performing in-front of a room packed full of strangers amazed me. The passion, they put into their performance was amazing, by the end of the song everyone had their arms in the air swaying to the music.

Two of the boys from this group come back on stage for a second performance and this time their chosen track was a Dizzee Rascal number. It was a fantastic performance and you could see and feel their enjoyment as they performed, everyone loved it. I had real trouble fighting back the tears because I would be so proud if my Ethan, at 18 could be up on stage doing what they did. It is something I would never be able to do.

The next act was an amazing young girl who’s passion is musical theatre and classical music and she was amazing. Not a sound could be heard as she performed her songs and if Simon Cowell was in the room I’m sure he would have wanted to sign her on the spot.

We were also shown a video of a young man who is non-verbal but can sing, he performed the track Your Beautiful. Another absolutely amazing experience that had me in floods. How can someone non-verbal be able to sing a song so beautifully yet struggles to communicate with the world. The wonders of autism!

The last person to showcase their talent was the lovely Jo Redman who wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until she an adult. I am discovering that it is quite common for girls to be missed but with Jo’s diagnosis came a new understanding of herself and she has achieved so many things since that date.

Jo is the current and multiple WKC World Champion, 2nd degree black belt and an instructor with BCKA Kickboxing. Both Darren and I were just sitting there saying WOW to each other as she talked. Can you believe that even though she has all these titles she is struggling to secure the funds to attend this years event with the aim to win her third world title. If you are feeling generous and want to help her achieve her dream you can help her HERE.

If your thinking why am I giving you all of these links for Jo, I was very brave and went up to quickly see her at the end of the show. Something I would never normally do and totally out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I did as we now follow each other on twitter and she is a very lovely person. I really hope she can achieve her goal and if I can help by making people aware via this post I’m happy to do so.

We decided to call it a day after this as I don’t think my emotions could take anymore. It was amazing listening to people on the spectrum talk about their life, how they think and what they have achieved. It gives me a sense of hope that Ethan will be OK.

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3 thoughts on “The Autism Show”

  1. How absolutely wonderful that the Show was such a positive and hopeful experience. I can’t really begin to imagine your day to day life, although reading your blog is giving me a sense of it, but to be able to see such a wide range of possibilities must have been great xx Fantastic post x

  2. Really good to hear about the show, I would love to go next year! I never booked this year as I didnt get myself organised but it sounds really useful and interesting event, I never realised there are so many performances and talks as part of it too.

    anna (intheplayroom)

  3. What a fantastic idea to get all these resources and companies under one roof! i am so pleased you had a really fantastic time and found it useful!

    Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

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