London, UK – On Friday 13th and Saturday 14th June 2014, I attended the Autism Show which took place at the ExCel in London. Although I was both an exhibitor and a speaker, I’ll focus this brief article on my experience of the show as a visitor.
As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, I found the centre extremely overwhelming. The mornings were the busiest times but even when the number of people declined at lunch time, there was still so much going on. It wasn’t so much the bright light but rather the range and intensity of colours around the centre – a lot of red and pink, and flashing or fluorescent lights everywhere. Given that people on the spectrum tend to enjoy sensory lighting, it was not a surprise to me that there were a lot of stalls showcasing this!
I did not enjoy the loud music that began playing on Saturday afternoon. It was coming out from the Autism Matters theatre. The noise in general of the centre was as expected – lots of talking.
Although there were dedicated sensory rooms and ‘calm rooms’ inside the exhibition, they were not ideal for purpose because lots of people were inside them at the same time and, if you were lucky enough to be alone, it wasn’t long before a queue of peeping toms appeared! These rooms were awesome though and would be excellent in schools.
I’d say the most frustrating part of the whole event were the placing of the seminars in Hubs 1 and 2. Hubs 1 and 2 were open in the middle of the centre and were basically areas with chairs in and a screen. Trying to hear speakers was difficult for me because, even though we wore headsets, the background noise and movement going on around me was distracting. Next year, I would like to see actual closed off rooms rather than open spaces being used as seminar rooms.
Overall, the Autism Show was a good experience. It had a good range of exhibitors (but I’m told it was lacking organisations in the south of England) and everyone was really kind and helpful. In particular Callum, the helper on the Ask Autism stand, was my hero before and after I gave my seminar! He was very considerate to my ASD needs!
I wouldn’t recommend the event to children on the autism spectrum – or adults with more severe sensory issues – because there was a lot going on and not really anywhere to escape to. I found myself wandering outside into the ExCel communal area and sitting down inside the various cafes at least once an hour and I noticed my fellow autistic visitors doing the same! I didn’t attend many of the seminars due to the environments, which was a shame. I did however meet lots of interesting people and got to lie down on a beanbag inside the calm room after my presentation. 🙂
About Alis Rowe
Creator of the Curly Hair Project
Amazon books. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alis-Rowe/e/B00356H310
Opinions expressed by Autism Daily Newscast Contributors are their own.