We last went to the Autism Show a couple of years ago after we received a tentative diagnosis for our son from school.
We mainly went to find out more about the condition (as we didn't know very much) and were full of hopes for the day. However, we left slightly disappointed as, apart from the National Autistic Society stand (which is always useful), we didn't really find much practical, everyday type help for parents. It was full of lectures about the biological origins of Autism and many of the stands were for residential schools and businesses with products (although fantastic), so expensive, they were probably out of reach of a lot of parents.
Whilst they did have what they called '1 to 1 Clinics', these were about some of the more obvious issues such as toileting, behaviour, school etc. and were run by 'experts'. We just wanted to know things like, how parents coped when they were first given the diagnosis, what impact it had on family life and other family members and how to encourage your child to get dressed in the morning! Really 'back to basics' stuff.
So, we gave it a miss for a couple of years but decided to go back this year as this was the first year that we'd been in charge of JAG and thought that we had a duty to check it out so we could report back to our members.
Before, we'd been on a Friday but due to work commitments, we could only make the Saturday this year which also meant we had to take our son with us. This would be interesting - to see how he behaved and responded within an event designed to be for people on the Spectrum!
We got there early and although the queue was very big, it went down so quickly, we never actually stood still. No sooner had we joined right at the back than we were being handed our show bag and guide and we were inside. A first plus point with the boy who hates queues!
During the gap of a couple of years that we hadn't been to the show, we had picked up a large amount of knowledge from other parents both by coming to JAG meetings and from watching programmes on TV so this time, we were really keen to go and listen to the lectures abouts Autism and Genetics and Autism and Building Design and one of the most interesting - Autism and Digestion.
Some of you may already know that Gastrointestinal (GI) Disorders are amongst the most common medical disorders associated with Autism. Children with an ASC are 3.5 times more likely to suffer from a GI disorder than their neurotypical peers.
One of the interesting discoveries we made at the show was A2 milk which can help if introduced into the diet of a person who is intolerant of the A1 hormone within milk (that can contribute to bloatedness, tummy ache, phlegm etc).
Obviously, we can't endorse this milk ourselves but if you think your child may have GI issues and they seem to be exascerbated by milk consumption, why not find out more by visiting the A2 Milk Website.
At lunchtime, we went back outside to eat the sandwiches we'd brought with us (you will pay a small fortune if you choose to by food and drink within the show) and during the afternoon, we listened to a couple of the smaller, hub theatre lectures (you need wireless headphones for these as they are in the main show area). During these, our son did get a bit restless but we took his DS which he happily and quietly played with whilst we listened.
Finally, a look around the various stands. Severals stands with sensory toys (one of which we partner with), a sensory classroom experience which was amazing, tough furniture (a cabin bed with space for a themed den underneath) and sensory scented play tiles to name but a few.
Of particular interest (and a first this year) was the Wheels for All area. A charitable organisation that provides cycling opportunities on a range of adpated cycles and tricycles. They run local groups around the North West and it was good timing because we'd just received an OT report on our son which stated that he needed to improve his core strength and that cycling was one way of doing this. He tried a couple of the cycles (under full supervision and with correct safety gear) and had a wonderful time. Visit the Wheels for All website to pop in your postcode and find your nearest group. It's just £3.00 per session so well worth it.
So, at the end of a very full day, we felt that it had been a really worthwhile visit. We collected some very useful information and our son had enjoyed himself too. It's definitely something we would recommend if you'e never been before and want to find out more information about Autism. It also wasn't packed on the Saturday so not too much 'people navigation' to get through.
Earlier in 2016, we ran an offer to JAG Members of just £10.00 per ticket (normal price online £13.00 and on the day - £17.00) but we had to secure a group of at least 10 people. Unfortunately, not enough people came forward so we had to disappoint the few that did request tickets. We will put our ticket offer out for 2017 as soon as prices have been confirmed by the organisers and hopefully, we'll gain more interest for 2017.