I’d previously attended the National Autism Show in Birmingham, at the NEC, so wasn’t sure what this nearby variant would bring to the table. I’m always keen to support local initiatives, and I had managed to keep the day free, so it made sense to make the effort and the 45 minute drive to see what was on offer for myself.
The venue was Cardiff City Stadium, close to Cardiff Bay, easily accessible from the M4, with plenty of free parking, and an easy walk from Ninian Park rail station.
There were plenty of interesting exhibitors, and the lineup of speakers was really impressive. I loved the TAD Talks (the show is organised by The Autism Directory): a series of presentations by autistic people talking about their own life experiences. I was additionally able to hear some excellent presentations including
- Sinclairs Law about fairness and access, statements and EHCPs, and the coming changes to the system in Wales,
- Seirrah OT on LEGO based play therapy
- ASD info Wales on their joined-up approach to service provision across education, health and care, navigating the system and available resources
- Michael Barton on surviving education and the working environment, and his brilliant books
The exhibitor space was ‘cosy’. This had a slightly discombobulating effect, in that it seemed to prevent the sort of strolling around that allows you to do a quick check of the stands before doubling back at a gentler pace to hone in on the stalls that have got your interest, and finally dawdling at the ones that mean most to you, picking up leaflets, buying resources and chatting to the exhibitors. I arrived at the beginning of the day, and found there was already a fairly strong current, encouraging walking in a certain direction and preventing much slowing, unless to deliberately insinuate my way to the front of a table to engage the exhibitor.
That said, I did manage to get to the front of quite a few tables. Highlights for me were:
- ASD info Wales – do check them out if you haven’t already
- Activise – apps for organisation and study skills (including simple sequencing and visual timetables, now/next, social stories)
- Dyscovery Centre – check out their comprehensive Box of Ideas, for all ages through education to employment
- OMI – motion activated sensory learning
- The Autism Directory – it’s all in the name, a Wales-based charity providing UK-wide signposting, support, events and resources.
I’m conscious that my own reaction to crowds, the ‘flow’ of foot traffic and the art of approaching an exhibitor for information is mine alone, but a chance meeting with one a former fellow masters student confirmed my impression that a slightly different layout of the space and stalls might have produced a different result. There may be a reason why the lower floor was reserved for exhibiting and the upper floor for presentations but it occurred to me that unless the reason was related to noise from above impacting on seminar sound, it might be worth considering swapping the floors in future.
That said, I will definitely be back next year, and I recommend that friends and colleagues within travelling distance make the trip, too!