The Autism Show 2018

Saturday 16th June 2018, Excel, London

So this is my second visit to The Autism Show having attended last year.  Once again it delivered on interesting speakers and lots of stands full of information.  I met some lovely people and now have plenty of new things to try or find out more about.

My personal stand outs this year were Dave Hewett and Leo Capella.  Dave Hewett from Intensive Interaction, his speech really resonated with me as social interaction is a problem for both my boys at the moment.  I think I need to re-evaluate how I interact with them (give them more power to lead) and certainly look at Intensive Interaction in more detail.  Leo Capella made me realise how important it is for me as a parent to listen to people on the spectrum, learning from them in relation to how I interact with and understand my son better.

Banner at the Autism Show

Speakers at The Autism Show:

I always struggle to decide which speakers to see, there always seems to be a clash with the ones you really want to see.  Unfortunately I missed out on Steve Michaelis this year, I also just caught the end of Travis Smith and Lucy Gaskell and would have loved to hear them speak.  I was pleased to see the Autism Football feature but unfortunately the workshops for this had been held on Friday.

The speakers used the Silent Seminar System where it is all done through headphones, a little odd at first but a good way to make sure we can all hear in a busy environment.  So who did I see:

Clare Cusack from Orkid Ideas – Visual Supports – Sharing my family’s journey.  Clare shared how she had used visuals with her son and later developed TomTag picture schedules.  Some helpful reminders that objects also function as visual aids and you can use visuals to stimulate discussion / communication (I now plan to try out some picture books of holidays or events we have done with my son).  Furthermore she made a very good point that visuals have no attitude, no tone of voice or disapproval.

Pauline Allen from the Sound and Learning Centre – Auditory Integration Training (AIT) is not for Autism – it’s so much more! I definitely want to learn more about Auditory Integration Training and also find out about the Neuro developmental programme (NDP).

Leo CapellaWelcome to the Autism Jungle – Unfortunately due to technical problems we missed out on Leo’s slides but his passion for disability rights shone through.  Leo discussed the importance of removing barriers to disabled people, for example with stairs being a barrier for people in a wheelchair these are removed using lifts or ramps.  The issue is then why we are expecting people on the spectrum to conform to their barriers (it is imposing a way of being on a minority group).

He also talked about the scary historical ghosts for many people on the spectrum including himself, such as Nazi eugenics – Aktion T4 and more recently the Sagamihara stabbings in Japan (which I had not even heard of – making his point even more clear!).  The importance that we learn from history and the value of people on the spectrum, parents and professionals all finding common ground and working together.   Furthermore the need for us all to study and learn from others, to listen to alternative perspectives.

Dave Hewett from the Intensive Interaction InstituteCommunicating with Autistic People who find Language Difficult using Intensive Interaction

Fundamentals of Communication

The key to Dave’s speech was the importance of the ‘Fundamentals of Communication’, that basic enjoyment and need for us all to interact and have relationships with others.  The speech really made me think about the need to step back, focus on the basics and forget about the content of communication and work on the structure and get that right first (content can come later).  I should be enjoying reading the Gruffalo over and over and singing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ all day, making it fun and interacting with my kids is so important at this stage particularly in a predictable repetitive format.

Dave gave some very helpful advice and tips on techniques and I know I need to work on letting my son lead the interaction and be more relaxed / unhurried.  Patience has always been hard for me but I know it makes a difference so I am pleased that I have had a reminder to really focus on how I am interacting with my son. I plan to find out some more about Intensive Interaction and work on all the tips today.

Lesley Burton from SenseToysPicking Your Battles – Strategies for Helping Children with Autism in Everyday Routines.  Another great reminder of the importance of using visuals.  Needing to break down each step. Lesley gave lots of helpful ideas, I will try out the suggestion of getting some rubber gloves to practice going to the dentist at home.  At the end Lesley reminded us that we know our children best and need to do what works for us.

Natalie Ellison an Earlybird trainer – Challenging Behaviour in Young Autistic Children: Identifying and Preventing Triggers.  Natalie went over the STAR model which I had covered in Early bird training but haven’t been using much recently.  The STAR model is used to analyse challenging behaviour looking at the Actions, Setting, Triggers and Results.  I think I need to use this more often and it made me think about how I need to be more consistent with my response to challenging behaviour.  For example when my son is biting his clothes I need to be consistent in providing an alternative, which in our case at the moment is his Hexiclaw chew.  There were several questions at the end and most of the answers came back to using visuals and social stories, I do this already but could definitely be doing more.

Stands, Stalls and products

I got myself a signed copy of ‘A different Kettle of Fish’ by Michael Barton, a book about a day in the life of a Physics student with Autism so I look forward to reading that.

I got a chance to catch up with SAS Boost who we have been working with online since the show last year, we discussed some new things to try with my son.

I enjoyed trying out a Musii, it’s a multi sensory interactive inflatable.  My son’s music therapist was recently telling me how much my son enjoyed using it, nice that I got to see what it actually is!

Stocked up with brochers to browse from SenseToys and Sensory Direct along with information to look at from NAS and The Disability Trust.

I had good conversations about Augmentative and Alternative Communication with Tobii Dynavox and Smartbox giving me options to consider for my son.  I am also interested in the accessible holidays from Calvert Trust.  I now have tons of leaflets to go through and new things to learn about!

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