Making the Autism Shows more autism-friendly

I sent this letter to the organisers of The Autism Shows, with over 100 supporting names, in June 2018. As a result, I and two others met with the organisers of the Autism Shows and representatives of the National Autistic Society, and agreed several steps forward, including: a new space for autistic people at the event; provision of free drinking water; more free exhibition space for autistic-run organisations; and more information about accessibility and facilities to be available in advance. Hopefully, this will lead to an improvement in the accessibility of the Shows to autistic adults.


We are writing to you as autistic adults to raise our concerns that The Autism Shows are, for us, hostile and unsuitable events.

1. The venues are not autism-friendly. The Shows take place in cavernous exhibition centres, which are noisy, busy, brightly-lit and chaotic, with no readily-available relaxation spaces or affordable refreshments. This causes distress to the many autistic people with sensory sensitivities.

2. Material is distributed at the events which pathologises and presents a negative view of autistic people. For example, the magazine Autism Eye was available free and was promoted to visitors. It contains articles that describe autism as a chronic health condition, that argue that autism is caused by immune deficiency, and that promote treatments such as Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) which many autistic people consider to be abusive. Similarly negative and harmful messages were given out by other materials available at the Shows.

3. The Shows are very clearly not aimed at us, even though they call themselves ‘Autism Shows’. The Shows were about us, without us. Autism Eye is straplined as ‘for parents and professionals’ – not for autistic people ourselves. While genuine support, services and expertise are important to us, autistic people are not helped by being described and having decisions made for and about us entirely by others. This approach perpetuates the myth that we are helpless, necessarily dependant, and not the experts on our own experiences.

4. The events are almost exclusively about autistic children, not adults. One of the major problems that autistic people face is that when we become adults, support services are no longer provided and we disappear from public view. The Autism Shows are contributing to this.

We, and other autistic people we have heard from, find the Shows distressing. We know of several autistic adults who have been reduced to tears by the experience of attending, and many who having attended once, will not attend again.

An organisation and event which claims to advance our interests is in practice damaging them. The Autism Shows could be platforms for autistic people of all ages to articulate our experiences, strengthen our organisation and put forward our calls for support and equality. Instead, they are little more than a trade fair that promotes patronising and medicalised views of us. We appreciate the few autistic speakers who do contribute to the Shows, but do not believe that this compensates for or justifies the flaws outlined above.

We look forward to your response.

Janine Booth
Becca Lamont Jiggens
Lizzie Davidson
Le Panayi
Caz van Slyck
Liz Yeates
Joseph Redford
Stella Gardiner
Gill Connors
Pete Ring
Alex George
Kathryn Clark
Carla Staton
Naomi Johnson
Victoria Holland
Robert Chapman
Paul Wady
Graham Hanks
Josh Petzoldt
Hazel Honeyman-Smith
Joe Booth
Adam Henderson
Adrie van der Meer
Jeannette Dahlia-Harvey
Faith Clarke
Dominic Barron
Kyle Williamson
Kieran Rose
Becca Jane Phoenix
Janice Hansford
James Charles
Shaun Steiner-Goldberg
Sarifa Patel
Debbie Marshall
Shaun May
Rolo Rium
Lynn Williams
Olivia Astrid (withdrawn)
Christine Knight
Sara Jane Daniel
Anne Cossé
Nicki Burnett
Alain English
Peter Marshall
Melody Evans
Dee Dickens
Rhys Parry
Ciara Doyle
Emma Britton
Sarah Davis
Russell Elliott
Simon Hewitt
Christopher Smith
Fay Kesby
Sib Ali
John McDonald
Laura Williams
Mandy Gardner
Sybil Harris
Demi Hunter
Andrea Griffiths
Lyn Driver
Vikki Spence
Jaimes Moran
Linda Burrel Reid
Andrea Kelly
Trevor Wright
Gerogina Watts
Richard Chandler
David Wilburn Unger
Lee Butler
Luke Aylward
Ceri Dobbing
Daniel Bendelman
Johnathan Walton
Charlotte Stace
Roderick Cobley
Emma Dalmayne
Amanda Duncan
Phil Culmer
Tomas Clayton
Kabie Brooks
Noah Willis
Kate Ross
Judy Berkowicz
Mark Rochester
Cat Bennett
Kai Wilkins
Mark Rochester
Elaine Smith
Annie Morris
Sarah Saeed
Daivd Malins
Carl O’Keeffe
Anna Kraemer
Nada-Christina Whincop
Callum Brazzo
Krysia Waldock
Collette Adams
Ann Memmott
Kamala McDaid
Willow Holloway
Hannah Gostelow
Pat Grove
Kylie Gray
Michael Turner
Lenny Szrama
Jessica Benton
Fiona Clarke
Dee Fry
James Charles
Jessica Dark
Amy Sawyer
Katherine York
Julia Clark
Amy Thompson
Holly Judge
Andy Robbins
Carol Mulhern
Panda Mery
Kitty Bull
Errol Kerr
Jon Adams
Alan Borgars
Carla Ecola
Dave Serpell-Stevens

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