Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Los Angeles held their Cure Autism Now Walk Now event today, April 22, 2006 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Throughout the year these Walk Now events will be taking place in cities across the country.
Although the service providers will be different for the various Resource Fairs, representation across the board on what is available to families of children on the Autism Spectrum can be consistent in nature. Please note that most people will be wearing the white t-shirts for the Walk. Since we do not participate in the walk segment we wear colored shirts to distinguish among others.
Upon entering the facility I filled out the white stickers for children to wear in case they get lost. These have Cure Autism Now Walk Now on the left side with three lines for data. The first is my name is ------------, My parent's name(s): --------------- and Please call this number if I am lost: ---------------.
It is best to put this on the outer wear of the child if they are wearing jackets due to colder or inclement weather. To make sure the label stays on try to attach it to their backs when they are distracted. Since rain was in the forecast we all had jackets with hoods that went around our waists as the weather became warmer.
I would suggest bringing a duffel type bag so you can store all the papers and reading material from the Resource Fair. Many of the vendors will have bags containing relevant data on their organization. I recommend this as the easiest way to get your information to the families and to keep visitors moving along.
There are lots of exhibitors that have activities for the children like bubbles, face painting, coloring and playing with seeds and beans. Most of the fair participants have either pens or pencils with their name, address, phone number and website printed directly on them. A few had notepads with their contact information on each page, while a handful had refrigerator magnets.
My son Nicholas had a bag from one vendor that he carried and collected pens and pencils, similar to Halloween except he preferred the pens over the candy that many of these same exhibitors have at their tables. These ranged from lollipops, smarties candies, hershey kisses, candy canes and twizzlers.
The fun stuff at the tables comprised of squeeze stress balls with their logo and contact data, mouse pads, windmill, frisbees, hand clapper (my favorite). ABC 7 handed out sun visors while Cure Autism Now supplied visitors with Neutrogena Sun Block.
The majority of the vendors were service providers within Los Angeles and neighboring counties. There were a few nursing agencies that provide respite care, a Dentist, Homeopathy Dr, Chiropractor and several non-profit agencies, specialized private schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District, law firms and advocacy organizations present. Several organizations had materials available in Spanish.
We saw a few service dogs with their children and a few ponies from one organization providing therapy services. I did not see anyone representing service dog organizations or anything relating to PECS or AAC products. I didn't notice any weighted products like vests, blankets or quilts. There was one vendor of special clothing for sensory kids. Special foods were lacking as well, although we did enjoy the animal crackers known as Kinni Kritters from Kinnikinnick. Juice Plus and a water vendor were also present at this Resource Fair.
In years past we did see and purchase from such vendors like Usborne Books and DK Books. Books and educational products were not really evident at this Resource Fair. Matthew turns 10 in June so I was hoping to get some ideas for birthday presents.
When I have attended autism conferences there are participants selling autism related software, educational products and PECS related items. While walking around the Resource Fair is not an easy task with two children on the Autism Spectrum, it is worthwhile to obtain information on companies that cater to our families and peruse through at a later time.
It does seem that the service providers represented cater to younger children with the older children not finding many resources to connect with others. Many of these agencies service through age 10 or 12. By looking through the brochures and catalogs of the organizations you notice the theme of small children in the images surrounded in ball pits and bubbles.
Some of the providers had information pertaining to summer camp, there were moon bouncers along the event and throngs of people everywhere. A few of the exhibits were selling DVDs and CDs along with autism awareness shirts, pins, car magnets and jewelry. Not as much as you would find on ebay though! Someone even asked where I got Matthew's blue shirt that reads - Please be patient with me, I have autism. Nicholas wore a SpongeBob shirt that said - You're boring me.
Nicholas also commented that he was surprised there were so many people with autism, he thought it was rare. Once we were home he got out his Children's Dictionary to look up the word - intervention, since it was printed on the hand clapper I was playing with.
There was one autism magazine represented - I purchased the winter 2006 issue of The Autism Perspective TAP, for six dollars. Nicholas wanted a soft cuddly stuffed dog for fifteen dolars, but I have no idea which exhibitor sold this as they did not have any information on the dog, but Nicholas has already named him.
Nicholas wanted to see other animal stuff and commented on the way home that everything was baby stuff. It would be nice to see an inflated basketball hoop for older kids to do fun things. I always bring along a water bottle when we go out, which is good since I did not see any at the tables or any vendors selling drinks. There were more food vendors when the Event was at Dodger Stadium, from what I recall.
I also purchased for ten dollars a DVD, Through the eyes of Autism. Matthew was able to meet Elizabeth Balzano, the Music Therapist with Spectrum Connections. She had her guitar with her and sang Hello to Matthew, which he enjoyed.
I will be showcasing some of the Resource Fair participants that piqued my interest in Spotlight on Resource Fair Vendors. Some of them had interesting items at their tables while others had listed resources in their brochures that seem worthwhile to pursue further.
I was glad to see Special Olympics at this event and learned they are revamping their website. Another organization not at this event, but worth noting for families is Best Buddies.
I got both arms scratched badly by Matthew whenever I stopped at the tables to get some data. It was quite impossible to stop and ask questions, but the sites I was familiar with and wanted more data I tried to get my answers before proceeding to the next table. I wasn't able to fill out any mailing lists or join in any raffles as the prizes are awarded at Noon and we were out of there by 10:15. As we found our vehicle in the large parking lot the raindrops started - perfect timing for us to head on home.
For future participants of Resource Fairs at any of the Cure Autism Now Walk Now events you may want to look into hats or ponchos if the event will take place during colder weather or rainy season. Years ago when I worked in the Insurance Industry I would go to the Expos and always visit Travelers Insurance booth since they had the umbrellas!
Having a website and a simple product with your logo on it will go a long way in recognition among the families. Consider a notepad, magnet and a bag with your contact data on it for helping spread the word to more families about your resources and/or products.
Just this afternoon I received a sample keyring with my name and city printed on it from National Pen. I did not see any keyrings at this Resource Fair. Another site to check out for Promotional Items
Jan Way is the company I utilized when employed at an Insurance agency. They have plastic bags, magnets, rubber bracelets, bookmarks, keychains and much more.
One of the first exhibits we visited after entering the field section of the Rose Bowl had a Hug machine with someone demonstrating how to use it. I cannot recall which organization this was, but I was impressed to see they have this at their clinic. At the LAUSD OT clinic a few years ago Matthew was in the squeeze machine, it had rollers that he moved underneath. I took a photo of him going through it since it was a one time experience.