Autism-friendly events for adults and why they matter

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This is a sponsored post by Elly from The National Autistic Society.

From doctor’s surgeries to train stations to offices, it’s no great shock to learn that many places people with autism have to visit are not autism-friendly.

There have, of course, been big campaigns about this – and people are taking notice. Social institutions, from museums to theatres, have been applying for Autism Access Awards or putting on autism-friendly performances.

This means that people with autism are now able to access lots of places in the same way as neurotypical people are. Of course, it’s a shame that we even have to see this as a victory, when it should be common practice – but it’s a battle that autism campaigns and charities are winning, steadily and surely.

But something that we talk about much less are autism-friendly social spaces for older teenagers and adults. It might now be easier to go to necessary places, like doctor’s offices or workplaces, but there are precious few dedicated spaces that adults with autism can go in order to relax, socialise, see a band, and have a few drinks (if they like).

So we urgently need to create fun, social environments that have the needs of adults with autism as a starting point, not an afterthought. It’s crucial that people with autism live the lives they choose – not the lives chosen for them – and having the choice to go to a gig or a social event is a really important part of that.

That’s why The National Autistic Society is organising some brand new events with this purpose in mind.

national-autism-society3Firstly, we have Unplugged for Autism – a great rock and indie gig featuring a solo set from Gaz Coombes, the lead singer of Supergrass, and a special unplugged set from White Lies. We also have some brilliant songs from two young musicians with autism, Ed Goodale and Sam Cooper. The whole evening is autism-friendly: all of the acts except one are acoustic, the lighting is very simple with no strobes or light shows, and the venue has plenty of spaces to relax in, including a roof terrace and private boxes.

Tom Wakley, an NAS volunteer working on the Unplugged for Autism event, said the event was hugely important for him and other people with autism because “events like this help us learn how to cope, how to deal with life, and how not to feel exposed and unsure”.

Unplugged for Autism takes place on 15 December at KOKO in Camden – you can buy tickets here:

 But as well as events like this, we want to make sure that people with autism are at the heart of the fun, autism-friendly events we put on. So we’ve also been working on AutismCon – a fun, day-long cultural festival that has been organised by a team of adults with autism.

 The day is all about celebrating the special interests and talents of people with autism. With talks on many different topics from science-fiction to music, the London Underground to meditation, there will be something for everyone. We will also welcome many popular cultural figures with autism, including the X Factor’s Lauren Lovejoy and Menswe@r lead singer Johnny Dean.

 AutismCon takes place on 17 January 2015 in Conway Hall, London, and tickets are available here:

 We look forward to seeing you at both events, and hope you agree with us on their importance!

19 thoughts on “Autism-friendly events for adults and why they matter”


    • JacobV on March 4, 2015

      I don’t think the world should cater to our phobias. I think we need to break them and overcome our phobias. This is the only way to deal with life as it is.

      • Ettina on March 14, 2015

        Would you say that a person is a wheelchair should just learn to climb stairs?

        While some autistic people can overcome sensory sensitivities (just as some wheelchair users can learn to walk) this is not a realistic option for everyone.

    • Writergirl53 on March 6, 2015

      I agree with Jacob, I think that for the most part this is not really viable or reasonable. However, what might be more helpful is to look at ways to make things easier, (but not necessarily less stressful) for Aspies. For example, due to my Aspberger’s and other LDs, I have great difficulty navigating. Perhaps putting up maps in more places, and having more help desks in crowded places to give directions would help people like myself have a bit of an easier time getting around without inconveniencing others.

    • bjcirceleb on March 7, 2015

      I do not see how you can make something Autism friendly. What is helpful for one person on the spectrum is not helpful for another. Most of the time when things are made autism friendly, they reduce sensory input. That might help those who are sensory avoiders, but totally ignores those who are sensory seekers and hence want more sensory input than they currently get. Who is accommodating those people.

      I do have Autism and am severely affected by it and do require paid support on a daily basis. I have my own accommodations, to make the world more accessible for me. I have multiple ways of dealing with my unique sensory issues and I fail to see why the whole world should change for my sensory issues, when what works for the next person is not what works for me. I do struggle with verbal communication, but the places I frequent often, do know how to communicate with me and do that well. I think getting communication accessibility would be of more benefit to more people. Educating people on how to work with those who might struggle with verbal communication, making sure all information is available in multiple formats, etc. Clarifying what you think the person wants to ensure it really is what they want, etc. But trying to make something sensory friendly, when everyone is affected by sensory issues differently seems counterproductive to me.

      I am disabled by my autism, it is not simply a different way of being, and so the idea that I need to learn to cope and be normal is not something I can agree with, I am simply too disabled for that to occur. But having said that, what works for me, will not work for the next person. It is about me having the supports I need, to work out what works and what helps me, and for sensory issues that is an occupational therapist, with experience in sensory processing. But a world accommodating to my sensory needs will not support anyone else to the same level as it does me, because I am me. It would be like saying we produced one level of large print for one person who is vision impaired and expected everyone to read it, when many would not be able to.

    • MindWithoutWalls on March 11, 2015

      While we’re all very different from each other, I do think we can be better accommodated. An event like the one described above sounds appealing to me. It wouldn’t be best for everyone, but I think the answer is to provide more variety in accommodation, not to give up because no one way will suit us all. I applaud the efforts being made by the folks who designed and put on the event and hope there will be more. It’s too far away for me to travel, but perhaps I’ll one day hear of more things where I live.

    • buckeyemac on March 15, 2015

      I like the concept of an event or facility trying to accommodate people with autism, just like they try to accommodate all sorts of people with differing abilities and sensibilities.

      It would be helpful if an event of public space is noted as “autism friendly”, it would be nice to know specifically what services, amenities, etc. are available – and if they are by request or by design, or if they are special events – because there is a wide variety of differences from individual to individual.

      For me, my primary issue is noise and the confusion that comes from large crowds, which is often out of control of the facility management on a day-to-day basis. Using this as an example, it would be nice to know if the facility offers noise canceling headphones, has specific events where visitors are encouraged/reminded to speak in hushed tones for the sake of visitors, or if the facility is designed to dampen noise. This would help me decide if the event or venue or facility is likely to be enjoyable (or tolerable.)

      For me, a web page that shows a typical experience at the facility is often really helpful for knowing what to expect from the other patrons. Sometimes photographs are taken when the facility is empty – which isn’t as helpful. Things like seeing how busy it usually is, what the age breakdown of the patrons are (sometimes places with a lot of children tend to be noisier and more chaotic), if the foot traffic is orderly or not, how wide hallways are, what lighting is in use, etc. – all give valuable information to someone planning a visit.

    • absatlow on April 19, 2015

      ASD is three labels: autism, PDD-NOS, and Aspergers. I want ASD to revert back to the DSM 4 with seperation of these three.

      I think that autism friendly IS a reality but would depend on which one of these labels one actually has. Don’t think there is one size fits all for “autism friendly” depends on diagnosis.

      I am high functioning autism. JacobV definitely has Aspergers. I don’t have Aspergers: high functioning autism.

      I honestly don’t think this site is “autism friendly” while it is geared towards those with ASD. Actually geared towards Aspergers not ASD as a whole. The founder of the site has Aspergers.

      The docs get diagnosis of ASD all wrong from my personal experiences and others I’ve met with ASD

    • absatlow on April 19, 2015

      I know tons of people with ASD who wouldn’t enjoy this website their just hidden from society

    • Firebrains on October 30, 2015

      I agree, that if you’ve met three Aspies, you’ve met three Aspies.
      I like to go to small rock shows, but I wear out easily and often dont make it till main act. My daughter seems more social than I am, but she lives in a gorgeous rural area and is able to get out in it often.
      Nature is very healing.

    • Megan140 on November 11, 2015

      This just doesn’t sit right with me. I have been diagnosed with Asperger’s and have not once wanted special treatment for it. I want people to be patient with me and to stop giving me funny looks when I say something. What I don’t want is for people to go out of their to accommodate me. Why should other people have to be inconvenienced and be made uncomfortable just for me? What makes me so special that others have to go out of their way for me? It doesn’t make sense and it’s not fair. This isn’t like adding wheelchair ramps or described video to give people more control over their own lives.

    • Sbdworzak on December 13, 2015

      I relate best to Megan140. The world is a varied place, and there are venues and genres of acoustic, vocal, folk or classical music that won’t be sensory overload; no one needs to create “special events”. Indeed I believe it is a slippery slope towards “special schools” and closed-away institutions for keeping the special people in. Parents need to find the venues that their child thrives in, too. Like if your child is terrified of clowns but like chamber-music, attend the string-quartet but don’t go thinking the classmate will skip the birthday-clown at the party just for your child.

    • Sjero on December 21, 2015

      I would like to go to an event like this. I love live music but I haven’t been able to take in very much of it because, well, money, for one, but also because it’s usually combined with a rowdy nightlife environment or involves a large crowd. Thankfully smoking was banned. It’s nice when you have the option to move around to a calmer spot when you need a break.

      Maybe I should get some nice delux ear plugs and lightweight sunglasses and maybe like something to plug my nose. And a “Do not hug” t-shirt. Yeah, then I could go anywhere! Lol.

    • martin on May 6, 2016

      Nice post shared !!

    • OneHandCoding on November 25, 2016

      Simply acknowledging that adult autistics exist and that some of us would love to meet and enjoy a bit of socializing with each other is absolutely marvelous, in my view. Of course not all of us can do so, or want to, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

      Nobody is saying that our so-called phobias ought to be indulged or catered to simply by offering events like these. I personally wish that America could have the benefit of an organization like the UK’s National Autistic Society.

      I was only formally diagnosed two years ago, well into middle age. I have already grown very weary of the domination of the autistic world, online and in public, by presumably well-intentioned parents/families’ organizations which over-emphasize their trials and difficult experiences with their autistic children. These organizations are not representative of autistic adults, and certainly fail to acknowledge that autism isn’t something one outgrows, nor do they acknowledge that we do in fact grow up.

    • Babygirlval on August 27, 2022

      I’m looking for a nice man

    • Karmita on February 18, 2023

      Autism friendly spaces for adults are difficult to find. In Inverness in the Scottish Highland region, the independent health food shop is free of recorded music and was a haven for me in late December when so many places have Christmas music blaring out. Wetherspoons pubs have won a quiet award, but men when drinking heavily tend to get over excited and their loud powerful voices due to their large chest resonance is overpowering, overwhelming and needs to be avoided. They do low cost meals and have refillable low cost good quality coffee. I find it so difficult when most places compulsively use recorded music. Only monasteries, priories and convents seem to be a refuge from the relentlous noise. Good news Inverness this year has all electric buses for local places in and near to the very small city, and Aberdeen a bigger city has hydrogen and electric buses. So some improvements away from noisy dirty diesels.

    • Aspiretobeme26 on March 17, 2024

      I agree with the person above. There is no events in my region- usa midwest that have aspergers events and i will often be disappointed by this. I do however go to the autism society events and ask friends for coffee.

    • wUmrLVWz on April 17, 2024


    • wUmrLVWz on April 17, 2024


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