SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Families and individuals from across the capital area gathered over the weekend for the 10th annual Autism Expo & Art Exhibit.
The local event, typically held each spring in downtown Saratoga Springs, offers attendees the opportunity to learn about a variety of resources in the area – from camps and academic programs to technology apps and therapeutic services.
The free exhibit is being hosted by the non-profit organization Saratoga Bridges in partnership with the Upstate New York Autism Alliance.
Sarah Slagle, associate director of family and community support at Saratoga Bridges, said the ultimate goal of Autism Expo is “to make sure people are aware of the services that are out there for their children and/or themselves.”
Kristin Howarth, director of the Upstate New York Autism Alliance, believes strongly in the importance of Autism Expo. “I’m just glad to be a part of it because it’s very powerful in giving parents information to help their child and their families,” she said.
What began as a small event at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs more than a decade ago now draws more than 1,000 people and features dozens of exhibitors.
For young visitors, the fair offers a children’s activity zone with games and crafts, as well as a Sensory Room where visitors can relax.
Rachel Mann-Rosan, a psychology professor at Skidmore College, brought students from her developmental disabilities and autism class to help run the youth activities. “It’s a great way for students to put into practice what they’ve learned throughout the semester,” she said, “and see it in the people rather than the page.”
While part of the fair is dedicated to helping families find an autism diagnosis for their child, the fair also offers resources for adults living with autism. One such booth at this year’s event was The Social Club, a group for young adults with autism and other disabilities. Andrew Paolano, who has autism, started the group at a time when he felt lonely and wanted to do something good for the community and people with disabilities. It has grown significantly in recent years.
“It’s a good group,” he said. “I’d love for people to join and we always welcome new members.”
Some of the upcoming Social Club gatherings include a walk, a picnic, a talent show, and a visit to a trampoline park. During the summer, the club sometimes attends the Washington County Fair and the Schaghticoke Fair.
The Social Club is a recurring exhibitor at Autism Expo. “I like this event very much. There are so many great different stands here and you can learn so many different things from new organizations,” said Paolano. “It’s very informative.”
In addition, visitors to the event had the opportunity to browse an art exhibition showcasing local artists with disabilities. This year’s showcase included paintings, fashion drawings and more.