10th Annual Autism Expo and Art Show in Saratoga Springs Draws Large Crowds – Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Families and individuals from across the Capital Region gathered over the weekend for the 10th annual Autism Expo and Art Exhibit.
The local event, typically held each spring in downtown Saratoga Springs, offers attendees the opportunity to experience a wide variety of resources available in the area – from camps and college programs to technology applications and therapeutic services.
The free exhibit is organized by the nonprofit organization Saratoga Bridges, in conjunction with the Upstate New York Autism Alliance.
Sarah Slagle, assistant director of family and community support at Saratoga Bridges, said the ultimate goal of Autism Expo is “to make sure people know about the services that are out there for their children and/or themselves.”
Kristin Howarth, director of the Upstate New York Autism Alliance, strongly believes in the importance of the Autism Expo. “I’m just happy to be a part of this because it’s powerful to empower parents with information to help their child and their family,” she said.
What started more than a decade ago as a small event at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, now attracts over 1,000 people and features dozens of exhibitors.
For young visitors, the exhibition 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 organize the youth activities. “It’s a great way for students to kind of take what they’ve learned all semester and put it into practice,” she said, “and see it in people rather than on the page.”
While part of the exhibit is designed to help families navigate an autism diagnosis for their child, the exhibit 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 or disabilities. Autistic Andrew Paolano started the group at a time when he felt alone and wanted to do something good for the community and people with disabilities. In recent years, it has increased significantly.
“It’s a good group,” he said. “I would like people to join us and we always welcome new members.”
Some of the upcoming Social Club gatherings include a walk, picnic, talent show and a visit to a trampoline park. In the summer, the club sometimes visits the Washington County Fair and the Schaghticoke Fair.
The Social Club is a returning exhibitor at the Autism Expo. “I really like this event. There are so many different great stands here and you can learn so many different things from new organizations,” said Paolano. “It’s very instructive.”
Additionally, event attendees had the chance to browse an art exhibit featuring local artists with disabilities. This year’s showcase included paintings, fashion designs and more.