As I’ve written in previous posts my aim of this blog is to raise more public understanding of Autism so that Square Pegs and their families feel that they can go out without fear of being tutted at or shushed when the Square Peg has a meltdown in the middle of the Food and Drink Pavillion….
One of biggest days out for the good country folk of Devon is to visit The Devon County Show at Westpoint Arena, Exeter. Now I have never actually been to the Devon County Show since it’s been at this location, I last went when it was at the Whipton showground in Exeter and that was about hmmm let me think….30+ years ago?!! However, I have many happy memories of visiting when I was a child and I really wanted my own children to experience it too. Again, Edward having autism throws a spanner in the works as we know it’s not going to be an easy day out….but the Devon County Show kindly let us work with them by gifting us with complimentary tickets in return for a review of their provision for families of children with autism.
What did the Square Peg think of the Devon County Show?
We arrived at the County Show about 9am. We had to walk through about two fields of cars before we got to the entrance, Edward wasn’t happy having to hold our hands through the car park so my husband carried him on his shoulders. Having E-tickets made the process super easy, the volunteers just scanned the QR codes on my phone and we were through.
We found our way to the show office to meet with Emma Watson, the assistant show manager and discussed the current provision. They also kindly let us use the disabled toilet in the office when we needed to change Edwards nappy.
Armed with our map and guidebook we headed off to watch the Falconry display. Edward was very excited to watch the birds of prey flying straight over his head, he was flapping his hands and squawking like a bird……until one bird flew off from the show and then he lost interest and demanded to go and see something else.
After the Falconry display Matthew was desperate to watch the Bolddog Lings motorcross display team in the main arena so we made sure we were there in good time. Andy kept Edward on his shoulders whilst we watched the display in case he ran off and disappeared into the crowds of people. As usual Edward was really excited, he was fine with the noise from the motorbikes and loved it when they performed stunts in the air.
Did the Square Peg enjoy the food and drink pavilion?
In a word…no
My favourite part of the county show is and always will be the Food and Drink Pavilion, I was just itching to see what glorious food and drink Devon has to offer. I just love sampling lots of different locally made food and drink. Matthew, being a little foodie loved it too. However, Edward somewhat ruined our experience of the food tent by throwing a massive wobbly if we held on to his hand whilst we tried to sample some of the delicious food.
We said to him “Here Edward, do you want to try this piece of cheese?’ He shouts ‘NO! I DON’T LIKE CHEESE!’
‘OK then Edward, what about some of this fudge? Surely you’d like to try some of this delicious fudge?’…..he actually took some in his hand….I was getting excited that he might actually try some….then he shouted …..’NO! I DON’T LIKE FUDGE!’…..so Mummy had to eat it….ok, don’t mind if I do!
I could have spent hours in here just going round and round with Matthew trying all the different types of food but instead I felt pressure to go round as quickly as possible because Edward was shouting and throwing himself around.
Recently, Matthew has started drinking tea so the highlight for him was a visit to the Oolong Tea Company stand, he was so excited to get to sample all the different types of tea. We came away with a sample of Gabba and he can’t wait to drink it a home, we just need to purchase a tea infuser first. If you’re an avid tea drinker then check out their wonderful range of teas here https://www.oolongteacompany.com/
‘With a baa baa here.’
The focal point of the county show is the farm animals so we had to go in the sheep tent and check out all the different varieties of sheep, well Edward was beside himself with excitement so he started singing Old Macdonald had a farm…..except he was singing ‘Old Macdonald had a duck’ so we said to him you can’t sing about ducks in the sheep tent so then he started singing ‘with a baa baa here…’ Hilarious!
The children’s farm was really lovely. There was an opportunity to hold little tiny baby chicks and guess what? Edward was really excited to have a turn. Daddy sat with Edward on his lap holding onto the chick 🐤 just in case Edward decided that he wanted to squeeze or prod the poor little chick. The look of excitement on Edward’s little face was priceless.
John Deere Gator Rides
Later in the afternoon we found our way to the Air Ambulance stand where they were offering off road rides (for a £3 donation to the Air Ambulance) through the woods in a John Deere Gator Utility vehicle. We love a bit of off roading so Edward and Daddy went climbed in one together and myself and Matthew went in the next ride. The driver of Edward’s vehicle said that he had never seen anyone so excited to ride in one. Once the ride finished Edward cried his eyes out because he wanted to go round again.
Did the Square Peg like the Fun Fair?
Throughout the day Edward kept randomly saying ‘Go on Bumper cars!’ we knew they had a fairground but we didn’t know that there were bumper cars. So when we found them Edward was beyond excited so he went on with Daddy and laughed and flapped the whole time.
How to make the Devon County Show more Autism Friendly.
For any families with autism a day out here will always be a challenge but in my opinion the benefits outweigh the challenges. I’m a believer that it is vital to expose children with autism to days out like this as they can gain huge amounts from visiting. It just means it’s an exhausting day out for the family, but what’s new?
My advice to the Devon County Show is to first establish a key person who has a good understanding of autism amongst the staff to be the point of contact to help families to plan and prepare for their visit.
Produce an autism friendly guidebook or adapt the current one and ensure that is available beforehand. This should include clearly displayed useful information such as highlighting quiet areas, potentially busy and noisy places and where there might be queuing.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that providing a lanyard or a badge to highlight the condition will be helpful to members of staff and to the general pubic who perhaps don’t have an understanding of autism.
Would I recommend a day out to the Devon County Show with Square Pegs?
Yes! Absolutely! Both of my boys had the most amazing day out. They got to experience so many wonderful things.
If you’ve never been then check out what you missed this year and see what’s happening next year at the website https://www.devoncountyshow.co.uk/
So a big thank you to Emma Watson and the team for giving us the opportunity to review the Devon County Show. Can’t wait for next year!