“A great event that once again brought the industry together,” ATSA executive officer David Sinclair describing the ATSA Melbourne Expo. Sinclair who announced his retirement at the event, said attendance numbers exceeded expectations and feedback was “overwhelmingly positive from attendees and exhibitors alike”. A broad range of new products and innovations were showcased at the expo together with an informative seminar program.

Among the sessions was an insightful ‘lived experience’ presentation given by Daryl and Daniel Giles, with father and son sharing their autism journey and the challenges each faced from Daniel’s diagnosis, to gaining a university degree, living independently and receiving an OAM for his work in disability advocacy. 

Daryl had some advice on how being a hands-on parent can help achieve the best outcomes. He wrapped the session with a slide presentation on ‘Authoritative Parenting’: Parents who exert firm, consistent and age-appropriate control over their children’s behaviour, who are responsive and respectful of their children’s thoughts and feelings exhibit an authoritative parenting style. While firm they are also flexible, and allow their children to participate in decision making, use rewards rather than punishment, and explain behavioural rules and expectations to their children.

A panel discussion, Autism Support Apps, facilitated by Anita Ahearne from Living on the Spectrum took a deep dive into technology. First up was a new social media platform, Kaboose, that founder Michelle Ridsdale said connects people with autism to help foster friendships based on shared interests and explore employment opportunities, with plans to introduce mentoring programs in the future. If gaming is your gig, then Minds at Play could be for you. It runs a group of innovative programs developed by experienced game masters for children from eight years to adults. Co-founder Dwayne Fernandes said games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Minecraft have been designed to build cognitive skills and encourage self-confidence while forming friendships. Another app, Unique StarShine is an assistive tool for managing all your paperwork such as NDIS, occupational therapy and school documents, keeping them all in one place to assist with sharing communication with your support network and health care workers.

One of the speakers, University of Queensland research fellow, Dr Sarah Redman, announced a new cerebral palsy study around the new Para Athletics event, RaceRunning. It will investigate if twice weekly training using a running frame can improve heart, lung, bone and mental health of children and young people with cerebral palsy, who will also receive free bone density scans and lung function tests.

Athletes with CP will be fitted for a running frame and receive 12 weeks, twice weekly free training delivered by a physiotherapist or exercise psychologist. Half of the participants will receive training straight away and the others after five months.

To participate athletes must be diagnosed with CP, classified in GMFCS levels II-V be between 8-21 years of age and can commit to attending the training schedule.

The study Is being conducted with the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Curtin University, in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Cairns and the Sunshine Coast. Contact: run4healchcp@uq.edu.au

The expo spotlight turned onto the exhibitors for the awards presentation with Sunrise Medical taking out the award for ‘Best Large Stand’, with Independent Automotive for ‘Best Small Stand’ and Mobility Engineering picking up the award for ‘Best Marketing Campaign’, with Linds Rehab and Tab Timer ‘highly commended’. And the most popular pre-registered session went to Libby Callaway from ARATA.

The ATSA Perth Expo is on now at the Claremont Showground until June 1. The Canberra ATSA Expo at Exhibition Park runs from November 7-8.