Autism experts from across the world gathered in Edinburgh to share knowledge

International event was opened by the Minister for Childcare and Early Years

More than 1,600 people travelled to Scotland from all over Europe and as far as South America, New Zealand and Japan to attend the XI Autism-Europe International Congress, which The National Autistic Society hosted at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) this weekend.

The sold-out event, supported by Axcis Education, saw more than 300 speakers from across the world share advances in autism knowledge with researchers, professionals, autistic people and their families. Taking place every three years, the Congress was last held in Budapest and will take place in Paris in 2019.

The Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald MSP, opened the event and took the opportunity to try our cutting-edge virtual reality equipment, which had its Scottish premiere at the Congress. We are using the technology to explain how sensory overload can affect autistic people as part of our public understanding raising campaign, Too Much Information.

Mark Lever and Mark McDonald use our virtual reality technology to view the Too Much Information film

Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald said: “We in Scotland are immensely proud of the work that continues to take place to ensure that Scotland is a fair, inclusive and diverse society, and the Scottish Government will continue to work internationally to highlight and identify areas of good practice.

“It gives me great pleasure and pride to be asked to open Autism-Europe’s International Congress. It is a great honour to be part of this event with such a large and diverse audience of researchers, professionals, parents and self-advocates from around the world. The Congress theme is 'Happy, Healthy and Empowered' and in Scotland we strive to make a difference to the lives of autistic people. This Congress gives us the opportunity to showcase the developments across Scotland whilst recognising that there is much to be done locally and nationally.” 

The EICC was honoured with an Autism Friendly Award at the event, after the leading venue made changes to increase its accessibility and provided awareness sessions for staff. It is only the second building in Edinburgh to achieve the Award, which was first granted to Scottish Parliament in May 2015.

Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society, said: “The XI Autism-Europe International Congress is the biggest event of its kind, bringing together experts from all over the world to share the latest thinking and best practice about autism.

“I am pleased that I am able to present our Autism Friendly Award to the EICC on this important day. The venue has taken significant steps in a short space of time to ensure that autistic visitors feel safe, happy and understood. That will make a huge difference not only at this event, but at all events it hosts in the future.”

Marshall Dallas, the EICC's Chief Executive, said: "We are honoured to host the Autism-Europe International Congress at the EICC this week - as a team we have worked diligently with The National Autistic Society to make sure our staff have undergone best-of-class training and to ensure that the environment of our venue is fitting for this important event.  We were immensely proud when we became one of the first organisations in the country to achieve an Autism Friendly Award."