Check box and smiling face
Public events and spaces can prove tricky for autistic people. It can be an overwhelming experience and a difficult environment to navigate. Quite often, fundraising activities or events may contain elements that can create challenges.

By raising money and representing the National Autistic Society, you’re already being autism-friendly in lots of ways. You have the opportunity to raise funds and also help raise awareness of autism.

We understand that resources and time can be limited but with a little bit of careful consideration and preparation you can ensure that your event is inclusive and fun for everyone, including autistic people and their families. Here are some useful ideas to get you started. Not all of them will apply to your event, but we recommended having a read and including any that do work for you:

Plan ahead

  • Provide useful information and guidance ahead of the event – quite often an autistic person thrives on being in a familiar environment with routine or structure. Prepare information so people can plan their visit, with clear timings, information about who to contact prior to the event with any questions and give a clear idea of what to expect at the event. This could be in any format – a simple document or as part of an event programme, depending on the scale of your event. Using clear, plain language helps everyone and avoid similies, metaphors and hyperbole. Avoid overstimulating graphics.
  • Provide an accessibility map – there are many environmental elements that can prove challenging or confusing to an autistic visitor, so it is very helpful to highlight these in advance. Aside from standard signposts such as entrance, parking, fire exits and toilets these might include areas to queue, security checks, lifts, escalators, revolving doors, stairs, narrow areas, anticipated crowded and quiet areas such as bars, cafes or shops.
  • Consider appointing a named volunteer as a key ‘autistic visitor’ contact – both prior to the event and on the day for example, a friendly face who can assist those who may need a quiet space or support throughout the event. You may wish to send a photo of this person in advance to any autistic visitors or families.
  • Get some input – if you have an autistic team helper/friend/family member/someone with knowledge (this may already be you!) their input could be invaluable.
  • Brief volunteers – encourage your team of helpers to have a good understanding of autism (if they don’t already have this) so they can be confident in speaking to all visitors.
  • Establish at least one quiet zone/area/space - if you can provide a ‘quiet’ area for autistic people this is a great way to ensure your visitors have the option to take a break should things become stressful or overwhelming. Include this on your map or information.
  • Consider the sensory experience of your event - if there is anything you can do to reduce this without removing the excitement or thrill of an event, this is a good way to include everyone. For example – space out noisy activities or segregate them into two areas, reduce or entirely remove balloons or objects which may cause distress, use visuals, signs and timetables. Provide a clear running order highlighting anything particularly bright, noisy or unexpected.
  • Consider the catering sensory experience - if your event is providing catering, include the menu in your information and make sure you request any dietary requirements you’ve been told about. Autistic people can have food sensory sensitivities especially to particularly smelly food.
  • Set up a children’s area – providing an area with toys, sensory equipment, books and cushions can be welcoming and helpful to those with young children.
  • Choose your venue and work with the staff there – if you are holding a large event and are choosing a venue, is it very accessible for those with additional needs? Can you modify the lighting/seating if needed? Is it in a good location? Will you use their staff/security and can you brief them about autism?
  • Promote this understanding – this is a chance to inform your visitors who may not know a lot about autism so promote the steps you’ve taken to ensure inclusivity. We need to challenge this lack of understanding to change perceptions and improve the experiences of autistic people and their families at events and in public spaces. 

For more information or additional support for your event email community.fundraising@nas.org.uk