I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to parents and others who paid to meet me and hear my presentation at the Autism Show Manchester on Saturday 28th June. I am, and always will be… a mother first… helping parents and others will always be my priority. Due to matters out with my control, the day turned out to be a disaster and embarrassing for me as a professional.

This was also an opportunity for me to “market” myself and try and secure more work for the future. I contacted Autism Research (AR) to attend both days at the London and Manchester Shows. Despite me being a single parent, where my income is topped up with benefits, I accepted, as all the presenters had to… no payment… as AR wanted to keep the entrance fee low for parents. AR agreed to pay for my travel expenses, I asked if they would pay for any overnight accommodation giving I was travelling from Scotland wanting to attend both days to maximise opportunity to be with parents and professionals. They wouldn’t pay for accommodation, even a bed and breakfast facility; so left me no option but to cancel the London Show and travel on the same day I was presenting at Manchester.

I disrupted Amy’s routine and quality time with her, and set off from Gourock at 8 am to get the train to Glasgow. The train was late, so I missed my connection but managed to get another to Preston 40 minutes later. This train broke down at Lockerbie and didn’t move for two hours. I got off at Preston, but it was chaos and I missed the connection to Manchester and had to get another 30 minutes later. This train was packed like sardines,I stood all the way unable to go to the toilet or eat. Knowing I would miss my presentation slot, I phoned AR to ask if John Williams, another parent and professional, take my slot and vice versa.

I was determined to arrive knowing parents and others were keen to meet me. Panicking about the time, I phone AR to be told, “Its not really worth you coming, and you need to half your talk.” Needless to say I got there at 1545, very stressed, with no intention of talking for ten minutes.

I delivered a 40 minute very rushed presentation, but managed to inform the audience so well that many waited to meet me afterwords, frustraingly there was no time for Q& A afterwords, “just one question was allowed.” Venue staff rudely ushered me out to the foyer, as I tried to talk with parents, to be met with a queue of people waitng to see me, which pleased me. However, venue staff constantly asked people to leave, despite me attempting to talk to them and sign some books.

I am very dissapointed with AR and venue staff, at this big and expensive event. All AR staff left to let me get on with it. It’s sad to have to remind those who should know better, that myself as a parent, and other parents, are suposed to be at the forefront of their work, were treated in such a unsympathetic and disrespectful way. I was further upset to hear many tell me, that they solely attended this event to meet me and hear my talk.

Thankfully, despite all this, my concious is clear as a parent emailed me to say, “I and other people enjoyed your presentation, and meeting you today.”

With this information, please accept my sincerest apologies, and I urge you to complain to the organisers, given it’s public money that pays AR staff’s wages, they need to rethink their priorities for organising future events.

Nuala Gardner 29th June 2014