CAOTfest is a huge success

A helicopter delivering Shaun the Sheep was among the highlights of a Somerset County Council organised week of events for children with autism and their families.

The CAOTfest (3-7 August) annual camping event, organised by the Children’s Autism Outreach Team (CAOT), is a chance for children with autism and their families to have fun together.

During the week the children enjoyed meeting Charlie from ‘The Island with Bear Grylls’, a dog agility show, face painting, fancy dress, meeting Hello Kitty, clay modelling, meeting the Police and having their fingerprints taken and circus skills. The climax was the arrival of Shaun the Sheep by helicopter on Thursday (6 August).

This is the fifth year of CAOTfest and the numbers of families visiting has grown year on year. This year 43 families camped and another 28 families visited during the week.

The CAOT team works with parents and carers and their children aged 0-13 with a diagnosis of autism. The team helps families understand autism, assists with strategies to manage behaviour, supports the families and their children, and organises social activities.

Barbara Mills, Senior Autism Outreach Worker, said: “It has been a great week of fun at CAOTfest. We try to think of lots of exciting and different activities for the children to enjoy during the week – Shaun the Sheep flying in by helicopter was definitely a highlight for everyone, including the adults. The children love CAOTfest and enjoy socialising with other children with autism and it is great for the parents and carers too – they can relax in the knowledge that their children’s needs are understood and supported and they get to meet other parents and talk about autism.”

Kate Frost, a parent from Frome, enjoyed the week, she said: “It’s the first year we’ve been. I just love the fact that the children are free to run around, it feels safe and everyone’s in the same boat. If you have to deal with a difficult situation you know you’re not being watched by people that don’t understand. For our boys the best bit has definitely been the quad bike and tractor ride.”

Julian Swift, a parent from Chard, said: “It’s a chance for us to relax and let our son run around. We don’t have to watch him all of the time. He’s got lots of friends here and lot of activities to do. And it is a chance for us to see old friends and make new ones.”

Rachel Munn, a young person at CAOTfest, said: “I’ve been coming to CAOTfest for four years. I like that all the staff really understand you and are always there for you. I’ve enjoyed all of it. I will definitely be back next year.”

Watch a short clip from CAOTfest, including the momentous arrival of Shaun the Sheep by helicopter:

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Somerset County Council, said: “I visited CAOTfest during the week and it was great to see the children enjoying the freedom and exciting activities the camp offers. Families really value the support of the CAOT team and this event is hugely important to them.”

Photos from CAOTfest can be found on Somerset County Council’s flickr: https://www.flickr.com/gp/somersetcountycouncil/885q63