5 April 2024

Costumed heroes return to Lake Albert for the annual Autism Day walk

| Chris Roe
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The Hog, Emmet and Pikachu are just some of the characters you might encounter at Wagga's Superhero Walk.

The Hog, Emmet and Pikachu are just some of the characters you might encounter at Wagga’s Superhero Walk. Photo: Supplied.

If you’re out and about around Lake Albert on the weekend and in need of help, rest assured that you’re in safe hands with hundreds of superheroes nearby and ready to spring into action!

The Wagga Autism Support Group is back for 2024 with the annual Superhero Walk.

“This is our 10th year, although we had to break for COVID, so it’s our eighth actual walk,” said organiser Deborah Benwick.

“Families really get into it and start preparing for this event months out, trying to get their costumes coordinated so they have the whole family in a theme.”

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The event, held on World Autism Awareness Day, sees several hundred people dressing up as their favourite costumed heroes and heading out on an adventurous walk from Apex Park to the Wagga Wagga Boat Club.

There’s a festival vibe with barbecues, games, prizes and an appearance from a replica of the Pixar stunt car Lightning McQueen.

Deborah said the event connected families with resources and support networks for people with autism.

“It’s all about connection. Families can wander around the stalls and they’re able to connect with people who provide services that they can then link into what’s happening in the area,” she said.

“It’s a chance for an informal chat and to meet other people with similar experiences and kids can play together and make those sorts of connections too.

“We find people will invite their broader family along or their friends and it’s a chance for the other family to come to an event that’s autism specific and to learn a bit more.”

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The thinking behind the costumed theme is to help empower socially anxious kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to participate.

“If you’ve got anxiety about going out in public and you feel that the whole world is watching you, and if you put on an outfit and become Superman, or Batman, or whatever, it’s a way of stepping out of yourself and thoroughly enjoying being in that environment,” Deborah explained.

“You find that with autistic kids it’s something that they have a lot of interest in, all those creative mask-wearing characters and those Comic Con type events.”

The Wagga Autism Support Group's Superhero Walk returns for the first time in four years

The Wagga Autism Support Group’s Superhero Walk returns for the first time in four years with families from all around the Riverina ready to put on their masks and capes. Photo: Supplied.

This week, the Australian Government released its draft National Autism Strategy that aims to develop a coordinated national approach to support autistic people.

The rates of autism in Australia have grown with increased awareness and improved diagnosis with more than 3 per cent of school-aged children now believed to be living with autism.

Deborah said that while there had been improvements in recent years, we still had a way to go.

“I think that if everybody had a little more understanding of the situation and what’s happening in the lives of people with autism and their families, then it would be a lot easier,” she said.

“There are misunderstandings when people don’t see anything wrong or different and don’t understand why the behaviour or the things they say might be different.

“But when you understand autism, you know that there are actual reasons behind those behaviours and just that awareness can make it easier for everyone.”

This year’s Superhero Walk kicks off from 11 am at Apex Park, Wagga Wagga.

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