Pay Your Bill
What does Attending the Festival Mean to Families with Autism?

By Pam Dewey • autism, autism spectrum disorder, ASD, autism acceptance, neurodivergent, neurodiversity movement, sensory, sensory sensitivity, inclusion, inclusive events, accommodations, community inclusion • March 31, 2022

The Fraser Festival for Autism, presented by Central Roofing Company, is a free, fun event with therapy animals, food trucks, giveaways and activities. This year, the event will be held on Sat., May 7, in the North Parking Lot at Mall of America. But for some families, the festival offers a rare opportunity to participate in an event without fear of being judged or having to leave because their needs aren’t accommodated.

This week, we’re sharing why Nikki Newman and her son Tristan attend the Fraser Festival for Autism, presented by Central Roofing Company, and what having an event like this means for them.


Baby Tristan seemed to be developing normally. He had started to talk. But when he was about 18 months, his grandma babysat for him, and she said, “He doesn’t really look at you, and he’s not talking much.”

“I thought she was overly worried,” remembers his mom, Nikki. “So I googled, and every single trait of Tristan’s came up as autism.”

Their school district connected Nikki to Fraser. At age 2, Tristan was diagnosed with autism. He had stopped speaking, and he seemed to be off in own his world most of the time. After his diagnosis, Tristan started several therapies at Fraser, including occupational and speech therapy.

Tristan Tristan at home

Tristan is 4½ now, and he’s come so far, says Nikki. He is talking again and can share his likes and dislikes. He loves to sing nursery rhymes and engages much more with people around him.

“He said, ‘See you soon,’ when he left for school today. It was so sweet,” Nikki says. “At Fraser, Tristan has learned so much about himself with people who genuinely care about him. Fraser gives children the best versions of themselves.”

Nikki says she has also learned from Fraser. Before his diagnosis, she knew almost nothing about autism. Now she and her family understand more of what Tristan needs and can communicate with him much better.

“We’ve gained so much more patience and understanding,” says Nikki. “Now if I see someone out in the world who is clearly autistic, I feel so much compassion. I try to say hi, and I never judge the parent if their child is struggling.”

This is the third year Nikki, Tristan, and their family will attend the Fraser Festival for Autism, presented by Central Roofing Company. The festival provides a space to meet other families like them.

“It just feels good to be around people like us. We don’t have to worry about being judged or have other people be mean to us. It gives us a chance to feel accepted and ‘normal,’” says Nikki. “Raising awareness about autism is important because I want my family to be able to participate in the community, like everyone else. When more people know about autism, they can show more patience and understanding, and it builds a better future.”

Tristan enjoys running and exploring at the festival. He also loves the bubbles.

“Tristan can just be himself, and no one is restricting him. He just has the best day,” says Nikki.