After serving among the population of individuals with autism and their families for twenty years, I attended my first Autism Society of America's conference. To describe the experience in one word, it would be "dignity." The event carefully and skillfully held and guided individuals with Autism, their family members and professionals. Rarely does such a varied crowd receive what they need and want within the same space.
The first session I attended was a Pre-Conference session on Self-Advocacy, designed and led by members of the Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism (PSA) for the Autism Society. I w
as reminded of the simple, yet critical to understand, perspective of individuals with Autism, and how each of us, neuro-typical and neuro-diversified, are responsible for accommodating to achieve a productive outcome. There were many highlights from this session, though my favorite was: "The best part of boardmenship is patience for the process."
Another session from which I took away plenty was, The Language of Behavior, presented by Ellyn Arwood, Ed.D, CCC-SLP and Carole A. Kaulitz, M.Ed., CCC-SLP. They presented a practical system for what I have noticed to be a root cause of increasing difficulty in the field for years: "Working on eliminating behavior does not improve thinking." Dr. Arwood spoke about the critical need to 'raise the level of thinking' for students in order to change their neurobiological patterns.
Temple Grandin, Ph.D. closed the ending panel with her typical unique expression of valuing the talents of individuals on the Spectrum of Autism and accurately preparing them for the reality of life ahead. There is something about the uniqueness of one's life story, with honesty and humor, that reaches many. I applaud the Autism Society of America for a fabulous conference and was honored to be there as a presenter and student.
For a video sample of Meghan's presentation at this conference, click here.