Category Archives: Conference

To the Plane!

After a very rough recovery from surgery last month, I’m finally medically cleared and back on my feet (in a way). When you are stuck in bed with only your thoughts, a lot of random pieces can suddenly make sense. Things have a way of working out and it looks like things will be working out for me on a couple levels. Specific blog posts about that to come.

This week, I will be presenting at OCALI in Columbus Ohio. Thursday I will be presenting in two sessions.

Personal Perspective on Bullying: Awareness and Advocacy.
Thursday 8am-9:15am

We Are The Autistic Global Initiative Young Leaders
Thursday 2:45-4pm

I’ll be around the entire conference and would love to meet up with people. I am horrible at facial recognition, so please feel free to come up to me and introduce yourself.

I’ve also recently been on a bit of a hiatus since the Autism Society of America Conference due to health reasons, but I look forward to moving forward with projects. There are a few emails I still need to respond to about writing and presenting, but if you are interested in working with me in the future feel free to send me a message. I’m currently already planning workshops, presentations, and teaching sessions into the next year.

Me and my people

Currently, I’m relaxing in Boulder and doing my best to figure out the next steps of this wacky thing called ‘life’. The greatest part of all this is I’m surrounded by one of my mentors and still feeling the effects of the Autism Society of America conference.

The joke came up several times last week about how several of us go to the Autism Society of America conference to be social. It’s a once a year trip most of us make to unite us from across the country. Navigating the whirlwind of meetings and presentations, either giving or attending, we still manage to reconnect in the hallways or in the evening.

On the last night of the conference, what was only going to be a brief dinner with an old friend and my mother turned into something so much better. It started by inviting new friends to join us. That quickly turned to other friends showing up and soon we were taking over a large section of comfy couches. The evening was spent talking about everything as we watched lightning dance across the Denver skyline.

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That last night before the end of the conference, I was stressed and very nervous about my early morning presentation looming the next morning. My topic for the Sisterhood of the Spectrum panel was “Authenticity”. At 8:30 in the morning, still adjusting to Mountain Standard Time compared to Eastern Standard Time, I would speak about the importance of embracing who you are and knowing others have walked the similar path.

One of the greatest things I have come to understand and accept is that I have people in my life who truly care about me. There are people in the world who genuinely want to support others and wish the best for them. I am one of those people and am very thankful for being surrounded by the same type of people. My people are kind and care about each other. This is something very special I was able to be reminded of at the conference.

Sometimes the best parts of the conference are not covered in the program guide.

Bring on 2015 conferences!

So I’ve been getting into the ‘zone’ of being back in school, or at least trying to find the zone, so I seem to have missed something really awesome.

March 14th I will be presenting at the Southern Maine Autism Conference located at The DoubleTree Hotel in South Portland, Maine.

This is the third year in a row I have presented at this conference and I love doing it. This is a free conference to attend and that helps to spread important information to people who need it. My session is entitled “It’s Not Easy Being Me: Highlighting the Strengths”. I’ll be discussing strength-based perspectives instead of deficit based models and talking about self-advocacy.

For more information and to register for this event, please visit the site below.
http://www.maineautismconference.org/

In a related note; if you have a conference in your area you’d like to see me at please let me know! I also accept invitations to speak at small groups and do training sessions.

Poster Perfect

Back in school, we always were required to make poster projects. These posters would need to be colorful and informative about some random subject matter. I’ve done posters about frogs and constellations and advanced biology topics. Posters and I go way back. When I was younger, my mother would help me create these works of art. I can arrange things, but the actually act of writing all the information down in a neat way is not my forte.

So what’s very interesting is that I will actually be doing a poster presentation at OCALI. Yup, I put myself in a position to create a poster without being graded on it. So my biggest challenge is making things look very neat and clean. I don’t have the best penmanship, but I do have creativity!

Here’s a little sneak peek at my poster. It will be displayed in the exhibit hall beginning Wednesday. I hope to see some of you around the conference!

From the Whispers

I’ll readily admit I’ve been missing online most of this month. It has both been a conscious effort and an unintentional consequence of anxiety.

As far as things go, I will say it has not been a slow month in any respect for me. I’ve gotten so big news and am proud to share it with all you lovely people. I’ve been accepted to speak at TWO (2) separate conferences this summer into fall. I’ll be at AACC (Association for Autistic Community Conference) and at OCALICON (Ohio Center for Low Incidence and Autism Conference).

I’ve also been busy spinning fire and getting back into the swing of grad school. I’ll be bringing back a lot more to this blog (including some guest bloggers) in future weeks as I’ll be getting ready for an epic summer.

For more information on my AACC presentation, check out the link below!
http://autisticcommunity.org/2014/05/04/aacc-2014-presenter-list/

Among friends

Today I had the privilege of being the only self-advocate speaking at the Southern Maine Autism Conference. As I was leaving, my friend who was there with her agency asked me if I had learned anything new.

For those of you who have never been to an Autism conference, it is a place where people share strategies and support each other. At times when parents and caregivers feel isolated, these conferences are times when they are around other people having the same issues. Meltdowns, Stimming, ASD, IEP, ABA are all terms people freely use and understand. The reason I go to the conferences is to spread my message. I talk of hope.

Autism conferences are a way for people to interact in person when sometimes they are use to only receiving support online. It’s a special moment for me to look across the faces of people I am presenting to and see they understand what I’m saying. I write these blogs sometimes not thinking anyone will ever read them. I honestly don’t know the impact I have on people with my writing until they tell me. It’s a bit of a theory of mind issue I have when writing these things because 99% of the time I think I’m just saying what everyone else knows. Having people come up to me after I presented and thanking me just for being me; that’s a very strange feeling.

The things I learned at this conference are important as they affect me both personally and professionally, but they are not nearly as important as what I helped other people learn. I write this blog, I speak, and I share everything in my head because I hope it can help at least one person. I’ve been alone and had to learn things the hard way at times so I want to spare people some of the difficult I went through.

If you have never been to an autism conference, I’d highly recommend going to one. If you ever have the opportunity to go to one lead by self-advocates or with presentations by self-advocates: go to it. You won’t regret any second you are in that room. Trust me, we’ve been there and are some of the best at describing why we act the way we do.

We are pleased to announce…

I am honored to announce I will be presenting three times at the Autism Society of Ameica conference in Indianapolis, IN. The presentations I will be a part of are listed below.  

  • “Social Impairment?! NOT! the Role of Friendship and Mentoring in ASDs” with Chloe Rothschild, Jennifer O’Toole, Stephen Shore, Sondra Williams, Dena Gassner, and Brian King. 

  • “Music, Art, and Theater; Different Artistic Approaches to Support the Autism Community and Beyond” with Stephen Shore and Gayle Fitzpatrick.
  • “Hear Us Roar! Young Women on the Autism Spectrum” with Haley Moss and Kassiane Sibley.


I am very happy to be presenting with so many friends and colleagues. The Autism Society of America will always have a special place in my heart and I’m so excited for how it has grown since I first went there 10 years ago.

 For more information on the conference, feel free to check out their website below. More information will be released when it become available.
http://www.autism-society.org/get-involved/conference/

I’m also still looking for other conferences to present this year and next so if you know a great conference, please shoot me a message or post on my FaceBook page.

OCALI in Review

So here I sit writing this while in Kentucky after heading out from the OCALI conference yesterday.

I’d never been to an OCALI conference, but it was an amazing experience. It is always refreshing to see my peers more than once a year and catch up with old friends. Some of the people I saw I had not seen in almost ten years!

One of the biggest thing this conference did was reaffirm the choices I’ve made regarding my career choices. It has not been an easy transition and soon I’ll be leaving my apartment for another living situation which will better suite my needs. My “where has the year gone” post will be coming up soon, but this is not that one. But for right now, I’m just looking at where I’m standing at this exact second.

One of the greatest moments for me at the conference was really connecting with people I had met back in July at the Autism Society of America conference. That was the point in time where I reevaluated my life and decided to make a LOT of big changes to my life. It was very touching to hear some people follow my blog and are aware of things going on in my life. Other people recognized me walking around donned in my corset and asked how things were going.
“Amazing. Greater than I could have ever imagined” was my answer. Of course elaboration was required.

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I sit back and reflect on the types of people who go to these conferences. Educators, parents, professionals, family members, and most importantly individuals on the spectrum. These people are all gathered in one place for the common goal of sharing information and sharing hopes.

As family members, we come to hope our loved ones will have all the opportunities in the world available to them with no limits placed on who they can be or what they can do.

As educators, we hope to learn how to best teach material in the classrooms that will stay with students long after they leave the walls they come to know so well.

As professionals, we hope to gather information on how to best support the clients we work with so they can reach their fullest potential.

As an Autistic person, we share the hope of what it looks like to be happy in our own skin.
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So here I sit, plotting out my vacation week in Chicago. Chicago will always be home for me and luckily I’m in a position right now to travel while working from my computer. Things are great for me right now.
Yes, I’m still going to be recovering from talking to hundreds of people in such a short amount of time.
Yes, I miss my friends back in Maine and think about them often; wishing to have a way to bring them all with me cross country.
Yes, I’m feeling extremely blessed with my life right now and the amazing people I meet along my journey.

Coming Home

It was about 8 years ago when I walked into a hotel in Seattle, Washington. I had a suitcase of clothes and a carry on of anxiety, back then you didn’t have to limit your baggage. Walking into the conference center, I was surrounded by things. The things were people, noises, and smells. The people didn’t use whole words and talked in letters. ABA, CBT, ASD, LMNOP; these strings of random letters unnerved me. It was like walking into a new world, a world where people were talking about me. People knew me by name and others just knew me as a diagnosis.

Autism.
I was an Autistic teenager at a national Autism conference.

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I took a break from going to any Autism related conferences for the last 5 years because I had other priorities. My health was my number one concern and for good reason. So this year I went to Pittsburgh with not knowing what to expect. My memory has faded and I didn’t know if I’d know anyone besides a handful of friends for almost an entire week. My presentation was also selected of all the many submitted so I would be talking about the media’s influence on the Autistic stereotype; it’s really fun for me to talk about that so feel free to judge away.

When I came back on Sunday with stress balls in the shape of stars for my friends, which are now being used as ninja stars chucked at people, I had even more stories to bring. It is a new thing to explain the Autism Society of America conference to people who have never been before. When I went to them in high school I never talked much about them. It was always my thing I did for a few days during the summer. Part of that I think was being so young and never understanding exactly what people were talking about. This information makes PHDs’ heads spin so even a smart young woman would not 100% understand everything going around.

But as weird as it is to explain to people, the presentations and exhibit hall of cool things is not really why people go to conferences like this one.


We go to connect with people.

It is the most relaxing thing in the world to realize you are not alone: to hear others speak as if they view the world like you do. With the rise of the Internet, the world is connected like never before and people can meet others from across the globe without ever leaving their bed. So for a group of people characterized by difficulties with social interactions, it is sometimes not until we meet face to face that the connection happens. There is an “Ah Ha” clicking moment where we bond over the smallest and most perfect thing.

The friends I made at the conference and the ones I had known since I was sixteen meshed seamlessly. Strangers would ask how long we had known each other and we’d respond in either hours or years. Age and education are not factors in friendships because that’s not the way it should be in the ‘real world’. It’s someone else who can accurately discuss obscure roman politics or knows the punchline to your favorite joke. We get a few days at a conference to meet people who will be in our lives for a while.

I also love being able to connect with people who have never met someone like me; a well spoken Autistic woman. (Yes, I was also walking around wearing a corset and heels but the corset is so relaxing I will apologize for nothing.) Some people are so accustomed to the media’s image of “lost children” that they don’t realize Autistic adults are alive and well. I love talking about Autism and Universal Design. I’m able to not just hold an audience, but educate them as well and that is really touching.

Having people come up to me after my presentation and just in general to thank me for being myself is very humbling. I’ve gone through things in my life I wouldn’t wish on a enemy, but it makes every moment worth it to help someone else not feel alone or give them the tools so they never have to deal with what I faced. The advice I hand out like the free candy in the exhibition hall is about love and acceptance. The world is scary enough without thinking you need to handle things entirely by yourself; no one is ever alone.

No one is ever truly alone.

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There is something called The Duck Test which everyone knows but not everyone is aware of it’s official name. It’s a form a reasoning to make sense of the world.

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

My presentation hadn’t even started yet and I was standing in the room with a microphone in hand speaking in front of my slides. Talking to friends, friends I had met less than 48 hours before, about everything. Things started and when I spoke, well, I’d be lying if I said I wrote out my presentation. I’ve never used a written speech in my life unless it was for acting. My words are laced into my being so I mean every single word I say. 

My introduction, which was written months ago mere minutes before the presentation deadline, mentioned my fondness of fire and “acting like a goofball”. I was not wearing a suit, but the corset of the day was pinstriped. I talked about Universal Design, Firefly, Rain Man, political theories, and myself. My soul poured out into the camera and sound system recording the presentation. The weight of the conference didn’t really sink into me until I walked into my apartment at 4am on Sunday after driving home. I still feel the comforting weight of the conference with me and that’s a good thing.

It wasn’t until walking into my home in my little brick city that I realized, “the conference felt like my home. It is a different home, but it’s home, too.”