Saturday, April 5, 2014

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.

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