I was as excited as a small child going to her first birthday party. I'd bought the ticket for AsIAm's first autism conference back in December with no notion of how I was going to get a whole day away from the kids. But with the help of my wonderful babysitter and my eldest daughter, plus lots and lots of lists, it was done. And all went pretty well, except when I got one panicked phone call after lunch when Smiley got stuck in the hoist.
From the start it was clear that this was going to be a very special day. There was a stellar line up of speakers including the witty and wise Dr Peter Vermeulen, and the inspiring author Yvonne Newbold who has raised three autistic children and is living with incurable cancer, plus well-known psychologist David Carey; founder of AsIAm, Adam Harris, and many more.
The conference was for anyone interested in autism, so there were lots of autistic people there as well as parents and professionals. And the event was designed to suit everyone, so accommodations were the order of the day: delegates were asked to avoid wearing strong smelling products, and to flap instead rather than clap to show appreciation and enjoyment. For parents it was a day off from their caring duties, a chance to catch up with friends and learn something that would help their children - so no guilt involved in attending. It was easy to justify! There was no signs of the tensions you read about in the autism community, no blaming or shaming, just respect and lots of joy. Seriously, you should have been there...
For me the most thought-provoking talk was on autism and stress. Except instead of reducing stress, Dr Peter Vermeulen proposed that we should focus on increasing happiness. We should look at what makes autistic people happy and start from there. Change their lives to make them happier and the stress will mostly take care of itself.
The most useful talk was about transitioning - especially as it focused on the transition from school to adulthood. Lots of information and ideas that will be very useful, and the a wake up call that I really need to start planning NOW.
All the delegates went home with a brochure that was beautiful and useful: full of information, contact details and QR codes that link to comprehensive notes from the speakers at the event.
The conference was also well organised with food, drink and CAKE provided for all delegates.
My only complaint was that it was too short. I wanted to listen to all the speakers, visit all the exhibition stands, try all the cake and see all my friends. And there just wasn't the time.
Okay so I haven't been to many autism conferences, but it really has to be one of the best ever. Already I'm looking forward to next year and when I told my son about it, he said he'd like to come too...
Reasons to be Cheerful: Family Fun #R2BC - Late to the party again this week! Hope Michelle can forgive me... It has been a rollercoaster week but I have had a few things that have made me smile: ...