Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Victorian Autism Conference

So this is a rather late post but three weeks ago I attended the Victorian Autism Conference put on by Amaze (Autism Victoria). I'm not quite sure why they let a wild Canberran in amongst all the other Victorian based speakers with lived experience but I'm glad they did and had a great time.

The biggest thing that probably stood out to me from this conference was the welcoming atmosphere. This surprised me and I imagine is fairly unusual for a conference with approximately 900 attendees.

It was a jam packed couple of days - I went straight from the airport to my interview for Lateline which aired on the Wednesday night. I then spent a night with family and the following afternoon I headed to Etihad for a tour of the venue and to check into my hotel. My friend Daniel Giles and I walked into the hotel together and the receptionist was kind enough to put us in rooms next to each other.

I enjoyed all of the main speakers presentations and thought that the conference presented a good variety of speakers and valued everyone who was there to speak as having something valid to say. I didn't get the vibe of their been separate camps of "token autistics" and "real professionals".

I was a bit taken aback when I went to Dr Lori Ernsperger's session and she waved at me from the stage then came and talked to me before she spoke (we were both featured in the Lateline piece and had been emailing a little bit after conference media guru Michael has introduced us). After the session she introduced me to a parent who was asking questions so the parent could get both kinds of expert knowledge. We even got to have lunch together - which was really cool and a bit surreal.

In the afternoon session I spoke along with 3 other speakers with autism. We all shared our experience and words of wisdom and everyone did a great job. We had a good turn out, gave out a lot of business cards,  answered quite a few questions and enjoyed meeting one another and listening to what we had to say.

I got to meet quite a few amazing people from the I Can movement as well as other parents and people on the spectrum. It was full on but fun and we made the most of the limited time we had including dinners and so forth. On the second day we had a networking session facilitated by Chris Varney and Wenn Lawson as well as a lot of other cool and interesting sessions. Chris also did the autism community proud in his closing plenary.

I left this conference feeling encouraged and excited about the future of the autism community and possibilities for everyone to learn from one another and work towards commonly held goals. I also was exhausted, but that's all good and totally worth i