Three weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the Future Horizon’s Autism Conference in Nashville, TN or music city. This one-day conference began early on the morning on the 30th of November and ended in the early evening. Attendees ranged from educators to professions and family members to adults on the spectrum. Speakers included Dr. Temple Grandin, Anita Lesko and Jim Ball. Prior to the first presentation, attendees checked in while others gathered around the table while others got their books signed by Dr. Grandin herself. All the while you could grab yourself a cup of coffee and a small continental breakfast.
Directly following her book signing and morning photos, Temple was the first speaker of the day. During her talk, she touched on everything from growing up as an autistic to sharing her main of autism becoming the main focus in a person’s life. Following her presentation, Grandin held a second book signing where fans could also get their pictures taken with her while asking her more questions related to autism. In my case, I had Temple sign my copy of “The Stories I Tell My Friends” in which you can find on wordpress.
Next up was Anita Lesko who made marched around the ballroom to the theme song from Rocky, “You’re Gonna Fly Now” while donned in white LED Christmas lights. Throughout her march, Lesko carried a basket with little cards that held her autograph and a quote by Bon Jovi. For the time being, Lesko also talked about growing up feeling that she was awkward and quirky while waiting until the age of 50 to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Prior to that diagnosis, Lesko explained what her life was like growing up while describing each job in detail. Say, working for a stable where individuals could jump horses. In exchange, she learned to ride and jump as well. Lesko also says that she learned how to braid horse manes which made a lot of money. Later, Anita also posed for photos and signed books including my book.
At the same time as Lesko’s talk, Grandin spent time talking with fans about everything on from tips related to employment, to teaching social skills to individuals on the spectrum.
Finally, Dr Jim Ball, a BCBA specialist spoke on everything related to the true definition of behavior to the way an autistic sees the world. While sharing each topic, he often placed lots of emphasis on Temple Grandin’s models next to sharing humorous stories of clients who he worked with. He also explained why so many autistic adults face unemployment and under-employment. Two of those reasons are because they can’t take criticism and because they are too honest for their own good.
In addition, the conference had resources for the greater Tennesee area from medical needs to special needs attorneys. Finally, there was a vendor that was run by a 10-year-old boy on the spectrum and his mother where they sold fidgets. for people who were on the spectrum. At the Future Horizon’s resource table, there were mountains of information from information related to meltdowns to medical advice. Other items were fidgets and magnets that read “Autism Awareness.” Still, the table sold just about every book by Temple Grandin from her most popular to her most current such as “Calling All Minds.”
Overall, the conference was able to provide its attendees with lots of very helpful and inspiring ideas for parents, educators, professionals, and those who are on the spectrum. For example, parents can take Temple’s models and examples and apply them to the lives of their children. Moreover, all the speakers were very approachable and friendly. For example, while signing books, Temple was not shy from recommending certain books for each scenario. By the same token, not one attendee seemed to complain or wear a frown. Rather, they were impressed with the information that was widely available. Likewise, I was bedazzled by each talk. In Anita’s talk, for instance, I admired the way she introduced herself for her talk with the music, the Christmas lights, and Rocky theme song. For this reason, I have a friend who is the spectrum who likes to do eccentric things when he does his presentations. Finally, I would also agree that each talk provided a good deal of meat along with feeling they were able to meet audience members who had come from very different backgrounds from one another. Say, one set of parents who brought there autistic son who does not use formal language but learned to speaks through writing and typing.
On the other hand, one thing that each conference seems to be currently missing is a sensory friendly room where autistics could take a break from the all the excitement. Being that FH provides lots of books that hold evidence-based studies related to sensory, I feel that it would be appropriate to have such a room that is readily available. Otherwise, the great conference that I found to be very successful.