Autism Conferences: Positives and Negatives

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In my last blog, I discussed going to an annual autism conference (paid for by regional centers if you live in California). I discussed why I go. In this blog, I will discuss three specifics about attending a conference.

What is one specific example of attending an autism conference?

You get to meet professionals up close and personal.

Where else can you walk up to a person who has 25 years of experience with GI issues in children with autism? Or, a professional who has run a program that works to include children with autism in school classrooms? Or, an anxiety specialist who has treated hundreds of people on the autism spectrum?

You may attend a conference and not need to talk with the anxiety specialist because your child doesn’t have many problems with anxiety. But, what if your child has issues with noise? And right in front of your is a person with tons of experience is helping kids find ways to help with their noise issues.

You get to listen to a lecture but you can also approach that professional after the lecture and get some one on one time. Most professionals know they are going to be approached and are open to this. Many will give you their email address and continue the connection post-conference.

Are they just trying to get your business?

Perhaps.

But, in my experience, I do believe that many of them are involved in the autism world with sincere intentions. They care. Many have their own children on the spectrum. One time a speaker was on the spectrum. Overall, I believe these people are real people who care and attend a conference to help people like you, teachers, facilitators, and service providers.

What is another example of why you attend a conference?

You get to meet your peers.

Teachers can meet teachers. Service providers can meet service providers. And, parents can meet parents. They can talk and listen to each other.

I am not necessarily the most outgoing individual, but get me at an autism conference and I feel comfortable walking up to a stranger and discussing autism. My shyness disappears.

Conferences encourage us to talk to each other.

You can learn from each other while also learning from the professional speakers. Sharing your experiences with others, or having others share with you, is a valuable part of the autism conference experience.

Are there any negatives?

Something I would consider a negative is the attendance of males verses females at autism conferences. I believe I can safely say that this autism conference is 80 percent female attendance. 80 percent.

Where are all the men?

Some of the professional speakers are male but not many of the participants- which means dads and service providers. There are simply an overwhelming number of females in attendance.

I’m not sure what to do about this issue – but I did think it was important to mention.

What concerns me most is what I consider something that is almost…rude.

I noticed a huge negative after five minutes at this latest autism conference.

It is…the hocking of the autism-related stuff.

I was quite surprised when I first walked into this autism conference and immediately noticed all of the autism-related stuff for sale.

Now, let me explain the set-up: A conference has speakers and participants as well as those who run the conference. And, they have booths/tables for exhibitors or those who want to “cater” to the participants.

There are booths for companies such as service providers and autism-related services such as Autism Speaks. You can walk up to folks and discuss many different topics.

Then, there are the booths that sell the stuff.

This is the negative I am pointing out…The “For Profit” part of the conference.

Yes, all of the stuff can help your child with autism.

But, really, do we need FOUR booths of stuff for sale?

I say no.

FYI, most of these booths/tables for the service providers have free stuff. Some sell 3-4 items, but they do it in a more subtle way.

But, the four tables that I saw made me sick.

They are selling items that “will help your child with autism.”

But, really, they are there to make a profit – and it feels like to me that they are here to make a profit off of my child with autism.

To all conferences, perhaps one booth/table of the “for profit” stuff is sufficient.

Four says to me…”You are here to buy our stuff.”

Free stuff is different…selling so much gives the wrong message.

Autism conferences are valuable tools that professionals, services providers, teachers, aides, facilitators, OTs, speech therapists, and parents need.

Just don’t scream at us – buy our stuff!

To Find Kimberly Kaplan:

www.kimberlykaplan.com
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”
Twitter: @tipsautismmom

 

 

To Find Kimberly Kaplan:

www.kimberlykaplan.com
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”
Twitter: @tipsautismmom

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