My son and I recently attended a group’s resource meeting. This localized group (it’s located in the “Foothills area of northern Los Angeles County) holds meetings once a month. These meetings have paid speakers who come to discuss a wide range of topics—from eating issues to genetics to floor time therapies.
Being a member of this group, I have attended many meetings. This one, however, also came with an invitation for any member with a teenager.
Because the speakers were all young adults on the autism spectrum.
The group’s purpose for arranging this meeting was for these young adults to be able to reach out to as many soon-to-be young adults on the autism spectrum.
The speakers were paid to speak at this event. I thought that was appropriate for these young adults who are trying to earn a living (like the rest of their typical peers).
What else highlighted this event?
The speakers were all on the autism spectrum, yet they had all had different life experiences. One speakers was non-verbal. Another spoke only a little bit, her sister was her representative and did most of the talking for her. Two of them had graduated from college. Another had graduated from an organization known as Exceptional Minds. He was currently an employed animator with Exceptional Minds, working three days a week.
Only one of the early twenty-year-olds had their driver’s license. He was twenty two. I had asked him at what age did he get his license. He said at age twenty one.
What else was interesting about this group?
Their abilities to communicate did vary. One speaker was relatively comfortable being in front of a group and speaking. I know this young man, and he has had other experiences like this one, so I was not surprised that he was comfortable. The sister was clearly the most uncomfortable, and I was guessing that she still struggled, overall, with communicating.
Unfortunately, the woman who is non-verbal could not attend, however the group was treated to a video done by her and a board member of the group read her presentation.
Videos were used throughout. The young adult who works as an animator showed the group a video of some of his work over the years. He was also assisted by a powerpoint that he could read so as to keep his speech on track. I know this mom as I’m thinking that they put it together. I thought it was a great idea to help him through this experience.
What was great about this event was that this organization allowing these speakers this platform. It is an environment where everyone in the room has some sort of vested interest in autism. It’s a relatively safe place for a speaker to gain experience like this, or to try it out.
It might have been a challenge for some of them, but I thought they all did great.
And, why did they do this?
Well, it was so that they young adults could talk about themselves in a safe environment and gain skills and experiences in doing so.
But, also they were there to talk to teenagers. They were there to tell teenagers that they can graduate high school, go to college, get a job, and succeed in a program that assists with their needs.
There were there to help a younger generation, younger versions of themselves.
What a valuable tool to have out there for my son!
What did my son think of these speakers?
As a thirteen-year-old, my son can act like a typical teenager—that is his answers to questions are often short. Trying to get him to elaborate is sometimes a project for me.
Still, he did say that he enjoyed it. He sat in the back, by himself, during most of it. He has free space back there to be his typical squirmy self. But, he stayed in the room the whole time and (hopefully) he was listening and watching the whole time.
He was pleased that he personally knows two of the speakers, which I think helped him enjoy the program. He was also able to hang out with his best friend (younger brother of one of the speakers).
Of course, he did want to bring his DS and play games with that buddy, but he did accept my rationale that that’s not why we were there.
We were there for him. I think he got something out of the night.
And, thank you to the autism community for continuing to find ways to help each other.
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