Last weekend parents, grandparents, teachers, therapists, doctors and others gathered for the second annual Educating and Healing Children with Autism Conference in New York City. NAA-NY Metro Chapter – of which I am an officer – collaborated with Autism Conferences of America and Autism Research Institute to once again pull off a great event. Our “local” event went national – with visitors from several other states – and even international -- with at least one attendee from Canada.
The speakers shared valuable information on everything from best practices in ABA and speech assessment, to the newest in biomedical interventions and the many areas of research being explored; from insurance and financial planning to yoga and vision therapy. We even had a writers panel featuring AoA’s own Dan Olmsted and Kim Stagliano and the inimitable Barbara Fischkin. This definitely was a conference where there was something for everyone and each speaker shared his or her unique perspective on many issues facing those with ASD and their families.
The first day’s keynote speaker was Eustacia Cutler, Temple Grandin’s mother, whose moving story convinced me that she may be one of autism’s first “warrior moms.” She fought the medical and psychiatric establishment -- and even Temple’s father -- to raise Temple at home. She was fortunate enough to find some caring and insightful medical and educational professionals along the way but it was clear that, without her passion, the world would not have the Temple Grandin we have today – a woman who has made valuable contributions to society in a number of fields. Her story of love and persistence in the face of tremendous adversity was truly awe-inspiring.
The second day’s keynote speaker was Dr. Nancy O’Hara, who discussed a wide range of biomedical interventions and shared with the audience case studies highlighting the unique medical struggles many children with ASD face and how, depending on the issues with which a child presents, different biomedical interventions can lead to dramatic improvements. Each of these keynotes led into a day of information- packed presentations from our speakers. The speakers’ powerpoints should be online at Autism Conferences of America soon.
Saturday was topped off by our writers panel at which Kim Stagliano, Barbara Fischkin and Dan Olmsted moderated a lively talk. One of the highlights for those attending the panel was a young woman on the spectrum sharing her own biomedical journey – a path she discovered as an adult and one which has brought tremendous healing to her. Unlike many in the ND movement who suggest that to be on the spectrum is to be merely “quirky,” this young woman poignantly described her difficulties and how she ill she felt before biomedical treatment, giving a new voice to many children who don’t have their own.
We also had amazing exhibitors and advertisers covering a wide range of information important to families with special needs – cutting-edge therapeutic interventions and educational and residential solutions for older children and adults – and lots in between. I was especially moved by how many with a personal connection to my family participated – that means a lot to us!
Finally, thanks to generous donations from, among others: Allergy Friendly Foods, LLC/Allergaroo, Andean Dream, Arico Natural Foods Company, Autism Help at Home, CheeCha, Cream Hill Estates, Different Roads to Learning, Ener-G Foods, French Meadow Bakery, Glow Gluten Free, Health Liberation, Kay’s Naturals, Orgran/Health Flavors, Pamela’s Products, Shabtai Gourmet, Surf Sweets, The Pencil Grip and Vermints, we were able to offer attendees yummy breakfast treats, terrific door prizes and take home bags full of special needs diet friendly foods that kids will love. A special thank you to Dr. Rosa Martinez for exhibiting artwork by those on the spectrum, donating many doorprizes and conducting a silent auction of one of Temple Grandin’s artworks. We were truly moved by the generous spirit of all of our donors.
I am physically and emotionally exhausted by our efforts, unbelievably grateful to those who participated and attended, and blessed by such gifted friends and colleagues with whom to collaborate. I also am wired with excitement about so many people I met this weekend the possibilities of further innovative ideas to help our children that I cannot wait to get working on more things.
Kim Mack Rosenberg is, most importantly, Henry’s mom. She is also the Treasurer and acting VP of the NAA – NY Metro Chapter (www.naanyc.org and www.naanyc.blogspot.com), a practicing lawyer, a participant in the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law & Advocacy, and the co-president of the parents association at Henry’s school. In her spare time, she blogs at www.embracingwellness.blogspot.com.