As an autism consultant living on the autism spectrum myself, attending the 2016 Geneva Centre for Autism International Symposium was more than just about professional development and networking, but rather EMBRACING autism as a PROUD member of the autism community. It was also about connecting with others from the COMMUNITY that I identify with and sharing my enthusiasm and passion for helping others that experience similar struggles.
In addition to the insight, I was deeply moved by the tremendous emphasis on the need for greater ACCEPTANCE, UNDERSTANDING, and COMPASSION towards individuals with autism and a focus on ABILITIES rather than deficits. Especially EMPOWERING to me was listening to the world-renowned autism self-advocacy educator Dr. Stephen Mark Shore, who stressed the importance of adapting teaching methods and environments in post-secondary schools, as well as the need for greater TOLERANCE of differences in our society.
It was also lovely to attend with my fellow autism self-advocate friend and former fifth grade classmate Julian Rodriguez, who travelled all the way from Montreal for the symposium.
Most enlightening for me was the Employment Panel. It consisted strictly of highly successful individuals on the spectrum, including word-famous Sam Forbs, who achieved 72 MILLION views in his Starbucks "Dancing Barista" YouTube video that displayed his unique approach to work. As a direct result, Sam now is regularly invited to present at autism conferences across Canada and is an OUTSTANDING motivational speaker. I was particularly moved by a private conversation with Sam, where he explained that his passion for autism self-advocacy was largely driven by the wisdom of Dr. Temple Grandin, whom he had never met but would love to meet someday.
Author: Todd Simkover, Kerry's Place Autism Consultant
This article was originally published on http://www.kerrysplace.org/Public/Geneva-Centre-2016