Random Thoughts from the ASA Conference

This year’s ASA national confernece was only a two hour drive from home. My wife attended for the whole conference and the boys and I joined her Friday night. A few thoughts on the short time I spent at and around the conference Friday night and Saturday:

  • My wife’s observation that the people at the conference were incredibly friendly was right on the money. Even an introvert like myself was engaging in easy conversations.
  • The exhitbition hall at an autism conference is the perfect place for children to ‘stim’ in public. My youngest attracted nothing less than warm smiles and laugter as people easily recognized the enthusiasm, energy, and excitement as he he kept running and spinning his way accross the floor to very large crawl-in toy from Abillitations.
  • Providence has more restaurants per square mile than any other city in the US. The boys just want to know where they can get chicken nuggets.
  • You can’t have too many sensory toys. Or autism books.
  • It’s hard to walk very far when accompanied by the boys therapy / assistance dog Stitch. Stitch was, to put it mildly, a very popular golden retriever this weekend. The attention made the boys feel special too. And that special feeling is one of the reasons we got Stitch for them.
  • You never know who you’ll meet. While attendance was light Saturday, and the blog writers attending had already presented their sessions, I was delighted when I spotted Kassiane’s nametag in a group of people Stitch befriended. Hearing that she was doing the conference Jim Fisher is organizing in NY this fall gave me another reason to make a day trip to ‘the city’ in October. If you’re intrested, Kristina has more information at Autismland.
  • As far as the boys are concerned, hotel + pool = vacation.
  • Three out of four people with an ASD are male. Less then two out of ten autism conference attendees are male. I could write a whole post on this topic!
  • Sensory sensitivities make it very difficult to sleep in a hotel room in a busy city on a Saturday night. Those sensitivities were mine. The kids were sound asleep.
  • While this is the first national conference I’ve attended, I was impressed with the quality of topics covered. It seems that every year that goes by, the dialogue about autism focuses more on relationships, support, and understanding neurological differences. OK, there were also a few “fringe interventions” on the exhibit floor, but not many.
  • While I gave the ASA a hard time about the slogan “The voice of autism” a while ago, they are doing some important things. Conferences like this have a lot of value.
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8 Responses to Random Thoughts from the ASA Conference

  1. Kristina says:

    So we’ll see you in October?—-superb! My husband, Jim Fisher, was only at the ASA on Friday and I really wanted to attend with Charlie (and check out all those Abilitations items……)—–but he has been adamany about not missing a day of school.

    Cheers from Kristina

  2. Amanda says:

    Just remember, that whatever good they are doing, autistic people are still in a vast minority of people being listened to, rarely allowed in more than token positions of power, portrayed in horrible ways in their publicity campaigns, etc. As in, they’re still not “the voice of autism” and “doing good” doesn’t cancel that out.

  3. Kassiane says:

    I remember you! Or, well, the dog and the kids. I barely registered the adults with the dog and kids at all (sorry, it’s true..adults are a lot harder to remember than kids and animals).

    But if you’re going in October, I’ll be sure to look for you. Familiar name and all…

    And I have to agree with Amanda on their campaigns…they’re doing BETTER at their conferences and such but BETTER does not always equal GOOD.

  4. Shawn says:

    Amanda and Kassiane,

    I apprecieate your comments. I admit to struggling with what is acceptable from the large national and international Autism groups. I’m willing to accept some bad with the good, as I think most of us are. After all, organizations, like people, aren’t perfect. I’m probably less sensitive to the some shortcomings. The ASA, for example, seems largely driven by the needs of parents and autistic children which is where I’m focused right now. I don’t catch all the things they fail to do.

    For what it’s worth here’s my take on two of the ASA’s current shortcomings. The recent conference fee structure which seemed to penalize autistic presenters was a stupid thing to let happen. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that someone just wasn’t thinking things through when the fees were set. I’ll also assume that some other people were simply being too inflexible when the mistake was pointed out. However, I expect it to be changed next year. The fact that autisitic people are in the minority in the ASA is more of a fundamental and philosophical problem. It really requires the ASA to broaden their focus and will take time to change. I believe there should be continual pressure, from within, and without, to change in this direction.

    And Kassiane, most people say the kids and the dog are more memorable!

  5. Ian Parker says:

    Wasn’t there a famous actor/actress who had a quote about never working with kids and animals because one was sure to be upstaged? ;-)

  6. Jerry Grasso says:

    I really like your Web site, FYI. I have linked it to mine. Keep it up, good stuff.

    I’ll post about your site tomorrow morning.

  7. Cheryl says:

    I found your blog by accident when searching for “Stitch”. My dd has AS and is a die-hard Stitch fan. She also has a special interest in canines. Can you blog about your Stitch and what types of training he has? I’d love to hear more about assistance dogs for people with ASDs.


  8. Shawn says:


    I’m glad you found me, even if my accident. I’ll put together a post about Stitch but it probably won’t be for about two weeks. I’ve got a few projects underway and I definitely want to put some time into the post on Stitch. It’s kind of surprising that I haven’t written a post on Stitch yet considering how important he is to the family.

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