I just got home after attending an Autism conference in Brisbane. The theme was ‘Human being on the spectrum’. It was organised by Asperger Services Australia – an organisation which has been around for 21 years and whose entire staff – including the director – are volunteers. I have spoken at one of their events before.
I love a good Autism conference. I get to hear interesting speakers and catch up with people I don’t see very often. These days I am usually a speaker at these things too. There are some practical considerations (for example that I have no sense of direction at all and can’t read a map so finding my way to hotels and conference venues can be tricky). The main practical consideration at the conference I attended this week was the weather. As the concierge at my hotel reliably (and strangely rather enthusiastically) informed me, there was a tropical cyclone whirring around off the Queensland coast. The weather was the backdrop to the event. One of the speakers who I really wanted to see got cut off by floods. It rained the entire time I was in Brisbane and most of the conference delegates arrived each day a little soggy. There was talk amongst interstate attendees of being unable to fly home, but that did not happen for me.
My presentations were about resilience and employment. The resilience one was in the main auditorium. I always have mixed feelings about being in he big room, for while it’s wonderful to stand on stage with your PowerPoint slides projected on a massive scale behind you. if it is a small event (or there is a more popular speaker on at the same time) you may be speaking to a smattering of people in a huge room, which is off-putting. This did not happen to me though and I had a great crowd.
I caught up with some wonderful people – and met some more. I also met my two coauthors for my new book in person. They were as lovely as i expected and I am now even more inspired to get on with writing the book. I caught up with Wenn Lawson, who I was featured in a documentary with in 2010 and is one of my favourite people in the world. He really is a great role model and leader for our community. I hosted a radio show from my hotel room. Conference delegate Berinda Karp and keynote speaker Katharine Annear very kindly participated in the show, which was great.We talked about a range of topics including the responsibility leaders – and conference speakers – have. We were all sitting on the bed in my hotel room, hoping that the hotel WiFi or Skype didn’t give out half way through.
By the time I flew home I was exhausted and overwhelmed – often a response to these things – but it was a wonderful week. It is so good to be among my Autistic peer group and better still to be among my peer group of Autism advocates. It will take me a while to process everything I heard but I am so glad i went. Oh, and other highlights were that met Graeme Simsion, author of the Rosie Project who signed my copy, Tony Attwood came to my resilience talk (I’m not sure what he thought be he smiled and nodded in the right bits) and I discovered fidget toys.
Here is the podcast of the radio show we did:
Me speaking about resilience