Getting through each day can be challenge enough for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.
There's the schedule of activities, services to track. For many, there are also a child's behaviors to manage, whether that means avoiding a tantrum, redirecting stereotypical behaviors (such as hand-flapping) or encouraging positive behaviors on a community outing. There are jobs to do at work, bills to pay, other family members who need attention. And sleep is a good idea.
So why suggest attending an autism event? Isn't there enough to do?
Yes there is. But the benefits of getting out of the house and attending a lecture, movie, or other informational gathering are potentially important. Learning more about autism spectrum disorders in general, about approaches to helping people with autism, about the history of autism, about advocacy efforts—all of these activities allow you to understand more about what's going on with efforts to help people with autism while making you feel less alone when facing the daily challenge.
Where to Find Information About Autism Educational Events
You can start finding information about events by checking with other parents about lectures or other events they may have attended. Some events cost money to attend, but many events are free and I would recommend you start by attending a free event. Other places to look include:
* Local chapters of advocacy organizations like the Autism Society of America (which holds an annual convention with many lectures and presentations) and Autism Speaks. There are often other groups in major metropolitan areas besides these two big ones, so ask other parents.
* Universities with medical schools and scientific researchers who are doing research studies on autism.
* Professional organizations such as the Association for Behavior Analysis International, which holds regular meetings in the United States and other countries and attracts top researchers and educators to give presentations. While educators dominate the attendee list, I was among the klatch of parents who attended the 2007 conference in Boston and it was very useful. There is a big conference in Atlanta coming up Feb. 8 to 10, 2008.
* Schools that specialize in helping students with autism. The New England Center for Children, located outside Boston, this year is starting a series of informational sessions for parents. Topics include: transition planning for adult placement (Jan. 16), trends in autism research (Feb. 12), strategies for managing challenging behavior (March 12), feeding problems and solutions (April 15) and toilet training strategies (June 18). These lectures take place from 7 to 9 p.m., at the school in Southborough, Mass., and cost $30 for one person and $50 for two. Click on the school link above for more information.
* Local school districts may have a special education parents group that organizes free lectures and presentations. Contact your school district's special education office to see if they do.
* Trade associations that organize educational and marketing events also can be useful places for parents to learn what's going on. There is a conference Jan. 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C. for first responders to learn about helping people with disabilities during an emergency situation. You can read more about the "Disability and Special Needs Technical Assistance Conference" by clicking here.
Another example of a trade association is the American School Health Association conference. At last year's event, they had exhibits on technologies that help with communications challenges.
* The web has resources available, too. The online bulletin board assembled by The Schafer Autism Report which you can find here.
These are some examples. You may have more to offer. If anyone knows of other online bulletin boards or constantly updated events calenders, please post a comment at the end of this post or e-mail me at michaelsgoldberg AT yahoo DOT com.
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