Countdown to Conference Time!

24 Aug

autism-beyond-bordersI woke up this morning, certain that something good is soon coming. I ran to the calendar on the wall, and started counting the days. “Sixty-one days before the conference,” I whispered breathlessly. I can hardly wait!

It’s been like this some years now. When conference time comes, and it comes only once every two years (from 1995 to 2001, it was actually an annual conference, thereafter, a biennial event), it seems as if the whole autism community in the country is abuzz with excitement. One gets caught up in the frenzy of reconnecting with old friends, who, by virtue of geographical distance, you get to see only during conferences. More importantly, one gets seized with the fever of autism issues, both old and new, at hand. Suddenly, we’re not just living with autism, we’re all talking about it, too. How often do we really get to do that, really?

When my son was diagnosed with autism thirteen and a half years ago, one of the most important decisions my husband and I ever made was to attend the 1996 National Conference on Autism. With the theme “Parents and Professionals Working Two-gether,” newbies in the autism world that we were then, we felt an almost imperative need to search for answers to questions that we had. Of course, it helped that the Internet was starting to take off in the country and we could get information not just from books, of which we had precious few, but also from various sources. Yet, information and knowledge, while crucial to our journey as a family living with this condition, palled in light of our isolation. Finding others who shared a similar plight — parents and professionals who understood our struggles and achievements, our trials and successes — helped us in our road to healing. That conference marked the year we learned to embrace our differences from other families, believing with deep faith in a human journey of God’s design.

And so we ask the question: what do we look forward to this year? Well, click on Autism Beyond Borders to find out everything you need to know about the conference. Allow me, however, to whet your appetite. We’ve got a great line-up this year, with four foreign speakers flying from different parts of the globe to lead our learning experiences. There’s Dr. Valerie Paradiz (herself a diagnosed case of Asperger’s and mom to a son with the same condition), who will speak on learning strategies to help our children; Mr. Toshihiro Ogimura, who will talk on Daily Life Therapy, a Japanese method of intervention in use in the famous Higashi schools, including the residential program; Dr. Knut Erik Baalerud, specialist in psychiatry, who will discuss seizures and other neurologic issues common to our children; and Mr. Hiroshi Kawamura, who will help us in the blossoming of DAISY as an assistive technology for  persons with autism. Of course, we have our local experts to round up the panel, with Teacher Archie David, ASP Laguna’s Riza Cansanay, OT Lyle Duque, Speech Path Jeri Casas, Teacher Hope Leyson, and Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights Atty. Leila de Lima to speak on their individual areas of autism expertise. It isn’t often that great minds (and hearts) come together in one place at the same time, and I am definitely not passing this opportunity to drink in their knowledge.

It can’t be denied that the conference gets better each time, and on the 11th National Conference, the winds of change augur auspiciously. (Did I tell you my favorite number is 11?) I invite you to be part of this historic, groundbreaking work to make a difference in the lives of each and every person with autism in our country. Come and join us on October 24 and 25 at the SMX Convention Center. Register now to avail of the early bird rates! Help us change lives. It could also change yours.

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