A few weeks ago my co-intern, Darby, and I had the pleasure of attending the Autism Tree Project Foundation’s 4th Annual Neuroscience Conference. Located at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, this day long conference consisted of ten different presentations and two panel discussions that ranged a wide variety of topics relating to autism spectrum disorders. Progressive and groundbreaking research such as Dr. Lawrence Fung’s study “GABA and Sociocommunicative Abilities in Adults with Autism” and Dr. Leanne Chukoskie’s “Leveling up: Using Video Games to Create Job Training Opportunities for Young Adults with ASD” show the different ways in which ASD can be studied. My favorite part, however, was the Living Autistically Panel Forum. This forum discussed the challenges, successes, dreams, and insights of five individuals living with ASD. The panelist include Mason Todd Brown, Lawson Hickey, Lauren Taylor, Chris T. Rosenbaum, and Lora McGuigan. While they all share similar diagnoses, they come from different backgrounds and had different life experiences growing up with Autism. There are a few key points, however, that I took from this panel discussion:
- Don’t assume
Chris boldly stated that the biggest mistake people have made is forming assumptions on what he was/was not able to do because of Autism. Each panelist made it clear that they are more than their disorder and have unique ideas and talents that are of exceptional value to this world. Those with ASD often have difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions, however, they take in much more information than many would think and their expressive ability should not reflect their capabilities.
2. Autism doesn’t make you unaware.
When asked if they don’t miss socializing because they have never really known it, the panelists corrected the audience member by stating how painfully aware they are of their social limitations. They compared their social habits to those who are shy, and discussed how they should not be excluded or treated differently just because of their diagnosis. It was disheartening to hear these challenges so explicitly stated, however, it is furthermore proof that the way professionals and society approach socialization and Autism matters.
Not one singular therapy can work for all people with ASD, nor is it likely that one individual with ASD will meet their therapeutic goals by utilizing only one form of therapy. It is the combination of different techniques and interventions as well as support from friends, family, and professionals that provides the most effective results.
To learn more about the Autism Tree Project Foundation, see upcoming events, or donate to their cause visit http://www.autismtreeproject.org