This is a blog post by Amy Kelly, mother of 3, one daughter with autism, ATN National & Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Family Advisory Committee Co-Chair, and Devereux PA Director of Family Supports & Services.
Next Friday and Saturday in Columbus, OH, family members, caregivers, clinicians, physicians and many other people with an interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder will gather together for the 2nd Annual Autism Speaks National Conference Treating the Whole Person with Autism: Providing Comprehensive Care for Children and Adolescents with ASD.
This unique and engaging conference was a huge success in its first year, bringing in people from all over the world to attend. After attending last year, and really learning valuable information from the variety of sessions available, I can’t wait to see what I walk away with this year!
Last year, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference. Like most of us ‘seasoned’ parents, I’ve been to many ASD conferences and am always open to hearing the information and occasionally learning new bits and pieces here and there, but for the most part, I generally leave a conference feeling like I got a good refresher. I have to tell you, The National Autism Conference last year was different for me.
I sat in a lecture about GI issues and constipation and I thought of all the potty problems I was still having with my own 10-year-old daughter. As this doctor spoke in more detail however, she discussed that many of the GI issues and constipation issues that our kiddos have as toddlers can actually reoccur when they are entering adolescence. It was like a light bulb went off in my head! I realized that many of Annie’s potty issues were actually NOT behavioral as we were treating them, but were in fact a physical manifestation of a reoccurring gastrointestinal issue that she had from when she was much younger! As soon as I got home from the conference, I made an appointment with my GI department at my children’s hospital. Sure enough – that was EXACTLY the problem. I will forever be grateful for that doctor, and the National Conference, for enlightening me and bringing a life-changing solution (and relief!) to my Annie.
This year, I’m particularly excited to see the keynote speakers Paul Carbone and Stephen Shore. I’m also honored to be giving a mini-talk to the audience as National co-chair for the Family Advisory Committee for the Autism Treatment Network with my counterpart, Tom Hess, on how to effectively collaborate with your physician for the best care for your child. I would encourage all parents and providers to try and attend this one-of-a-kind family and provider friendly conference this year. It’s a rare chance to bring all the brilliant minds involved in the life of an individual living with ASD together to continue to work together to support, research, advocate for and strive to provide the best possible life possible for all those living with autism.