Countdown to the Conference: A Community of Support

Thursday, July 18, 2013 View Comments

Deona Foust is a volunteer involved in Walk Now for Autism Speaks in New Mexico. She is a sub-contractor for Stimulating Minds, an innovative autism clinic that provides all services for those with autism under one roof. Deona also provides ABA therapy and help with social skills groups. Deona calls her most important qualification the fact that she is a mom of a 10 year-old, Shelton, with autism, as well as three other children. 

My excitement is building for the Autism Speaks 2013 National Conference for Families and Professionals on July 26-27th. I had the privilege to attend the Autism Speaks conference last year which was an amazing experience; full of information and support.  The classes were so informative and encouraging. For example, I attended classes on Sleep and Autism.  As a mother of a 10-year-old boy with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, sleep (or lack thereof) has been a huge issue throughout his life.  It was encouraging to hear professionals and fellow parents speak of the challenges and solutions that typically occur with autism and sleep.  Another issue that was addressed was how to help a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder obtain as much nutrition as possible, which can be a challenge since a lot of children on the spectrum have rigid ideas about food.  There were other classes that covered Genetics, Applied Behavioral Analysis, and transitioning children with autism into adulthood.

However, the most encouraging aspect of the conference that I took home with me was the support and camaraderie among professionals and fellow parents.  I imagine that the conference planners couldn’t predict the support that was to occur at this conference.  On more than one occasion, attendees came up to me, introduced themselves, and asked how autism has affected my life.  After each session, a formal Q and A session was offered for both parents and professionals alike.   Refreshingly, attendees asked practical questions and received practical answers. Many times I found myself thinking, “I’m glad I’m not the only one that has dealt with this issue with my son.” This environment welcomed parents to share the joys that come with having a child with ASD.

This year I’m looking forward to the keynote speakers. Stephen M. Shore EdD will speak on “Creating a Fulfilling Life.” Also, Paul S. Carbone MD, MPH will address professionals and families alike on “Understanding Medical Issues From Childhood to Young Adult.” The break-out sessions will provide information on nutrition, social skills, and behavior that all relate to Autism.

Perhaps the things I’m looking forward to the most are the support, encouragement, and warmth that I received from the conference last year. Hope to see you at the conference July 26th and 27th!

Note: Registration for the conference in Columbus closes next Monday, July 22nd at 12PM EST! Register now!