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Creating Fulfilling Lives at Autism Speaks National Conference


Guest post by Karla Garcia Diaz, of Pasadena, Calif. Ms. Garcia will be speaking and answering questions as part of a “Parent Perspectives” session titled “Care in the Family Context: Creating a Fulfilling Life for the Individual with ASD,” at the Autism Speaks National Conference for Families and Professionals, July 26 – 27, in Columbus, Ohio. (Register here.)

I’m a bilingual mom raising three daughters ages 7, 4 and 2 years old. Maya, in the photo above, is our eldest. She has autism as well as Crohn’s disease, asthma and food allergies.

I’m passionate about my family’s quality of life and committed to promoting family-centered care. For this reason, I am a parent representative for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (AS-ATN) center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a member of the Family Advisory Board for the AS-ATN’s research arm – the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P).*

In these roles, I focus on creating a culture that values families and communities, peer support and inclusion of our ethnic communities in autism research.

At this year’s Autism Speaks National Conference, I’m going to be highlighting how important it is for families to build and maintain relationships that provide support during the journey with a child, sibling or spouse with autism. These relationships are essential to our quality of life and our passage through challenging times.

Through the prism of autism, our family was embraced and supported by a nurturing community that I never knew existed. This community has become the proverbial village that helps us raise our kids.

These relationships provide our daily support. They help relieve the stress that would otherwise reach crippling levels. As so many of us know firsthand, no one is an island. It really does take a village to raise children. This is especially true when autism is part of the picture.

The AS-ATN is about creating villages for families affected by autism. So is this year’s Autism Speaks National Conference for Families and Professionals.

I look forward to the opportunity to speak and meet families and professionals from all over the nation. This conference is such an important step in expanding and strengthening our supportive communities!

During our “Parent Perspective” sessions, I’m also going to discuss autism-intervention planning. Our family has decided to use these planning sessions to tackle just one or two big issues per year. This keeps us sane, allows us all some important wins and preserves our daughter’s quality of life.

We’ve learned that, too often, we get caught up in trying to cram too many therapies into our schedules for the sake of early intervention and we forget about having fun – a crucial part of every child’s life. Fun is also the best way to promote learning.

We can talk more about these things in Columbus! The conference is all about sharing practical and meaningful information – including cutting-edge research findings. I hope you can attend because I know you’ll enjoy it.

* Autism Speaks ATN is funded to serve as the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P), with funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration under the Combating Autism Act. In this role, the AS-ATN develops and conducts research aimed at improving the physical health and wellbeing of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. 

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.