What a great conference…

If you missed ASNC’s 40th Anniversary Annual Conference, then we missed you; if you were there, then you’ll know what I mean.  The two keynote speakers whom I heard, Scott Bellini and Chantal Sicile-Kira, were outstanding, entertaining, and informative.  Two of the founding members of the Autism Society of NC, Bobo Warren and Betty Camp, were present and were honored in a video review of the history of ASNC.  The conference was concluded with an address by Dave Spicer, an adult on the spectrum, who spoke eloquently of his life’s journey.

Scott Bellini’s approach to social skills training really resonated with his audience—we have to reframe the definition of social skills training to include natural settings with typical peers in addition to therapist settings.  He spoke of the essentials of social skills: thinking about it, feeling about it and doing it.  In addition to teaching the skill, we have to teach the understanding of the skill (when, where, how to do it)—like a quarterback, humans have to make snap decisions that involve planning, movement and real-time analysis. He uses video modeling in his approach and showed the audience how simple it was (I think about 150 people immediately went and bought a Flip Camera afterwards!).  I strongly encourage you to buy his book Building Social Relationships: A Systematic Approach to Teaching Social Interaction Skills.  His exercise to show the difficulty in reciprocal conversation was a riot…just ask anyone who went to the conference about their shoes.

Chantal told heartwarming stories of her son, Jeremy, and his later adoption of technology to communicate so articulately (but not verbally).  She has written 4 books, the latest one being 41 Things to Know about Autism, contributes to the Huffington Post, blogs, and moderates webinars, among other accomplishments.  However, I think she would list her most important duty as mother to her children: her daughter and her son.  Jeremy is 21 years old and is finishing his high school diploma, in between presentations and speeches (using a voice output device).  Chantal compared the difference between neurotypicals and people with autism to the cultural difference between the United States and France (where she has family and lived when Jeremy was born).  I especially liked her framework of public versus private behaviors (as opposed to appropriate versus inappropriate)…which becomes even more important as children with ASD approach puberty.  Always fun to talk about THAT with teens—typical or not.

Join us next year for another great conference!

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