Autism NOW Center staff has traveled around the country to engage individuals with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and professionals in the field. The five exciting regional summits were a huge success and have changed the lives of many.
During these two day summits, attendees had the chance to speak to other families, self advocates, and experts about the challenges facing them and to share and access resources and networks in their region. The summits include interactive sessions, where people have the opportunity to share their stories, concerns and questions and feel a sense of community. One session, titled “Vision of the Future,” involves either a self advocate, family member or both speaking about their personal experiences and aspirations. Many attendees have expressed how special this aspect of the summit is for them – some even find the stories they hear to be the most valuable take away of the weekend. A particularly poignant moment during the Indiana summit involved Drew Dietrech, a self advocate, taking the stage during “Vision of the Future.” Drew shared with everyone that for years, he prayed for the day he wouldn’t be a person with autism. He went on to tell the audience that those days were behind him, as he knows that there isn’t anything wrong with him.
The final summit took place in Texas earlier this month, drawing hundreds of people for a productive experience that included keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Shore, a widely known and respected as a self advocate and expert on autism.