Behind the Scenes at the First Regional Summit

From the Co-Director

June 1, 2011 Prism Newsletter
By Paula Durbin-Westby

Thank you to all of the speakers, volunteers, and attendees that made the Autism Now Center’s first regional summit a success!

For those of you who had not been aware of the behind-the-scenes planning for this summit, I wanted to share some of the work that the Autism NOW Center did in order to make this summit as sensory-friendly as possible. First, I met with the Sheraton hotel staff on several occasions before the conference to talk about sensory concerns. Specifically, I discussed lighting, dietary concerns, and potentially disturbing sound sources such as microphones and sound systems. The hotel staff at the Sheraton Washington North was very receptive to suggestions, and many of these concerns were addressed before Summit attendees arrived so that sensory problems were minimized. Additionally, the Autism NOW Center’s staff worked with an outside organization to make sure that we provided Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) captioning for people who needed to see the words on a screen rather than hearing/listening to them.

Leading up to the day of the regional summit, the Autism NOW Center worked to ensure that the agenda for this first regional summit covered a lot of ground, including speeches and break-out sessions on several different relevant topics. We also worked hard to make sure that there was a good mix of self-advocate and non-self-advocate presenters and breakout sessions. I was glad to see some friends and familiar faces there, from both local DC area self-advocate organizations and from further away. I was also very glad to meet all of those attending who I had never met before.

Discovering Self-Advocacy

During the summit, I spent a lot of time talking with attendees. My favorite comment was from the mother of a three year-old who said “Until today, I had never heard of self-advocacy!” For me, this comment was meaningful because it meant that our speakers and our team had been able to help someone realize the importance of self-advocacy, of making sure that everyone has the ability to stand up for themselves and what they want in their lives. Our goal at the Autism NOW Center is to help people empower themselves, and it feels wonderful to know that we are helping families and people on the spectrum do just that.

Thank you again to all those who were with us for the Autism NOW DC Metropolitan Area Regional Summit! I hope that you all had a positive experience, and we look forward to meeting new people and seeing familiar faces at our Midwest Regional Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 25th and June 26th!

Paula Durbin-Westby is Co-Director of the Autism NOW Center.

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