Comments from Self-Advocates…

Guest Post

June 1, 2011 Prism Newsletter
By Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered

At the Autism NOW DC Regional Summit, the team from Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered had many opportunities to participate as attendees, speakers and panelists, and leaders for break-out sessions. Two of these team members were able to give comments about the regional summit.

Comments by Nicole LeBlanc, a person with autism representing Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered:

“I didn’t know what to expect going into this summit. I liked being with this crowd. I would say that the parents listened to us. They seemed opened to hearing issues from our perspective.

A lot of the parents were pro-inclusion, truly committed to making sure their children have equal opportunity. A lot of family members said we need to not shy away from topics like sexuality, not push it under the carpet. Sometimes because you have a disability, people don’t talk about sexuality and feel the need to protect you from it. But, everybody needs sexuality education.

It was nice to listen to the feedback at the end of the summit. It seemed like a lot of parents believe in self-advocacy and want it around.

The pace of the summit went well. There were lots of opportunities to say what was on your mind. I encourage self-advocates and their families to come to the other summits in Indiana, Florida, California and Texas. It is important because we need to know what you want, what is working and what is not working. We want to hear from you what we can do better.”

Comments by Chester Finn, past president of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered:

“I think the best part of the summit was self-advocates and parents networking. The parents I talked to were thanking us for being there. They looked to us as examples of what could be done for their family members.

Parents and self-advocates were talking about getting jobs and getting people real careers that match a person’s strengths and interests. One young woman (with her parents sitting right there) talked about how she wants to be able to do more. Her parents support her not always being a part of what her family wants to do.

Some parents brought their sons or daughters with them to the summit, but they gave them their space to be their own person, to go to their own workshops.

Overall, the summit was very positive. We have a lot to learn working together. Spending more time, getting to know each other is the key. We need to hear the different voices but work to pull it all together. One overall voice will mean more than having separate groups. This was a learning experience for us on successful networking.

I think this conference was good for self-advocates of all ages to hang out with each other, ask questions and to feel comfortable saying what they feel.

I like what we are bringing to the table with Autism Now. Hopefully at the upcoming summits and down the road we are going to network with more parents on self-advocacy and how parents can support the movement.

I encourage people from other states to come to one of the Autism Now Regional Summits. It will give you an opportunity to see and talk about what is possible and what is out there.”

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered is a collaborative partner of the Autism NOW Center.

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