Yesterday I attended my first autism conference. I’ve gone to workshops and support group meetings, but never a large event. It was three days, but I could only make it to one. I chose the final day because John Elder Robison was a presenter. Yes, that means I missed the iconic Temple Grandin, but I was not disappointed. Not in Mr. Robison anyway. He redeemed the emotions and interest that the first speaker lacked/lost.
Back to the beginning… I started off early and drove to The University of West Florida, just me and my iPod with the “Wonder Rock” playlist on shuffle. (Translation: lots of Europe, Boston, and Mitch Malloy with a sprinkling of other assorted rockers prominently from the 1970s-1990s.) The campus—sprawling with space between buildings and acres of natural landscape left in tack—was lovely and the fact that their logo has a nautilus was, in my mind, a nod of serendipity to my adventure.
Mr. Robison was hilarious and thought provoking. His passion for sharing his stories (Hello, three books!) shined as well as his social quirks—like pacing around the stage when his family was doing their Q&A. And his family was great, too! Lots of insight and they answered a question for me: What’s the value of getting an Asperger’s diagnosis as an adult? (Which now, with the new DSM-V manual, would be “autism” since the Asperger’s label was removed and it doesn’t differentiate between the levels on the spectrum.)
I’m leaning toward Mr. Robison’ practical response, though greater peer acceptance and an official credential would be nice. The liability/cost of medical/life insurance when you are diagnosed is greater. Let’s hear it for logical thinkers!
One tool that Mr. Robison recommended was an Autism-Spectrum Quotient test that was posted by Wired magazine many years back. I took it and tested forty-two. No surprise to me. My husband scored seventeen—we’re a case study in opposites attract.
The conference was educational/life affirming. Lots of Aspies to hear from and several things were reinforced to me about what I can do to encourage my ASD son in his growth. What, you ask? Never give up because learning and development continues into adulthood and let him follow his passions/obsessions. Plus, I got two books autographed but I was too shy to ask for a photo.
I’ll diffidently go to another event where any of the Robisons are featured speakers. The day was well spent but I’m curious to see how my friends score on the AQ test. Leave your number in the comments if you’re feeling brave.