Welcome to this special Autism Vancouver edition of the Autism Today newsletter. In just two weeks, I will stand up at a podium at the magnificent Vancouver Convention Centre, on the harborfront of one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, and open our 3rd Biennial Behavioral and Biomedical Congress. I am thrilled by how far we’ve come since our first Biennial Congress. And imagine our speaker line-up: Temple Grandin’s mom, Eustacia Cutler; Sheila Wagner of Emory University, one of America’s top autism educators; Dr. Bill Shaw, CEO of Great Plains Laboratories, and one of the top advisors to health professionals on the biomedical aspects of ASDs; popular behavioral experts like Stephen Shore and Doreen Granpeesheh; and many others.
I won’t kid you – it’s not easy to combine the true believers from either the purely behavioral or purely biomedical schools of thought at a single event. Some people feel deeply antagonized by the mere suggestion that both sides could have something to teach us. Some speakers don’t like the format, some families and teachers don’t understand it. And imagine trying to explain the significance of such a happening to the mainstream media! But at Autism Today, we are deeply focused on empowering individuals – people with autism spectrum disorders and their families – on the most complex, personal journey they will face – the path of emergence (some even say, “recovery” and even, “cure”).
The argument over how to define a fulfilled, fully expressed life is as varied and endless as the human race. Our job, as we see it at Autism Today, is to equip each person and his or her family with information about every legitimate tool they might use to find their own way. There are not top-down answers in autism. It’s not only grass roots; it’s deep in the soil. Success depends in part on a willingness to get dirty! And on some level, love that process. Watch the HBO movie about Temple Grandin, or listen to painter Keri Bowers describe her work with her son Taylor Cross, literally spending hours, dipping him bodily into paints, and creating art, or listen to almost any narrative of successful intervention, and you learn – it’s a hands-on process.
Autism Vancouver is still two weeks away. But it is not too early to give thanks to our champions who will make this such a special event. None of this could happen without a dedicated staff and the support of our Autism Today friends and family. We especially wish to thank Keri Bowers, founder of Normal Films, and director of Normal People Scare Me, Debbie Hosseini, author of our newest title, Artism: The Art of Autism – both tireless champions of the arts as a vehicle of emergence — Kelly Lebrock, who has donated her star power and agreed to act as honorary hostess of our Gala, and Diana Graling, of Helms-Briscoe, whose invaluable logistical counsel is helping us to run a tight ship in Vancouver.
For those unable to join us in Vancouver, I hope you won’t mind this special Congress edition of the Autism Today newsletter. Please remember we will be broadcasting segments of the Congress via webcast every day of the Congress, April 7-9, and for those who wish to experience the complete program, we will make this available in DVD for purchase.
Soon, we will have the capacity in place to make all of our programming available by live webcast, so you can enjoy and benefit from it without the expense of travel, and in the company of family, students or colleagues. Keep an eye on our newsletters for announcements about these enhancements to our program offerings.
Thank you again for your friendship and support.