After being in our 5th year of Love & Autism, we’ve had to field many questions and clarify misconceptions. Here are a few we wanted to share.
Is Love & Autism all about sex?
Um, no. (But because we recognize that more is needed on this topic, this year we do have a breakout session on teaching people to better support safety and sex at all ages.) Love & Autism started because the discussion about relationships and autism is often misinformed. At the core of this conference is the mission to support the development of fulfilling relationships, based on attunement and reciprocity, in every type of relationship, at any age. Whether the relationship is between parents and their child at any age, from early toddler years to adulthood, between partners, be they romantic, platonic, or neurologically mixed, Love & Autism is designed to support you in creating the relationship you are seeking.
Will Love & Autism be valuable, even if the speakers don’t have “my kids autism”?
Not only yes, but ABSOLUTELY. Each speaker is different than each other and maybe all of them are different than your child. However, there are common experiences that individuals in autism share. It is the human experience in autism that is important to hear and recognize. This is what I love most about Love & Autism. The stories that emerge after the conference from attendees about meaningful takeaways and their own ‘ah ha’ moments. The beauty of Love & Autism is the opportunity to hear stories from perspective of others, some of which you may share, others you may not. What I know to be true after four years and stories from hundreds, is that many people walk away either having learned something new, with renewed hope, a deeper appreciation for the autistic experience, or a reminder that they are on the right path. Many express walking away “feeling the Love”.
Love & Autism is a money maker! That’s why this conference happens each year.
Unfortunately false. Honestly, the accountant hopes for a year when it breaks even. We put a lot into this conference. From main stage speakers, to the way the tables are decorated, each element of your conference experience is tirelessly worked on because we are passionate about creating social change in autism. There isn’t a Love & Autism team, just a group of clinicians and support staff, managing their current workload, in addition to finding time to put on this conference each year. We persist each year because we are passionate, because we feel it’s important and needed.
Are we anti-ABA?
The short answer is no, but ABA should be limited in its scope and should not be the primary approach in autism treatment. First, when broadly applied to all aspects of development and learning, it does more harm than good. Yes, we support a step-by-step learning approach reinforced by external rewards in very select situations. Trying to help your kid potty train, some ABA elements can be helpful. Need to externally incentivise your child to engage in a behavior for a limited period of time, such as taking the 10-day supply of antibiotics prescribed by the pediatrician, bust out those skittles to reward your kids in taking that awful tasting medication. Apply ABA principales to helping your child feel more comfortable navigating the complexities involved in social interactions…no. Using it to globally treat the symptoms and struggles experienced by autistics… no. Not only is it demeaning, but it isn’t helpful.
At Love & Autism we recognize that everyone is on their own journey and for some families, ABA is their preferred treatment approach. While these are not our values, we very much respect each individual and families right to experience value in an alternative perspective. However, each year there are hundreds of ABA conferences around the world for people wanting more information on that approach to treatment. There are very few conferences showing something different and giving people, for whom ABA does not align with their values, a different avenue of support.
So at Love & Autism, we don’t talk about ABA because you can get that anywhere. We want to give our conference attendees something different. Something that aligns better with our values. Something that we believe is a better way to support people in this community.
I’m not an activist. I’m not political. Is this conference and social movement for me?
We think it is. Everyone fights for what they believe, in different ways. It’s up to you to determine what your fight for social justice looks like. Often what is perceived as small step serve as the building blocks for something larger. Here are a few things we know to be true.
- Social movement starts at home. It’s in how you change your own thoughts, ideas, and actions. It means moving in your own life with purpose and the intention to live by your values.
- Dehumanization starts with language. How you talk about yourself, how you talk about others, not only matters to you, but those around you.
- Power matters when implementing change. Thus it’s up to the majority, not the minority, to make change happen. Getting people to listen means you have a voice that is valued. Those who are disempowered, disenfranchised, and dehumanized are also silenced and ignored by the majority; their experiences discounted. It is up to us to fight alongside self-advocates in creating meaningful change.
Can you be inconvenienced, concerned, exhausted by your own disability, but still value neurodiversity and the Love & Autism movement?
YES! We are all a combination of struggle and strength. Walking in this world as a neuromigority, I recognize that it was adapted by us, for us. As sometimes tiring as the fight is, making sure your voice is heard is important part of social change.
Engage in self care and take the space you need, when you need it. But remember that continuing to rise up and being brave enough to share your story is an act of courage and a sign of resilience. You are never alone. Your peers, willing to fight with you, can be found at Love & Autism.
My kid’s three. Do I really need to be thinking about love?
Not only yes, but I’d argue that love at this age is more important than any other. Our relationships with our primary attachment figures (i.e parents) serves as the foundation for all future relationships. Building a healthy, loving relationship between parent and child at this age means your child has the blueprint to build secure relationship attachments throughout their lifespan. While the relationship between neurotypical parents and their autistic children may have differences, love and attachments are fundamental human need. At the end of the day, when we think about our children as adults, we want them to have loving a secure attachments. The best place to start that is at home.