A routine part of conference planning is identifying an audience and how the conference will serve that target audience. In our community – the autism community – I’m often approached with the same question: “Is this conference for me?” After reading this list, I’m sure you will share my sentiment…we will all Learn & Grow with these inspirational speakers.

1. Before you look at what you want to change, first you need to find what you love.
Peter Mundy: “Getting to know, engage, and prize the differences that make each person a unique student is as essential to the effective education of a person affected by autism as it is for another person in a classroom”.

2. Boxes are for shipping people are diverse.
Stephen Shore: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

3. The only way to get better is through practice.
Alex Plank: “Social Skills [training]..like stories…don’t work….The best way to learn social skills is through trial and error.”

4. Learn to celebrate those you love. Regardless who they are and who you are!
David Finch: “The greatest thing a man can do for himself is to marry someone who is infinitely better than he is. And that’s exactly what I did.”

5. Vulnerability is a human challenge. Learning to be vulnerable is an art.
Lindsey Nebeker: “Trust is vulnerability. Even if you have been hurt before. Even if it’s frightening. Because it might actually be worth it.”

6. The good things in life can’t be measured…unlike IEP goals.
David Hamrick: “Love is a force of attraction between two people that is neither visible, measurable or heard. There is no way to quantify it.”

7. Human relationships take perseverance, yet the gifts we receive are far better than any tangible rewards.
Anita Lesko: “Sometimes you have to break down walls to get to us, but it’s worth it.”

8. Equality matters. People matter. Discrimination exists. Be an agent of social change.
Anthony Ianni: “Remember we are all different in many ways, but in the end we are all the same because we are created equally and we ARE all people.”

9. Everyone is capable of a better human interaction. To be kinder, more emotionally present, and willing to share with one another takes effort. Yet, it’s always worth the effort.
Jenny Palmiotto “I’m not interested in the where you are on the autism spectrum: higher functioning, lower functioning. What interests me is figuring out how to create the highest quality interaction between two people at any given moment.”

Many feel that this conference may or may not be ‘for you’. However, as you can see each of these quotes applies to autism and yet they don’t. These learning lessons are universal and everyone can benefit from them. Our speakers are relational thought leaders. And yes, everyone but Mundy and myself, are on the autism spectrum.

If you need more of a reason to attend this year’s conference, I’ll wrap up with a comment about last year’s Love & Autism conference. A resounding sentiment of last year’s conference was that our participants were surprised and moved by their experiences at Love & Autism. The most common feedback from last years conference: “Tissue, please.” We are less about practical tips and more about human beings. There were so many unexpected moments of brilliance, shared emotion, depth, connection, vulnerability, and change.

I started Love & Autism so that I’d have an autism conference that I personally wanted to attend. In its second year, I couldn’t be more excited! This group of speakers exemplifies respect for diverse beliefs, commitment to personal betterment, and immense passion for creating a better world. I’m ready to be moved, are you? And don’t worry, we listened and will have more tissue on hand.

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