Monday, April 21, 2008

Parent Conference on Autism

I wanted to shift focus for a bit and talk about a encouraging and enlightening conference I attended this weekend. It was the Services, Treatment, Advocacy, and Research (STAR) Parent Conference 2008, for parents of kids with an autism diagnosis, ages 0 to 8 years old, in Alameda and Contra Costa County, California. (Where my private practice is located.) This  topic is different than the tight focus on social skills I usually have in this blog, but certainly of interest to many parents who are concerned with social skills for their kids.

The conference presentations were very informative, and I’m going to talk specifically about a few of them in upcoming blogs. The resources who exhibited were remarkable in their breadth. (I was there as a representative of my therapy practice, which focuses on autism issues.) There were medical resources, government agencies, resource networks, legal groups, and all sorts of treatment representatives, from large schools and treatment centers down to individual practitioners. It was encouraging to see so many resources gathered together in one place.

As always seems to be the case, there was one group attending the conference that really stood out as remarkable, and that’s the parents. Somehow, parents of children on the autistic spectrum tend to be so active, well informed, supportive of their children and each other. I spoke to parents who have been involved with these issues for years, and have formed strong parent support networks. I met parents whose children had just been diagnosed, and they were already at work to find the support and therapies they need. And I talked to many parents who had stories of how far their kids have come. One of the best parts of working with the autism community is getting to work with these remarkable parents.

If you’re the parent of a child on the autistic spectrum, I urge you to find a similar network of support in your own community. I think it makes all the difference, for parents and kids.

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