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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Thoughts After the Second Day Of The Autism Conference

One of the freebies I got from the exhibit hall was this poop
pillow! Coolest thing I ever owned! It was from Lovebug
Probiotics. They also gave me two bottles of probiotic pills.
(The lady gave me an extra bottle when I told her I have IBS!)
Today was the second day of the autism conference. It was a nice day. In the interest of being true to myself, I decided to go mostly to sessions about being autistic rather than sessions geared towards teachers. I am going to 1 or 2 for teachers tomorrow that I think will be helpful for my future classroom, though.

I grew used to being around other autistic people and I enjoyed talking to people. I guess that counts as networking, right? I formed the sort of temporary friendships that you make when you're at a conference like this.

The conference ended at 4:15 today, though. I had sort of been excited about taking the time to explore the neighborhood. But it turns out that Milwaukee is sort of a ghost town... at least the area that I am in! It feels like someone took Milwaukee, turned it upside down, shook it until all of the people and stores and restaurants fell out, and then set it back upright like nothing happened. I went into a weirdly empty mall... it looked like it must have been an awesome mall at some point. But now the entire ground floor had been turned into a giant TJ Maxx, and the other floors were empty. The lights were still on and there was still music being piped in, and people were walking around like it was an ordinary mall. But they weren't shopping because there were no stores. It was creepy, so I left.

I came back to my hotel room, and found myself with the familiar sad, achy, lonely feeling in my stomach. Have you ever felt it? Its this feeling like you actually want to be around people, and there are people near by, but you are in a bubble. All the people from the conference had gone their own separate ways. I ended up ordering room service, and then taking a nap for an hour.

Now that I am awake and it is 10:24 pm, I thought I'd mention some of my thoughts about the conference overall.

First of all my mom is a meeting planner, and I am familiar with her telling me about the meetings she's run, so I had high expectations for this conference... and some of them weren't met. For instance, at most conferences, during the breaks they will bring out carts with snacks,,, sometimes really fun things like cotton candy and pretzels, but most meeting spaces have choices that the meeting planner gets to decide on. I was excited about that... but there were no snacks. Booo! I know, if I want to get a pretzel I should just go by a pretzel... but where? Milwaukee is a ghost town, remember?

Another thing... they had two social events set up. One was at the Harley Davidson museum last night, and tonight there was a Milwaukee Brewer's game. I expected that there would be transportation provided, like a shuttle or something. Instead, for the museum they just gave us a map. It was less than a mile walk, but you have to go over a really long bridge. It wasn't a big deal when I walked it in the early evening when the sun was still out. But I wasn't feeling good about having to walk back to my hotel in the dark. Especially since the streets are pretty empty at night around here. It isn't like downtown Chicago where the streets are still bustling at 10 pm! I ended up being offered a ride home from a lady who was the mother of someone in the band. She thought it was too dangerous for me to walk home. For the baseball game, we were actually given change and told to take the city bus to the game! This really freaked me out... I think it would have been doable in the early evening, but again, I wouldn't have liked trying to make my way back at night after a ball game. I ended up feeling so unsafe about it that I just didn't go... which is how I ended up alone in my hotel room instead. I hope that next time they will provide transportation to the events!

On that note, the social events didn't seem completely autism friendly. The Harley Davidson museum had a noisy band. I wore my headphones, but some people just didn't want to go at all. They were also hosting a motorcycle show the same night, so outside there was a big crowd with lots of engines revving and people speaking over bullhorns and all sorts of things breaking my ear drums left and right. I would like it if they hosted at least one event that was especially geared towards people on the spectrum. Every single day we go to places and situations where we just have to find ways to cope with the harshness while neurotypical people around us are calmly enjoying themselves. While we could go to the museum and the baseball game if we used lots of coping skills and what have you, it would be awesome to have an event that was specifically for us. Like someone thought to themselves, "What would people with autism enjoy doing?" Maybe some sort of museum trip that doesn't involve a band or motorcycles, with lots of interactive exhibits. Or give us some choices ahead of time and let us vote on one. That would also give autistic people more chances to socialize with each other. Sometimes it seems like these conferences are mostly set up for parents and professionals, and autistic people are really just there to help educate the parents and professionals, rather than to benefit for themselves.

Plus... I was sort of surprised that there were no children there! I've worked for child care companies at a lot of events that were conferences for certain disabilities, and they always involved kids. The parents had the option of paying for child care for their kids, those who had a disability and also the siblings. That way, parents at least have the option of bringing their children with on the trip, rather than trying to find someone to provide respite care for multiple days. They actually had Julia, the new Sesame Street muppet with autism, at the conference. It was a little odd since there were no children there. Julia was just walking around in the general population without anyone really noticing her. Poor Julia! (Although, I have to say, I've always been confused when they have character visits, because the characters are usually WAY BIGGER than you would have imagined them. Except for once when I took a friend's child to see Dora The Explorer in the mall, and I assumed it would be a costumed character, and it sort of was, but it was more Disney Princess style instead of Mickey Mouse style. It was an adult woman wearing a tiny Dora backpack and an outfit that resembled Dora's, The kid I brought was like, "That isn't Dora, that is just some lady!" But I digress...)

It may sound like I'm complaining, but I really did enjoy being at the conference, and I hope to come back next year. It is going to be in Washington DC next year! That sounds really fun!


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