So, this week I was able to attend my first Autism Conference, the Middletown Centre For Autism International Conference, ‘Building Capacity’. And what an experience it was.
The two day conference was held in the Spectacular setting of Titanic Belfast, and while the building’s design meant it isn’t the easiest place to navigate (having escalators that go up two floors is a daft idea if you ask me), the staff, both from Titanic and Middletown, were on hand to help direct you around the venue (especially handy for someone with no sense of direction such as myself).
For those of you who aren’t aware of Middletown, Middletown Centre for Autism is an all-Ireland organisation set up in 2007 to provide a state-of-the-art resource and facility in order to improve the service provision available for individuals who are on the Autistic Spectrum. This year, the Middletown centre celebrated their 10th Anniversary. You can find out more about Middletown by clicking Here.
Registration at the entrance was quick and painless, and everyone in attendance was given an event programme, quite a thick binder which contained a schedule of the speakers, the presentation slides, a quick bio about each speaker, and a blurb about some of the exhibitors in attendance. I found the programme really handy, and a great guide for the two days.
On Day one, the obvious star of the show was Dr Temple Grandin, arguably the world’s most famous Autistic Advocate, and also the person behind the revolutionary ideas in cattle farming, transforming how cattle are kept, and moved. Her talk was full of energy, humour, and lots of little personal anecdotes and sayings that kept the audience absolutely enthralled. For me, this was one of the highlights of the entire event, having the honour to listen to someone who has done so much to help Autistic people be accepted and embraced (well she did build a hug machine after all!) for their talents and abilities.
The other speakers included professionals like Dr Jed Baker, Michelle Garcia Winner, Gina Davies and Jessica Kingsley. While their presentations were all very informative and good to listen to, I found that they were directed more towards parents and professionals, so for me they weren’t of huge interest, although they do still need to be mentioned for the great job that they did!
Michelle in particular, provided quite a moment of irony when, as part of her presentation, she went on to discuss an iceberg analogy. During her presentation, Michelle was standing on a replica of the famous staircase that was on board the Titanic…….
I also had the great experience of being able to meet many different people who have been following this blog and the other activities I do. It was also a great chance to meet representatives from many different organisations that have an interest in Autism, and supporting people like myself.
While a lot of the event was, understandably, aimed towards professionals, there was a lot there for Autistics who attended. Hearing from Temple Grandin and how she overcame the challenges she has faced in her life, was hugely inspiring for me. The chance to watch the movie about Temple Grandin’s life with her in the room was a brilliant experience. Seeing her reactions to certain scenes in the movie was an experience beyond words.