ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Thursday, July 13, 2006: 3:15 PM-4:30 PM
Narragansett Ballroom C
#1760- Speaking for Ourselves: Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Panel
This session is an opportunity to hear first person accounts of the life experiences of some of our more articulate individuals with Autism / Aspergers. Different panelists are chosen for each national conference to give new individuals a chance to speak. Individuals from the area of the conference are given preference. This session provides a self affirming experience for the panelists and a heart warming experience for the audience.

Presenter:Julie A. Donnelly, Ph.D., Autism Support Services, Autism Consultant - Julie Donnelly has a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia, focus area in autism and over 26 years of teaching and consulting experience. Julie teaches university classes and serves as an autism consultant to schools. She has a private practice, Autism Support Services, through which she gives workshops and trainings on autism and consults with families, schools and agencies, assisting them to create programs and supports. Dr. Donnelly speaks at national and international conferences and publishes in the autism and special education areas. Julie is the mother of Jean-Paul Bovee, who experiences autism. Web site
This is a proposal for the 16th annual Speaking for Ourselves panel at the national conference of the Autism Society of America. This panel provides an opportunity to hear first person accounts from four individuals on autism spectrum. A different group of panelists is chosen each year in order to give a variety of individuals an opportunity to share their varied life experiences. Panelists are chosen to reflect the diversity of the spectrum of individuals with autism. If possible, a mixture of gender, race, experience and functioning levels is preferred. Preference is given to having panelists from the area that the conference occurs in order to represent that area. The families and communities that the panelists represent often come out to cheer these individuals on and it is a wonderful opportunity for the panelist to share his or her thanks for their support.

The panelists will tell about the difficulties that they encountered in their early life, their struggles with the educational and medical systems, the support of their families, the discouragements that held them back, and the successes that kept them going. The panelists will speak about their difficulties with social situations, their sensory differences, what they enjoy in life, their friendships in and beyond the autism circle, what they have learned about advocating for themselves and/or the employment they have had or hope to get. Panelist often tell about the misconceptions others have about autism Their ability to verbalize their insights may provide a benefit to parents, professionals and individuals with autism.

In addition, this panel is an opportunity for the audience to validate and encourage these individuals. So often in life, they have experienced failure or been excluded because of their differences. During this session, we can tell them with our attention and applause, that we are proud of their efforts and progress. These individuals walk off the stage with a renewed faith in life, because they have been listened to and valued.

Panelists have ranged in age from 12 to in their 50's. Qualifications include a diagnosis of autism, PDD or Aspergers; ability to communicate from the stage to an audience, and the desire of the individual with autism to participate and share their story.

The Autism Spectrum Individuals panel has been a heartwarming, humorous and informative event for those who attend it each year at the national ASA conference. It has also become a cornerstone activity for individuals with autism who attend the conference to meet with others who have shared these challenges. During the session, individuals on the autism spectrum who wish to will be given the change to introduce themselves to the audience. Many people with ASD have meet through this panel. The moderator of this panel is known nationally for organizing and moderating panels of individuals with autism and works extremely hard to put together a panel that represents the diversity of autism. She has organized a panel for every ASA national conference for the last 16 years and has developed a following of parents, professionals and individuals with autism who attend to meet the new panelists and hear their insights.

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