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5752 Positively Autism: Parents’ Optimistic Journeys and Success Stories

Saturday, July 9, 2011: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
Miami 3 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
We are both parents of children with autism. We have our own personal experiences and knowledge we have gained while working with hundreds of families. We will discuss characteristics of autism, provide strategies and solutions, and use our personal stories to demonstrate success. We will present an optimistic view of autism, so that parents can see and believe in a brighter future for their child. As parents of children with autism who have counseled hundreds of other parents, we have come to appreciate both the humor and the advantages of the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders.  Some days you have to laugh or else you’ll cry!  Learn how to view characteristics in a positive light, and use known features to the advantage of the person with autism.  In this program, we will transform how to think about autism in your life. 
  1.  People with autism do not base their self-image on the opinions of others.  While some see this as lacking “theory of mind” or perspective-taking, this can also be construed as a lack of dependence on outside validation.  No keeping up with the Joneses, no need for the latest fad, (no interest in Silly Bandz), etc.
  2. Maybe pokerfaced, maybe not…but people with autism tend NOT to tell lies.  While this again can be a lack of perspective-taking, it is an admirable trait.  As parents, it is key for this attribute to be rewarded, which sometimes means not publicly discussing it.
  3. Need a specialist?  Given the deep and focused interests of people with autism (with a nod to Valerie Paradiz), they can be your go-to fact checker. 
  4. WYSIWYG…that’s autism!  What you see IS what you get—no pretensions, no head games, no posturing.  How do you handle this in public, with family members and others?  How can we all learn to emulate this self-reliance?
  5. Do you like patterns, structure, and routine?  People with autism can really benefit from structure, and the rest of the world can benefit from their reliance on routine.  It can be really wonderful to establish routines and know that they will be followed.
  6. Focusing on details can enable one to notice variations or changes, which can be an asset in many occupations.  How else can scientists discover new stars, or software engineers find flaws in computer coding?
  7. Following the rules can be a real asset to employers:  never late, never gossiping around the water cooler, never taking extended smoke breaks.  If you want a dedicated worker, hire someone with autism.  Want to ensure that your child with autism does not smoke or drink—make it a rule!
  8. People with autism often remember amazing details and facts.  Some call that hyper focusing, others call it a passion for detail.  Many successful business tycoons could be labeled with that attribute.  Where some people might be bored with repetitive details, people with autism can be able to maintain a high level of attention.
  9. Enjoying life, enjoying the simple pleasures: people with autism may not understand when they have “outgrown” some activities…but maybe society needs to understand that age does not mean you can’t have fun!  As parents, we need to differentiate the “outgrown” activities from those that are harmless as children and adults.
  10. A unique perspective: that’s what autism provides.  As neurotypicals, we NEED people with autism to refresh our view of the world, to remind us to focus within, and to live in the moment.  We treasure these reminders and the lessons we have learned as parents of children with autism.

Learning Objectives:

  • 1. Parents and caregivers will learn how to reframe the core features of autism from deficits to advantages and why this is important (Milshtein, Oppenheim, et al, 2009).
  • 2. Parents and caregivers will learn how to collaborate with professionals and parents to maximize benefit to the individual with autism (Showers and Joyce, 1996).
  • 3. Parents and caregivers will learn strategies and solutions that have helped other parents at home, at school, and in the community.

Content Area: Life with Autism


Lisa Townsend, B.A.
Co-founder of Autism Parenting Solutions, LLC
Autism Parenting Solutions, LLC

As a parent of three children with disabilities and co-founder of Autism Parenting Solutions, she has provided resources and support for hundreds of parents for over 4 years. During that time, she has learned that it is important to nurture the positive characteristics in people with autism spectrum disorders.

Sheila Knapp, B.A.
Co-founder of Autism Parenting Solutions, LLC
Autism Parenting Solutions, LLC

Sheila Knapp is the parent of a son with autism. She is a consultant with Autism Parenting Solutions. Sheila has worked with families for 4+ years, providing resources, support and workshops for parents, teachers, and the community. She has a B.A. in Finance.