Tag Archives: Alex Plank

My experiences at the Autism Society of America Conference from my first talk on a Keynote Panel and a good link to the IACC meeting in July

First, here is a very good meeting from the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee!

IACC 2010

Next, here are a few pictures I took.

On Saturday July 10, 2010, I went to Dallas, Texas to speak at the Autism Society of America conference. I woke up eager to go and see what doors will open up for me. This was the first time I was traveling by myself. The Autism Society arranged for a driver to take me to the airport. It really took the burden of driving to the airport at 4a.m. off my mind. There were many things to figure out on my way to the airport. I was nervous and started to wonder, How was I going to do every thing myself? Who was I going to meet? What kind of experience was I going to have? For every fear I had, I faced the fear and went through every door I was expected to go through.

When I arrived in Dallas I immediately met my driver to ride in a sedan to the Hyatt Regency Dallas; the home of the Wolfgang Puck restaurant 560. When the hotel was approaching I immediately saw this long tower with a globe at the top. It looked beautiful. The driver told me it was a restaurant. When I arrived in the lobby I immediately walked to the counter to check into the hotel. I was told that I could check into my room. It made me feel more relaxed since I was concerned about having to lug my suitcase around with me all morning. I finally made it to my hotel room which was quite large with a King Size bed and free wifi. I set my clothes on the bed, fixed myself up and went downstairs.

I checked in to the conference. My first impression was to take a deep breath and walk through the large exhibit hall. I was given a badge to wear when I met Sarah Mitchell from the Autism Society. It was nice to be welcomed to the conference by her. I wanted to meet with the other panelists who will be presenting with me the next day. I felt it would be good to do a run through for the next morning. As I navigated through hallways, I introduced myself telling people to have a great day. Two days earlier I had spoken to Sandy Yim, a blogger who would be on the panel with me. When I was talking to Valerie Paradiz and a friend of hers, Sandy Yim spotted me and went over to me to introduce herself. I didn’t realize the speed of what was going on. Every time I met someone new at the conference, I was curious to know if I was transitioning the conversations appropriately, but every one told me I was not being rude. There were many people who wanted to talk to me.

Two days earlier, Sandy Yim asked me if I wanted to walk through the exhibit hall with her. I told her “that would not be a problem.” A couple hours later, she and I did walk through the exhibit hall together. We took our time walking through the exhibit hall even though I did briefly walk through it before I met her. When I was walking around by myself, I came upon a conversation between Jack Robison and a toy maker named Bud. I started listening to the interesting conversation about how Bud, who is on the Autism Spectrum, is a Visual Thinker who creates toys for children with Autism. Very interesting toys by the way!! There are many ways a person like myself thinks in Pictures as I began to tell them how I think in Pictures too and that is why I like Anatomy. Every thing seemed to go right when I spoke to any one there. When I was walking thoroughly through the exhibit hall with Sandy Yim, we stopped at the Seamless Socks exhibit. I had never heard of Seamless Socks before. When they knew we were both bloggers, they told us we can review their socks on our website after they give us Seamless Socks to try on. I am still waiting for my pair of Seamless Socks to arrive in the mail to try on and review.

Every time I spend my time talking to another successful Autistic person, I feel proud of what I accomplished so far. Sometimes when I see an Autistic person who is struggling to succeed with their many sensory issues, I think to myself, Why me? Why do I succeed as an Autistic? I am still Autistic, but many people who are ignorant don’t think I am. It is like people don’t generally feel Autistic people can succeed because of the stigma AutismSpeaks represents. I feel it is my goal to show the world the beauty of Autism and how Autistics CAN succeed.

One of the most interesting set of people I met at the conference were the people working the Google exhibit. I even took a picture with the Google people which you can see. They helped me create a Google Sketch Up from my fiction story Gregarious Revolution which hopefully many of you are eager to read more about!

I didn’t know what to expect for the next morning and I really felt a little nervous. The meeting that the other panelists and I had to run through before the presentation helped me become more comfortable with my surroundings. As I stepped out of the keynote presentation room after the meeting, I felt good walking around trying to talk to people. I kept on thinking I want to see what is inside the top of the dome at the Hyatt. Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant looked very interesting on the outside. All I got to see was how interesting it looked on the outside. I was wearing my Neurodiversity Tee Shirt with my Autistic Pride infinity symbol and met Melody Latimar who I communicated with by email a few weeks back about a few poems I wrote. When I met Melody, her first response she said to me was “You’re wearing my creation!” I didn’t know what to say, but she seemed to feel good about her symbol on my Tee Shirt I created.

I went to the DSM V committee meeting at the conference and came out of the meeting feeling good because I believe the changes are a first step to better understanding about Autism even though they should make a note in the DSM V about people currently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS. Autism is a long a continuum in a spectrum, but many people already diagnosed with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS should not have to seek out a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum from a professional when the DSM V finally is published. They need to make sure people already diagnosed with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS can get their services still.

During the evening, I was talking much with Sandy Yim, other tweeters and met some other bloggers as well. I also met many This Emotional Life fans! Some of the fans were asking about my mom, but she was not at the conference. We talked a lot about how twitter helps Autistic people communicate better, how to live tweet, and other interesting topics sitting on the lobby couches. When it came to nighttime, we moved to the bar upstairs to meet some more people. At this point I was getting hungry for dinner, but at the same time I wanted to get know other people. The night felt good as I met new friends.

One of the topics we talked about was how Blogging and Tweeting are important tools to connect Autistic people like myself to be able to interact better in public by being more spontaneous. It makes it easier because we don’t have to see faces. When we do finally get to talk face to face, we can express ourselves a lot better. We also talked and laughed about many other things. When we all did eventually get dinner, I ordered a steak because I was so hungry with potato, corn, salad, and a Ginger Ale.

After I ate, I eventually felt so tired after 9pm Central time. I decided to go to my hotel room to get ready for bed. I wanted to do well at my presentation. Unfortunately, I could not attend an event I was invited to at the conference in the downstairs lower lobby. I felt if I had not been tired from traveling all day, I would have definitely went and enjoyed myself.

The next day I woke up actually around 4:30am Central time, but had a wake up call at 6:30am Central time. I began rehearsing what I needed to do in the hotel room. I had free wireless hook up, but I didn’t have a laptop with me. When 6:30 approached, I picked up my wake up call, walked to the elevator, and walked in to the lobby area. I ate a big breakfast of a stack of pancakes, bacon, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. I could not finish my meal and ate as much as I could. I walked down to the keynote area where I saw what looked like a big auditorium with an amazing background with 2 screens on the sides. It was my first time being on a keynote panel, but certainly will not be my last.

It felt good being on the panel. Whenever I try something new especially having a whole audience watching me talk, my nervous-excited senses try to overwhelm me. Once I have done anything once, the succeeding times always gets much better. After the panel was over, many people stood up with cheers to honor the panel I was a part of. I had been amazed about how many people loved the presentation. I keep on inspiring others to become better equipped in life to do great things and it makes me feel proud.

Afterward, I was talking with a few people I met for a long time. Unfortunately, I could not attend many event meetings because I was busy talking with many people. I did in fact go to another talk about ‘Other Neurological causes of Autism’ which was given by a geneticist at Montefiore Medical Center.

I eventually had to head back to the airport where my flight was delayed for over an hour. The flight home was very good. At first I thought I had a whole row to myself, but the stewardess suddenly put a lonely young boy in my row. It felt good making a child feel better on the airplane since he was all by himself. He showed me how to use Nintendo Gameboy DS and showed me some of his games. Afterward, I had taken out my word puzzles to show him where we both did a few puzzles together. It was fun! When the flight landed finally, I knew my trip was finally over and back to reality.

Overall I had an amazing time meeting new friends who blog/tweet and many other people as well. I am very happy I was able to go through a door which has the potential to open more doors for me.

I also wanted to go to Autreat 2010 the week before, but I could not take two vacations two weeks in a row. There is always next year for Autreat 2011.