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About thirty years ago, a dear friend of mine from Portugal told me that you've not really visited a place until you've eaten at someone's home (I was at his home in Portugal. Eating). So I've not really visited Chattanooga. But I was there in July of this year for the Inaugural Tri-State Adult Autism Symposium, the only autism conference dedicated to adult issues east of the Mississippi. (I can't read that last phrase without a cowboy accent.)

The Conference

The conference, organized by the indefatigable Scott Kramer, was a wonderful success. Attendance was at capacity with more than 200 people, coming not just from the tri states (Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama) but also from Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia!

Next year's conference will take place on either 21 or 28 July, 2018 (a Saturday) in Chattanooga, TN. For more information, contact Scott Kramer, the Symposium conference coordinator at Scott.Kramer@chattanoogaautismcenter.org.

The Talk

I had the distinct pleasure of giving a talk at the conference. Its title ended up longer than I had initially foreseen, but I like it nonetheless: Being Aspie at Work: Shared Experiences from the Shop Floor: Finding Your Inner Self-Advocate. The purpose of the talk was to give my fellow autistics tools to enable them to find a level of workplace self-advocacy that works for them. I drew upon my own experiences — triumphs and failures — to illustrate some of the points.

Your Path to Self-Advocacy
Your Path to Self-Advocacy

To my delight, the talk was well received. Of the thirty-odd people who attended my session, fifteen — almost half — filled out a post-conference survey. All of them gave me 5 out of 5, which of course I hadn't expected. [ insert bow of appreciation ]. From an aspie perspective, there's something else that might seem odd: for some strange reason, even though I'll often shut down in social situations, having exhausted my social bucket, I am completely at ease in front of an audience. Yes, of course, the fact that I have more control when presenting, the crowd's reaction is not something that can either be predicted or controlled. Go figure.

Here are the slides from my talk, as a PDF: Being Aspie at Work: Shared Experiences from the Shop Floor: Finding Your Inner Self-Advocate. In order to make the content easier to read rather than be presented, I've removed transitions and consolidated slides that, for example, added one bullet point at a time. And, for those interested, here is a link to other presentations from the conference.

I'm already looking forward to next year!


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