Monday, March 31, 2014

Montreal Autism in Motion Conference and Exhibit: Forward thinkers advance autism

Montreal Autism in Motion Conference and Exhibit: 
Forward thinkers advance autism

It was an uplifting weekend for the over 200 people that attended the Montreal Autism in Motion Conference and Exhibit on March 30, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport.

Organizers Andre Pereira and Tracy Pennimpede, in conjunction with Giant Steps School, handpicked a list of speakers that shone an encouraging light on autism; shifting from what conference presenter Dr. Stephen Shore described as “the closed door of ‘disability’ and ‘disorder’” to a mindset that leads to lifelong success.

 Andre Pereira, Tracy Pennimpede, Nick Katalifos, and Nick Primiano (Director of Giant Steps School)

The day began with a keynote address from Nick Katalifos, Chairman of the Giant Steps School and Resource Centre, who shared his family’s journey from the moment their son was diagnosed with autism, and the role that the schools play in their community. Katalifos’ story resonated with many, particularly when he shared his closing remarks, “We’ve got a long way to go, but we are very proud of how far he’s come.”

Presenters included medical professional Dr. Laurent Mottron, Soma Mukhopadhyay, who Skyped in to discuss the methodology of the Soma Rapid Prompting Method, and Lucila Guerrero, an artist who has Asperger's Syndrome.

Presenter Dr. Stephen Shore was diagnosed with “Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies,” and deemed “too sick” for outpatient treatment. He was non-verbal until he was four years old. With much support, he is now a professor at Adelphi University where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism.

There is no one better to explain autism than someone who has it. “Before any teaching begins you have to create a trusted relationship with the learner,” said Dr. Shore, whose anecdotes of bathroom etiquette engaged his audience in a lively discussion about the trickiness of rules. “We spend so much time telling people the rules and that they aren’t doing things right. We need to show them what they are doing right so we can increase their self-esteem."

Specialisterne Canada sees integrating people on the autism spectrum into the Canadian workforce as a series of opportunities rather than problems to overcome. This 10-year-old company that began in Denmark finds jobs that people with autism can succeed at, and creates an environment within businesses in which they can be productive. They eliminate the traditional interview process that proves to be so difficult for people with an ASD. “We focus on talent and what people can do,” says Alan Kriss, CEO of Specialisterne Canada during his presentation. "We go to businesses and inform early adapters of the opportunity before them in hiring people with an ASD."

Kristine Barnett, author and mother of 14-year-old Jacob, who has an IQ higher than Einstein, addressed a crowd that included many who had read her book The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. Barnett also discussed ‘rules’…a recurring theme over the course of the conference.. and how beneficial it can be to break them.

Nobody knew Jacob had autism when the book was published because of Barnett’s awareness of the power of labels. “First thing you get is ‘can’t”, she shared.

Jacob developed an original theory in Physics when he was 12 years old. “They said that he should learn social skills in hopes of avoiding an institution. Guess what? He is in an institution now – The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario,” says Barnett.

Barnett shares a potent message on the power of unearthing the hidden abilities in all children with an ASD: “Look for their special skills and talents. Ask them what they want to do. It is important to let them tell you what they want. It’s time to see kids with autism in the way we finally should be looking at them.”

45 exhibitors enjoyed sharing their services with the public in a lively, open space.

 Mi & Stu and their delicious gluten-free treats

On March 30th, Montreal Autism in Motion, in conjunction with Giant Steps School, hosted a Roundtable on Advancing with Autism that brought over 30 stakeholders, including government, service providers and parents, together to exchange ideas and collaborate on future projects to benefit the community at large. The agenda included creating an Autism-Friendly city, education and employment, and housing and respite.

It was an engaging weekend that brought much needed light to the future of autism, on the eve of Autism Awareness Month.

Posted by Wendy Singer, Managing Editor, Inspirations Newspaper

Check out the news in the inaugural edition of the
Inspirations Express!

Featuring a full page of Autism Awareness Month activities

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