The 49th Annual Autism Society National Conference, July 12-15, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a grand one-of-a-kind event, changing lives through the one to one sharing that happens when a community so passionate gets together! We would like to say thank you to literally the hundreds of folks who made this all happen! You make the Autism Society great!

First of all, thank you to all our sponsors, and especially to our main Conference Sponsor, Vivint Gives Back, without all of your support this wonderful event could not have happened.

Wednesday, July 12th was an incredible Pre-Conference day with the Autism Safe and Sound™ Initiative and Inclusive Faith Initiative both giving intensive training sessions from 9am to 12pm completely free for local First Responders and Faith Leaders to participate in. Thank you to Safe and Sound team, Cpt. William A. Cannata Jr., Retired and Sgt. Jimmy Donohoe and Inclusive Faith Initiative presenters Shelly Christensen, Elaine Hall, Heba Hazzaa, David Morstad, Stephen M. Shore, and Lawrence R. Sutton. Pre-Conference day is also when our network of affiliates get together. In the words of our conference moderator and board member, Richard Wolf, “Wednesday is the day we get many of our 90 affiliates together – where they learn from the best practices of others – and where we as national board members learn what’s happening at the grassroots of our organization.” Obviously we can’t thank our affiliate leaders enough – they are the boots on the ground and have supported millions throughout the Autism Society’s proud 50+ year history! Wednesday is also the day that we offer big blocks of continuing education credits with pre-cons for those seeking BCBA, ASHA, ASWB and APA CEs – thank you to Stephen Lockwood, BCBA and Jack Scott, Ph.D., BCBA-D and Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D., CCC-SLP and Elaine C. Meyer, Ph.D., R.N. for these great sessions. And, last but not least, thank you to the Autism Society Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism who each year hold the Self-Advocacy Pre-Conference. Here, the many autistic adults who come to find community and a voice each year at the Autism Society National Conference know they are supported and heard. All this happened before the official start of the conference!

The conference proper opened Thursday, July 13th – we began our keynotes each day with the Autism Society Awards. Thank you to the following 2017 award recipients, the autism community is beholden to you for all you do – Sesame Workshop, US Social Impact, West Virginia Autism Training Center College Program for Students with ASD at Marshall University, Autism Society of Texas, Elaine Harvey, Judy Endow, MSW, LCSW, the Autism Women’s Network, Barry M. Prizant Ph.D., Tom Fields-Meyer, Sara Luterman, Eli Miller and Nolan Rausch. Autism Society Awards recognize exceptional contributions of individuals and organizations that help improve the lives of those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the United States.

The Thursday keynote offered two incredible panels sharing their ideas on what quality of life for those on the autism spectrum means to them. A Parents Panel moderated by Judy Endow and one of Autistic Self-Advocates moderated by Barry Prizant. Thank you to Barry and Judy, to the parent panelists: Robert Naseef, Tracey Staley, Ruth Frazier, Sondra Williams, Navah Asner, and Lori Ireland, and to the Self-Advocate’s panelists: Darrius Frazier, Anita Lesko, Evan Badesch, Connor Cummings, Carly Fulgham, and Jacob Koscinski. Parents expressed the need for getting support, for working with professionals but trusting yourself as the expert on your child, for getting out of the “autism bubble” and allowing your kids to make mistakes and self-advocates called for the need for a good support system too, love and relationships, affordable adult diagnoses, getting the work accommodations you need, the need to be allowed to live independently among many things. The day continued with a Lunch and Learn with John Donvan and Caren Zucker sharing a clip from their upcoming documentary on their award winning book – In a Different Key, The Story of Autism. Thank you John and Caren! The day proceeded as the next two days would with breakout sessions, with over 90 sessions to choose from in three days, it would not be possible to name the over one hundred speakers who came and shared their expertise on autism but take a look at these incredible people here. Thank you to all our presenters!

The Friday Keynote Panel of Professionals was a multidisciplinary team of experts answering how to raise the quality of life for the autism community. Thank you to Stephen Shore, Douglene Jackson, Sue Kabot, Emily Levine, John Miller, Suzanne Potts, Jim Ball and Shelley Christensen. To raise quality of life, we need to get families to communicate, full inclusion in faith communities, equal access to services, a focus on independence, self-determination and self-advocacy skills, don’t dwell in deficits, nurture strengths, never give up, never lower expectations, and advocate – get your voice heard!

Finally, we thank John Elder Robinson, the Saturday Closing Keynote. Exceedingly entertaining, he called for adults on the spectrum to begin to take the lead and work together with parents and professionals to end divisions and similar to other civil rights movements to push government to support the autism community.

Stay tuned recordings available soon!