Love & Autism: Developing Friendships and Defying Stereotypes
By Jenny Palmiotto
As this year’s conference host, I’ve found myself in a new situation—developing friendships. When I think about my adult life, I’ve established far fewer relationships than in my childhood. I didn’t set out looking for these relationships. In fact, I was simply trying to put together a roster full of speakers that were inspiring.
Yet, in 2015, I’ve been texting, emailing, skyping, chatting on the phone with and even going out to a bar with my new friends…all of who identify on the autism spectrum. My experiences defy all social stereotypes about people on the autism spectrum. So much so, that I found myself reflecting on this widely held perception about individuals with autism. Many adults on the autism spectrum are very relationally oriented. They CAN & DO develop healthy relationships across the life span.
Our speakers at Love & Autism: A Conference with Heart, are living proof that relationships matter.
Dr. Stephen Shore has treated me with such generosity and kindness, providing advice and encouragement in weekly phone calls. He’s a mentor and a friend. Alex Plank was one of those people that I immediately clicked with, having run in to him at an autism related event. We traded gossip, talked about childhood, and stayed up till 1:00 am. We had a great time!
During my weekly skype meetings with Anita Lesko and Abraham Neilson we easily trade laughs like old friends. I sometimes forget that I have just met them. Lindsey Nebeker and I email to catch up, sharing in each other’s success. And in just one phone chat with Michael Tolleson, I learned relational advice that I’ve applied to my own marriage. These individuals are not just conference speakers, but have managed to be important relationships in my life.
Many people on the spectrum need the world to understand that they want and need relationships across the lifespan. Relationship depth and degree may differ across individuals—but relationships do matter. At Love & Autism, we believe that everyone deserves to have the highest quality relationships possible. Our speakers will change what you believe about autism and meaningful connections. Not only related to your loved one(s) with autism, but across other relationships within your life. Whether professionals, parents to ASD children, or peers of spectrum adults—all of us can learn and grow from the collective wisdom of this year’s Love & Autism speakers.
In addition, our speakers are very interested in getting to know this year’s Love & Autism: A Conference with Heart audience. As a result our speakers will be at our Sunday’s “Mingle with the Speaker” luncheon. This is a time to ask any questions, make connections, enjoy some bbq, and possibly discover a new friend. Find out what I’ve discovered about Dr. Stephen Shore, Lyndsey Nebeker, David Hamrick, Alex Plank, Anita Lesko, Abrahamn Neilson, David Finch, and Anthony Ianni. They are great people to know!
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