Presenter Bios and Abstracts
Opening Remarks – The person in control of your life is YOU!
As an advocate to any person with a disability, Yvonne helps them to realize that they have the power and strength to improve their lives. She encourages them with the words — “Don’t be afraid to speak up and say what is on your mind. The only one who is in control of your life is YOU. You control your life choices. There may be parents or other family members or caregivers who have input into your decisions, but the final choice is always yours.”
Bio: Yvonne was not diagnosed with autism until she was 35. In childhood, there were numerous diagnoses, including ADD, ADHD, learning and developmental disabilities. Yvonne has also been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, Alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorder. She has been a member of several community committees — Halton Hills and Milton Accessibility, DSO Central West Region, Autism Ontario Halton Chapter, Milton Optimist Club. Yvonne received an award from Milton Town Council acknowledging the five years she served on their committee. She has served on the Council of Community Living Ontario and met with many government officials.
Yvonne is presently enrolled in the Community Integration Through Co-operative Education (CICE) program at Conestoga College in Kitchener. With her busy schedule, Yvonne has two cats who are service animals and keep her calm.
Presentation A – Autism at Work
Searching for work can feel like a full-time job. Keeping a job is full-time work. From interviews to exploring self-employment or asking for accommodations, we’ll look at the different possibilities and skills you need to be happy and successful at work.
Bio: Kelly Bron Johnson was diagnosed with autism as an adult, following the diagnosis of her son. She maintains a blog called “One Quarter Mama” which is about their autistic experience as well as advocacy, feminism and racism issues. She started a consultancy called “The Autistic Expert” where she gives advice to people both on and off the spectrum. Kelly maintains that “it’s important to put real faces to autism – to show children what we are capable of and be examples or mentors. That is why I am “out” at work. We need to break down misconceptions to adults. We are here and able to contribute to society if people give us the chance to do it in our own way.”
In regards to employment, Kelly has worn many hats and been taking jobs (some odd, some conventional) since the age of 13. From fast food to entrepreneurship, there have been many ups and downs on the road to finally finding a job for her that WORKS!
Presentation B – Sexual Health, Are We at Risk?
In this session we will discuss, What are the Sexual health risks for Autistic people? We will explore, What is risk management? What are the obstacles to managing risk?
NOTE: A warning that this conversation will be presented from the anti-oppression, harm reduction and sex positivity philosophies. Some participants may be uncomfortable with the material.
Bio: Brandon, a late diagnosis autistic adult, is a life coach. Since he is living with HIV, Brandon is able to contribute his perspective on sexual health to the community and is currently working with the AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and the Redpath Centre. He is one of the moderators for a forum working on creating a wider national autism community in Canada. Brandon provides a unique way of educating autistic people about risk and risk management.
Presentation C – Building Your Social Network
This presentation will address how to create a successful support group that will foster Social skills. Using my life as an example, I will talk about how I was able to bring people together, create friendships and navigate in the NT world.
Bio: Zach Smith is an adult living with ASD who was diagnosed when he was six years old. He lives in London, Ontario and lives a happy life “of the mind”. After high school, Zach started a young adult support group for those on the spectrum and has continued to run support groups for ASD men and women.
Zach has been working in the Department of Hospitality Services at Western University for the past 13 years. He also gives lectures at Fanshawe College for students training to be social workers and personal support workers. Zach believes that adult issues are a neglected part of the ASD conversation.
Presentation D – Optimizing Autism Through Managing your Health and Environment
Autism is a different way of being, with certain types of gifts, and certain types of challenges. Most people don’t realize that the sensory sensitivities, the meltdowns, the rolling brain fogs, and the other challenges can all be minimized by the way we shape our lives, and the things we do to take care of ourselves.
Those of us in the spectrum know what we ourselves do to optimize our personal function, but these actions are often automatic, and not something we talk about much with others. Optimizing health and managing your environment can make a difference.
Bio: Starting at age 11, Jackie McMillan turned her life into a science project to identify what was making her challenges worse, what was allowing her to function better, and what the reasons underlying her findings might be. She later found it very reassuring to connect with other spectrum teens and adults who shared her discoveries! Jackie’s special interest is, “How to Thrive with Autism” as an autistic teen or adult.
Presentation E – Self-Discovery and Successful Outcomes
This presentation will reflect upon my early experiences and the importance of my art as a means to communicate and expressing my thoughts and emotions. My journey shows how self-discovery and the application of innate skills and talents can lead to positive outcomes. Following your passion, motivation and obsession can serve you in so many ways.
Bio: Just like my curly hair, Aspergers is a part of me. It shapes my personality and the way I view the world.
From an early age I was interested in art as a means to express ideas and how I saw the world. I like to incorporate intricate detail, pattern and repetition with designs that fill the entire field. These traits lend a mystical and dramatic look to the black and white imagery.
Much of my art is whimsical, featuring fantasy worlds and imaginary characters, often depicting landscapes, seascapes and architectural renderings from a bird’s eye point of view. However, many of my pieces have a more serious side with underlying themes of acceptance, equality and social responsibility.
I call my art “Windows by Kaitrin” because windows go both ways: they allow me to look out to the world while allowing viewers to look in and catch a glimpse of the world as I see it. Through my art I hope to encourage others to celebrate their strengths and to cherish their differences.
Presentation F – Interpreting People’s Emotions
Some adults with Asperger’s have difficulty interpreting people’s emotions. As a result, they often find social situations challenging. I will talk about ways to help with interpreting emotions and social skills. It will take collaboration on the NT side as well as the Aspie side. I will explain strategies I use for adapting to the NT world, dealing with sensory overload, need to zone out at times, specialized interests.
Bio: I am an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome. Currently, I am employed fulltime at Université du Québec à Montréal. I am often asked to give talks to schools, colleges and universities about living with my condition and how I adjust to a neurotypical world.
Closing Remarks – “Let Me Fall A Legend”
Diagnosed with autism in adulthood, I have traveled the autism road unassisted. Starting from early childhood, I outline my experiences growing up, and talk of the struggles. Then, I cover 10 different ways to help people with autism. The presentation is supported by videos, photographs, and music, and is intended to rejuvenate the crowd’s belief in the strengths of autism.
Bio: Laura Nadine was born in 1977. At age 3, Laura began dance and seemed to have a strong on-stage presence. At age 10, she began to take violin lessons with Stefanie Graef. As a student of the Suzuki Method, Laura progressed quickly. She was touted by locals as a musical prodigy for her ability to play songs after only hearing them once and her adult like musical expression. Over the next few years Laura received high praise and recognition for her performances including two Georgia state titles. Although she struggled immensely growing up, Laura was not diagnosed with autism until the age of 27.
Today Laura, a single mother of two teens, one with autism, runs her own music school called Enlightened Audio Academy. The school is neurodiverse and built on the idea that any child can learn to play music. Laura also travels as an ASD Advocate speaking about autism, is a published author, and an actor. A documentary about her called The Shadow Listener will released this month. Please visit her website to learn more.