After the cold and dark of winter, spring arrives with the promise of new life and continued growth. This can be as important for people as it is for plants. Many of us spend the winter bundled up, often inside homes or cars, and the shortened period of sunlight can impact our mood, our appetite, our sleep patterns, and our outlook on life and the future. Then comes spring, and we start to experience longer periods of warmer sunlight. We say goodbye to winter and welcome the new season in many different ways. Some of us engage in that annual rite known as Spring Cleaning. Some of us break out the bicycle or the running shoes and begin our warm weather exercise routine. Some start planning vacations to visit new places, see new sights. And many of us start to think about our yards and gardens, knowing that there will be new life coming.
By now you’re probably wondering “Where is he going with this?” This spring there are several opportunities for you to meet new people, explore new ideas, and look toward the future through attendance at a conference. There are major conferences related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other disabilities happening in Illinois in April, May, and June. You can take time to hear new ideas, learn new skills, and become familiar with agencies and individuals that can provide services and supports for your family. Each of the following events offers an opportunity for learning and continued growth.
The Arc of Illinois 65th Annual Convention will be held in Lisle on April 22 – 23. The theme of this year’s convention is “The Arc at 65: Progress, Change and Bright Futures.” Professionals, parents, and self-advocates from across Illinois come together for two days to hear three keynote speakers and participate in four workshops from a list of twenty-four that are offered over four concurrent sessions. In addition to these formal learning opportunities, there is ample time for meeting other attendees, talking with speakers and exhibitors, socializing at the luncheons or the reception the first evening, and enjoying entertainment provided by the Naturals – a Chicago-area band that was formed almost 10 years ago to highlight the musical talents of two young men with ASD. You can see the brochure for the Annual Convention here, and registration is available online here. As noted in the brochure, stipends are available to help self-advocates and family members attend.
May brings the 1st Annual SOUTH ABC (Autism, Behavior, Complex Medical Needs) Conference to O’Fallon on May 15. TAP has worked with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Southern Illinois School of Medicine to expand upon their very successful fall ABC Conference held in the Chicago area for many years by offering a spring conference downstate. This interprofessional conference is geared toward primary care providers, their clinical teams, and all professionals who work with children who have ASD, behavioral challenges, and/or complex medical needs. Attendees will hear three keynote speakers, and have an opportunity to attend three of nine breakout sessions. The conference brochure is available here, and online registration is here.
Last fall I wrote about the Living with Autism conference. This ASD-specific conference offered by the Arc of Illinois has been held in Lisle each fall for the past three years for professionals, paraprofessionals, self-advocates, and family members. TAP and the Arc of Illinois are now offering a Downstate Living with Autism Conference on June 10 at the Hilton Hotel in Springfield. This conference will offer the opportunity for professionals, self-advocates, and family members to learn from a panel of siblings and self-advocates in addition to a selection of breakout sessions addressing employment, behavioral techniques that can be helpful at home and school, and ways to increase community support for people with ASD and their families. The keynote speaker is Brian King, an adult with Asperger’s, ADHD and Dyslexia who is raising three sons with Asperger’s and ADHD. He will tell his story as a man and father. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinette will be a special guest speaker at the luncheon. The brochure and registration information for this conference are not yet available, but will be found on the Arc of Illinois website future events page in the near future. As with all Arc of Illinois conferences, there will be stipends available for self-advocates and family members who might otherwise be unable to attend.
Take advantage of these opportunities to meet new people and learn about new resources and supports available to you. When I attend a conference, I leave with a renewed sense of life and hope for the future and I feel certain that you will as well. I hope to see you there!
Russell J. Bonanno, M.Ed.
TAP Program Manager