On April 28 & 29th, the Els Center for Excellence in Florida held a conference featuring speakers from around the world speaking on the importance of autism research and science and innovations in this space. Our social media coordinator Alex Plank made opening remarks and discussed the importance of autistic involvement in healthcare outcomes and why research is so important to those of us on the spectrum and why we should be involved in the process. He also spoke at the VIP dinner. Alex shares his experience attending and speaking at the conference:
It was great to be included in this conference featuring scientists and doctors from around the world who are focusing on groundbreaking approaches to autism. As an autistic person I was very excited to included by the Els Center for Excellence. Autistic people are often left out of the conversation and I appreciate the Els Center for being inclusive.
The opening keynote was given by Dr. Andy Shih who spoke on implementation science and community-based participatory research and its importance in developing solutions in treating patients with autism in the global community. I thought he had a very informative talk that was really great because it was certainly relevant to what we’re trying to do here at AASET. It was great to be able to speak with Andy about his work and the importance of autistic involvement in science.
Another highlight of the conference was a talk by Dr. Roy Richard Grinker the chair of anthropology at George Washington University. He talked about theories of prevalance and how they related to poverty, access to service, racial discrimination, stigma, cultural beliefs, and public health infrastructure. Dr. Grinker’s book Unstrange Minds took an anthropological look at the cultural rise of autism and the prevalence in other countries. His book highlighted how the rise in autism diagnoses is not an epidemic but a sign of progress in the treatment and identification of autism.
Dr. Petrus de Vries from the University of Capetown gave a fascinating talk about autism in Africa and the lack of resources available in that continent. I was very surprised to find how little is being done in the continent in terms of research and the low quality of the little research that is being done. Another interesting part of his talk was the cultural and language differences that caused unforeseen issues with assessments and services in ways I would have never imagined.
Canadian Member of Parliament Mike Lake from Edmonton gave a heartfelt talk from the experience as the parent of a young adult with autism. As someone on the spectrum myself, I appreciated hearing from the perspective of a parent who is also a politician in the government.