I spoke with one of the presenters I had met a few times before. He asked me if I'd heard of someone called christschool. He had recently discovered some enlightening work on youtube and was including it in his presentation. He also used (unprovoked by me!) the word "eugenics" in reference to autism cure groups.
Actually viewing christschool's videos in a room of people who had never seen them before, who had not been exposed to the ideas presented and watching their reactions. This was a nearly transcendent experience. "16 Ways Neurotypicals Can Empower Autistic People" was at the very beginning and worked well to set the tone for the session. The highlight, though, was watching "Repetitive Behaviors like Rocking and Flapping", which is my very favorite christschool video.
The same presenter asked me to meet with him and an autistic man for whom he is trying to find employment. This is someone working in the field who really "gets it" and understands that as autistic people, we may have something to offer other autistic people beyond what NT's have. This was the last session of the conference and left me feeling significantly more hopeful.
Though few people I met had ever heard the word neurodiversity, "neurotypical" has made a lot of progress. Last year, no one was using it (at this particular conference); this year, every single presenter I encountered used it. I find this somewhat encouraging. If we have been able to affect the language in even this small way, there is hope that sometime in the near future, professionals will start getting over the idea that "autistic" is a negative word.
Toward that end, I was able to distribute nearly all of the literature I had brought, and to speak with several people individually and in groups about the use of person first language and other matters of importance, such as expectations of conformity. After the first day, I decided I would just speak out every chance I got. Someone may be listening...I can't always tell for sure.
I met some cool autistic people, mostly there with their parents. When the keynote speaker was unable to keep the engagement due to an airport closing, the coordinators chose a nine year old autistic boy to fill in. He did a great job, using a PowerPoint he had given before in smaller groups. Though I did not agree with everything he said (or for that matter with everything said in the presentation given by two autistic adults), the choice to include these voices here was an important one.
I made several useful connections which I hope will result in finding more participants for my research study. They have been difficult to come by.
Seinfeld episodes as studies in effective vs. non-effective social behaviors were discussed at length by one presenter and he uses these with his clients frequently. I nearly didn't include this as a positive point, due to Seinfeld's association with an organization I despise. However, the show's humor is something I've always found very autism friendly. Jerry was never that important to the show, despite his name in the title. Larry David rocks (in more ways than one, just possibly).
The same presenter did an exercise which required everyone to engage in a conversation while looking only at his/her shoes. This was fun, though it seemed to make the NTs a bit uncomfortable for some reason. I found that I had a better sense of who my conversational partner was through this exercise than through the more "normal" appearing conversations I had with others throughout the 3 day conference.