Our reader, Sarah Watson, couldn’t have chosen a better time to ask this month’s question since the National Autism Association Conference is right around the corner, and just like her, other parents are considering whether they should attend the conference or not.
My name is Sarah Watson, and I’m a single mother living in Houston, Texas with my teen daughter. We don’t usually travel because my daughter has autism. My daughter suffers from high anxiety every time her daily routine is changed which makes traveling extremely challenging.
This month I was surprised when she asked me if we could attend the National Autism Association Conference in Florida. She heard about the Conference from a classmate whose family has been participating for a couple of years and told her it was fun.
I have looked at the conference website and mainly see it as a place to attend lectures about autism that I don’t think will be interesting to her. Also, the prices for the conference and hotel are pretty steep, so I’m confused whether it would be a place we’d even enjoy.
Have you ever attended the meeting?
What are your thoughts?
Thank you for your question. In fact, you are the third person this month who has asked about the conference, so I guess it is slowly increasing in popularity. My family and I had the opportunity to attend last year’s conference and were very pleasantly surprised.
Here are my five reasons why.
Sound advice from experts
The conference provided an excellent chance to meet parents with kids on the spectrum, network and listen to informative lectures from highly regarded speakers in the autism community like the inspiring Temple Grandin and Chantal Sicile-Kira. The list of guest speakers changes every year so check who’s on the list this year.
Get informed about new products and services
In 2014, the year we went, the Exhibitor Hall was filled with companies presenting new products, services, and programs; some of which even I hadn’t heard about.
It was at the conference that our son was first introduced to ‘speed stacking’ and was totally captivated!
He was able to chat with peers and interact with them while practicing his stacking skills at the company’s booth.
The atmosphere and parties
You not only get to meet other parents but get to party with them, and everyone is incredibly understanding and willing to listen to your story.
There’s a “meet and greet” the first day, and a beach party the third day followed by a Karaoke dance party in the lobby later that night.
If you can’t afford the beach party (it is a bit pricey) then you can still attend the Karaoke one in the lobby and dance the night away with your daughter by your side.
If she’s noise-sensitive, remember to bring a set of headphones to block some of the noise.
What better place to find resources for autism than at a conference especially for autism.
The exhibitors have booths and stalls set up, and they display their wares from the first to the last day of the conference between certain hours.
You can pick up brochures advertising the latest innovations and therapies for people with autism, as well as books, toys, puzzles for all ages and difficulty levels; and even possibilities to apply for scholarships.
The conference is held at the Tradewinds Resort in St Pete Beach, Florida, a beach resort that is incredibly autism-friendly.
The staff is excellent; helpful and totally non-judgmental when it comes to behaviors; since they are all trained to accommodate guests with autism. The resort offers multiple land and beach activities, but it depends on if the November weather cooperates or not.
When warm; you will be able to enjoy the pools and beach, if cold and windy like it was when we attended, you need to look for alternative ways to entertain your child.
Guests can take free fishing lessons, play Ping-Pong or try the trampoline, right there on the premises. We took the time and visited the Dali museum downtown.
The conference is a perfect opportunity to introduce your child to the beach, have him or her experience new things and make some new friends in an autism-friendly atmosphere, especially if you don’t travel much.
In fact, when we attended we got to chat with several parents that told us they’ve been coming to the NAAC on the yearly basis and that they considered the conference as their ‘annual vacation.’
Disclaimer: Special thanks to the NAAC that provided us with complimentary tickets for the review. However, the tips and opinions shared are always our own.