Self-Advocacy at the Milestones Conference: My Experience as a Speaker on the Spectrum
Posted on 01/28/20 in Milestones Conference by Grace Blatt
As a speaker at the Milestones National Autism Conference, I have gained so much experience and appreciation. I have spoken at the conference for the last three years and every year, I have learned so much about the wonderful advancements that are being made to better the lives of those like me.
I have had the privilege of speaking on panels such as “Straight from the Source: The Future is Female”. This experience really made me realize and reflect on how females’ struggles on the spectrum are drastically different from our male counterparts who are on the spectrum. I have also presented as a Good Life Ambassador (GLA) for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. In these sessions, I have educated attendees on an array of topics ranging from the advocacy role the GLAs have played in educating the community to safety tips for people in social or public settings. I have also presented with two of Milestones’ staff members, Nathan Morgan and Molly D. Dann-Pipinias in a hands-on presentation about sensory issues. This session was one of my favorite ones because it gave attendees a better understanding of the various sensory sensitivities experiences by individuals with ASD.
Through presenting at the Milestones National Autism Conference, I have gotten to know the wonderful people that work there and the extremely helpful resources they have to offer every day.
When I was first asked to present at the conference in 2017, I was excited but also a little nervous because I had never spoken at a national conference before. On the day of the conference, the Milestones staff, however, was so supportive in helping me feel right at home. They are very caring and conscientious of speakers needs and comfort and they ensure a positive experience to all the speakers. One thing that helped me is that they provide a quiet/sensory room for those attendees on the spectrum to decompress during the conference.
Through the Milestones Conference, I have been given the opportunity to develop my public speaking skills at a larger event with hundreds of attendees. Now, I have more confidence in myself and know I am capable of presenting at a professional national event. One of the most meaningful things that I experience at the conference each year is when people come up to me after the session and either ask me about a particular point I made in the presentation, or when someone asks for my advice.
It has also helped me realize that there are so many people out there who want to improve the lives of those with ASD and are working tirelessly to do so. Greater Cleveland is blessed that this national autism conference takes place here because it educates and provides families, professionals, and those on the spectrum with practical evidence-based strategies to help with everyday needs that they might have. The conference is also a wonderful networking venue because it attracts over 1,200 attendees from all over the country. I know I have made meaningful connections and relationships by attending and speaking at the conference.