[Originally posted on 28 Oct. 2008, when the blog was over at weblog.nl]
I attended this year's NVA Autisme Congres last Saturday. I was pretty satisfied with everything. There were several speakers, and I did not find a single one of them in any way offensive. The stands on the information market were generally nice too, but they're pretty much the same each year. With one exception. This year, there was one stand that had two tables full of all kinds of pills, and on the wall they had plastered the slogan 'Defeat Autism Now!". Stark contrast to the other tables full off generally good books, nice toys, weighted vests, helpful tools for teaching, info about alternative methods of communication, information about housing projects, information about how to get help in the household, etc.
The NVA is, all in all, a pretty good autism organisation, in comparison. They talk about assistance, accommodation, stories about hardship too, but hardly ever in a way that makes me cringe. They're about opportunities, pointing people in the right direction when they need to find suitable housing and education and such. They also often promote groups completely by and for autistics. In the before last Engagement (NVA's magazine), they had a guest column by one of the Autism Hub bloggers. Not to say there aren't points for improvement (like the fact that within the organisation, there are, to my knowledge, no actual autistics, and though there are autistic speakers at the Congres, they are not represented in appropriate proportion. It's still mostly other people speaking about autistics. And they focus too much on children, though this year they had a section on adults and admitted on having been too child oriented in the past, with services and circumstances for adults being largely unexplored and not in very good state in the country), and so I let them know what I think in the yearly survey. They do seem to pay attention.
So I wasn't expecting that DAN! stand. We kept an eye on it (my mom and me), and were glad to see hardly anyone even cast more than a passing glance at it, but I still feel very uneasy by it even being present.
On to better stuff: the two autistic speakers they had this time were good. One was a man in his middle years, with a very successful job at an oil company and a university degree, who got a late diagnosis of Asperger and was finally able to work through problems in his marriage and work out accommodations at work. The other was a young man (19), with a diagnosis of MCDD, who had been institutionalised and much more. Two very different 'samples' of the population if you will.
The young man has become a cabaretier (like a stand-up comedian but better :P), and he performed some of his act for us. He has a lot of potential; I thought he was already better than some professional cabaretiers whose shows I've seen.
The first speaker was a scientist who addressed myths about autism. He stressed the need to accept the evidence and move on, that there is no good and much harm in staying with old theories that lead us nowhere. (And I mean the first speaker of the whole convention, not the first autistic speaker or anything)
The second speaker addressed 'behaviours' autistic people might express, including harmful ones, and pointed out that 'attention seeking' is hardly ever what is going on. She said that, actually, she could not recall a single case where that was what was going on. She pointed out that behaviour is communication, and that the cause should be found and addressed.
Though I didn't hear anything that was news to me (I try to follow latest news from all over the world and the science etc.), I was really pleased that I went, and I hope it was educational to other people who attended (it's mostly parents and professionals that attend, my mom and me are a minority together with a few more).