Friday's Autism Panel: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes, and Finding Your Tribe

BlogHer Original Post

I turn into a human pogo stick whenever I start thinking about this Friday's upcoming autism panel at BlogHer10, and hope you are excited about it too. The panel takes place during the very first session on Friday, August 6th, from 10:30 am to 11:45 am. Here is what's on the agenda:

Autism is both more out in the open than it has ever been before and more shrouded in myths and mystery. Come learn and share your stories about how blogging contributes to the autism community as a source of support and outlet for parents, as a way for those not dealing directly with autism to gain more insight and sensitivity and as a tool for advocacy and activism. Shannon Des Roches Rosa, a parent of a child with autism, moderates the discussion with Pamela Merritt, a.k.a. Shark-Fu, who is co-guardian of her autistic brother, Stimey from Stimeyland.com, who parents a child with autism, and Sharon daVanport, who is an adult with autism.

Our panel will be conducted in the spirit of BlogHer's emphasis on openness and interaction. We will chat a little bit about ourselves and our thoughts about autism sterotypes and community. However, during pre-conference conversations, we speakers decided to focus on the topics that either affect our entire community or bring us together: community and attitude, resources and tools, respect and positivity -- and not on polarizing topics of autism such as causation or "cures." However, we will all be happy to answer questions on any topic privately, after the session.

We are looking forward to answering your questions! But we also need you to be careful with your phrasing. Some of us don't do well with subtle or implied information, so please do your best to use straightforward and clear language. That way, we can do our best to actually answer the question you are asking. In fact, if you want to write down a question ahead of time and run it by me, I'd be happy to help you fine-tune it.

Sadly, BlogHer10 doesn't allow panel crashers, not even for this terribly important panel that your brother, former professor, mother, and cousin really need to experience. Only those with BlogHer10 badges will be allowed to participate. But, please don't despair; our panel will be available afterwards in both liveblogging and podcast format. If you and your friends are willing to wait a few beats, you won't miss anything.

Why should you come to the autism panel? Because the women who are speaking about autism represent a range of autism experiences and perspectives. They are articulate, experienced, compassionate advocates. Because you'll learn so much, that you will have an epiphany about what autism means whether you want to or not. (I'm a bit gobsmacked, as my friend and 2008 panel moderator Susan would say -- and I'm one of the speakers.) Trust me, you'll be disappointed if you miss this panel, especially if autism touches your life in any way. See you Friday.

More about our speakers:

Sharon DaVanport

BlogHer bio excerpt:

"As an active member of the autism community, she shares with others her experiences as it relates to the unique qualities of females on the autism spectrum via conferences, support groups, and workshops."

BlogHer interview excerpt:

"I always like to remind people that even though I was diagnosed as an adult, it didn't mean I became autistic as an adult. But it explains so much, everything really, so well, now that I know."

Pamela Merritt

BlogHer bio excerpt:

"In 2008 AngryBlackBitch.com was named one of the world’s 50 most powerful blogs by The Guardian UK (London)."

BlogHer interview excerpt:

"Autism awareness is about being aware of people with autism spectrum disorder and those that love them. As a caregiver, I often feel alone ... online communities have gone a long way to helping me put our life in perspective. Sometimes just hearing about someone else’s experience makes life better! But ultimately, awareness is about a goal of respect."

Shannon Des Roches Rosa

BlogHer bio excerpt:

"New autism parents, questioning autism parents, angry autism parents, lonely autism parents - I am happy to answer your questions about autism, because I've been you. Sometimes I still am."

CafeMom interview excerpt:

"All I'd ever heard about autism was horror, horror, horror, Rain Man, horror. I'd never heard of, never had any interaction with accepting, complicated-but-happy autism families like mine has become."

Jean Winegardner

BlogHer bio excerpt:

"Jean Winegardner claims to be many things, most of which are more or less true. Among those things are writer, mom, autism mom, wife, declutterer, work-at-homer, and person. She also likes little animals a lot. Known in the blogosphere primarily as Stimey, Jean's main blog is Stimeyland, where she writes about her life, her three kids, her son Jack's autism, and the occasional guest gerbil. (Yes, really.)"

BlogHer interview excerpt:

"I used to be terrified of autism. When my oldest was little, he used to carefully put his trains in the back of his big dump truck and scream and scream when they wouldn't all fit flat, and it scared the hell out of me. When we were interviewing a doula for Jack's birth, one of the women had a son with autism and I remember saying, "I'm sorry." She said, 'I'm not. He's a wonderful little guy.' Her saying that was so far from my picture of autism that I almost didn't understand it."

Here are some of the amazing people who will be be in the audience, asking questions. Will you be there, too? Add your name in the comments.

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Shannon Des Roches will be alternately running around with and hiding from all the wonderful people at BlogHer10, while armed with the same laptop she brought to BlogHer06, the same phone she brought to BlogHer08, and hair color that is a dramatic change from both of those conferences. Her latest endeavor is co-editing the book and blog project The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism.

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