On October 23, SFASA hosted its second annual conference on adult autism, this time at beautiful Santa Clara University, with nearly 350 in attendance and several hundred more tuning in via livestream. With more than 50 speakers in a marathon of panels and showcases, and an awesome keynote speaker in the form of the wise Amy Lutz, I think it's safe to say there was something for everyone, even if everyone was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and range of information.
As the great Alex Krem said to me after the event, "Going to your events feels like drinking water from a fire hose."
I plead guilty, but as I said in my opening remarks, we packed three days' worth of information into one day, knowing how busy autism parents already are and attempting to respect the demands on their time. So, what did we learn? Some highlights:
• The rapid rise in adult autism has not been met by significant efforts to plan for or fund for the lifespan needs of this disabled population.
• There is no plan for housing for the growing population of adults with autism.
• Adult autism programs are at risk due to lack of sustainable funding.
• Adults with more severe forms of autism often benefit from congregate settings that are rich in autism-friendly amenities, trained staff, and a sense of acceptance and community. These models are under threat by a movement to "include" all people with disabilities, no matter how severe, is generic settings.
• Your child's IPP is the key to obtaining the personalized services promised by the Lanterman Act.
• Many agencies are working to expand employment options for adults with autism, but more employers and partners are needed.
• Direct support staff are underpaid and undertrained; there is high turnover as a result.
• Self-Determination can provide new opportunities to use non-vendorized services for adults with autism.
Plus too many more to list. But our videos will be posted to our website soon enough so you can learn for yourselves. The major message? Given the explosion of autism and the severe constraints on funding, parents and caregivers are rightfully panicked about the future. We need more more more more more and a greater variety of programs, services, and housing. We must let a thousand flowers bloom in support of this unprecedented population of disabled young adults who cannot care for themselves. This will require a massive infusion of funding and sweeping policy change at the federal, state, and even local levels. There's a tough road ahead but many individuals and organizations already forging ahead with creative new projects designed to address the needs of the growing ASD adult population.
SFASA is grateful to our volunteers, speakers, moderators, and sponsors. More than 80 people came together to make this conference possible, including Jackie Forsythe, Kirk Chang, Uli Chettipally, MD, Dan White, Ana Maria, Erika Kent, many SCU student volunteers, Shannon Walsh, Sara Kole, Connie Boyar Frenzel, Jayne Warren, Corrine Aulgur, Irene Litherland, Louise Katz, Anita Wong, Lucy Navarro, Cathy McCoy, Stephen Prutsman, Cassandra Hawthorne, Gail Vanderhoof, Daren Tuchman, Denise Bradley, Jeff Darling, Jennifer Sullivan, Heidi Cartan, Marianne Sullivan, Cathy Bouchard, Irma Velasquez, Senator Jim Beall, Melissa Collins-Porter, Beth Burt, Sue North, Jacquie Dillard-Foss, Eric Zigman, Gabriel Rogin, Barbara Maizie, Kym Luqman, Anna Wang, Brad Boardman, Soheila Razban, Craig King, Mark Jackson, Sandi Soliday, Glenn Motola, Kristen Pedersen, Tom Heinz, Eileen Easterbrook, Tracey Fecher, Austin O'Such, Sirena Domecus, Liz Kane, Jan Johnston-Tyler, Meg Fields, Kaeb Menker, Jeff Peck, Dana Hooper, Deirdre Sheerin, Jan Stokley, Susan Houghton, Heidi Cartan, Alex Krem, Susan Riggle, Lisa Zuegel, Elisabeth Einaudi, Ken Cole, Barry Benda, Carol Turner, Karen Fessel, Feda Almaliti, Christopher Zubiate, Autism Speaks, Crisanta de Guzman and Bryce Lee, Escher Fund for Autism, Gilfix & LaPoll, Greater Opportunities, Harambee Community Services, OSIsoft, Premier Healthcare Services, Rident Park, Sara Kole and Michael Batek, Slice, Inc, Solutions ATI Consulting, Sweetwater Spectrum, Accuprint printing, and of course the many staff at Santa Clara University, which provided us a lovely and spacious venue for our very dynamic, packed day.
See Program Book
See conference info page
Videos coming soon
Thank you all!