The lucky guy I am, I got to work a place that cares about educating their employees. It's not one or two or a couple that get sent to a conference that is relevant for them, it's all of us, so a week in November I got to attend Skivekonferencen about autism, mostly in the educational sector.
The point that a lot of the speakers made, is that listening probably is the most valuable thing we can do for our students, pupils or relatives when it comes to their needs or the way they perceive the world around them.
One of the most valuable talks I attended was a man of 70, talking about his life surrounded by neurotypicals, people with usual brains. He talked of his amazement with details, his love for chess and also how much of an annoyance the behavior of and the interaction with neurotypical people has been.
Turning the table on society and hearing this talk was great. Especially because the speaker put a lot of humoristic twists into it and it allowed everybody to feel like the them we often are talking about. How the neurotypical educational system is a huge challenge and waste of time and how they're just doing it wrong, requiring a lot of time to do certain tasks.
The best point of all this was probably that it all has gotten harder for kids nowadays, because there is not that much room for being different, but it's easier to get a diagnosis because you stick out in a system that is tailored for neurotypicals. A quote I remember:
My chess opponents were barely diagnosed with autism, now though, many of their grand children are.The awareness is rising and I think to provide appropriate education and boundaries of it, is an amazing thing.
Another memorable talk was made by Liz Pellicano that is making an effort in the UK to connect and combine all efforts in research of autism and what the autism community actually would like to gain from that research. Also her emphasis was a lot on listening which is so very important when you're dealing with individuals whose perception of the world can vary a lot from the average.
The way this has all influenced my work is indeed to listen more and to ask questions more than to come up with explanations or examples. Even though I am merely observing and providing professional knowledge, it's important that I pass on feedback to tasks, subject and the learning environment in general.
How an autism spectrum disorder and/or a common co-diagnosis can impact the daily lives or individuals were portrayed in other talks. The very close and emotional atmosphere was great to experience and see the brave speakers open so much to the audience and to their questions.
Throughout the two days of talks I have learned a lot, most of all to pay close attention to what an individual needs, which is why I am making more of an effort to put my lesson material into perspective to what would be relevant or beneficial to the specific student. Figuring out what would obstructs or increases somebodies efforts is a very valuable thing and I wish more schools or other educational institutions had the resources to spend them this way.