Columbia, SC (WLTX) The most recent numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that now, one in 68 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, that's a nearly 30% increase from the previous numbers in 2008. Children grow up, which is why this year's South Carolina Autism Society's yearly autism conference focused on the transitioning into adulthood and living and working with autism and the difficulties people on the spectrum face.
Friday more than 350 educators, advocates and people on the Autism Spectrum, gathered at the Medalian Center in Columbia, SC to learn from experts in the field, from each other and from guest speakers who are on the autism spectrum and written books on their experience.
Guest Speaker, artist and author, DJ Svaboda gave an inspirational message about growing up with autism, being bullied and how he deals with life on the spectrum. He introduced the crowd to the characters he created who live in "Imagineville." His characters and drawings are based on his experiences growing up. DJ's powerful message centered on the idea "that those with autism have a great and wonderful place in this world can make it a better place for us all."
The Keynote speaker was New York Times best selling author, John Elder Robison, who was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of 40 he is the Author of four books, "Look Me in the Eye," "Be Different," "Raising Cubby," which is about his son who is also on the spectrum, and his own memoir, "Switched On." . He is also the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William and Mary. Robison talked of the importance of the Autism community coming together to be better advocates, to create jobs, and opportunities for each other. He shared his personal story and how he now helps young people on the spectrum through his
South Carolina Autism Society Executive Director, Kim Thomas tells News 19 that with this conference they wanted to address, "Adult issues, and employment, which we're finding is a huge issue for a lot of families that have kids that are aging out and transitioning into adulthood. And they are having a difficult time finding something meaningful to do. So we really wanted to focus this year on employment and skill opportunities for adults on the spectrum."
In addition to speakers who are living on the spectrum, organizers say sessions included topics like, the difference between boys and girls with autism, dealing with anxiety and autism, and social security benefits as young adults transition into adulthood, among other topics. Session topics aimed at helping parents... educators.... and adults on the spectrum... better understand and navigate life. Thomas says, "I think its important for people to realize that they have a lot of skills and can be very valuable members of society and we want to showcase that. They can actually have employment in the community and are great employees, if people just give them a chance."
For information on DJ Svoboda and his work just go to his website, myimagiville.com.
For information on John Elder Robison and his books and other endeavors to help young people on the spectrum, transition into adulthood go to his website, johnrobison.com
For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder just go to scautism.org