I confess that I have not been able to publish as much on here as I ideally planned on (at least for now), but it is all for good reason. It’s hard to complain when I have been provided with an opportunity to travel around North America to speak about my personal life experiences at conferences and events. Fall and Spring are usually the “peak” seasons for public speakers, and it has proven to take a significant amount of my time these past few months.
Among the most significant of opportunities to date was the invitation Dave and I received to give the Closing Address at the Geneva Centre for Autism’s 2010 International Symposium on Autism in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which took place earlier this month. The 3 days we spent there turned out to be an amazing and unforgettable experience. I have lived in Asia and made visits to Europe and Mexico, but in my 28 years of existing on this planet I had yet to ever set foot on Canada. For both Dave and myself, this was our very first visit.
There were an estimate of 1600 attendees, coming from all the different provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, etc.) The speakers and presenters were impressive, most of whom I had an opportunity to either see, meet, or reunite with — Temple Grandin, Tony Attwood, Stephen Shore, Jerry Newport, Peter Gerhardt, Paula Kluth, Isabelle Henault (author of Asperger’s Syndrome and Sexuality: From Adolescence to Adulthood) — and the list goes on. Dave and I attended a nice intimate speakers’ dinner the evening before the final day of the Symposium. About 13 of us were seated around an oval-shaped table where we all took part in enlightening conversations. I have to admit that I felt very out-of-place being surrounded by some of the highest respected “celebrities” in the autism community. I wondered how in the world Dave and I got invited to present at the International Symposium along with these individuals. Nevertheless, I felt incredibly honored.
I also had the opportunity to meet and connect with other individuals on the autism spectrum, mainly from Ontario and Quebec. Two of these individuals were participants in a female panel. One of these individuals was Annie Hussey – a college student in her early 20’s. She has been presenting in the greater Toronto area for about 6 years. Another individual I had a chance to meet was Samantha Mutis – a university student and aspiring vocalist who can really belt out a tune.
There were a few other wonderful and unique individuals we met, but I will keep their identities private since I am not sure how open they are about their diagnosis.
One thing that caught my eye were the red poppy lapel pins worn by the Toronto city-dwellers, conference attendees, and the news anchors I saw while flipping through the channels on my TV. So during an attempt to break an awkward silence with a gentleman while going up a hotel elevator, I asked what the lapel pins were all about. He kindly explained to me that the red poppy symbolizes Remembrance Day (the equivalent to Veterans Day in the United States). Even though honoring veterans is celebrated world-wide, the Canadians extend that honor to their veterans by wearing the pins for 2 weeks prior to Remembrance Day, which takes place November 11. The red poppy lapels are worn on the left breast, as close to the heart as possible.
I love how they do this. I wish we practiced that tradition more in the United States.
image source: 50%ChanceofRain