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Plan Your Conference

The Milestones National Autism Conference is unique in that it is a safe space to educate and connect for everyone in the autism community. Whether you are a therapist, educator, physician, caregiver, or autistic individual, this conference offers tracks specific to your needs, and an opportunity to learn and gain support and direction from peers. With 65 expert sessions, this event offers something for everyone, but narrowing down your specific track can feel overwhelming.

That’s why we’re here to help! Milestones’ Director of Education, Helpdesk Director, and Director of Autistic Supports have created an easy ‘How To’ on selecting sessions and making the most of your conference for professionals, parents, and autistic individuals.

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Professionals: Choosing Your Conference Sessions
by Bradley Wyner, Milestones Director of Education

I started attending the Milestones conference back in 2016, and was thrilled by the depth and variety of sessions offered.  Some of the most helpful information I got for my clients when I was working as a provider came from the Milestones conference.  That same depth and variety can be challenging when we are trying to decide which sessions to attend. For example: the first day of this year’s conference, at 2:45, there are sessions on emotional regulation, late-in life diagnosis, lifelong fitness, and neuro-affirming care all happening at the same time . . . so how do I choose if I’m interested in all of those things?

 

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as someone who is often bringing colleagues to conferences. Here is how I encourage other professionals to choose their sessions:

 

1. Read beyond the title:

The conference program allows you to click on each session to see details about the presenter and content.  It’s essential information when there are multiple titles that catch your eye. Is it focused on research, or on policy, or on program development?  Focused on ages that you work with, or a different age group?  The title mentions parents, but does it look like the content could be helpful for you as well?

 

2. Look at the field of the presenter:

I learned a lot at the Milestones conference from teachers, therapists, and physicians, and applied it to my own work as a residential provider.  But when someone is coming from the same field as your own, it is often even easier to apply the content.  When I see someone presenting from a similar background, I usually get a rich amount of information just by comparing our practices, and hearing references to how they address day to day problems.  Look for new perspectives, but also remember the value of a presenter who speaks directly to your own frame of reference. Milestones conference is an ideal source for diverse viewpoints.

 

3. Think about what you want to do better next week/next month:

The Milestones Conference is full of tools and tips that you can start to use immediately (look at the “Practical Tips for Care & Support” topic category – those are 17 sessions that feature helpful things you can start applying right away).  Ask yourself “When the conference is over, what do I want to share with my coworkers?  What problems do I hope to be able to better solve when I return to work?”  You’re bringing back not only information, but action steps that you can start to take with you; envisioning what you want to do differently or better can help you decide where to direct your attention.

Families & Caregivers: Choosing Your Conference Sessions
by Estee Ezinski, Milestones Helpdesk Director

 

Navigating the lineup at the Milestones National Autism Conference can feel both exciting and overwhelming! With 49 sessions tailored just for us caregivers, it's like being a kid in a candy store—so many goodies to choose from! But hey, fellow parents, let's chat about how to sift through the options and make this conference experience really count.

1. Personal Goals:

Picture yourself at a crossroads, each session signpost pointing in a different direction. What are you hoping to get out of this conference? Are you here to learn more about autism, snag some handy tips for supporting your loved one, or maybe just to mingle with folks who get it?

  • Session to consider: Newly Diagnosed: Supporting Your Child and The Whole Family - It's like a crash course in navigating life post-diagnosis, not just for your kiddo but for the whole fam bam.

2. Assessing Your Child's Needs:

Think of each session as a different flavor of ice cream—some might be more appealing to your taste buds than others. Got a kiddo struggling with sensory stuff, communication hurdles, or those infamous behavioral roller coasters? Look for sessions that promise some serious insights tailored to those challenges.

  • Session to consider: Creating a Peace Plan: Using Science to Manage Big Emotions (6/10, 2:45pm) - This one's like a cool breeze on a hot day, offering practical strategies to help keep those emotional storms at bay.

3. Prioritizing Relevance:

Amongst all the noise and excitement, let's focus on the sessions that really hit home. Seek out the ones that promise to answer your burning questions, offer real-world advice, and maybe even a few lightbulb moments.

  • Session to consider: From Classroom to Campus: A Roadmap to Successful Postsecondary Transition (6/11, 9:15am) - Because who wouldn't want a handy map for navigating the tricky transition into postsecondary education and beyond?

4. Diverse Perspectives:

Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, the same goes for conference sessions. Don't just stick to one flavor—explore sessions that offer different viewpoints, from professionals to parents to individuals on the spectrum themselves. 

  • Session to consider: Through the Eyes of Autism: A First-Person Perspective (6/10, 1:15pm) - Step into someone else's shoes for a change and see the world through their eyes. You might just come away with a whole new perspective.

5. Balancing Information and Support:

Alright, let's find that sweet spot between sessions that feed your brain and ones that warm your heart. You want a good mix of practical tips and emotional support, because let's face it—parenting a kiddo with autism can be a wild ride.

  • Session to consider: The Birds & Bees for Parents of Autistic Kids (6/11, 1:15pm) - Time for some real talk about the birds, the bees, and all the other awkward stuff. But hey, knowledge is power, right?

6. Logistical Considerations:

Last but not least, let's not forget the nitty-gritty details. Check those session times, figure out where they are in the conference venue, and make sure everything is accessible for you and your crew.

So, there you have it, fellow parents! With these tips in your back pocket, you're ready to dive into the conference fray and make it one to remember! 

Autistic Individuals: Choosing Your Conference Sessions
 

Welcome to the 2024 Milestones National Autism Conference! Here are some tips to enrich your conference experience.

 

1. Deciding What to Attend

We are excited that we have added sessions for autistic attendees this year that focus on Autistic Culture, New & Emerging Ideas, and Personal & Professional Advocacy, along with social relationships and mental wellness. Read the session descriptions and create a list of the sessions you are most interested in. You can see session descriptions and bios of all of our speakers here.

2. Networking

This is a great opportunity to ask questions and share your own experiences with the speaker and other conference attendees.

 

3. Take Breaks

Taking a break in between sessions can help you feel refreshed. Use time between sessions to grab a snack or visit with exhibitors sharing about services that might benefit you in our Expo Hall.

 

4. Share Your Experiences

Post on social media or email the Milestones team to share your feedback. Milestones values the support we receive from the autism self-advocate community and uses your feedback to grow our conference and services in a way that reflects the topics and issues important to self-advocates. Feedback can be emailed to conference@milestones.org

 

5. Familiarize yourself with the space

All things Conference are on our website and will continue to be added as we get closer and closer.  Get comfortable with finding your way around by viewing our digital map, planning your sessions and viewing the schedule

 

Have a wonderful conference! We can’t wait to see you soon.

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