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Conference to deal with autism’s life-challenging transitions

10 July 2017 – Every two years Altogether Autism, New Zealand’s leading provider of trusted autism information and advice, brings together a top line up of international and New Zealand speakers and advisors on autism.

People with autism and their families make up a significant number of attendees and many of the speakers are on the autism spectrum themselves.

The conference theme is #Transitions #Breakthrough2017. There are still a limited number of professional registrations available at $640 for the two days or a single day registration for $300.

Perhaps the biggest drawcard is Professor Rita Jordan who has been at the forefront of autism education by developing a range of programmes in autism studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said Altogether Autism national manager Catherine Trezona.

“There was so much feedback from her visit to New Zealand last year, that we asked her to come here again,” said Trezona.

Prof Jordan will speak on the current understanding of the autism spectrum and implications for education and support.

Brother and sister Maria and Josh Man provide a sibling perspective on living life with autism.

Josh, known as the Bold One-Eyed Pirate, has autism and is only able to communicate through his iPad. Despite being “trapped in his body”, he produces a regular well-subscribed blog http://theboldone-eyedpirate.blogspot.co.nz/

His sister works as a speech and language therapist in Hamilton with children and young people with autism. Their keynote speech will help professionals work with families more effectively and remind families to care for each other and encourage people with autism to have their voices heard.

Hutt Intermediate School Special Education needs coordinator Sue Kinnear returns to the conference to talk of her passion on genuine and authentic inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream classrooms.

Tauranga’s Jason Edgecombe, who has high-functioning autism, will talk about his unique peer mentoring service while registered psychologist Peter Dowrick, whose faculty appointments include universities in New Zealand, Great Britain and the USA, will speak on learning easily.

Other speakers who have already attracted significant interest include Te Aroha-born New Zealand artist Susan Te Kahurangi King who found international fame in 2009 and recently featured in The Guardian newspaper when her first UK exhibition opened. She, Antony Thomas, Wendy Williamson and Petita Cole will present on severely autistic, yet profoundly artistic.

Caroline Hearst, the facilitator of a successful peer support programme in the UK will discuss the independent evaluation of the programme.

And if it is doggy love you are after, Bark NZ director Heather Laanbroek, who has devoted her life to educating children on safety around dogs, will present on DOG-abled – providing safe experience of dogs for children with autism. Expect a few of her canine friends to turn up as well.

“We’ve worked hard to make this a conference which has top notch and thought-provoking speakers and is truly inclusive. A big plus for us is that it is on during the school holidays so we’ve had a number of families able to attend as a result,” said Trezona.

The conference kicks off at 9am on Wednesday 19 July with a whakatau, followed by the opening address from autism advocate Paula Jessop who has supported people in mental health services in a peer supportive manner for the last five years.

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