The CN Tower from Porter Airlines plane in Toronto at Billy Bishop Airport by @KBronJohn Copyright 2015

The Autism Friendly Unconference 2015

I heard about the Autism Friendly Unconference only about a week earlier, so I booked a last minute trip to Toronto to attend this weekend. The theme was Life After High School and all about work and transitions.

I arrived a little late but everyone was very welcoming and I picked a green pin for the day. Green was for Autistic people who were comfortable being talked to and open about autism. There were red pins for Autistic people who did not want to talk, and blue pins for allies. This made it very easy to see who was who.

The conference opened with a few of the organizers introducing themselves and telling us a bit about their lives. Then we jumped right into the workshops of the day.

The first one I chose was Professional Relationships at Work and we shared our experiences about navigating the social issues of work, as well as interviewing. A lot of people were unemployed or under-employed. It’s heartening to hear so many people having the same struggles and know we’re not alone, but at the same time, there seem to be no easy solutions.

The next session I attended was about Sex and Intimacy. The discussion ended up being more about dating and navigating how to find like-minded people. Again, I really related to a lot of the experiences shared.

Then lunch was provided and I spent a large part of it in the sensory room. It was great. There were bean bags, soft blankets, lights, and fidgets to squeeze or play with. I took a video:

I’m in the #sensory room at the #Autism Friendly conference. Shhhh. #Lights

A video posted by K Bron John (@kbronjohn) on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:35pm PDT

The session right after lunch was called Advocating for Yourself in the Workplace and it was run by a neurotypical, if I’m not mistaken. Slightly ironic because he made a snap judgement on some people who were colouring while listening. It was handled extremely well, however.

Finally, everyone who was left at the end of the day got together in one room to talk about services and what can be improved for neurodiverse adults. We spoke a lot about doctors not taking us seriously, especially when it comes to chronic pain and mental health issues. We also spoke about police violence. Some good constructive ideas came out of this, but I will let Every1Games disclose it when they are ready.

I was really pleased with being able to attend a free conference and I met some really cool people I hope to stay in touch with. Being an out-of-towner makes it a little more difficult, but through Facebook, I think we can keep the connection and flow of information going.

The team at Every1Games did a great job of making everyone feel comfortable and safe and I’m inspired to see what kind of things I can accomplish locally to build a similar community.