Straight from the Source – Molly Dann, 2018 Conference Speaker

One of the reasons the Milestones National Autism Conference is unique is its workshops and panels made possible by individuals on the spectrum. One of those individuals in Molly Dann, a 24-year-old self-advocate from Parma who is returning this year to speak about topics relevant to her life and to others in the autism community.

Between planning for her October wedding and being Milestones’ administrative assistant, Molly is also a Good Life Ambassador (GLA) for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, a role that allows her to educate the local community about autism.

Can you talk about the conference workshops you are doing this year?
I am doing a Safety in the Community presentation with GLA and a session about sensory issues. The sensory issues workshop is my first time presenting a session that I came up with.

How would you describe common sensory-processing issues to someone who doesn’t understand the effects they have on individuals with autism?
Sensory issues are one of the most difficult things to deal with for me. It can make a simple trip to the store something I have to recover from. There are times when noises or textures make me want to physically hurt myself. There are a few basic sensory issues many people with autism share, such as loud noises and bright lights bothering them. There are also very specific and individualized sensory issues.

In your session, “Safely in the Community,” you’ll talk about personal experiences you’ve had. What advice would you give to someone on the spectrum experiencing anxiety when traveling or encountering related challenges?
Don’t let the anxiety keep you from accomplishing things. I have horrible anxiety daily and I have to be careful not to let it decide what I want to do.

Why are these topics so important to you?
These topics, especially the sensory issues, are very important to me. It’s one thing to have a doctor or an “expert” lecture about sensory issues. It’s another to have someone who has to deal with them on a constant basis talk about them. I feel that there are a lot of things self-advocates need to explain to the neuro-typical community.

What do you hope people will get out of your sessions?
I hope people leave my sessions realizing how much people with autism need to adapt just to make it through the┬áday. The world doesn’t adapt itself for us. We have to be the ones to adapt to the world, which can be incredibly difficult.

Why would you encourage other self advocates to attend the Milestones conference?
Self advocates should attend because it’s a great way to meet other self-advocates and learn about what’s going on in our community.

Learn more about Molly’s sessions and see the full 2018 conference schedule here.


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