2018 Milestones National Autism Conference
Having spent the last 26 years in education, Jennifer Krumins, MEd, knows a thing or two about IEPs. This year, she traveled from Canada to share the importance of IEPs and some key takeaways for parents with children on the spectrum.
Jennifer, thank you so much for being a part of the conference again this year. Why are you so passionate about talking to parents about the power of IEPs?
Oh boy, what a question. Well I started my workshop by saying I’ve spent my career in education and have experience as a parent – I hate IEPs, I really do. I hate writing them! But yet, that being said, they are so incredibly important! They give direction to a person’s life. Without an IEP, time will pass, opportunities will pass, and we don’t have a sense of what we could be doing to capitalize on moments when a kid can learn. For me, an IEP keeps you focused and ready to teach at any given moment because you know where you want to go.
If you could pass one important point from your session on to someone who could not at the conference, what would it be?
A big message I wanted to give today is that parents play such an incredibly important role. It’s imperative parents take an active role in their child’s education, particularly if that child had special needs because it’s not up to the school; it is a joint responsibility. I have learned in my years as a parent and an educator that autism requires a village around a child. No one person has all the information about that child so when everyone comes together and shares their perspective, we get the whole picture. As far as a takeaway about the conference, I would want to say that coming to this conference gives you a chance to step away from the day-to-day and it is time so wisely invested. It energizes and refreshes you. Well you’ll always go home tired, but you come home ready to dive in with a renewed energy.
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One highlight of our conference each year is our Straight from the Source series, a grouping of panels featuring individuals with autism and those closest to them. This year, we held an Autism at Work panel, a session for adults on the spectrum to share their experiences of joining and being a part of the workforce. During this panel, attendees got to meet Evan Spencer, Amy Kleinman, Angel Russo, and Tim Hughes, self-advocates with a variety of perspectives gained from employment. Evan, Amy, Angel, and Tim were kind enough to sit down with Milestones after their panel to share a little bit about the topics discussed and why they wanted to get involved.
Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us today! Would you mind telling us how you first heard of Milestones?
Evan: My mom runs a support group that works closely with Milestones. I came my first year to the conference kind
of nervous, to see what was here for myself. I always thought it would be people my mom’s age who are working for individuals with autism, but then I saw it was also for individuals and that’s what sold me on coming back.
Amy: I’ve known about Milestones for I don’t know how many years. My mother and I had talked about coming to the conference for years; we have gone to Beth Thompson for some
help when we needed it. And finally last year, we were just like ‘you know what, we’re going to get scholarshipped and we’re going to go!’ Then this year, Beth asked me to speak, so we’re here again. And hopefully next year too!
Angel: Haley Dunn who is with Milestones, I knew her for a long time so she asked me to come speak.
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Couldn’t come to the conference? No worries, we’ll fill you in. Four of Milestones’ own presented at the conference this year on a variety of topics:
Milestones Administrative Assistant and self-advocate Molly D. Dann, presented two workshops, one with the Cuyahoga County’s Good Life Ambassadors program where safety in the community was discussed, and another sensory-focused workshop with two other self-advocates wherein panelists shared their personal experiences coping with sensory issues.
Beth Thompson, Program Director, did a conversational session with Carl Brass, Executive Director of Monarch LifeWorks, on how to make ethical decisions when working with adults on the autism spectrum. They discussed when how federal rulings like the Olmstead Act impact providers when weighing decisions about protecting the adults they serve and letting them have their own autonomy in decision-making.
Milestones Early Intervention/School Age Coordinator Nathan Morgan did a total of three workshops! He started the conference out with a session sharing tips and suggestions for families to follow after receiving a new diagnosis of autism – Nathan reviewed common evidence-based therapies, how to access them, and how to work with school districts. Nathan then served as a moderator on the Straight from the Source: Autism at Work panel, where he led a discussion with four other adults with ASD about their path to employment. Nathan and Molly then closed the conference with another staff advocate and Milestones volunteer, Grace Blatt, where they shared their practical strategies for dealing with common sensory issues.
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Milestones Autism Resources is pleased to announce the 2018 award recipients who will be honored at the 2018 Milestones National Autism Conference. Winners were determined by a special committee comprised of parents, self-advocates, and professionals and will be recognized for their outstanding achievements, and contributions for the autism community. Recognition ceremonies will take place during the conference on Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15 from 9:15 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. at the Cleveland I-X Center.
Chris Filler (Akron, OH), Professional Excellence Award
As Director of the Lifespan Transition Center at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), Chris works tirelessly to find solutions at the individual, local, and state levels to change policy and practices affecting people on the autism spectrum. Her experience and knowledge gained from being a mother to a son with autism have enabled her to serve as a key player in bringing effective transition services to those who need them most.
Brad McGarry, M.A. (Waterford, PA), Professional Excellence Award
Brad serves as the Director of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst University (AIM), where he has adapted the lessons he’s learned while traveling with his son who has Angelman’s Syndrome to bring life-changing experiences to individuals with autism through encounters with the outdoors – so far, his programs have taken groups to Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Grand Canyon, and they’re currently planning more adventures to other international destinations.
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