If you are thinking about submitting a proposal to the Milestones National Autism Conference, don’t hesitate! I attended the Milestones Conference for the first time in 2013 and had the honor of hosting a workshop on behalf of the Academic Support Center (ASC) at Notre Dame College. This speaking engagement not only allowed me to share my experience and recommendations for helping students on the spectrum transition from college to career, but provided me the opportunity to connect with other professionals and educational resources. I haven’t missed a conference since and my colleagues and I continue to attend and submit proposals each year.
Whether you are speaking or attending, this conference has much to offer. I encourage my colleagues, students and their families to attend. The Milestones Conference offers attendees access to current, evidence-based content and the opportunity to interact with professionals, family members and individuals with ASD. This wide range of attendees and presenters allows for a variety of information and perspective sharing. I always make sure to attend at least one workshop that is hosted by a panel of individuals with ASD. Who better to teach me on how best to support my students than straight from the source!
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Are you one of the many parents raising a child with autism alongside a child who is not on the spectrum? We understand the complex challenges that arise in your situation, so we wanted to make sure there was a session just for you at our conference next month.
Join Allison Benedict from the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism on Friday, June 15th at 12:15pm for the session, “Addressing the Needs of Neurotypical Siblings”. Bringing a breadth of knowledge gained from being a licensed early intervention specialist and board certified behavior analyst, Allison will discuss research on negative and positive effects of having a sibling with ASD, evidence-based ways to have a better outcome, and how to educate neurotypical siblings on the diagnosis of autism, while supporting them for better adjustment.
What are the most commonly asked questions that come from parents concerned about the impact of an ASD diagnosis on their neurotypical child(ren)?
One of the first questions that parents ask is how to explain the diagnosis to their neurotypical children. They also want to know how to find a balance between supporting the needs of their child with autism while also being able to carve out time out with their neurotypical child(ren).
What is one of the positive effects of having a sibling with ASD?
There are many positive effects including greater empathy, compassion, understanding, kindness, and more positive interactions with others. Additionally, siblings tend to have higher self-esteem.
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Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate motherhood. This Mother’s Day, we’re highlighting one of this year’s conference speakers, April T. Giauque, a mother of nine, five of which have special needs.
Coming to the Milestones Conference all the way from Austin, Texas, April is a public speaker and trains teachers how to implement social skill strategies, transition skills, independent living skills, and employment skills to support students who are on the autism spectrum. She moved to Austin in 2015 to pursue better education supports for her children, which also led her to her most recent position as a transition teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf in the 18+ ACCESS program.
Tell us about your experience as a mother and as a special needs teacher?
Being a mother to 9 children is never boring! I’m on the go making, baking, lifting, hugging, holding, counseling, laughing, disciplining, helping, social coaching, crying and cheering for and with them. Since I do all of that with my own family, it was an easy transition to do that with students. For me, motherhood and teaching are synonymous with each other.
How do you juggle being a mother of nine and an educator?
Oh that! I just use wrinkle my nose and ta-dah, its done! No, seriously, there isn’t any magic in it. There is a lot of organization, hard work, and prayer that goes into this. There are large “to do” lists, schedules, and communication. It is all about what motivates me which is love. I love others the best way I can and through love my family, students, and others feel uplifted.
Mother’s Day can be used as a time to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges motherhood brings. What would you say are some of the most rewarding aspects of motherhood?
When I watch my children stumble, fall, or even fail at something—they don’t stay down. They get right back in the game of life—that makes me feel amazing. Other accomplishments are when I hear about my children from other people and the impression my children left with them. Finally, the best reward is in the quiet of the evening as they open up and talk about their day while I massage their backs or arms, or hold them as they drift to sleep.
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Being a past conference speaker and member of the Milestones Board of Directors, John Harrison is no stranger to Milestones’ mission. As an attorney, he practices mostly elder and disability law at Hickman & Lowder Co., LPA. With his practice, John mostly assists seniors and people with disabilities, while also handling disputes in litigation, such as fights over guardianships or trusts.
This year, John is lending his expertise to educate conference attendees about the recent Medicaid waiver changes and how to navigate the new system.
So how did you get into elder and special needs law, John?
I have a hidden visual impairment which gives me a great deal of understanding of what it is like to be different and to face adversity. I’ve always had a strong desire to help. I did public service work with Disability Rights Ohio and Legal Aid. Eventually, I found myself in private practice helping people too.
We are so excited to have you back as a speaker this year! What do you enjoy most about being a part of the conference?
I really like the people the most. Everyone at Milestones is dedicated to this work and it’s reaching many families and providers who care about the special needs of individuals with autism and their loved ones!
Why is it important that law firms like Hickman & Lowder have a presence at events like the Milestones National Autism Conference?
Without information, there rarely can be a successful outcome. Hickman & Lowder, among other lawyers, are helping to advance knowledge and empower families to care for those they love who have very specialized needs. All of us are working together through Milestones to make our community a better, more inclusive place. I am hearing now we are helping people all over the country! It’s so great to be a part of this.
You assist families in navigating through a lot of the logistics that come with accessing government benefits. What would you say is the most common need from families who have a family member with autism?
This is a very broad and important question! Estate planning is often more complex for families with loved ones on the spectrum because a trust is needed. There can be a concern with accessing and keeping public benefits, including Medicaid and waivers. Often, there are concerns about decision-making and guardianship, or other decisions. We see issues involving education too, and sometimes there are even issues about medical care.
You’ve been a presenter at the Milestones Conference in the past and are returning this year with your session, “Something to Hold Onto: Keeping Your Medicaid Waiver Through System Changes.” There have been a lot of questions surrounding these recent changes to the waiver program and waitlist. Can you explain what a waiver is and describe this change in the waitlist status?
Hold onto your seats! Yes, there are many changes to the system. Generally, anyone who is otherwise eligible for Medicaid and who has serious care needs can receive this care in an institution. Examples of facilities are Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs) or nursing facilities. However, many people and their families prefer to live and work in a community setting. When we talk about a “waiver” in this context, we are saying that the state asked for and got permission from the federal government to provide services in the community rather than the institution.
There is a big caveat – services in a facility are a “right.” Services under a waiver are not guaranteed. The individual has to meet the terms of the particular waiver, and there must be an open waiver slot available.
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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. Continue reading →