Two years ago, Hickman and Lowder Co., L.P.A came to Milestones with a simple concept. They wanted to create a space at our annual conference for caregivers to relax and get some special treatment they don’t get in their everyday lives.
Milestones was sold. With so many parents and professionals taking some time out from life to attend the conference, we knew such an addition would be well-received and much needed. So a conversation turned into a plan, which then evolved into what we now all know to be the Caregiver Relaxation Room.
This year, caregivers of all kinds were encouraged to visit the space conveniently located between the exhibit hall and workshop rooms, where they could get a massage from a masseuse, make their own bath salts, and indulge in cucumber water while they enjoy a moment for themselve
“We’re all caregivers whether you have a child with autism or a professional, you’re a caregiver in some way,” said Jill Fowler of Hickman and Lowder. “It is important for our firm to be able to provide a place for conference goers of any kind to have some respite and take care of themselves a little bit. Usually you are the last person you care for so it was important for us to have a place for them to pamper themselves a bit.”
In addition to providing the Caregiver Relaxation Room, Hickman and Lowder was one of over 50 exhibitors at this year’s conference.
“It’s a fabulous mix of families and professionals and different tracks and topics,” said Fowler. “There is something for everyone here, it’s so valuable. Everyone you talk to they either know people or they meet new friends here and they can see each other again and again year after year. We are fortunate to have this in our community.”
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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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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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