I am just an eleven-year-old child on an extraordinary journey through time.
The journey has placed me in amazing places. This weekend brings a new one of these places to me. I am in Atlanta, Georgia, peach capital of the U.S.A. Why you may ask? Because I am attending the Innovations in Education conference. A two day event dedicated to a new way of viewing and educating Autism. I started this trip in San Diego. My mother and I, by ourselves, boarded a plane that took us to Atlanta. At the airport, we noticed that other letter-boarders or their families were attending too. We boarded the flight and sat behind Brandon an older teenager that like me uses a letter board.
We had an easy flight with no major events. Then we landed and the adventure started. An easy taxi ride turned into a scavenger hunt for the Uber pick-up area. I almost fainted when I saw how far we had to go. Our first driver was from Nigeria a friendly man who cooks and loves his family. I enjoyed his stories about all people knowing how to cook in Nigeria. He was a funny man.
We arrived at the hotel, a fancy place where many young adults were getting ready to go out; it was a blast. Then we found our lobby and our room. I was so happy to get in bed. Sweet dreams for me.
First day of the conference. We woke up with no time to spare. A minute too late. We had breakfast at the hotel and then took a taxi to the conference.
We went straight in with a pit stop to pick up our name badges. Dr. Edlyn Pena was presenting her story, a wonderful narrative about a mother’s love and dedication. All day, one after another, speakers and self-advocates took turns sharing their stories and knowledge. I enjoyed each one of them.
At lunch, we sat with another family, an older teenager and his mom. I got to learn from him and his journey through his mom. I also go to meet other kids like me and gave them my card.
In the afternoon there were more talks and advocates all praising inclusion. In the evening I went to dinner with mom to Chipotle and, after a quick stop at the hotel, we went to a dance at Georgia Tech Student Center. To get there we were going to take a taxi but ended up walking. On our way there we found a snake, it was small and cute.
At the dance, we had a blast my mom and I danced to the music and I had fun with my new friends. All night long I felt grateful for the opportunity to be here. I took an Uber back and called it a night.
On Sunday we woke up on time and had breakfast in our room. How wonderful to have this time with my mom. We rode to the conference on an Uber, it was raining cats and dogs.
The day before we lost an iPad. Today it was sitting on a desk just where we left it. I always knew it would be ok. Our community is like family, no one would ever take it, it is someone’s voice.
Morning conferences were beyond inspirational. It took my breath away to see the road ahead of me and how others have paved it for me.
I am excited to announce I even made it on a panel: 35 self-advocates answering questions, it was an amazing energetic shift in the universe around us. I wanted to stay there forever, on a panel with people who get me. It was an hour of insight and love. I almost died when I noticed I was sitting next to Dillan! There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was extraordinary.
Afterward, a talented violinist played a beautiful piece and dedicated a song to the HIRSCH Academy.
I am so honored to have been a part of it all. I was elated with Joy.
I am now on the plane on my way home filled with inspiration and excitement. How many things to process. How many ideas to create new opportunities. The sky is the limit for our non-speaking community.