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The Why of Conferences

It is no secret that I struggle in social situations, including large conferences. So the question is asked why I attend events like the Autism Society of America National Conference, which is this week in Dallas. The simple answer is that I do learn a lot, both "academically" and socially.

Today I met author and blogger Lisa Jo Rudy. She has a book out on how to have fun -- an essential mental health skill when living with someone diagnosed with autism. To learn more about her books and general science writing, visit her website:

Honestly, I don't think my wife and I take enough time to relax. Much of what we would consider "fun" is still intellectually stimulating. They say children learn significant lessons during "free play" (unstructured time). For me, that unstructured time would be spent meandering museums or gardens. Sometimes, you do need to let your mind wander in order to learn even more.

I always thought I learned a lot at places like Magic Mountain or Disneyland. Seriously. Think about the topics raised at a theme park: gravity, pneumatics, centrifugal / centripetal forces, electricity, and more. The "Animatronics" of Disneyland are enough to inspire days or weeks of research.

Children, especially children with disabilities, need time to explore the world. It can be a challenge, though. Lisa Jo Rudy is the parent of an autistic child. She knows a vacation or even day trip can include meltdowns, timeouts, and the stress all families know. Vacations, I have observed, seldom reduce stress unless you are willing to let the days pass at their own pace. (Too many people over-schedule time off.)

I took time off today. I drove to Arlington to get away from the ASA conference. I had no particular plan. It was nice to see more of the Dallas area. Learning to relax without a plan is a skill I haven't fully developed, but should. Learning to tolerate change is a challenge for me. Yet, I did okay today.

Let's all embrace a little unstructured time.


  1. I'm glad to hear you say that.

    I remember being chastised because I live so unstructured most of the time. Someone said that my son would learn to be flexible. I'm not sure that's completely true. I would say it's more that I've learned to be slightly more structured.

    Glad you had a good time!


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