News Article Details

Autism Conference, in Eighth Year, Offers Support, Workshops

The Chronicle - 10/27/2018

Oct. 27--The Lewis County Autism Coalition held its eighth annual Southwest Washington Autism Conference, with a day full of workshops to educate the public on resources for autism-related issues.

Danny Raede was the keynote speaker at the conference. Raede is the CEO of Asperger's Experts, which is the world's largest online community and training platform for people on the spectrum and their families, according to the Lewis County Autism Coalition. Raede is also the director of Acceptance, a nature-based retreat center and campground.

"Asperberger's at its core is not a social deficit disorder," Raede said. "The social deficits are caused by sensory and emotional processing deficits that then lead to social deficits. So if all you do is address the social deficits without addressing the underlying sensory and emotional issues, then it's like trying to run a marathon with a hundred pounds of brick on your back and going 'well what's the most optimal way to do this?' Well, the most optimal way is to get rid of the bricks first and then everything becomes a lot easier."

At 12 years old, Raede was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is in the category of autism spectrum disorder. He began the company Asperger's Experts in 2012.

During the keynote, Raede discussed "Emotional Resource Theory," which essentially means that people can only accomplish so much emotionally and that there are limits to what each of us can do.

Raede also discussed addressing the underlying issues of Asperger's, instead of beginning with social deficits. People with Asperger's may miss social cues that are obvious to other people, which means they essentially have to learn those skills.

"For some reason, neurotypicals don't need to learn social skills and you do," said Raede during is address.

After his speech, Raede elaborate on why people have previously looked at social deficits first.

"That's what is apparent on the surface," Raede said. "'Oh, they're awkward.' You can see that in a split second. It takes a little bit longer to see that they're overwhelmed and stressed out and that's causing them to be awkward."

The conference had 19 different workshops for participants to choose from. The topics ranged from the basics of an Individualized Educational Plan to finding employment as an adult.

Bill Weismann, facilitator for the Lewis County Autism Coalition, said that the coalition will begin a community inclusion campaign in 2019, which will focus on decreasing barriers for individuals with autism spectrum disorder to gain employment in Lewis County.

"What we are going to be looking at doing is significant outreach, especially to the business community where the individuals working there can go," Weismann said.

Raede said he began telling people that the social aspects were the last aspect of Asperger's to address after he began his own company.

"Once I started my business, that's when I started doing a lot of the research into why," Raede said. "But I didn't know there was science behind it until then."

Part of Raede's address encouraged people with autism spectrum disorder to focus on doing one thing 10,000 times instead of doing 10,000 things at once.

"I found that a lot of my clients just thought that they should be good at something," Raede said. "I'm like, 'no it's a skill.' You need to learn it like anything."

Weismann said he found that the message resonated with attendees.

"I thought it was great," Weismann said. "I was speaking to someone at the conference after the keynote and it helped her to get a new perspective on what to work on. ... It was one of those 'a-ha' moments of getting people to think about their work. That's really what the conference is all about."

The 8th annual Southwest Washington Autism Conference took place from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Friday at Centralia College. Sponsors for the conference included Providence Health & Services Southwest Washington, Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Lewis County Public Health & Social Services, Choice Regional Health Network, Pope's Kids Place, Morningside, Northwest Pediatric Center, Basics NW, Compass Career Solutions, Security State Bank, Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel, Port Blakely and Centralia College.

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(c)2018 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.)

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