In an attempt to facilitate our community outreach sessions, we hosted our first online Autism Awareness Event entitled “Autistic Actually, Broadening YOUR Spectrum” utilising the Zoom Video Conferencing facility.
The brain teaser icebreaker set the tone for all participants to really pay attention to the panellists who were experts with extensive knowledge and experience in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our panellists included a Speech and Language Therapist, Shareka Bentham, a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, Natasha Heaselgrave and Jessica Reid, an Autism Advocate and blogger of Me and my M. We also had a bonus panellist, Jennylle Pitter, who is an Occupational Therapist.
As the moderator, I had a list of questions that were posted to the panellists but participants joining the session were allowed to send additional questions and comments through the Zoom Video Conferencing Chat. In conducting this job, I improvised but most important was the ability of the panellists to answer all the questions presented to them. The overarching theme for the panellists was to present information in a discussion forum that would allow the participants to grasp a better understanding of ASD, its signs and symptoms.
Some key points and highlights about ASD from the overall discussion were:
- It is a neurodevelopmental disorder.
- It can be thought of as a set of characteristics that a young child displays.
- The word “spectrum” simply represents an umbrella of differences.
- One of the signs and symptoms include repetitive behaviours.
- Signs and symptoms may appear as early as sixteen (16) months in children.
- Parents must pay attention to their child to recognize any differences with their development.
- A diagnosis of ASD is lifelong.
- An individual is not defined by their diagnosis.
- To decrease stigmatization, education and awareness are important.
- Representation of autism within the media is not always accurate.