Highs and lows – day one of the Victorian Autism Conference

Victorian Autism Conference - Day One

Today was day one of the Victorian Autism Conference. I wrote about it a little bit here and here over the past week or so, and I had put a fair bit of thought into what I wanted to get out of it.

There were sessions I was really keen to see – and the ones today did not disappoint.

In particular it was wonderful to hear Jacqueline Roberts talk about the changes to the DSM5 (which I blogged about here) and clear up some of the big concerns that I know a lot of parents share when she said “there will be NO expectation for those with existing diagnosis to be re-diagnosed, the new DSM5 system will be inclusive”. She followed it up confirming “that if kids are already funded, it won’t change, the VAST majority will still meet the criteria”.

I also really enjoyed Tony Attwood, as he spoke about girls on the spectrum and the challenges they face as they hit adolescence. Some of it was quite confronting, especially when he touched on the high rates of depression, self harm and eating disorders, but he delivers in such a way you can’t help but have hope, that with support, our girls will be ok.

But in some ways, I wasn’t prepared.

At one point in the day, at about lunchtime, I felt overwhelming sad. Sad I was there, sad I was there because it was MY child. I wasn’t there as an aide, teacher or professional on a development course; it was my little girl that the statistics were referring to. Sad that we still have so far to go. Sad and panicky about our chances of meeting those challenges and retaining our sanity.

I rang Husband, he told me to take a deep breath and stop panicking. She would be fine, of course she would be.

Then I went into the final session of the day with the amazing Petty family. They spoke of overcoming the challenges of having two boys on the spectrum; one, Jonathan is both autistic and blind.

While they spoke honestly and rawly of the challenges they have faced, the hard times and the times they both wanted to walk away from it all – they also spoke of the joy their boys bring to their lives and how proud they are of them. How they wouldn’t change a thing.

And neither would I.


I was lucky enough to attend the Victorian Autism Conference with sponsorship from Kimochis. You can read about why I have aligned myself with the Kimochis brand here.

I will be heading off to day two tomorrow – you can follow the tweet stream at #VAC2012.

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  1. I really enjoyed following your tweets today. I would have loved to go but it wasn’t just the childcare issue stopping me, I know it is still far too raw for me in a lot of ways and I don’t think I’d have coped terribly well. Very happy to be able to learn about it from you though 🙂 xox
    kate says stuff recently posted..Thankful Thursday: The right to choose.My Profile

    • Thanks Kate! I couldn’t have done it two years ago, when the conference was last on, I think I would have cried the whole way through. Next time, in 2014, we will get the whole Autism in Our Own Words team there to tweet from all the streams! xx

  2. Great summary Renee. I remember seeing Tony Attwood a few years back not long after receiving our son’s diagnosis. It was an emotional day and I found it hard to take in some of the harsher truths but he has been spot on so far. I would have loved to have heard his thoughts about ASD and girls – will there be a transcript available for those unable to attend?

    Hope tomorrow brings you more knowledge and, more importantly, more hope.
    Kirsty @ My Home Truths recently posted..I Must Confess…I Think I’m Done, For Now…My Profile

    • Thank you Kirsty.
      I have seen him speak before too and like you, found it really overwhelming – but again have not seen him go wrong yet!

      There will apparently be a video done of all the streams today that will be available after the event. If you are interested, I would see if you can get a copy and certainly I will share it on my FB page when it comes out.

  3. Love this summary of day 1. I am in the same boost as you – feeling pleased that so many professionals were there and trying to make a difference. But sad that I am there as a parent. Amazed that descriptions of ASD are my son in a nutshell. Relieved that there is a hope. Desperate that like Nicola Petty I have days where I need to escape. Guilty to realise that I am creating too much of a cocoon for my son rather than pushing him to take risks and learn new things. Proud that I pushed ahead to get that initial referral, then assessments and finally a diagnosis despite no one else wanting to acknowledge there was an issue. Lucky to be able to hold my son’s hand throughout his walk along a slightly different path through life.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      I am so glad I wasn’t alone with my conflicted feelings. You are right – it was amazing to see so many enthused professionals all there to learn about how best to help our kids.

      I think every single one of those feelings is completely valid! And we are lucky, we truly are – it might be a different path, sometimes scary and sometimes challenging, but with so much beauty and joy.

  4. Glad you got some good things pu of it. The DSM 5 has worried me a lot. Any chance of more info?

    I recently watched a DVD about ASD through study and it was so close to Boy Child I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry.
    E. recently posted..I’m a Student!My Profile

    • Sure E – I will do a proper wrap up probably tomorrow over on Autism in Our Own Words, and then will do a few related posts over the coming weeks here. There was so much information – that I am trying to consolidate it in the most concise, yet useful way possible!

      And I know that feeling well – sometimes it hits me hard too xx

  5. oh i am glad you are bringing up how overwhelming it can be as a parent to be there..
    that’s a bit what i meant in my other comment on the 2nd day. you have to be ready to be able to actually have a ‘learning’ experience from this conference or workshops.
    again thanks for sharing your experience =)
    nikki recently posted..UK Documentary “My child’s not perfect”My Profile

    • Oh Nikki – overwhelmed, sad, frustrated, cross and all those other emotions – and frequently!
      Acceptance comes with time and the grieving process is very real and intense.
      You will get there – and in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to sing out if I can help in any way at all xx

  6. Thanks Renee,
    I attended as a parent too. I was looking forward to a relaxing night away from home after the conference and instead i was overwhelmed & cried myself to sleep with anxiety & worry about my gorgeous boy.
    Day two was much better though. I feel like there’ll be a push for better youth services – by the time our kids are in their late teens hopefully young adult services will be more in place.


  1. […] filled with details about my second day at the Victorian Autism Conference (you can read day one here), but it’s Friday night, I am tired and wrung out, and a glass of wine has my name on […]

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