This coming Friday and Saturday there are some pretty important autism events happening in Utah Valley that I think people should be aware of. 

The first is the UVU Conference on Autism. It is a huge conference filled with really interesting and practical information about autism. The conference is designed for professionals, parents, and caregivers. Betty and I went to our first conference within a couple of months of our children's diagnosis, and it was such a help to see what other parents were doing and to hear about the newest research. Along with the sessions filled with really great speakers, there is also a show floor where different organizations come and talk about therapies, or other helps for people with autism. It's a great opportunity, and I HIGHLY recommend it if you have a child or other family member with autism. 

I'm especially excited this year because both my father and I will be presenting at the conference for the first time. Here is his bio from the conference program:

Spencer F. Mack, CLU ChFC ChSNC is a financial planner and one of only two Chartered Special Needs Consultants in Utah. Spencer has served families with their financial needs since 1979. He focuses on connecting families with resources in their communities and on helping them build life plans for their special-needs children. He currently lives in Orem, Utah with his wife, Jane. They have seven children and twenty grandchildren – two with autism and one with Down Syndrome.

He will be talking about how to prepare financially for your child's future. He has helped Betty and I set up a special needs trust for our kids and to think about the future of our children in a way that gives us confidence they will be taken care of in the future – regardless of what happens to us.

Here is his abstract:

10 Comprehensive Life Care Planning Steps  –  Spencer Mack (SC 206A 10am – 10:50 am)

Join Spencer Mack, one of only two Chartered Special Needs Consultants in Utah, as he gives an overview of the Ten Comprehensive Life Care Planning Steps which will help families build life plans for their special-needs children. Along with other valuable information, participants will have the opportunity to receive a template for preparing the Letter of Intent, which can serve as the family’s ‘Handbook of Instructions’ for the future.

I will be speaking on representations of autism in popular culture – focusing especially on TV shows like ParenthoodThe Big Bang Theory, Touch, and others. I really hope that I can share a bit of what I've learned by watching these shows and maybe gives people some thinks to think about as they watch them as well. 

Here is my abstract:

Representations of Autism in Popular Culture – Todd Mack, PhD (SC 206 C – 11am-11:50am)

We are all aware that autism is being represented with increasing frequency in the media. In this entertaining, interactive and informative presentation, Dr. Mack will highlight how popular television shows such as Parenthood, The Middle, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Doc Martin and others can help us see autism from different angles – the angle of the parent, the angle of the person with autism, and the angle of the neurotypical outsider. In seeing how autism affects others, and in thinking about how other people work through the challenges associated with autism, viewers are also given the chance to reflect on how they are being affected and how they are working through those challenges in their own lives. This session will present tools that will help individuals learn from, and get the most out of, shows they quite possible already watch. NOTE: This session will be repeated at 3pm in SC 206 B

 Come and see us if you are around. I would love to see some of you who I don't get to see very often and to meet a bunch of new people. I'm very excited for the opportunity to share.

The next day, Saturday April 12, is the Autism Resources of Utah County Council and UVU Uplifting Celebration for Autism. It is also at UVU. They have all kinds of autism friendly games and snacks as well as great demonstrations by a variety of groups and organizations. It's a great fun atmosphere where you can take your children with autism and know that if they do something odd, everyone will understand. We went last year and the kids loved it. You should try to make it if you can :)