The Tenacity of Hope
The National Autism Association's National Autism Conference

Florida, USA
November 11-14, 2011
[The Autism File Global, Issue 38 2011, page 71]

Powerful words: tenacity, hope and progress. Recovery and healing for our children is never something easy to access and often can be exhausting, but National Autism Conference attendees arrived eager to refresh and learn in order to go home and create necessary change. Tenacity.

While parents made up the majority of the audiences, it was encouraging to see many therapists, teachers, and grandparents there, as well. On this journey, an understanding and accommodating society filled with supportive people makes a great difference in the outlook and well-being of parents raising kids with autism. Hope.

People like Adrianna Varela, an attorney from Atlanta with no children of her own, attended the conference to support and better understand all that her cousin, Erika Stone of Dallas, is doing to recover her 4-year-old son, Maxwell. This proves to me that our society is headed in the right direction. Progress.

The Reese family's poignant 11-month journey showcased in "Hope Starts Here," with Aid for Autism and Dr. Dan Rossignol, made it clear that now, more than ever, people and organizations are stepping up to sustain our families. Aid for Autism and Dr. Rossignol began assisting the Reese family after Celeste fainted during one of the sessions at the 2009 NAA conference, simply because she was so overcome with hope! The Reese family has allowed Aid for Autism to follow them and document every detail about Julius' treatments; his progress over the course of 11 short months is both gripping and inspiring.

Additionally, 150 of the Tradewinds Grand Island Resort staff members, from housekeepers to waitstaff and countless other positions, obtained training from the local CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) center regarding meeting the needs of families living with autism spectrum disorders. More Progress.

Aimee Cohoon, director of development for the National Autism Association, recognizing that board members also wished to learn and needed to renew themselves at the conference, asked her cousins, Annie and Jeff, to help run the event. They respectfully took care of everyone's needs with graceful, happy, infectious attitudes.

These examples—just a few of many others which were so uplifting at the conference—inspire my hope for continued progress in our society. May we all continue to inspire tenacity, hope and progress—not just in our homes, but in our children's schools and our society at large as well!

Leigh Attaway Wilcox