AUTREAT 2004: Making Connections

Monday June 28 - Thursday July 1, 2004

Metro Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(Last updated 20 June 2004.) 

What is Autreat?
Continuing Education Units
A special note about social interactions
Registration fees
Registration form
Transportation to the campus
Child care


What is Autreat?

Autreat is a retreat-style conference run by autistic people, for autistic people and our friends.

Autreat focuses on positive living with autism, NOT on causes, cures, or ways to make us more normal.

How Autreat is different from typical autism conferences

Typical autism conferences are about autistic people, but are primarily for the benefit of researchers, service providers, or families. Autreat is an opportunity for autistic people and those with related developmental differences, our friends, and supporters to come together, discover and explore autistic connections, and develop advocacy skills, all in an autistic-friendly environment. Family members and professionals are welcome to attend, but the structure and content of this event will be determined by the interests and sensibilities of autistic people. 

Things you will not find at Autreat: 

  • Crowded, noisy hotel or conference center 
  • Exhausting, intensive schedule 
  • Inescapable sensory bombardment 
  • Pressure to interact if you don't want to 
  • Focus on "celebrities" 
  • Focus on causes, cures, or ways to make us more normal 

Things you will find at Autreat: 

  • Small college campus with plenty of outdoor space to get away and be alone or with friends.
  • Smoke-free, perfume-free environment 
  • Opportunity to explore autistic social contacts, if desired 
  • Respect for the choice to be left alone, if preferred 
  • Focus on positive aspects of autism 
  • Child care for autistic and non-autistic children ages 4 and up
  • Three days of continuous immersion in an autistic-friendly environment 

New and Upgraded Facility!

This year we are moving Autreat to a college campus for improved comfort, accessibility, and food service. The campus has plenty of open space for walking, recreation, and enjoying the outdoors. Lodging is in a residence hall with two to four people per room. Some private rooms MAY be available at an extra cost. Wheelchair-accessible facilities are available.

If you are new to Autreat

Autreat is designed to be Ďautistic space.í This is sometimes confusing or uncomfortable for non-autistic people attending. If youíre new to ANI and unfamiliar with Autreat protocol, please carefully review  the information in this brochure and on the ANI web site, and contact ANI if you have questions. Descriptions of past Autreats can be found here. If you arenít sure youíre ready for three days of total immersion, you might consider registering for days only and commuting from a local motel.

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Autreat features a lineup of workshops on a variety of subjects of interest to the Autistic community, including both advocacy-related topics and practical daily living concerns. This year's workshops include:

    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

  • ""Brain Power": Uncovering the Possibilities of an Autistic Public Presence"

    - Jean Kearns Miller

    Participants will be asked to consider the idea of a larger role in autism self-advocacy for public presence: a public visibility; consciousness-raising; outreach to isolated ACs; and stigma reduction. I will begin by presenting an abbreviated inventory of self-advocacy movements, most of them brain-related, which I have had recent connection with, along with what each of them does by way of public presence. To further enlist participants' help in imagining options, I will demonstrate a few options: artifacts, concepts, and snippets of performance art (kept mercifully short to allow for their dubious entertainment value). I hope participants will join me in exploring possibilities, defining parameters, and discovering available media and avenues, through both conversation and play, e.g, participating in sketches, writing monologue bits, coming up with car sticker designs and mottos...etcetera?

    - Jean Kearns Miller, 55, is a writer and community college English teacher who lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. She has recently published, edited, and contributed pieces to Women from Another Planet?: Our Lives in the Universe of Autism, a collection of conversations and writings by and about women on the spectrum.

  • "Identifying, Educating, and Empowering Allies"

    - Phil Schwarz, Vice President, Asperger's Association of New England

    This workshop is a follow-on to the Autreat 2003 workshop "Building Alliances". We will focus on practical steps we can take to identify, educate and empower potential allies in the non-autistic population, and on the issues and frontiers on which allies can be most effective.

    - Phil Schwarz has been a member of ANI since 1994, and has attended all Autreats since 1997. An AS adult and the father of an autistic son, Phil is vice-president of the Asperger's Association of New England, and has served on its board of directors since 1996. This is Phil's third time as an Autreat workshop presenter.

  • "Autistic culture isolated by language"

    - Heta Pukki, biologist, student of autism related special education

    The Finnish autism community has been developing for about six years in relative isolation from the wider internet culture. In many ways the views and self perceptions held within this community, and the action arising from it, resemble those elsewhere. Some local differences are apparent, and these are described along with possible factors leading to them. Questions will be posed for further discussion, concerning problems in crossing language and cultural boundaries, and ways to overcome these.

    - Heta is from Finland, biologist by her first training, just finishing two-year studies in autism related special education at the University of Birmingham (distance study). She has an AS diagnosis, as do herhusband and five-year-old daughter. She has been active in Finland's developing local autism culture for about six years, occasionally participating also in developing official services. I have a long term interest in autism theory, especially issues connected to emotional expression.

  • "When Autism and Institutions Collide -- and the Aftermaths"

    - A M Baggs and D M Kahrs

    Autistic people who have lived in institutions have a unique set of experiences that can profoundly shape, for better or for worse, the way we experience the world, even after we have left these situations. They resemble and differ from the experiences of non-autistic people in institutions, and the experiences of autistic people who have never been institutionalized. We will, incorporating our own lives as well as our research, explore a variety of institutional experiences and the ways they can shape communication, thinking, and perceiving. Our aim is to help in building a non-pathologized framework for understanding and self-understanding of autistic people who have lived in institutions, and bridge the communication gaps that can occur. There will be a discussion period at the end.

    - A M Baggs is a 23-year-old autistic woman who was told, after she first attended Autreat, "You have 'institution' written all over you!" Not having realized that her experiences had a name prior to that point, she has spent the last five years researching what that comment meant. She has made sense of the mess her life seemed at the time by learning directly from those with similar experiences, and reading about different experiences and the emotional, mental, social, and political aspects of institutionalization. She now perceives these experiences as having shaped her life and personality nearly as much as autism has, and wants to help create better communication and understanding of this area of people's lives.

    - D M Kahrs is a 47-year-old non-autistic woman who was institutionalized for a year and a half when she was a teenager. She has had experience working with and around people with developmental disabilities, and specifically autism, many of whom have also been institutionalized in one form or another. She has assisted people with developing self-advocacy skills. She currently works for A M Baggs as an SLS (supported living) worker. She also wants to help create better communication and understanding around institutionalization and its effects.

  • Wednesday, June 30, 2004

  • "Making Employment Fit: Accommodations and other dirty words"

    - Joel Smith

    Employment is difficult for many autistic people. We are square pegs who don't fit nicely into round holes. Rather then forcing the autistic into a job, would it be possible to change the job to better fit the autistic? In this presentation, ideas and real-life examples are presented of how jobs can be modified to best accommodate autistic sensitivities. We will also discuss how to modify your job without alienating your boss or coworkers.

    - Joel Smith is an non-typical employee who has managed to survive and even thrive in several types of employment - small business, venture startup, large corporations, and government - by modifying the jobs to fit himself. Joel has worked as the team leader, hiring and supervising small teams, which has given him insight into the "other side" of employment. Joel currently works for a government agency, where he has successfully negotiated a variety of accommodations to make his job fit Joel, rather then the other way around.

  • "Women from another planet? Some relations between feminism and AC awareness"

    - Sola Shelly

    This workshop is inspired by a book titled "Women from Another Planet? Our Lives in the Universe of Autism", to which I have contributed. I will illustrate some of the profound differences between AC and NT women, in relation to the traditional and the feminist role model of women. The conclusion of this presentation is, that AC women may have more commonalties with AC men than with NT women, because ACs are much less aware of, or are much less affected by, gender roles than NTs are. Without trying to define feminism, I will explore the usefullness of some ideas, which are widely identified with feminism, for AC people.

    - Sola Shelly has been a female and an Aspie all her life. While her AC awareness has not developed until her 40's, she has wondered about gender roles and about her relating with other girls and women since a very young age, because she has always felt different. Sola is a contributor and a co-editor of a book edited by Jean Kearns Miller, titled "Women from Another Planet? Our Lives in the Universe of Autism", which is a collection of writings by AC women.

  • "Issues of creative writing and sexuality in the light of mainstream research and autistic culture - the need to resist attitudes disguised as science"

    - Heta Pukki, biologist, student of autism related special education

    Current theoretical approaches to autism are moving away from many obviously false one cause explanations. However, problematic aspects remain, and these may often be harder to spot than simplistic belief in things like the "Theory of Mind" hypothesis. Research approaches and scientific discourse reveal subtle attitudes that can be harmful if they are passed on to practitioners and allowed to guide support measures. Some views of this type by various researchers and theorists, concerning creativity, sexuality and emotion in autistic people, will be pointed out. Examples of ways to counter such views will be presented, on the basis of the speaker's two-year studies at the University of Birmingham autism program.

  • "Who cares? Or: The Truth about Empathy in Individuals of the Autism Spectrum"

    - Isabel Dziobek, M.S., and Kim Rogers, M.A.

    A lack of empathy is considered a central characteristic of individuals on the autism spectrum. Surprisingly though, to date, no systematic research has been carried out in support of this view. We will present data from such a study conducted at the Center for Brain Health, NYU School of Medicine. The results seem to contradict common belief and indicate that, once you account for social cognitive problems, people on the spectrum show just as much empathy as neurotypicals.

    - Isabel Dziobek received her Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Bochum, Germany and has been practicing neuropsychology in clinic and research since 1997. She is currently completing her PhD in experimental neuropsychology at the University of Duesseldorf. With the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Cologne she has developed a new video-based instrument to measure social cognition in autism spectrum disorders. Since 2001 she has been working at the Center for Brain Health, neuroimaging laboratory of the NYU School of Medicine where she is co-investigator of a study looking at social cognition and the brain in adults with Asperger syndrome.

    - Kimberley Rogers received her master's degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College in New York. She has gained considerable experience over the past few years conducting neuropsychological assessments at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center and the NYU School of Medicine. She is currently involved in research at the NYU School of Medicine's Center for Brain Health, focusing on empathy and social cognition in Asperger Syndrome.

  • Thursday, July 1, 2004

  • "Understanding How Plants Can Facilitate Connections in Autistic children and adults"

    - George Salamunec, HTR, COTA/L, Certified Master Gardener, and Susan Golubock, M.Ed., OTR/L

    Working with, and understanding about, plants can be an effective tool for developing the senses, reducing stress, and learning to make new connections in autistic children and adults. Matching plants to one's personality and needs is an important first step. Plants provide opportunities for autistic children to explore life, nurturing, modulation, non-aggressive options and choices for dealing with natural adversities, and why learning about other life (and people) outside of ourselves is so important. For autistics of all ages, plants provide an opportunity to successfully interact with another life form that doesn't require a lot of time or money and that can enhance, rather than compromise, as the human world sometimes can, one's sense of "self" and one's way of being.

    - George Salamunec, HTR, COTA/L is a Registered Horticultural Therapist through the American Horticultural Therapy Association and a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. He is also a Certified Master Gardener and a Junior Master Gardener Specialist though the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences-Maricopa County Cooperative Extension. Since 1997, George has worked at The Children's Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies (CCNS) treating children that have Autism and other developmental disabilities utilizing a sensory integrative frame of reference. He has aided in the training of occupational therapy, music therapy and Speech-Language Pathology interns in utilizing horticultural therapy as a therapeutic modality. George has initiated and been developing the horticultural therapy program at CCNS-East Valley Site. He is also developing a vocational program and is working with special education teachers to integrate prevocational tasks into the student's daily routine. George is participating in a research project at CCNS-East Valley Site determining the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy. George has been diagnosed with Non Verbal Learning Disorder early in his life. He is also the founding Vice President of the Arizona Horticultural Therapy Association.

    - Susan Golubock has worked as an occupational therapist for over 30 years. Her area of focus has been sensory integration. She has presented at least 3 years at Autreat in this area of specialty. She earned a master's degree in special education technology in 1995. Susan self-diagnosed at age 50, and received an official diagnosis of PDD-NOS, followed by a diagnosis of Asperger's, within the next 3-7 years. She currently works, with George, at the Children's Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies in Mesa, Arizona, with predominately autistic children and adolescents. She has recently initiated a research project in an attempt to demonstrate the effectiveness of teacher-therapist collaboration in facilitating sensory integration and promoting natural neurological connections in autistic individuals.


You may earn a certificate by attending a group of seven workshops chosen to reflect a certain theme. Check our web site after June 1, 2004, to see what  certificates will be offered this year.

You do not need to be in a certificate track--this is purely optional. 
You are free to attend any workshops you want, as many or as few as you want, or not to attend any workshops at all.

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Continuing Education Units

Autreat has been approved to offer Continuing Education Units through the Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University.

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A special note about social interactions

For some ANI members, meeting other autistic people and having a chance to socialize with others like ourselves is an exciting and wonderful experience. Others are not interested in social contacts and may come to this event just for the workshops. Some of us are interested in socializing some, but need to be able to take time out from interacting. Autreat is meant to provide opportunity, but not pressure, for social interactions.

If you are coming to meet other autistic people, please understand that some people will also want to meet you, but some will not be into meeting people, and their own choice must also be respected.

If you want to come but do not want to meet or talk to people, you are still welcome to attend. You will be given a color-coded badge which you can use to indicate if you want to be approached only by people you already know, or don't want to be approached at all by anyone.

If you are a parent, a teacher, or other service provider, and are bringing an autistic child or student or client because you hope the person will make social connections with others, please adopt the same position of providing opportunity, but not pressure.

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If you need personal assistance

ANI is not able to provide personal assistance for people who need help caring for themselves or participating in this program.  If you need help with self-care, communication, orientation, or behavior management, please make your own arrangements to have someone with you to assist you.

Local support people may be available from a Philadelphia home health agency for people who need part-time support but do not need to have someone with them round the clock, or who need full-time support but would find it difficult to pay for a support person's travel expenses. For details, click here.

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Child care and activities for kids

The rate for children and teens includes a supervised activity program for all children under 18. Staff:child ratio is approximately 1:6. If your child needs more support than this, please bring an aide for your child, or contact ANI about hiring extra staff for an additional fee.

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In the past, people have successfully applied for funding from sources such as local autism societies, family support agencies, state commissions on developmental disabilities, Arc chapters, and public schools.

Read A Short Course on Autreat Funding by Jim Sinclair, for more information.

Airplane tickets

Mercy Medical Airlift, www.mercymedical.org, may be able to provide air
transportation for financially needy autistic people and families, under
the following provisions:

1) Anybody living within approximately 1000 miles of the conference site -
we can usually arrange their transportation in general aviation aircraft -
at no cost to them.  Folks must be ambulatory outpatients.  Escorts may
travel with the patient.

2) With regard to airlines - ie, folks living more than 1000 miles away -
all we can do at the present time is get highly discounted tickets - not
unlike what folks can buy 30 days in advance on the Internet - but we can
get them up to the last minute: ie, waiving all restrictions.  Wheelchairs
can be accommodated.

To request assistance through this program, call Gene, 888-675-1405, and
tell him you need help traveling to Autreat.

Pre-Autreat lodging on-campus

Pre-Autreat lodging may be available on-campus for people who need to arrive on Saturday to get lower airfares. Contact (email address) for more information.

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Transportation to the campus

Transportation to the campus from the Philadelphia airport, bus and train station, and motels will be available by van. For more information, contact (email address)

ANI is compiling information on local transit from campus to the metro Philadelphia area, and information on nearby restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels/motels, to assist confirmed attendees pre-Autreat and on-site. For more information, contact (email address)

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