4. Temple Grandin’s on the phone?!
The final presentation of the conference was a Young Adult Panel. If you‘ve ever seen one of these live at Profectum, you know this is a session not to miss! This talk was presented on the ‘main stage’ with a full film crew, three cameras, professional lights, and an awesome line-up including: Monica Osgood as the moderator; and panelists Jennifer Ahluwalia, Zachary DeMeo, Joshua Kitts, Anie Knipping, Jonathan Scott, and Lenny Tartaglia.
I made sure to get a front-row seat! (Which wasn’t hard- most people at CTC were watching this session from designated viewing stations, so I was one of the few in the audience- it was awesome!) As the dynamic group of autistic adults introduced themselves and shared candid accounts of their experiences, all of a sudden, there was a ‘Special Announcement’ that someone had called in who wanted to participate in the panel. There was a moment of shock and confusion from all in the room until we heard the voice… is that… TEMPLE GRANDIN?! It was!! For the following 45 minutes or so, there was an incredibly lively discussion filled with sharing experiences, giving each other pointers on every topic from how to get a meaningful job and how to overcome sensory challenges to discovering what you love to do.
The moment after everyone signed off from the talk was priceless… the panel was literally jumping for joy. Excited shrieks could be heard throughout the auditorium including, ‘OMG did that actually just happen?!’ and ‘I really just shared tips with Temple Grandin!!’ It was electric! Monica, who was appropriately dressed in an optimistic Temple Grandin inspired fabulous outfit, congratulated everyone on a job well done and invited everyone upstairs to the after party!
5. After Party!
I try to never miss an afterparty following an inspiring conference! I find it to be a great way to collaboratively reflect, process the content of the day, and connect with others who share the same passions and purpose. I especially love when the afterparty is built into the conference!
In advance, all attendees were sent the ingredients to the signature conference cocktails: The 3 C’s, including Classic Cosmo, Champagne Bowler, and Chimayo Cocktail. (Note: this is a fun play on terms, since a focus throughout the conference was on Profectum’s 5C model, also known as the Foundational capacities for Development, which include comfort, competence, confidence, control, and communication).
As this portion of the conference kicked off, everyone gathered in the staff lounge (transformed into essentially a cooking show’s TV set (think ‘chopped’ with branded lighting and attached lounge area!) Each specialty cocktail was presented and made live-onscreen by one of the presenters, as those present had the opportunity to sample if desired.
I was especially excited that Clinical Director of PD NJ, colleague and friend Natalie Kitts also joined for this grand finale! Connecting with PD and Profectum was another moment that really made our new partnership feel ‘real’ and exciting as we all had the opportunity to talk and laugh together.
6. The ‘micro moments’
Throughout the school, there were established staging areas, ‘quite on set’ signs, classrooms transformed into ‘filming areas’ and video viewing areas were set up throughout the school. Each and every area had a personality of it’s own! I watched from various rooms and had the opportunity to see so many familiar faces and to catch up with old friends as we watched the live recordings or filming’s in various rooms. There was never a lack of something awesome to see or do- whether it was Principal Randy filming a ‘Facebook live,’ chatting with presenters, or eating the delicious authentic NJ deli foods that were brought in daily for lunch!
Two especially appreciated connections throughout the conference included:
- Connecting with friend, Anie Knipping, author of Eccentricity. She is one of my favorite people at Profectum conferences! She describes herself as ‘an autistic artist writer person with synesthesia and a bunch of other stuff going on’ and is always willing to share and discuss recent passions and projects (especially if it’s over calamari!). While there was no calamari this year, I learned about her favorite anime show and characters that were canceled too soon (about a decade ago), but we still don’t have an ending to the complex characters and relationships!
- Connecting with Lenny Tartaglia, who was the official host of the conference, a former CTC student and current CTC staff member. One of Lenny’s passions includes drawing his friends as superheros, and when we met, several staff members asked if he would draw me as a superhero. In a low voice, he whispered back to them, but I don’t know her yet! We had the opportunity to connect throughout the rest of the day, and the following day, I was honored with my very own Lenny original drawing- my very own superhero!
All in all, to say it was a fantastic conference would be an understatement! Ultimately it was proof/ a reminder that relationships are everything and that the most meaningful connections are built through emotional and meaningful experiences. Connecting with others who have the same passions and principles is always time well spent!
Thank you Profectum for practicing what you preach, for the invitation to join the conference this year, and for all you do to promote high quality trainings to support the developmental approaches to intervention, which (thanks to insurance and PD) is now becoming a choice for all families. Talk about teamwork. I can’t wait to come back next year, when hopefully we will all be in person once again!