1st Annual Cyprus International Conference on
Autism Treatment and Research

November 23, 2016

1st Annual Cyprus International Conference on Autism Treatment and Research “Magic Always Happens Through Our Interdisciplinary 360 Approach To Autism” has come to an end. It’s been great 5 days, filled with workshops and lectures presented by some brilliant experts and research scientists, psychologists, doctors, speech therapists and authors like our dear friend Dr. Stephen Shore. He was speaking on “Promoting Social Inclusion of People with Autism in Education, and Navigating Sensory Issues through the Lifespan”.

Very important subject, as that’s what Autism Awareness is all about – to educate schools on the importance of inclusion of autistic kids. There are so many ways to accommodate their needs and help them adjust to neurotypical academic environment. Dr. Shore highlighted the importance of addressing one’s strengths rather than “disabilities”, which he called “Turning Lead into Gold”. For example, a child who is judged to be hyperactive, can also be considered a kinesthetic learner. A student with special needs in a regular English class who is unable to stand still and focus on reading can be afforded another way of meaningfully participating in the lesson, for example by sitting on a fitness ball or a stationary bike – constant movement would help him focus and remain in the classroom with other students.

Second part of the lecture was regarding sensory issues, recognition and prevention of bullying. It had interactive role play/ workshop to illustrate what sensory overload feels like to an autistic person. Attendees were divided into groups of 6. One person was “autistic” and the other 5 had different tasks to do at the same time, like shoulder patting, poking, reading instructions out loud, scratching with a business card, shaking a chair that “autistic” person was sitting on, etc. All at the same time! Then everyone shared how they felt as being the “autistic” one. Very good exercise to raise autism awareness and understanding!

Dr. Shore made us laugh, sing in unison “where oh where does this autism come from?” and he definitely made us think about sensory issues that autistic people deal with every single day. Great advocate for the cause of autism awareness!

The audience left a bit disappointed when his lecture was cut short due to time restrictions. Everyone I talked to had fairly enjoyed their experience with Dr. Stephen Shore and wished they could hear the last part of his presentation, which was to be on preventing bullying, as well as addressing challenges in supporting people with autism in the areas of relationships and sexuality.

As good as this conference was, having all the world renowned speakers from all over the world, I must say, it had not been promoted very well. That was a general feeling of all other attendees I have spoken with. Because it was the first conference in Cyprus on such scale, many details seemed to have slipped by – like better PR, inviting academics representatives and explaining the importance of their attendance. Well, there is still a lot of place for improvement but I’m sure next year Cyprus will do a magnificent job!