Huntsville autism conference continues through Friday

An autism conference is being held at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Thursday and Friday.

Posted: Jan 24, 2019 6:50 PM
Updated: Jan 24, 2019 8:04 PM

North Alabama has the highest rate of autism in the state, according to the Autism Society of Alabama.

An autism conference is being held at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Thursday and Friday. The conference is to help people with autism with social interaction.

"When I got diagnosed, it was an 'aha' moment. Like suddenly things fell into place. It explained why I always had trouble making friends and had such disastrous luck with women and trying to get dates," said Birmingham resident, Robert Caldwell.

Robert Caldwell was diagnosed with Asperger's, a form of autism, when he was 48 years old. He is now retired and still wants to meet people and make friends.

"Find people with common interests, and one of my interests is board games. I'm in a board gaming group in Birmingham," said Caldwell

He also attends autism events. He's attending the autism conference where national speakers are discussing topics that aren't commonly talked about.

"Puberty, sexuality, dating and relationships. All of those things that we know are inherently difficult for a neurotypical individual, that become extra difficult for someone who has an autism spectrum disorder," said Dr. Whitney Meade with the Regional Autism Network.

North Alabama has the highest prevalence of autism in the state. This is something Dr. Meade says makes sense.

"We also have a very high concentration of scientists and researchers and engineers. Those positions that are typically associated with being able to know finite pieces of information and be very precise, some of those things we typically find in someone who has autism," said Meade.

Meade also says there aren't a lot of resources in Huntsville to help adults with autism live on their own. Alex Plank, who also has autism, says he just wants people to feel more comfortable talking about the disorder.

"Find out, if you know someone on the spectrum, ask them, ask them questions...A lot of people want to talk about it," said conference speaker, Alex Plank.

"Be more accepting of people because we are just like everyone else," said Caldwell.

Dr. Meade said the Regional Autism Network is one of the only educational resources available in Huntsville. The group is helping to put on the conference, which continues Friday.

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