Autreat is Coming!

Autreat is coming up quickly on July 2nd-6th this year in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Autreat is a retreat style conference by and for Autistics. Run by Autism Network International (ANI), Autreat has become an autistic community tradition and fostered the ongoing development of autistic culture.

While allies of Autistics are welcome, all of the activities and planning is geared towards Autistics. Autreat is an autistic space, where Autistics can be ourselves without worrying about people trying to “cure” us or make us look more normal. Some of the efforts made to make the event more autistic friendly  include using a social interaction badge system, or avoiding strongly scented items.

This year has an impressive list of presentations of interest to Autistics and our allies. There are many ASAN members who are attendees at Autreat, and this year a number of the ASAN members are presenters as well. Below is a list of presentations and their descriptions for you to review.

  • Relationship Options and Alternatives to Marriage PRESENTER: MarcieABSTRACT: Marriage is often held up as the pinnacle of social success. While the vast majority of people will be married at least once at some point in their lifetime, available studies confirm anecdotal evidence that the rate of marriage among autistic people is far less than that of the general population. Rather than being seen as a goal to which everyone should strive, marriage or otherwise typical relationships should be seen as simply one option among many.

    PRESENTER BIO: Marcie is an autistic adult and has a M.A. in anthropology. She developed her interests in alternatives to marriage through a mixture of science-fiction, being single, involvement in polyamory, accidental long-distance relationships, explorations into the asexual, GBLT, and kink communities, and a passion for alternate ways of thinking and living. Though having shared homes with roommates, she has never resided with romantic partners.

  • Autism and Ritualized Eating – Eating Disorders and How To Cope PRESENTER: Jay JacksonABSTRACT:Both a London study and Tony Attwood report that a rate of about 18% – 23% of teenagers who suffer from anorexia also meet the diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder. By contrast, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the general population is less than 1%. What defines an eating disorder? Why do autistic people seem to be at greater risk of developing one? And how can a person with autism cope? This presentation will attempt to answer these questions.

    PRESENTER BIO: Jay Jackson is a Canadian university student studying Music and Psychology. He is on the autism spectrum and also has suffered with a spectrum of eating disorders, diagnosed as anorexic in 2007 and bulimic in 2008. He has largely recovered from these eating disorders over the past 4 years.

  • Selling Prejudice: Strategies and Tactics Used to Promote Pseudoscience, Postmodernism, and Other Forms of Nonsense PRESENTER: Alexander CheezemABSTRACT: Misinformation, prejudice, pseudoscience, and general nonsense flood the world of autism today. It is virtually impossible to turn a metaphorical corner at conferences or online without being confronted with some form of bigotry, pseudoscience, or prejudice being marketed as truth. Whether it’s a DAN! doctor presenting at a state agency’s annual conference on how to “improve” children’s language by running an electrical current through their skull, a postmodernist talking about how their vitamin pills allegedly contain no chemicals, or a scientist talking about how we categorically have no ability whatsoever to understand that other people have opinions which differ from our own, nonsense is everywhere.This presentation will focus on common forms of false information — and on why it is false. Attendees should learn to identify common methods used in the promulgation of nonsense and several strategies for countering them.

    PRESENTER BIO: Alexander Cheezem is an autistic graduate student in Nova Southeastern University’s M.S. General Psychology program. He has over three years’ clinical experience working with autistic children, is presently working on completing his thesis (“A Systematic Evaluation of Methodological Rigor in the Behavioral Literature”), and has far more experience tracking foolishness, prejudice, and fraud than he ever wanted.

  • How to Fail at Designing Assistive Technology. PRESENTER: Joel SmithABSTRACT: How can we make assistive technology better? This is not just a workshop to help designers know how to build technology! Rather, it is geared towards helping disabled people, support people, parents, and others gain the vision to fully realize the promise of technology. It will frame the technological elements alongside the human elements, to build a system that truly improves the life of the user.

    PRESENTER BIO: Joel first programmed a computer over 30 years ago. He’s built experience in designing solutions, both high and low tech, for his own needs and for others. He wrote one of the first free augmentative communication software packages, with the needs of a user in mind. In addition, he has been involved in advocating for the freedom of people to define their own lives, through both self-advocacy and advocacy for others.

  • Autism Acceptance Day: Autistic Community Holidays and Celebrations PRESENTER: Paula C. Durbin-WestbyABSTRACT: Paula C. Durbin-Westby started Autism Acceptance Day in 2012. She has been studying Autistic-created holidays, celebrations and special events, as well as the ideas and concepts behind those celebrations. The presentation will cover well-known celebratory events such as Autreat, days such as Autism Acceptance Day, Autistics Speaking Day and Autistic Pride Day, as well as some lesser-known events such as the Hans Asperger Memorial Dinner held each year in Washington DC. Paula will talk about why these events and days are important and ways to expand on them in ways that Autistics find meaningful, which might not always be the same way non-autistic people think of celebrations.

    PRESENTER BIO: Paula C. Durbin-Westby is an autistic and disability rights activist. She promotes the concept of neurodiversity, with practical applications for people’s lives.In 2011 Paula started Autism Acceptance Day as a Facebook event and a blog on Blogger. Autism Acceptance Day was intended as a corrective to “business as usual” during April, with its negative portrayals of autism as a “devastating disorder.” The first Autism Acceptance Day had over 1300 attendees, requests for non-Facebook access, a radio show and other outreach. The 2012 event is more extensive, and seems that it will be a permanent holiday in our community.

  • Autistic People and Companion Animals PRESENTER: Jim SinclairABSTRACT: Many autistic people either already have or would like to have animal companions. Some have, or are interested in having, service or support animal to assist them in addition to enjoying their companionship as pets. Still other autistic people have animal allergies or intense fears of animals. This presentation will review many aspects of getting and caring for an animal, special issues of working animals, and avoiding problems between people who have animals and people who have difficulties with animals.

    PRESENTER BIO: Jim Sinclair has an extensive personal and professional background in living and working with animals, advocating for disabled people and for animals, and assessing and serving autistic people’s individual needs. Jim has been involved in animal rescue and animal rights advocacy for more than 30 years. In the late 1980s Jim pioneered the concept of service dogs for autistic people, and more recently has been training service cats. Jim is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and is professionally trained and qualified to work with disabled people in identifying their strengths, interests, and support needs, and helping them pursue their personal goals.

  • Getting the Most out of Healthcare as an Autistic Adult PRESENTERS: Dora Raymaker, MS, Co-Director, Academic Autistic Spectrum In Research and Education ( & Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, Co-Director, Academic Autistic Spectrum In Research and Education ( The Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), a partnership between academic researchers and members of the Autistic community, has conducted a series of studies to understand the healthcare experiences of autistic adults. We are using what we learned from these studies, as well as the lived experiences of our team members, to create information and tools to improve healthcare for autistic adults. After sharing what we learned from our studies, we will offer tips, ideas, information, and tools that may enable more effective self-advocacy in healthcare settings and reduce barriers to healthcare, including care for acute and chronic medical problems and preventive care. We will cover how to find and evaluate a healthcare provider, what to consider when deciding to make an appointment, how to prepare for a visit, what to expect during a visit, and what types of things to think about after a visit. We will show a tool we made for creating an individualized accommodations letter to give to healthcare providers and office staff.

    PRESENTER BIOS: Dora Raymaker, MS, is an Autistic self-advocate who has served in leadership positions with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Self Advocates as Leaders, and the Oregon Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorder. She co-founded and co-directs the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education. Her interests include complex systems, research as a tool for social justice, writing science fiction, and anything that sparkles.

    Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, Associate Professor at Oregon Health Science University, is a physician and health services researcher who has devoted most of her career to partnering with minority communities to improve their health and healthcare. She co-founded and co-directs the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education.

  • Advocacy in the Age of Social Media PRESENTER: Lydia BrownABSTRACT: How can a laptop and a thousand strangers lead to a positive outcome for an Autistic student charged with assaulting her teacher after being restrained for an hour? Social media has transformed all aspects of society and culture, including the ways in which advocates can organize and direct support for a cause. We will discuss different types of opportunities for organizing grassroots support for a cause or action item using online social media. We will explore the effectiveness of online grassroots advocacy, the roles that social media can play in an advocacy context, and methods for integrating online advocacy with offline action. Through examining a few case studies of actual campaigns — successful, unsuccessful, and ongoing — participants will learn more about the dynamics of social media and disability advocacy and activism.

    PRESENTER BIO: Lydia Brown is an Autistic woman who interns for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. She is a member of the Outreach and Awareness Committee of the National Youth Leadership Network and the Consumer Advisory Council of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. She is the author of two petitions on about cases involving Autistic students. One resulted in a positive outcome after almost 1,200 signatures, and the other, with over 191,000 signatures, has not yet led to a resolution (but the fight isn’t over). Lydia is a student at Georgetown University.

  • Locked In and Locked Out: Segregation Across the Lifespan PRESENTER: Ari Ne’emanABSTRACT: From segregated special education schools to institutions and sheltered workshops, Autistic people and others with disabilities are frequently sent to segregated environments from birth to death. What motivates that segregation? What is the result of it? This presentation will analyze the economic, social, political and service-provision implications of segregation and segregated environments on Autistic people and other people with disabilities. Through an analysis of research, data, personal narratives of those who have experienced or are experiencing segregation and a review of current controversies in disability policy regarding segregated settings, this presentation will outline the motivation and impact of segregated environments.

    PRESENTER BIO: Ari Ne’eman is the President and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a non-profit advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults and youth. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to the National Council on Disability, making him the first openly Autistic presidential appointee in American history. He currently chairs the Council’s Policy & Program Evaluation Committee. In addition, he serves on the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee, a body within the Department of Health and Human Services which advises Secretary Sebelius on autism research and policy. Ari worked to shut down the New York University Child Study Center’s “Ransom Notes” campaign and also led other successful disability community responses to offensive advertisements, including the response to the Autism Speaks “I am Autism” fundraising video. In his policy work, Ari has worked on a wide variety of disability rights related legislation relating to education, transition, employment, rights protection and other areas. His work has been featured in the New York Times, New York Magazine, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Guardian (UK), Maariv (Israel),, Good Morning America and other major media outlets.

  • “Ask an NT” Panel Panelists to be announcedABSTRACT: Mainstream autism conferences often have panels of autistic people to answer questions about the experience of autism. This is our chance to ask a panel of neurotypical people all those things we’ve wondered about NTs and why they do the things they do.


It is going to be an amazing Autreat.

The costs of ANI putting on Autreat have increased over the years, and many Autistics can’t afford to have the cost increases passed on to them. You can help defray the cost increases by making a donation to Autreat. You can learn more about the donation process here.