Connect with us

Local News

ND Autism Spectrum Disorders Conference begins



Bismarck, North Dakota – On Tuesday, April 18, the 2023 North Dakota Autism Spectrum Disorders Conference got underway. Each year, during the conference, groups from all around the state come together to offer training and raise awareness of autism.

“The purpose of the conference is the show that having autism is not scary,” explained the Department of Health and Human Services State Autism Coordinator, Katherine Barchenger. “That it’s an everyday thing that everyone in the community can deal with and work with.”

The demands of a person who has been diagnosed with autism vary depending on how complex their ASD is, thus additional care is required to meet those needs.

“I think it’s difficult in trying to figure out if there is an autism diagnosis or not,” Barchenger stated. “But when dealing with a human being, you just deal with what they have at that time and that place.”

Since learning difficulties and mental inadequacies are not often discussed in public, conferences like this one serve to break down communication barriers.

“I think it opens up the ability to talk about it,” Barchenger stated. “To ask questions and to look out for help, and not to just put them in silos and say, ‘this is as far as we can go’. It’s opening doors so that we can go to the next step — to be living in your own apartment, to living in your own community.”

One of the conference’s keynote presenters was Mickey Rowe, a man with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He asserts that it is past time to start discussing ASD and other diseases like ADHD.

“It’s so amazing to be here, and be around so many incredible, brilliant people so that we can start moving towards autism acceptance,” said Rowe. “Looking at disability differently, where we don’t just see autism as a problem with an individual that needs to change, but instead we realize we are all so needed — all of our differences,” said Rowe.

The meeting contributes to the argument that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder shouldn’t be considered a liability. In actuality, people with ASD can be exceptionally talented problem-solvers.

“The other thing I also like to remind people is I think people with disabilities or people with autism are some of the best creative problem solvers in the whole world,” stated Rowe, “because we have to be creative problem solvers every single day to help us navigate a world that wasn’t necessarily designed with us in mind.”

Furthermore, it’s crucial to recognize the negative aspects of people with ASD as well as how to effectively manage their shortcomings.

“It’s so great that we can learn about our differences in a way where we are learning about our strengths,” Rowe continued, “and also learning about the things that might take more work for us, or be more challenging for someone who is autistic.”

Nearly ten years have passed since the Conference began. The first physical conference since the COVID-19 epidemic started will take place in 2023.