This year the Motormorphosis conference was in-person. It was exciting to meet face-to-face after two years on Zoom. The conference started on Friday, July 22 with a live Neurolyrical Cafe and Speller’s party. There were so many great songs and poems by spellers. It was interesting to see the poets in person instead of in a Zoom window. We all grooved and moved to the beats. Hats off to Brian, EV, and all spellers who contributed their work.
The first day started with the welcome note from EV. She made all of us feel supported and accepted. Then she introduced Eric Garcia, the keynote speaker. He spoke about the history of autism advocacy. It resonated with both parents and autistic individuals. I was inspired by his words. Nonspeakers should have the autonomy and right to advocate for themselves.
Next, Sarah Hernandez talked about Zones of Coregulation. She gave an accurate description of motor dysregulation. I am impressed by her understanding of the need for co-regulation. It is the body that is dysregulated, not the brain. There were a lot of emotions in the room. I am hoping that her session was helpful for the practitioners and the CRPs. The argument needed for CRP is supported by this presenter. Typing and spelling are a part of the solution. The regulation plays a major role.
Dr. Vikram Jaswal presented the latest developments in research. His presentation was informative and interesting. The eye tracking study is a major step towards eliminating doubts about spelling to communicate. I also had an opportunity to participate in an iPad study with Dr. Jaswal. He conducted the study with many spellers.
After lunch, there was a policy panel. It comprised of Virginia legislatures (Senators Jennifer Barton Boysko, Dave Marsden, and Chap Petersen, and Delegate Irene Shin), Eric Garcia, and nonspeaking advocates (Amelia Bell, Anna Napolitano, Ben Crimm, Divyesh Jain, Quincy Pfieffer, and Sarah Ackerman). All six advocates posed a question to the panel. There was a lively discussion on topics like inclusion, education, employment, ending restraint and seclusion, and policymaking. Senators asked the spellers and families to bring the issues to their attention. I am hoping the advocacy will not stop here. There will be an ongoing dialogue with the lawmakers.
Then EV discussed the best practices. She emphasized the importance of reliable, replicable, and consistent behavior by CRPs. She explained the issues like board placement, having same-sized boards, and prompting methods. The session was concise and to the point. Many assistive communication devices are available in the market. Many autistics are not able to use them because of apraxia. The picture-based systems have limited vocabulary. Spelling to Communicate gives unlimited possibilities and supports motor challenges.
The next concurrent sessions were Song Writing with Brian and Pointers for S2C practitioners. I was not able to attend them as I needed a break.
After the sessions were over, we had the Spellers and Allies Advocacy Network party. It was attended by many spellers and allies. We got to hang out with each other and play games. All the spellers and allies had a great time. It was the perfect way to end the day one of the conference.
We started day two with Parent Networking Coffee. There were five parent ambassadors (Elizabeth Blackburn Reece, Shaili Kumar, Elizabeth Sim Zielinski, Eric Nordling, and Donna Tonini Budway) who shared their experiences. There was a good gathering in the hall. Many new parents got a chance to interact with other families. The parent ambassadors about resources in their states.
Then Hari Srinivasan gave a keynote speech. His speech Disability as Possibility was hopeful and positive. He shared his challenges and triumphs. Everyone was in awe of the possibilities that are available when you have the right support. Hari talked about attending college and advocating for the right to communication.
The next session was on creating an inclusive world by Donna Budway and Sean Cleary. They talked about housing and community events. They shared Our Stomping Ground activities. The audience saw how autistics can have a meaningful life after aging out of school. This is an especially important topic for parents and autistics. The communities in Arlington, Virginia can serve as examples for others.
Dr. Vikram Jaswal led a panel to answer questions posed by three spellers (Iz Grewal, Ian Nordling, and Daniel Bergmann). They talked about research priorities. It was good to know that spellers have a chance to guide research. It was an eye-opening discussion.
After lunch we had the Spellers & Allies Advocacy Network Breakout session. We started with an icebreaker. Then we explained the #endcommunicatondiscrimination campaign. There was a lot of interest in the campaign. Then we selected the five raffle ticket winners to launch the campaign. The winners included spellers and practitioners. It was an exciting event. We gave out stickers, badges, and bags. Learn more about our campaign and how to participate on our website here.
Next, there were two concurrent sessions – Move your Body and Innovations in Adult Services. I attended the Innovation is Adult Services session. There were four panelists – Lakshmi Rao Sankar, Sue Cannella, Alexa Powell, and Donna Budway. It was interesting to learn about Crimson Rise, Our Stomping Ground, and apartment living. It was nice to see the autonomy of autistics being respected. There was a lot to learn.
This concluded the conference. I want to thank all organizers, presenters, and participants for making it a great success. I can’t wait to attend Motormorphosis 2023.
Divyesh Jain is a 21-year-old nonspeaking autistic who has been Spelling to Communicate since 2018. Divyesh attended Invictus Academy of Tampa Bay from August 2018 to July 2022 and graduated with a high school diploma in July 2022.
Divyesh is a member of the I-ASC Nonspeaking Leadership Council (NLC). He has been a member of the Spellers & Allies Advocacy Network since its inception. He actively participates in the advocacy efforts of Spellers & Allies network by participating in their campaigns and co-facilitating the meeting on rotation basis with help of an ally.
He is a passionate advocate for right to communication for all nonspeakers. His goal is to make mostly neurotypicals understand how we are on the inside. He feels nonspeakers should be able to pursue their dreams of higher education by receiving accommodations that include but are not limited to being allowed to use S2C and having a Communication Regulation Partner (CRP) with them.