About two weeks ago, while the weathermen warned us of the coming snowstorm in D.C., my intellectual disability team and I hopped on an airplane headed to Florida before a single snowflake managed to fall. We were headed to the annual CEC Division on Autism and Developmental Delays (DADD) conference and aside from being eager to escape the coming storm, we were very excited to have the chance to participate at the conference.
In the field of teaching it can be hard to get our hands on actual research that can positively change our instruction. We often get information second or third hand, never being handed the actual research but getting the “teacher friendly” version of information, which while helpful when we are busy, often leaves out key elements behind the research.
As we walked through the halls of the conference and sat at tables soaking up the new studies being presented, I couldn’t help feel that I was among my people. Being surrounded by people who are committed to researching, questioning, testing, and learning about the best ways to teach students with autism and developmental disabilities gave me such hope and energy.
Everyone there believed that all children can learn and that it is our responsibility to keep searching for better ways to teach our students. As educators we do not have all the answers on the best ways to teach students with disabilities, and everyone at the conference was invested in improving education for our students.
I loved sitting at tables during a presentation and being able to talk with perfect strangers about how they are adapting the research in their classrooms. I learned so much, not just from the presenters but from the attendees as well. Everyone there was dedicated to the field of teaching children with disabilities, and everyone was committed to taking away as much as they could from the conference.
By Thursday afternoon my head was spinning. My team and I could barely process all of the information we learned over the past two days. We were almost silent as we boarded the plane back to Washington (and yes, perhaps a bit depressed that we were headed back to snow and freezing temperatures) as we tried to mentally sort through everything new we had learned and all the new methods we wanted to try once we got back.
This past week I found myself with more energy and excitement towards teaching than I have felt in a while. I am not just energized by all the new techniques and interventions that I am busy putting into place, but I am rejuvenated from being around so many committed educators.
I came away with such hope for our students. Hope that we will keep pushing ourselves as educators to improve the education for our students. They are capable of so much, it is our responsibility to keep searching for better practices to improve their education so they can show the world who they are.