Thursday, May 13, 2010

Everything in Moderation

So, here we are now on the 13th of May, and I have some wonderful new things to write about!

First of all, on May 1st, I had a first of my own: my first time acting as a moderator for a panel at a conference. AHA-NY ( is a support organization on Long Island for individuals with high-functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome. My mom happens to be on the board of this organization, and I've known the president, Pat Schissel, for a great many years. I got my start in public speaking at AHA-NY's Spring conference ages ago, as a member of the teen panel when I was 14.

That was when the conference was still held at Roslyn High School, but now it's become bigger and better than ever, and for the past several years, has been held at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY. This year promised to be extra special, as the keynote speaker was John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye. As it turned out, John was also one of the speakers on the adult panel...the very panel that I was asked to moderate.

The topic of the panel was adults who had received their autism diagnoses in adulthood (in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond) and how it affected their relationships with others and their lives overall. Aside from John, the other panelists were Ryan Oldis, Zosia Zaks, and Branden Plank. I remember standing, waiting, as Pat introduced me to the crowd. I actually spoke on another adult panel at that conference five years ago, with Stephen Shore and another person, and it was also the last AHA Spring conference that I attended. How fitting, to be returning in this new role.

I think I did a fairly decent job, despite not having the effortless smoothness that seasoned moderators possess. I was able to meet John Robison before the panel, and after at the post-conference gathering at Pat's house, which was quite nice. And, funnily enough, I will be seeing him again at GRASP's annual benefit on June 8th in NYC, where he is receiving the DSM (Distinguished Spectrumite Medal) award, and where Michael John Carley has asked me to speak for a few moments about what GRASP has meant to me.

In other news, on April 29th, I defended my Masters thesis for a second time. I spent months revising and reworking my proposal, with the help of my advisor, Ken Reeve, and together we made my study a thing of beauty to behold. I hardly felt nervous at all as I prepared for my defense--and those preparations included making food for the big day to bring to my committee: Quinoa pilaf with spring vegetables (asparagus, orange bell pepper, red bell pepper, zucchini, golden beets); mini-grilled cheese sandwiches with fontina, Parmesan, sage, and prosciutto; and a blueberry cornmeal cake for dessert.

The defense went so smoothly--far more than the first one had back in December. And I am pleased as punch to report that my proposal was accepted with minor revisions! So that means I just have to make a few small changes, and I can then start running my study. I've met with my professor and gone over the changes that need to be made, and if all goes according to schedule and I obtain my participants without too much trouble, I should be up and running by the beginning of June.

The last bit of news that I have to share is that this weekend coming up is very special, because it's my graduation. Sunday is the commencement ceremony, and I'll be decked out in my cap and gown, walking up that aisle and on stage to receive my diploma (holder). I feel like a bit of a phony because I'm not actually going to get my diploma until August (since I'm not finished with my study yet). But the event itself is still important, and I just can't believe it's finally here.

I'm going to get pictures with my professors and my family (my mom, dad, godmother/aunt, and godfather/uncle will be in attendance), and will put them up here on the blog once I have them, so keep your eyes on this space. :)


  1. Use the next three months well.

    Congratulations on the defence.

    Good to see a wide range of panellists. Smiled at your headline: "Everything in Moderation".

    (moderating is a lot more active than I generally tend to think of that word).