I went to a Social Thinking conference in San Diego a few weeks ago. I’ll talk more about the conference in future posts, but I need more time to digest and revisit the information. It was amazing and everyone associated with the conference, the hotel, and the travel part was wonderful. The conference attendees, on the other hand, not so much with the awesome.

Day 1:

Michelle Garcia Winner and Pam Crooke spoke about concrete learners and implications for education, including the Common Core. It was fantastic.

Except for lunch. They had a table for parents to sit and chat. One lady went over there, so I thought I would join her. Then another mom showed up who seemed to know the first mom. They were both from San Diego and couldn’t believe I had come all the way from Seattle. The first mom actually said, “Don’t they have conferences in Seattle?” She and I then exchanged basic info on our kids’ ages and diagnoses. She asked me about ABA and I answered kind of awkwardly, as I am prone to do when I don’t expect a question, and she seemed to not like my answer very much. I have to guess about that, though, because she stopped talking to me.

Then the rest of the table filled up. All from San Diego. The women on either side of me seemed to know each other and proceeded to talk over me as I stared at my plate and ate my salad. Then one of them pulled out a Ryuu box and I said, “Oh! My son’s special ed teacher started using that this year and it’s amazing!” The woman asked me what grade and if he liked it…and then they went right back to talking across me. I finally mumbled something about going to check out the book room and got up with my half-eaten lunch. They didn’t even look up or seem to register that I had moved.

The rest of the days I went out on my own to get lunch.

Day 2:

Michelle and Pam spoke about nuanced challenged social communicators. I think both my boys and I fall into this category and it’s the reason I chose this particular conference rather than one closer to home. I came away with a ton of information.

I sat in the same place as the day before with all the same people. They were a group of speech pathologists from the same local San Diego school district, so they all knew each other. There were several group exercises that lasted a few minutes each on both days. For most of them, Michelle or Pam would tell us to think of a particular student we work with to fill out the assessment or whatever the task was.

Annoyed student looking into camera and sitting in a classroom while the other students behind her are sitting in a group talking amongst themselves Photo by wavebreak

Annoyed student looking into camera and sitting in a classroom while the other students behind her are sitting in a group talking amongst themselves
Photo by wavebreak

The last group exercise wasn’t about students. Michelle had been talking about the difficulty for nuanced challenged social communicators to join social groups. We had a questionnaire asking things like what do we look for in a group we want to join. She told us to think of a large conference, like the one we were attending, with groups of round tables, like the ones where we were sitting, and answer the questions for ourselves. It was supposed to help us help our students learn how to choose a group to join and what to do to join it.

People around the room began discussing the issue, so I turned to the group at my table to join in the conversation. Except they had managed to move their bodies so that I was totally excluded from the group. No one would even look at me. I turned toward the front of the room, shed a few tears, and sent a text to a friend.

I recounted the event to a friend a few days ago and she asked if there was anything I could have done to join in. A valid question. I suppose I could have just started talking, shoving my way into the conversation. That didn’t occur to me at the time, though. What did occur to me was that these are professionals who work with socially challenged kids in school who were working on an assignment about how to join a group, but they didn’t notice the socially challenged person sitting at their table. Ironic much?

Day 3:

We had a different speaker and topic for the third day. My table friends did not show up to shun me. Instead, this woman a few tables to my left wouldn’t stop talking to her friend. There was an empty table right in front of the speaker, so I moved my stuff there during the morning break and went to get a snack. When I came back, two other women were sitting at my new table. Turns out they were fleeing the same talking woman. They were very nice SLPs from Denver. I did meet ONE nice conference goer from the San Diego area, but only one.

Unfortunately, about ten minutes into the next session, a woman two tables away in the opposite direction started doing the same thing – talking – and no amount of dirty looks would get her to shut up.

My conclusion on the trip was that I took in a lot of valuable information that I need to massage into my brain so it will stick and I’m not so fond of SLPs in the San Diego area. Except for the one nice lady from Rancho Cucamonga. Oh, and I came home with so many books that the ticket agent made me take seven of them out of my checked bag and put them in my carry on.

Yeah, I know. I like books. The end.