Guardians of the educational system, A Thomas Kuzma tale
I hope you guys have had a fantastic week. Mine has been most exuberant!
The very question that you might be asking yourselves today is what on earth has happened to Thomas over the past seven days? WELL! Brace yourselves, because the upcoming story may burst the very fabric of time!
So, I present to you…
It all began Wednesday Afternoon. I made it to Redfern and walked over to the technology park to help set up the conference. Everything and everyone looked like they were running like clockwork. With great communication, and superb team work we had the place set up around 5:00pm. After I finished helping set up the ‘Chill Out’ room and some of the stalls, I went to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The movie was okay, I don’t think Gary Oldman would have survived the apocalypse though, I mean, he was killed by Bellatrix!
Early Thursday morning I crawled out of bed and got ready for the conference. With my speech down pat and my clothes packed for the two days, I got onto the train and promptly fell asleep. I crashed into a soft and fluffy world of Transformers and Pokémon. However, I had planned for this and with an alarm shocking me awake as the train neared Redfern, I stood up and exited the train, managing to avoid the gap unlike that poor fellow in Perth.
I arrived at the conference venue and immediately sprung into helpful man mode, giving fellow Aspie directions, fixing an exhibit and greeting people enthusiastically. As the crowds poured in I met up with one of the people who ran the Future Leaders program, Judy Brewer! After catching up, her husband Tim Fischer arrived and we started talking about writing and autism. We all gathered around for the big opening show. The theatre was packed and John Doyle took the stage to open the proceedings to an expectant crowd.
The opening session was fantastic, it started off with this great video then we got to hear from a wide range of people; teachers, professors, mothers and people on the spectrum. The conference program had something for everyone and I have to say it was very hard to choose between Dr Lisa Ruble and Jacqui Roberts in the next session, but as luck would have it, I managed to catch snippets of both.
I spent lunch making sure my presentation was not too hot, not too cool, but just right. Knowing it was great I ate my wrap and moved up to room 6B to give my speech.
The room became packed very quickly; I was in for a ride. As Tom Tutton introduced me on stage, I was worried, would my jokes land? Would I stumble? Does this suit make my butt look big? Then I saw my boss Mel and I realised, I better not screw up. Breathing in I talked confidently and strongly, providing the audience knowledge on my life through primary school, high school and TAFE.
People laughed, learned and reflected on my personal odyssey and by the end of my talk I knew I had made a connection with the audience. My initial anxieties had now left and I slumped in a nearby chair feeling pleased and triumphant. After my talk Debra Costley, Val Mckelvey and Matthew White joined me on stage and we answered questions from the audience.
After Afternoon Tea it was time to listen to Daniel Giles talk about his personal journey. His speech was informative on what it is like to live on the spectrum. Before I saw my good friend Berinda, I had a look around the stalls. There was a large variety of products on show, including an interactive projection system, weighted blankets and programs for those on the spectrum. Lastly it was time to see Berinda with her talk on ‘Making it Work!’ her transition program to TAFE.
Once my fellow aspie friends and I were finished at the welcome drinks, we went out for a night on the town! We travelled to Newtown to an Italian restaurant where we had a variety of pizzas, salads and partook in conversations about what it is like living on the spectrum. Once the night was over we all retired to our respective homes and sleeping quarters.
Day two started with a team briefing and I was assigned chief direction giver. I was a bit distracted knowing that I had a special date planned that evening (more of that later) and I was constantly attending to my hair to make sure that it was upstanding. That’s when it happened, my lovely boss Mel came over and told me that SBS will be here in a couple of hours to interview some people for the news and that I would be interviewed too. I was over the moon!
The interview went beautifully, but I realise now that the true stars that day weren’t the professionals, or the adults on the spectrum but those who are in the classroom. We are talking about kids that not only have to deal with being on the spectrum, but also have to live through the obstacle course that is the classroom. You can watch it here.
After watching the students from the Vern Barnett School bust a groove, it was time for the show to wrap up. I finally got to listen to a full session from Dr Lisa Ruble and she talked about the direction of future research and how it can impact positively on day-to-day practice.
The final talk included Jacqueline Roberts, Dr Lisa Ruble and Dr Barry Couglhan and the big show finally ended. At the close of the conference I put my marvellously mighty muscles to the test and helped pack all the gorgeous artworks away. These pieces were created by the kids from Aspect’s schools across NSW. Here’s a photo with my new ‘flowery’ friend.
With the day finishing on a pleasant note, I travelled to the city to see Jenna and travel into space to see GAURDIANS OF THE GALAXY!!! In gold class-no less, who says I don’t have any class?
It was an incredible movie to see with a fantastic woman to end an amazing two days of working hard and talking. I met some awesome people on the spectrum and caught up with some of the great people who could well become the future leaders of this great country.
So that wraps it up for another week folks, last week’s riddle answer was bees.
So until next week folks, don’t forget to aspire, so you can inspire before we all expire.
I come out over my thin veiled shell
I help my master like the sense of smell
My colours go from the black of the nights
to various colours and brightest of whites
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