It turns out, putting on a major international conference on neurodiversity is a really big job!
Of course, we have some incredibly skilled professional teams to help us, at Integrity Events, Stripe Communications, and the EICC – as well as a track record of stellar conferences brought to you by the Salvesen Mindroom Centre.
But with ITAKOM, we have set ourselves a serious challenge. And that challenge is diversity. Our goal is to bring together different people, different minds, different perspectives, all coming from their own unique place but—we hope—facing in the same direction. Towards a future where no mind is left behind.
It would be simple to put together a conference that was just about, for example, autism. We’d get all the best autistic speakers, advertise on all the autism-related mailing lists, and focus on accessibility for autistic people. Or maybe we could do a conference that wasn’t limited to a single diagnostic category, but instead targeted professionals who work in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (aka CAMHS). We’d get leading psychiatrists and psychologists to speak, and approach pharmaceutical companies as sponsors.
We don’t want to do either of those things though. Diversity in human ways of being is infinite, beautiful and powerful, and we want to capture a wee smidgen of that diversity in our conference. Not just that, but we firmly believe that if we are going to realise the transformational potential of neurodiversity, it has to be everyone’s business. In research, geneticists, neuroscientists, clinical academics, psychologists, educationalists, sociologists, philosophers and artists can all have their work influenced by neurodiversity, and can all contribute to furthering our understanding of the concept. In practice, neurodiversity should be built in to our hospitals, schools, transport, housing, laws, media and entertainment. Neurodiversity shapes families (born and found), neighbourhoods and communities. Neurodiversity is everyone’s business.
ITAKOM can’t fall into the trap of thinking that neurodiversity belongs in a certain place, like a doctor’s office, school’s “additional support base”, or a supported living service. Neurodiversity is a property of the entire human race. So, how do we get the entire human race* interested in our conference?
The answer comes in the form of our amazing volunteer team. This group of early career researchers all based at the University of Edinburgh responded to a call for help putting ITAKOM together and they’ve been completely invaluable. A big focus of their work so far has been on helping us reach the enormous range of audiences we think might be interested in ITAKOM. They’ve painstakingly searched websites and magazines to help us construct an address book of professionals to invite. They’ve also been helping us identify organisations who might like to sponsor the event.
We also want diversity in our speakers – in fact, lots of neurodivergent folk on Twitter have told us they really want to hear from folk who are “not the usual suspects”. So our ITAKOM volunteers have been reviewing those recommendations from social media, and attending events on our behalf, to scout for speakers who can help us realise that ambition.
Last but very-much-not-least, the ITAKOM volunteers have been helping to capture and organise feedback from our ND squad – the group of people who’ve been specifically helping us understand neurodivergent perspectives and incorporate them into the event planning.
In the future these same volunteers will be reviewing accessibility requests and making plans to help us meet these. They’ll also continue to work directly with speakers, capturing their experiences and hopes for the conference.
There are still more than 9 months to go until ITAKOM in March 2023, but we are half way through the preparation! So we want to take this opportunity to send out a massive thank you to our volunteers who’ve done so much to help us put together a truly broad, inclusive event.
* well, a couple of thousand of them, anyway!
Don’t forget, Early Bird Tickets for ITAKOM are still available. Just head over to our our Registration area to get yours today.
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