The 2015 Southern Maine Autism Conference

The halls fl11067478_826405724120242_452387094089013842_nooded with people, just as we were making the last minute touches to our booth. Tucking boxes under the table, placing sign in sheets at the front of the booth, and laying out colorful mugs, flyers, and pens, all in hopes that our booth would be “hot” at the 6th annual Southern Maine Autism Conference. Stephen, Catherine & I were ready.

This wasn’t our first appearance at the conference; we debuted last spring, and returned this year with the hope of meeting even more people involved in Autism and special needs. When we hastily packed up our booth at 2:45pm because huge snowflakes had started to fall outside of the South Portland Double Tree, we all knew we had achieved our goal.

IMG_1653Within the first hour of the conference our booth was on fire, we literally had people backed up waiting to learn more about what we were offering, how they might benefit from a relationship with us, and signing up to learn more. It was electric, and it continued. After every workshop or breakout session we saw new and inspired faces. Some had never heard of us, some were referred by a friend or colleague who was at the conference, and some were stopping by for hugs or friendly hellos because they were longtime friends. They all seemed to have one thing in common; they left knowing the opportunities for education that were available through our institute. They had flyers, they had business cards, and they had resources.


Stephen & Holly

Teachers, Ed Techs, Parents, Case Managers, Preschool Educators, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Home-Schoolers… the list goes on and on. They shared their stories and what they needed, or what they needed for other people in their life. I don’t think they knew about the variety of opportunities that NEI held for them. It wasn’t only our on-location courses, online course, and Guided Independent Studies courses. I came to believe it was our philosophy, our approach, and the fact that we care.


Stephen & Catherine

We do education differently, and I think it’s the way that truly works for most people. We are small but we have great numbers of “students”; we are unique and we are challenging; we are flexible but we are consistent. We know that adult learners are different, and we do not operate like a mill. We know your name, we know your story, and we aim to strengthen your future.

As we drove home from Portland that afternoon in the blinding snow our conversation kept turning back to different people we had met at the ASD conference. There’s never a greater sense of excitement than being with others who share in the same enthusiasm.   I know I came home with a greater sense of purpose than before attending, and I look forward more conferences that have attendees who are full of that same level of hope, inspiration and enthusiasm.

~Holly Eaton, Communications Director, The New England Institute for Teacher Education