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AE international Congress 2022: A happy journey through life

The 13th International Autism-Europe Congress took place on the 7th and the 9th of October, our member, the JiM Foundation hosted the 2022 Autism-Europe International Congress in the historical city of Cracow, Poland. Throughout these 3 days, more than 1300 participants celebrated A Happy Journey through Life with experts from around the world to promote a positive vision for autistic people and their families. Central to the congress was also the war in Ukraine and its consequence on autistic people and their families.

After Nice, France in 2019, the Autism-Europe International Congress was back this year in Cracow, Poland. This is the first time that our Congress was held in a hybrid format – participants, in addition to being able to join us at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre, could also follow all contents of the Congress online with high quality access to all sessions.

The theme of the 2022 Congress was A Happy Journey through Life to highlight the importance of taking a lifespan perspective on autism research and practice, with the promotion of wellbeing for all being the focal point. The Congress had the ambition to showcase three perspectives on the newest scientific trends in the autistic community targeting researchers; practitioners; and autistic people, their family members and caregivers. Throughout the 3 days of the Congress, we planned a program that intended to be challenging, diverse, inclusive and to create debate. The congress’ programme featured 106 Speakers, 14 symposia, 12 oral and special sessions, 2 lunch sessions, 2 workshops, 5 parallel poster sessions, 306 posters presented and 68 hours of presentations.

Friday, 7th October

The first day of the Congress started with the Opening ceremony at the Auditorium Hall of the ICE Kraków Congress Centre with welcoming speeches by representatives of JiM Foundation, Autism-Europe, Scientific Committee members and policy makers, including EU commission for Equality Helena Dalli. Dr. Connie Kasari gave a keynote presentation about What is the research evidence for educational programs delivered in schools?. The day unfolded with two symposia about communication, healthy living and gender identity and autism; oral sessions about diagnosis, screening and school practices; and another keynote speech, this time given by Dr. Petrus de Vries with Ensuring research with relevance to local communities. The first day ended with a workshop on Autism and happiness: Mission (im)possible given by Peter Vermeulen, Belgium.

Saturday, 8th October

The second day began with the Ukraine support session, dedicated to talks about war time trauma, clinical approaches to autism and post-traumatic stress disorder for war victims, among other practical workshops. During the second day, we had three keynote speakers. In the morning, Ewa Furgal gave a lecture on A focus on adults and empowerment, and in the early afternoon, Dr. Catherine Lord shared her knowledge with about What do interventions in autism and not do, followed by Dr. Emily Simonoff with a talk on Mental health interventions for children and young people on the autism spectrum. The second day’s program was completed by symposia related to the support of families marginalized by ethnicity, culture, language, and finances; an oral session on mental health; and a panel discussion entitled What are the foundations of Autistic flourishing?. Later, to celebrate A Happy Journey through Life, we invited all participants to put on their best smiles on and join us at the Gala Dinner, the social event of this year’s Congress.

Sunday, 9th October

The final day of the Congress opened with two inclusive symposia about Better mental health and wellbeing for autism people and their families and Building positive peer relationships in schools. Targeting both researchers, practitioners, and autistic people, their family members and caregivers, an oral session focused on Transition into adult life of people on the spectrum. Later, Stephen Shore shared an interactive workshop on Developing skills in Self-Advocacy and Disclosure for Autistic People. The third day of the Congress also counted with two keynote speakers: Dr. Brian Boyd with a talk on Reconceptualizing repetitive behavior in autism and Dr. Isabel Dziobek with a presentation about  A future look at the potential for technology to improve the lives of autistic people. The Congress ended with the Closing Ceremony where the city that will host the Autism-Europe Congress in 2025 was announced: Dublin, Ireland.

We would like to warmly thank our member organization and host, the Jim Foundation hosting the Congress 2022 in a particularly difficult context linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Despite these challenges the congress gathered a very high satisfaction amongst participants.  81% of participants indicated that they were “very satisfied” or “quiet satisfied” and  81% indicated that they will definitely or probably use learning from the congress in their work or everyday life!

We look forward to welcoming you at the AE next international Congress in 2025 in Dublin, Ireland.

More information: www.autismcongress2022.org