Inspiration & Innovation at the 2014 CEC Convention and Expo

I just returned from the annual Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Convention and Expo, held in Philadelphia from April 9th–12th. This gathering of over 4,500 special educators from all over the world provides attendees with a wealth of informational sessions on a multitude of topics, a chance to network and learn from others’ successes, as well as to speak to vendors and interact with their array of wonderful products. I love that this professional development opportunity always takes place in April, Autism Awareness Month, because of the abundance of inspiration and innovation at the event.
I met Jenny from Kansas—an enthusiastic and talented young woman with Williams Syndrome who has turned her artistic abilities into a business, JennyLU Designs. Then there was Diane Daniels Manning who is donating all the profits from her book, Almost Perfect, to charity. I talked with parents who started companies or developed products to meet the needs of their children, which are now available to help other families facing similar obstacles or situations. I got to meet the inventor of Time Timer®, an array of products I’ve used and told people about for years.
Also, I had a chance to support and encourage Certified Instructors and school districts using the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® program. Hearing success stories is always invigorating! Many student teachers came by our booth and were hungry to learn about what we do, showing a desire to align with and advance best practices from the very start of their careers. And I will never forget meeting Stevie Hopkins, Director of Awesome (yes that’s his real job title!), and all the other remarkable folks from 3E Love, a disability awareness clothing line and marketing company whose mission is to “Embrace. Educate. Empower” and help people of all ability levels to love life. How could you not be inspired meeting thousands of people like these?
My other big takeaway from this year’s show was the realization of how much technology has changed and advanced the field of Special Education. From sensory products to skill building systems/tools to data collection & monitoring systems to robots, assistive technology, and communication devices—it is mind boggling to see how far we have come in such short time. The interest in and comfort level that younger staff in particular seemed to have with anything technology-based is encouraging. I was particularly struck by the way the iPad has revolutionized what is available and how services are being delivered.

What about you?
I would love to hear from anyone else out there who was fortunate enough to attend last week’s convention in Philadelphia. What gave you inspiration, or what did you find particularly innovative? How has technology changed your job and how you do it in recent years? Anything you’ve come to rely so heavily on, you just couldn’t imagine life without it?

I challenge every person reading this blog post to do something during the remainder of this Autism Awareness month to find a little inspiration or make yourself aware of a new innovation in your field. Let me know if I can help find such a resource for you! In the meantime, grab these resources for positive behavior support.

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