It was great to meet people who are now heading, or working in, college programs in support of students with autism spectrum conditions. Also students now moving toward certification as speech & language pathologists, or who want to work with special-education departments. And–always–those who have a family member or friend (or friend with a child) on the spectrum.
It’s also great that colleges are trying to engage students in discussions across the boundaries that quickly rise between academic departments (especially, I think, between the liberal arts and the sciences) and between different social groupings of students. The bull sessions in the dorms do give students a chance to discuss things with people they’ve known all of six weeks…but what they discuss may not be anything that can lead anywhere useful, especially with the diversity of backgrounds. Having a common topic–a single book that they’ve all read–makes a reference point (other than the school athletic teams) for discussion. I’ve noticed that at the colleges where I’ve spoken about The Speed of Dark, and I’m sure it’s true for other books selected.
And in general, it seems that colleges are choosing better books for freshman reading programs than they did when I was headed that way. We were given a list of books to read the summer before we arrived, and most were intensely depressing. (I also had four wisdom teeth removed that summer, and got sick, so that may have affected my reaction. But none of the books offered much hope that problems could be coped with–whereas the books written by the other authors this past weekend all had that hopeful–but not shallowly hopeful–position. )
I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference and meet the people who help choose the books…to learn more about their reasoning when they look for books, to get a feel for how my book fits or doesn’t fit their needs, and how an author’s campus visit “works” within the concept of a Freshman Year Experience. (Because they aren’t all the same. Every institution–and every incoming class in every institution–is unique. And it’s clear that the faculty and staff I met were all very aware of their institution’s needs. )
It was a little startling to come home and find that I’d been Tweeted about, possibly even during the events. (DUH. Why surprising? Probably because my netbook died shortly before the conference and I was flying along without my daily dose of internet navigation…no email, no Twitter, no blogging, no surfing. No wonder the sock I was working on grew several inches!)