“This event blows the myths about relationships and intimacy regarding people on the autism spectrum out of the water, ” Dr. Stephen Mark Shore, Global Autism Ambassador
By Debra Muzikar
On September 26, 2015, Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielsen will make history by being wedded at the Love and Autism Conference in San Diego. Both Anita and Abraham are on the autism spectrum. They met at an Asperger’s support group meeting in 2013. After being friends for a year, they decided to date. Anita like many people with Asperger’s always knew she was different and never fit in but never knew why. She struggled with making and maintaining relationships, keeping eye contact, attending any kind of social events, all kind of sensory issues and more. At age 50 when a co-worker’s son was diagnosed, she realized through reading the symptoms, she was also on the spectrum.
I asked organizer Jenny Palmiotto about the conference and it’s unique name – Love and Autism.
“I was personally tired of the conference brochures I received in the mail. The autism conferences seemed narrow (honestly-train the dog, break the horse, program the robot type of stuff). I wanted to make a conference that I personally wanted to attend,” she said. Jenny is the Clinical Director and owner of The Family Guidance & Therapy Center of Southern California.
Jenny, unlike most behaviorists, has a unique view on autism.
“The primary goal in life is to love and be loved, this doesn’t change with neurological differences associated with autism. My role as a clinician is to help people on the spectrum and their loved ones have the highest quality interactions possible where each person can feel heard and understood.”
Anita Lesko was scheduled as a speaker at the conference. She contacted Jenny in December with the proposal for the wedding. Both Anita and Abraham had never been invited to a wedding before (many autistic people have never been to a wedding). Jenny and Anita extend their invitation to autistic people. They hope many will be in the audience. The capacity is 350.
Jenny is not only the conference organizer but through this process has become a wedding planner.
“Anita and I Skype almost every other day. We are developing a friendship through wedding planning. I always thought the first person I’d be throwing a wedding for was my four-year old daughter, but sometimes surprises bring great blessings and growth.”
The wedding is like a who’s who in the autism community. Bill Butler who was diagnosed at age 60, and is Anita and Abraham’s best friend, will walk Anita down the aisle. Dr. Stephen Shore will officiate. Alex Plank, founder of Wrong Planet will be the groomsman and the DJ. Michael Tolleson, autistic savant painter, will create a unique painting in the morning that will be a backdrop for the bride and groom to be married in front of. Temple Grandin will give a televised champagne toast. Kat Highet, a 24-year-old harpist on the spectrum will play her harp. And Inclusion Films will send a crew of 4 to video tape.
Even the wedding cake will be made by a teenager on the autism spectrum and her mom.
Local autistic artist Jeremy Sicile-Kira who paints the colors he sees around people will display two of his painting and paint a special painting of the bride and groom. This is one of Jeremy’s paintings that will be on display:
The wedding will be on Saturday, September 26, at 4:30 PM at the Liberty Station Conference Center.
The cost of the conference is $289 for 2 days including the wedding. $89 to attend the wedding alone. The Love and Autism Conference is vendored with San Diego Regional Center. Individuals can receive $200 towards the conference. Other Regional Centers in California will fund some or all of the conference.
The Love and Autism conference includes speakers Anita, Abraham, and Jenny themselves and many more. The conference includes thought-leaders that are willing to share about their own personal stories in relation to love, sex, intimacy, friendships, relationships, loneliness, hurt, abuse, and any and everything as it relates to Love & Autism. View the speakers here.
If you would like to contribute to the wedding, a crowd funder has been set up.
In celebration of Anita and Abraham’s wedding, The Art of Autism is requesting artists to email me drawings of love and autism for a gallery. Email theartofautism @ gmail.com