Prompted by the success of last year's inaugural conference in Pittsburg, the National Autism Association of Kansas has again scheduled a statewide conference to provide resources to those affected by autism.

Prompted by the success of last year's inaugural conference in Pittsburg, the National Autism Association of Kansas has again scheduled a statewide conference to provide resources to those affected by autism.
The second annual conference was slated to take place next weekend in Kansas City. However, due to a family medical emergency, NAA of Kansas President and Pittsburg resident Mandy Commons has rescheduled the conference for Aug. 14-15 at the Hyatt Regency at Crown Center. Commons' 13-year-old son, Bryce, is autistic and had recently become "very sick" and requires surgery, thus leading to the postponement.
More than 1,500 people had registered for the conference as of Friday and multiple keynote speakers are slated to speak at the event. Commons said the rescheduling has not affected any of the planned activities and should not affect the turnout.
"With the autism community, they all understand that it's children and family first," Commons said. "So when I wrote to tell people that my son is sick, they were like, 'No problem, we understand.'"
Keynote speakers at this year's conference will include actress and model Jenny McCarthy, a mother of an autistic child who was slated to speak at last year's conference but had to cancel her appearance due to a family emergency.
Journalist Mika Brzezinski, co-host of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, also is slated to speak at the conference, according to the Kansas chapter Web site.
Conducting annual conferences throughout the state was a goal Commons set for herself when she became the president of the Kansas chapter of the NAA. She's made it her mission to provide resources and support for families, like hers, that have been affected by autism.
"When my son was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, I felt like I was all alone in this world," she said. "I don't want another parent going through what I went through."
More than 350 people attended last year's conference in Pittsburg. Commons said she was "thrilled" by the turnout, yet disappointed that McCarthy was unable to attend. And although she plans to take the conference throughout the state, Commons originally planned to conduct the conference in Pittsburg again this year as a way of giving McCarthy another chance to visit the local community.
"I had a bid from Lawrence and a bid from Pittsburg," she said. "I decided to keep it in Pittsburg because Jenny had to postpone her appearance last year, so I thought it was only fair to keep it here."
However, the planned site for the conference, Memorial Auditorium, was booked by the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce more than two years ago for its annual banquet, to take place on June 5. Blake Benson, Chamber president, said he received word "less than six months ago" that the NAA of Kansas hoped to use Memorial Auditorium that same weekend.
"We had already made a commitment to our members and our sponsors," Benson said. "Plus, we weren't aware of any alternative (sites). We just didn't feel it was right for us to go back on that commitment we had made.
"We absolutely support and respect the work of the National Autism Association," he said, "but we had made plans almost two years ago for our banquet to be held at Memorial next weekend."
Although her goal was to have the conference in Pittsburg, Commons said conducting it in Kansas City will prove more convenient for those who are flying in to attend. Even after the date was moved to August, Commons chose to keep the conference in Kansas City due to contractual commitments.
"It's all going to work out fine," Commons said.
For more information about the Kansas chapter of the NAA and the conference, visit www.kansasautism.org.