Welcome to the 42nd National Down Syndrome Congress Convention Recap!
This was the first time that a convention like this was so close to home for me, and I was excited that my family was going to be able to take part in it with me. Sure we went to Bloggy Con last year at Cedar Point which was fun, but that was geared towards bloggers. The NDSC Convention boasts the largest annual gathering in the world of self advocates, parents, siblings and professionals associated with Down syndrome. This convention is designed for parents, other family members, caregivers and professionals alike to network, inform, educate and share experiences about caring for and living with a loved one with Down syndrome and I was excited to be able share it with my 8 year old son with Down syndrome and my husband.
After our 1 1/2 hour drive to Indianapolis we pulled up in our hotel the Residence Inn on the Canal. We have stayed here before and enjoyed it. The hotel sits right on a man made canal that is perfect for walks, boat rides and feeding the ducks.
Since my son is an experienced traveler, he knows the process of unpacking his clothes as you can see, he’s making himself at home.
After we unpacked we got dressed to head out to a wonderful dinner at the Oceanaire. It was a fabulous dinner, but pricey. There was a lot going on in the city. We noticed another large group that was also in town for a convention.
When dinner was done, we walked over to the Convention Center, where unfortunately I thought the convention was going to be. My husband and son walked back to the hotel as I was going to take advantage of the pre-conference, register and start visiting with some vendors. But as I walked the very large convention center I realized that I was in the wrong place.
After I got to the right location, I noticed the place was bustling with thousands of families, registration was clicking and families were excited to see old friends.
As this was my first time attending this conference I was eager to get my registration material and head up to visit some of the vendor booths.
My first stop was The TV Teacher. My son is struggling with writing and The TV Teacher, LLC produces award-winning programs that teach children how to write the alphabet, numbers, shapes & more! It’s visual, It’s fun. It’s effective! Excited by the material I purchased some of her dvds and white board.
Then I moved on to the exhibit hall. Boy there were so many wonderful exhibitors. There was something for everyone. Book vendors, non profit organizations, colleges, athletic exhibitors, authors and more.
I got the wonderful privileged to meet Sean McElwee and his mom, the author of the book “Who’s The Slow Learner?” A Chronicle of Inclusion & Exclusion
The first book chronicling a student with special educational needs from preschool through high school graduation. I couldn’t wait to get this book. I haven’t started reading it yet but look forward to learning a lot from it. Although my son is only in 2nd grade I hear there are some really insightful information in the book.
Then I came upon Natalie Hale, award winning author, reading educator and founder of Special Reads for Special Needs. I was intrigued about her literacy program, so I purchased her Pre-Primer Bundle, which is combines a two pronged approach with Pre-Primer Dolch list books and visuals.
After walking around and gathering information from other vendors, I finally had the wonderful opportunity to meet a colleague of mine Linda Paulson Nargi from the International Down Syndrome Coalition
Feeling overwhelmed and tired, I decided to head back to the hotel, to get some rest and get ready for the next couple of days of presentations, mingling and visiting more vendor booths.
Looking at the schedule it was so hard to decide which presentations to attend because there were so many presentations that looked interesting. But after narrowing it down I had a plan of action for the next few days.
Some of the presentations I chose were “Sight Word Reading vs Phonics: What is the Priority” with Margo Courter from Courter Communications a Speech Language Pathologist.
While I attended these presentations my son and husband were fortunate to be able to go over to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I want to personally thank Lori Philips, the Blog & Social Media Manager at the museum for providing them with complimentary tickets to experience the museum. They had a wonderful time, check out for yourself:
Here is my son trying out one of the AmTrykes from Ambucs dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities.
Jacob testing out his tennis skills at the Buddy Up Tennis booth.
Then it was off to visit more vendors:
Jacob visiting with Eli’s Heart, a non profit dedicated to help families pay for travel expenses associated with heart surgeries for children.
Jacob joining the men from Eruption Athletics a group that provides personal training services for individuals with developmental disabilities in both group and individual settings. He had an awesome time.
Hugs & Mugs is a brand new retail and online store run by adults with Down syndrome from GiGi University!
While my son and husband went off to look at some more booths, I stopped off to chat with Eric Marshburn, Director of Admissions from University of North Caroline Greensboro, I was very interested in getting some more information about their 4 year certificate course of study for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their partner Beyond Academics. Even though Jacob is only 8 years old it’s so encouraging to see the options that are available for him with secondary education.
Even though we had a busy afternoon, there was always time to make friends. That’s what was so nice about this conference is that it really was for the families and a time to connect and building friendships.
Well it was time to head off to dinner and we felt that a good Italian meal was in store, so we headed off to Buca di Beppo. We fortunately beat the crowd because when we left there was a line. But the food was great!
When we got back to our hotel we figured we would relax with a nice walk down by the canal and we were given some bread from the front desk to go feed the ducks. It’s a really nice area if you make a reservation (well in advance) you can take a quiet gondola ride. It’s a little expensive probably not something you want to do with your family, but they have paddle boats which my son and husband did earlier in the day.
Before we left Indianapolis, we took a ride around the city and passed the famous Lucas Oil Stadium to complete our trip to Indy!
It was a fantastic weekend. I learned so much, got to meet new friends (I was so excited to meet Keith Harris, Tim’s dad from Tim’s Place and Tim’s Big Heart Foundation) and network with new businesses and contacts in the Down syndrome community.
The nice thing about this convention was there was something for everyone, every age. They had a separate track for youth and adults with Down syndrome to be able to take part in their own presentations like: “The Sweet Taste of Success: Finding Your Passion and Starting Your Own Business”, “A Healthy Lifestyle: Diet, Exercise & Well-Being” to a Talent Show, and so much more.
There was also a different track for Brothers & Sisters of Individuals of Down syndrome to engage in healthy conversations with their peers about such topics as Inclusion, Family Dynamics, Bullying and the R-Word.
Unfortunately I didn’t take part because of the timing but the dances appeared to be the “best” part of this convention. A true moment to have fun and enjoy your family and friends in a non-judgmental environment.
I also want to say thank you to Maria from Specs4Us for giving my son a free pair of frames. After explaining to her the issues we had with my ophthalmologist and ordering him the wrong size Specs4Us frame, she graciously tried a few sizes on him and gave us the right pair.
So in closing I would just like say a very “big” thank you to Muriel Cross from BohlsenGroup.com for giving me wonderful opportunity to experience my first National Down Syndrome Congress convention, and to let me bring my family.
As a special needs mom blogger this was such a wonderful experience and strongly suggest any parents, individuals with a child or loved one with Down syndrome needs to attend this convention. You won’t be sorry! You will only walk away with more knowledge, a wider network of physicians, therapists, businesses and more to tap into.
So I encourage all families of a child with Down syndrome to mark their calendars for June 25-28, 2015, the 43rd Annual NDSC Convention will be held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s on my calendar and I hope to meet you there!