Toronto. Right in my backyard. Last year, Everleigh was a month old (barely) when the conference was going on. In Vancouver (which is just a bit far for us). But since I was knee-deep in my research of all things down syndrome, I had vowed that I would go to the next one.
I don't have pictures (I wish I did). I met some really awesome people this weekend. It was overwhelming, scary, stressful, social, informative and fun.
Session 1 - Making the Case for Inclusion: Strategies for Parent Activists
Given by : Dr. Gordon L Porter
We missed this one, as Everleigh decided to sleep in that day (of all days). I enjoyed the extra sleep though.
Session 2 - Caregiver Tools and Strategies for the Health of Girls and Women with Down Syndrome
Given by : Surrey Place Centre
This one was very informative. Gave us tools on how to deal with doctors, pediatricians and any other health care providers our kids come into contact with. Gave us a handout of things that should be checked at certain ages, broken down into categories. It was much easier to read than other checklists I've seen, and even had some stats in there I wasn't aware of. I haven't scanned the brochure that I was given yet, but if you want a copy, let me know and I can either scan it or try to find it online for you. Quite a bit of good information in there, and reinforcements of stuff you may have already known.
Session 3 - Advocacy and Action
Given by : Lorraine, Jullian and Nicole Paquin
I have mixed feelings about this one. Advocacy is something that most (if not all) parents of special-needs children have to deal with at one point or another. This session was presented by a mother and one of her daughters. A mother of two (Lorraine), one daughter with down syndrome (Nicole) and one without (Jullian). Nicole was barred from going to school at one point. And by association, so was Julliam. Together with her Lorraine, Jullian stood up for not only her own rights, but those of Nicole as well. I found that their heart was in the right place for this presentation, but the delivery wasn't all there. Being that all the other sessions were run by professional companies, I have to cut them some slack. It was definitely informative, none the less. I had no idea that the case for inclusion was so bad in some places. Lorraine has also written a book about their journey and has a website (www.teachmeicanlearn.com). Names have been changed.
Session 4 - Getting What You Want - Why You Need to Consider Personality
Given by : Karen Meredith Blott
I also have mixed feelings about this one. Blott owns her own company and has risen through the ranks to get there. After a little background on her family (She has a husband and four kids, the youngest of which has down syndrome), she jumped right into personality types, how they interact and clash, and how to work with/around them.
Unfortunately, she presented this all from a company-based perspective (using things like how to maximize your profits) instead of a family-based one. While I enjoyed learning the basics of the different personality types, I didn't learn how to use what I applied in a family situation. I would have definitely liked to hear how the different personality types hinder or help her in her daily life with her children and husband.
Session 5 - Enhancing Language and Lessening Frustrations (ASL)
Given by : Sarah Bingham
This was probably my favourite of all the sessions. Sarah was very hands-on and open in telling us how she got into learning and teaching ASL, how it applied to her daily life and how we could apply it to helping our littles learn without frustration. Everleigh was very interested in this class as well, following Sarah's hands as she signed, becoming quiet when you could tell she was processing something. I had taken an ASL class previously with Everleigh, but if Sarah was offering another workshop, I would definitely go again.
In the spaces between sessions, I spent a lot of time in the main conference area where the vendors were set up. I thoroughly enjoyed Discovery Toys, Signing Time (an independant vendor) and the Down Syndrome Footprint Foundation (www.downsyndromefootprint.org and www.downsyndromefootprint.com). I loved how people flocked to Everleigh...SN and NT alike. A lot of the families (mostly moms) there all had older kids so to them it was like reliving having a baby again without actually having to HAVE another baby! And a lot of the self advocates couldn't keep their hands off her - telling me how cute she was, giving her kisses on the forehead, touching and holding her hands...it definitely made my heart fill to bursting to see it.
Next year, the CDSS conference is being held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Would I like to go again? In a heart beat. Will we go? It's up in the air. Airfare is expensive, plus hotel...we will see.