Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 NDSC Convention Summary

This past weekend we were blessed to be able to drive to Indianapolis to attend the 2014 National Down Syndrome Congress annual convention.  While we were going to make it into a small family vacation, John threw a wrench into the plans by requesting to stay home to attend his district baseball tournament.  So we lined up a friend to stay at the house with John, and loaded up the car. 

When I say loaded, I mean loaded. 

The shelf in between the seats turned out to be wonderful as it kept Ben and Noah from fighting the entire trip.  Car makers seriously need to consider installing some type of safe boundary to keep kids from fighting in the car.   We had to pack tightly, because I was hosting both an ABC Signing Kids and the DSAF of NE booth at the NDSC Exhibitor fair.  Here are photos of the booths.


The Exhibitor fair was such a blast. 
 I loved meeting everyone who came around to check out all the displays.

Here are my top 10 NDSC conference highlights in no particular order.
10. There were a couple times Ben needed to be at my booth, and he did a good job of sticking around and not running away.  (Although he did take me on a pretty fast tour of 3rd floor one day on the way to kids camp. )  The main reason Ben stayed put was he had Rachael from Signing Time there to keep him company.  Loved watching him dance, sing and sign along with the iPad.
video

 9. Learning that Noah got to feel special when the Brother and Sister field trip busses were given a police escort to the Indianapolis Speedway. 
 8. We finally got to meet our Facebook friends Denise and Ella.  We tried to meet up last year, and it did not work, and this year I was again afraid we would miss each other, but they stopped by just as we were packing up on the last day.  It was to great to finally meet them in person.
 Ella is such a sweetheart. 


7.  One for the memory books occurred just after we got back to the room that first night after swimming.  It is a terrible feeling to realize that your 6 year old just snuck out of our hotel room and is running in the hall way.  It is an entirely different feeling to realize that he is also wearing nothing but a string backpack and a smile, and there is a large group of people getting off the elevator heading straight for him.  Luckily the sight of strangers turned him around quickly and we were able to usher him back into the room quickly.

6 Not even 5 minutes later with Ben safely in the room (but still naked) and the door blocked by a cooler, did I realize we were still flirting with getting kicked out of the hotel when I noticed that Ben was standing naked in front of the large floor to ceiling windows waving at the folks walking down the street.  Got to love a kid with absolutely no modesty.

5. Another highlight was meeting someone who actually follows this blog!  I won't reveal your identity here, but you know who you are and I was very happy to meet you!.  Thank you for stopping by to introduce yourself and I wish we had gotten more time to visit.

4.  There were so many wonderful self advocates that I was able to meet and get to know a little bit.  Curtis and Todd were two of my favorites.  The NDSC convention is billed as the largest family reunion and they do a really great job of making everyone feel like they are indeed part of one big family who is tied together by an extra chromosome.

3.  Ben meeting a little boy named Aaron at my booth and having a wonderfully tender moment.  They kept giving each other hugs and when they broke apart Ben signed friend and Aaron signed it back.  Love how sign language has opened up the world of communication for so many of our kiddos.

2.  It was wonderful getting to meet, work the booth, and present with fellow Signing Time Instructor, Cyndi Johnson.  She is a fabulous speaker and made my first (and hopefully not last) national presentation very easy.  Unfortunately, we were so busy most of the time, I did not think to get a photo of us together.  That will just mean that we need to find another excuse to get together again in the future so we can get a photo.   
 While there were many awesome moments at the conference,
the one that stands out to me the most is this:
1. The award acceptance speech given by Patti Saylors at the banquet, where she talked about all her efforts to make sure that what happened to her son Ethan never happens to another one of our loved ones with disabilities. She is working to make sure that first responders across the country are all properly trained on how to deal with individuals with disabilities.  If you are unfamiliar with Ethan's story, he was killed when some off duty policemen improperly restrained him when he refused to leave a movie theater  She is an amazingly strong woman and I can assure you there was hardly a dry eye in the banquet hall. ‪#‎justiceforethan‬
Next year's convention is going to be in Phoenix.  Not sure yet if we will be able to make it since we won't be able to drive, but I have to say I would love to get together with my new extended family again really soon!