I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
I recently was afforded the opportunity to attend the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) (http://www.nacdd.org/about-nacdd/councils-on-developmental-disabilities.aspx). This years conference was held in Orlando, FL. While my kids thought it wasn't fair that I would be going to Orlando without them, I did point out that I was not going to Disney, nor would I have time. When I told them this morning that I was in meetings from about 8:30 in the morning until the day ended at a silent auction at 8:00 at night, they kind of believed me.
The opening keynote speaker was Rosario Marin, the 41st Treasurer of the United States. Rosario served under President George W Bush. Rosario told her story of working her way through college to obtain a degree. She had lived the "Yuppie" life. She then related her experiences of being a mother of a child with Down syndrome. Many of her personal experiences hit home for me. Her message was "The World of Disability Through Our Eyes".
She said that words matter, consequently, what we do and what we say set the example the world follows. If we highlight our childrens hardships, then people around us will show empathy. But if we highlight their accomplishment, then others will get excited with us.
The lunch keynote speaker was Sharon Lewis, Commissioner, Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD). ( http://www.acf.hhs.gov/orgs/bios/slewis.htm). Sharon spoke of her experiences as a mother of a child with a disability. She also outlined the ADD strateic planning process and discussed healthcare. This was a very informative talk.
We had the opportunity to attend concurrent sessions. The groups included Labor market needs, college, guardianship, cross-disability organizing, residential options, health education, transitioning, Gopen Memorial Fellowship, ending waiting list, health care, transition, self advocacy, affordable/accessible housing, investment in quality, grassroots self advocacy.
While I attended a total of 5 sessions in the two days, I am only highlighting two.
I chose to attend Capacity Building Through Community Action Teams. I found this to be one of the more interesting topics because it was based on employment for people with developmental disabilities. It was presented by the State of Florida. They showed strategies of building teams for improving employment support. A quote that has stuck with me was " just because your name is on a witing list foes not mean that your life is on hold.
The other session that I was pleased with was on self directed services. When I saw the information, the topic was of great interest to me. It wasn't until I read the entire description, that I found out it was being conducted by the Wisconsin Executive Director Jennifer Ondrejka. Of the 5 sessions that I did attend, this was the one that had the most questions and comments from the audience.
What interested me on the topic was that I am exploring a career in self directed services. I also applied to the BPDD because I wanted to ensure that my son Tyler would have every opportunity to live his life as he sees fit. Not as how others think it would be best for him.
The closing keynote speaker was Kathy Sawyer, the former Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. Kathy challenged us to keep advocating and to not give up. I found it kind of ironic that she said that everybody needs to be better listeners, because the consumers, those with DD, have a lot to say. This is something in the year and a half that I have been a Board member that I saw after every meeting.