March 3, 2009
Last week’s Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action (AiA) Conference in Washington, D.C. was a huge success! I was touched to see more than 300 folks from around the country make their way to Washington to promote public policies that can significantly enhance the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome.
I commend the attendees for what they are doing in their homes and communities. Through their work, many families are discovering the same joy that I did, and with their continued support, many more families will have the opportunity to receive the resources they need when raising a child with Down syndrome.
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As a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus (CDSC), I was honored to speak at the AiA breakfast on Capitol Hill and “send off” the participants to meet with their Members of Congress. Participants each had a list of things they were to ask their representatives. I also encouraged them to share their personal stories with them so they can see what a blessing these children are bringing to people across the country.
This has been particularly effective because everywhere I go, I meet people who share their stories about a loved one who has special needs and they all speak so well about the positive impact that this person had in their life. It has helped me see a glimpse of the amazing impact Cole will continue to have on our lives and in this world. My journey has also inspired me to tell parents faced with an experience like mine that you are not alone. It is not the end, but the beginning and your baby will also lead a unique and important life.
Later in the afternoon, the CDSC hosted a policy forum on building purposeful and happy individuals, families and communities. Pictures of the forum and from throughout the conference are here. Disability advocate and blogger Patricia Bauer also put together this excellent recap of the entire conference.
The presenters included:
They each brought great knowledge on issues that affect individuals of all ages with Down syndrome and their families. These issues are all near and dear to the presenters’ hearts since they have either a sibling or child with Down syndrome. Click on each presenter’s name to read their testimony. I’ve highlighted portions that were especially important to me.
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I also recorded a video outlining my thoughts about the Down Syndrome AiA Conference as well as my opening statement. Or, read my opening statement.
On Saturday, my husband, Brian Rodgers, spoke to the group and encouraged participants to make a long-term commitment to the efforts they focused on during the conference and to take great care of the relationships they made while they were visiting with Members of Congress and their staff.
The fact that so many folks full of enthusiasm came out to AiA conference makes me very optimistic. As Brian said on Saturday, I encourage everyone who came to the conference, and even those who didn’t, to continue to talk with your Member of Congress or their staffer who handles these issues. These relationships are invaluable and we must all work together to increase awareness about issues so children and adults with Down syndrome will continue to have a special and positive impact on this world.
I would like to thank the 2009 Down Syndrome AiA Planning Committee Members for all their hard work in making this wonderful event for all their hard work in making it happen. Job well done!