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Report from The Arc U.S. National Convention in NOLA

NOLALast month staff members: Carol, Lee and Kim and board members: Tim, Terri and Janis attended The Arc’s National Convention in New Orleans. We enjoyed a week of valuable networking and learning about different programs and chapters from across the country.

The conference opened with a phenomenal keynote speaker named Ron Suskind. Suskind recently published a book about his son Owen’s journey with autism and the impact it had on the whole family. It was a lively presentation; we laughed and cried. We also purchased a copy of his book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Hereos, and Autism to share with any of our members who would like to borrow it. Suskind ended his presentation by addressing the issues that Owen now faces as a young adult. He noted that, we need to focus on supporting kid’s like Owen by helping them find employment and enjoying a fulfilling life.

As a group, under the leadership of Carol and Tim, we spent the first day planning who would attend each session so that we could maximize the connections and information to bring back to our community. Some of our favorite sessions included: information on first responder training (the ALEC program), curriculum to work with medical schools to educate students, an amazing and comprehensive program for individuals to learn how to live independently, inclusive sexual education for individuals with different abilities, the self-advocate symposium, and a presentation of issues that The Arc US will focus on in 2015. Each session was inspirational and led to fascinating conversations about new programs and events.

The closing presentation focused on individuals with I/DD and their encounters with the criminal justice system. We heard from an inspiring self-advocate who was a victim of sexual abuse and rape. He shared the fact that he is now able to lend his voice to raise awareness about the vulnerability of the disability community. We also saw a sneak peak of a new documentary Children of the Dumping Ground that explores the inter-actions of individuals with I/DD and the juvenile justice system. We all appreciated the prioritization of criminal justice issues for all of the individuals we serve, whether they interact with the system as victims or offenders.

In addition to all of the great information, we really loved the connections we made, especially between other local chapters in Colorado. We were thrilled to attend a networking dinner organized by The Arc of Colorado. Dinner allowed us to connect with other board members and staff throughout the state. It was great to hear more about innovative ideas happening in our area.

New Orleans was a week of amassing information and creating connections. We had the opportunity to learn from different presenters, connect with other staff and board members and see a gorgeous historical city. We participated in a second line parade; Lee (originally from New Orleans) introduced us to delicious restaurants.

Keep your eyes peeled for new events and program expansions in 2015! We would like to extend a special thank you to Janis, Terri and Tim for taking time off from work and family duties to learn with us.

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