Those who know me know I am a huge advocate for the Partners in Policymaking program that teaches advocacy skills to people with developmental disabilities and their families. Our state Developmental Disabilities Council offers the program every other year, and this year I had the pleasure of speaking and helping out with some of their sessions.
I had decided to slip in one weekend as Dr. Patrick Schwartz, a national leader in innovative inclusive education, was presenting. Dr. Schwartz was fantastic and, after his session, I hopped on Amazon to order his latest book. My phone alerted me that I had email, but I assumed it was my order confirmation.
During a break, everyone was milling about, so I decided to check my email. That alert was not an order confirmation. I gasped (loudly), sprang to my feet and shouted, “Where is Christy?” I left a room full of startled students to hunt down our Partners organizer. Spotting her just outside the door, I thrust my phone in her face. (Christy, if you’re reading this, just be glad you weren’t in the ladies room when I got that email).
“Look!” My excitement was because, instead of an order confirmation, this was in my inbox:
I am writing to you on behalf of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and am pleased to let you know that your proposal has been accepted for the 2018 NACDD Conference. We would love for you to present your proposal on Creating Opportunity and Showcasing Value during a breakout session on community inclusion…”
This will be my first time presenting at a National Conference, so obviously, I was a little excited.
The email stated that I would have some co-presenters, Ms. La Taasha Byrd and her daughter. Ms. Byrd is also a writer. Take a look her book, Inclusion is for the Included.
I have had the pleasure of speaking with La Taasha a couple times on the phone. She teaches parents how to use everyday life to enhance their child’s education and therapies. Here is a quote from La Taasha’s blog that really resonated with me:
“I just sent my non-verbal daughter to a school where others will have to be responsible for her and rely on them to tell me everything. I can’t ask her what she learned. I can’t ask her what she ate… or if she ate. I feel so vulnerable to these people. I wait every day until she comes back and hurriedly look into her backpack to find an empty planner. I can’t ask her how her day went. She can’t tell me.”
For me, having a child who does not communicate verbally is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. I have a desire to keep him close, in my sight, safe. But people don’t grow that way. It is risk and challenge that gives people freedom and opportunity.
At the conference, I will be speaking about the stretching and stepping away we must do as parents.