Feb 26, 2017: Three Introverts Walk Into a Conference…


I’m back from the Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action conference in Cincinnati! And like most DS conferences, what fun it was! Back when I was in grad school, I went to a few academic conferences. They were enjoyable, but definitely not the same level of fun as a DS conference!

The DSAIA conference is mostly for people who work for organizations that support individuals with Down syndrome, although a few parents attend as well, along with a few people with DS. It’s not like the NDSC conference, which is massive and well attended by people with DS and their families, along with professionals. DSAIA is a smaller conference, and it’s designed so that people working for organizations that support individuals with DS can share ideas about what programs they’re using, how they’re working, how they might improve them, etc.

I didn’t actually attend the conference—I was just working at DSDN’s booth in the exhibitor area. I did, however, present for a few minutes about Sam’s experience in CRP over the summer. CRP is the Communication Readiness Program that he did last summer, and the person who runs CRP for our local organization every year was doing a presentation on the program—how it works, what the goals are, how they’ve funded it, what the outcomes have been, the data analysis they’ve done about gains the kids make in the program, etc. I just talked for about five minutes about Sam’s experience in the program and the language gains we saw last year.

The presentation I was part of:

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And actually, I ended up having to accept an award for our local organization, because the CRP program won the conference’s award for Best Educational Program of 2016. I was pretty excited to hear that, since I really do think it’s a well-done, beneficial program. I was just a little surprised to have to accept the award, since I hadn’t even known we were up for an award!

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I did know we had won a grant award from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, though, so I was prepared to accept that one—just not the one for CRP, which was a happy surprise!

The grant from Global is pretty cool, too. It’s a grant for working on employment programs for adults with Down syndrome. Our local organization actually employs more self-advocates than any other local DS organization in the U.S., which is very cool! We have four on staff: one who gives abilities awareness presentations at local schools, one who does community outreach events, one who is our administrative assistant, and one who is an assistant teacher in the Monday afternoon skills class Sam attends!

Anyway, aside from all that, I just worked the booth with two of my fellow DSDN volunteers. All three of us are introverts, which is kind of amusing when you think of working a conference, where you have to be on all the time! I have realized that I’m what they seem to call an “extroverted introvert” these days—meaning that I enjoy being around people and talking to people, but that it mentally exhausts me, and I need quiet time to recharge after doing so. That pretty much sums me up—I’m not antisocial by any means, but I’m definitely exhausted after social events!

The booth:

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I got to meet movie star David DeSanctis! He’s a charmer!

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So they were long but good days. On Friday, the three of us were invited to dinner at a local DS mom’s house—she is quite active in online parent support (through a different forum than the Rockin’ Mom groups, but we all know her because we were in her forum before the Rockin’ Moms became a separate support network). It was an evening of about 15 people involved in medical outreach relaxing, eating dinner, and talking about prenatal testing, medical outreach, and diagnosis. As much as I was worn out by working the booth all day, I did enjoy the chance to talk to people who do the same type of outreach work I do and get some good ideas for ways to improve our program from them.

Hanging with some like-minded peeps at the dinner:

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This is Hank the bearded dragon. Hank’s a girl. She was licking the whisky bottle a moment before I took this picture! I thought Hank was cool!

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Saturday was a slower day at the booth, but just as long—and then in the evening, there was a formal soiree. None of the three of us were keen on dressing up in formal wear, having worn business-casual for the past two days (we’re all more jeans-type women), but we grudgingly put on our fancy clothes and went to the ballroom. And I have to say, I ended up having much more fun than I expected. People in the DS world, whether they have DS themselves or not, really know how to live it up! Lots and lots of dancing, as always! And although I’m a pathetically bad dancer, I do enjoy it, so I was out on the floor for quite a few songs. I must say, though, my fellow dancers with 47 chromosomes far outdanced me—they’ve got the moves!

Gosh, these ladies are a whole lot of fun!

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My booth-mates, all fancied up!

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One guy was out on the floor for every single song, and at the end he came to say goodbye to us, and he wanted to pray for a safe flight for us. After saying a little prayer with us, he gave each of us a hug and a compliment. One of my booth-mates got “You’re beautiful.” Another one got “You’re the best.” Another woman from a nonprofit in Washington got “I’m going to marry you,” or something along those lines. You know what I got? “You’re a nice lady.” While I appreciate being a nice lady, I had to laugh out loud at the fact that my compliment was by far the least lavish among them!

He’s not the first very blunt person I’ve met with DS, though. A few weeks ago, at Sam’s Monday afternoon class, a nine-year-old with DS looked at the couch where I was sitting and said, “Hi!” I said hi back cheerfully, and he calmly replied, “No, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to him” and pointed to the man on my left. Oh. Well, okay… 😉

Anyway, it’s all good. I was definitely the Plain Jane in the group, so it’s no surprise that I got the “You’re a nice lady” compliment!

I flew home Sunday morning, and I’ve got to say, flying without kids is like having a spa day! You sit in a seat, read books or watch movies, and people bring you food and drink. Maybe sometimes you nap, if you’re not me. (I can’t sleep on planes.) It’s pretty much pampering, in my book! I had a whole row to myself on both flights, and I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it. I watched four movies, since Delta has free movies. The best of them was Florence Foster Jenkins. It was funny and sad and touching. I definitely recommend it, as long as you don’t have issue with Meryl Streep. (I know she’s a bit polarizing to some.)

I’m told the boys had a good weekend. When I left on Thursday morning, Theo told me, “Mom, I don’t want you to go. But I even less wanted Daddy to leave when he did.” I feel the love. But hey, I’m just the “nice lady.” 😉

Chris doesn’t like cooking dinner when I’m not home, so the boys got to eat two dinners out, which pleased Theo to no end. And on Saturday they went to see Chris’s parents in San Jose and had dinner there. Sam also scored a new pair of Thomas the Train shoes, since Chris had forgotten to bring shoes with him to San Jose! Sam is very pleased with these new shoes and prances around quite happily in them!

The Thomas the Train shoes even go well with PJs!

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Theo had a field trip to the planetarium on Friday, and he seems to have really enjoyed it. He talked Chris into downloading a stargazing app on his phone so that they can point it at the night sky and locate constellations. I guess they did that Friday night, and Chris said it was quite cool!

Theo also went to STEM night at his school this past week (what used to be the Science Fair), and his class was one of the winners! He’s very excited that they’ll be going to the district STEM fair to compete there. The entire class participated in the project; I’m not sure exactly what Theo’s role was, but he’s quite excited about the win!

Bunch of STEM winners!! That one on the left end is a goofball….

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Anyway, now to the pictures! Lots of landscapes this week, since I wasn’t with the boys for more than half of it!

Cat using pug as a pillow…on my lap:

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Rainy day! See the stream running through the middle? That’s not usually a stream. It’s just runoff from rain, rain, and more rain!

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Soggy neighborhood!

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I downloaded a fun app where you can change people’s faces. Here’s Chris normally:

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This is him with the Hotness filter applied. He DOES look rather hot, doesn’t he?!

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And here’s Chris with the Age filter applied. Do you know Chris’s dad? No, you’re not looking at him here…but it sure looks like him!

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Sunset through a very dirty plane window, heading toward Cincinnati:

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View from our hotel room. The Westin Cincinnati is very nice!

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Took a few pix of downtown Cincy, to prove I actually stepped outside the hotel a couple of times:

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Chris took this pic. Who’s this handsome kid??

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This is the first time I’ve been on a flight where they had to de-ice the wings. I thought Theo would like seeing it, so I took a pic for him:

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Crossing the Rocky Mountains:

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Holy smokes, look at all the snow in the Sierras!

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Coming into SFO over San Francisco Bay:

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Driving home from the airport. Look how beautifully green all that rain has made our usually yellow hills!

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And what’s life without a few Sam videos, taken by his speech therapist? I love the one where he eats the pea and says “Mmmm!” but makes a horrible face!


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