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It just is what it is...


Well, I started this piece on the last night of the Down Syndrome Conference in Banff and just finding the time to write out my thoughts...

Once again the organizers hit it out of the park. Banff National Park that is. Beautiful venue, beautiful scenery and most importantly beautiful people.

I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at this conference. Thrilled at the honour and thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many spectacular people.

My speaker notes were not available - the audio was not available...(every speakers nightmare)...after the initial 'uh oh feeling' ... I managed. I truly did not need my notes. I wrote my presentation, I had given it many times before...but most importantly I lived it..well not ME exactly, but our son Clark.

Each and everyday for the rest of his life he will be faced with challenges that "typical" people do not have to face. BUT...one of thee most important things I learned at this conference was that HE WILL BE OKAY! I have the young self-advocates to thank for that! It was truly amazing to watch these young people speak and interact with their peers. From their keynote address to their individual sessions to watching them interact in the bistro with their friends over a beer and some food was wonderful to witness. It gave me some insight and hope into Clark's future life and from what I saw - it will be GREAT!

I met a woman and her son. Erika and Kevin. Erika is a dynamic woman with a beautiful smile. Kevin is a handsome young 18 year old who has Down syndrome. It was not by "coincidence" that we met. We had to meet. We had an instant connection and the more we spoke the more we connected. Now THAT is what this conference is all about CONNECTING...and on so many levels...

It was an emotional conference for me. More so this year than others. Not sure why? Perhaps it was because returning year after year and witnessing these young self-advocates grown and develop into such fine young men and women. I ache hoping that Clark will be able to have the same reciprocal friendships as these young people certainly had. Their laughter was contagious and their 'joy de vivre' flowing wildly...

Perhaps my emotions were so transparent due to the the fact that this was Gord's first conference... together we were able to share some powerful sessions and see the life that Clark will be capable of in the future. Perhaps it was the reassurance that we are not the only parents in the same situation. The reason doesn't matter it just is what it is...

Perhaps it was emotional for me in the fact that my childhood friend Kristan and her sister Claire were in attendance. Claire has Down syndrome. Claire was my very first friend with Down syndrome. I did not know what that meant growing up. To me Claire was just Claire. My friend's sister who happened to have Down syndrome. She could speak french. She could use sign language. She was able to laugh during times that I could not. At the time, I truly did not know what it meant to have Down syndrome or what it was like for her or her family. I did not know that struggle they must have endured in a time when the supports and the advocacy were virtually non-existent.

Mr and Mrs. Beatty were pioneers for us and our children today. I never knew...I know now.. somewhat....but will never fully understand the challenges of being an initial advocate in the Down syndrome world all those years ago. We have so many systems, programs, essential services, funding, advocacy campaigns that are in place now as a result of their perseverance for a better life and of inclusion. So I give my thanks to them..."Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Beatty."

I know we are miles ahead of what once was.. but unfortunately we still have a long way to go...

A common thread throughout the conference amongst the parents was the struggle in the education world. The constant fight for inclusive education, the creation of IEP's, the follow up, the need for essential services and the need appropriate supports in place. Many people voiced the words, "You would think in this day and age....." you can fill in the blank...it would apply to so many advocacy groups today. Yet, we WILL carry on and we WILL persevere - together!

...It just is what it is...

Thank you for a fabulous conference, everyone! See you in Hamilton!


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Barb Drummond

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