By Tammy Miller
The National Down Syndrome Congress held their 37th Annual Convention this
past July in Sacramento, California. More than 2,500 people gathered from
across the United States and from overseas. The convention included the Youth
& Adult Conference, the Brothers & Sisters Conference and many group facilitators
and speakers who generously donated their time and expertise.
Several families from this area attended the convention, and my husband and I
were glad to be there, too. Oregon was well represented by keynote speakers
and award winners. Joseph Pinter, M.D., head of the Down Syndrome Clinic at
OHSU won the Theodore D. Tjossem Research Award for research in the area of
neuroimaging of individuals with Down syndrome, and Joan Medlen, R.D., L.D.
was awarded the Exceptional Meritorious Service Award for her tireless efforts
in promoting healthy lives for people with Down syndrome.
Keynote Presentations by our own Eleanor Bailey and Karen Gaffney were a
major highlight of the weekend. They made Oregon proud!! Those ladies spoke
with such confi dence, eloquence and power. No one will forget Eleanor raising
her fi st into the air and shouting, “Free our people!” These remarkable young
women showed families with young children the possibilities for their lives;
there is no ceiling.
The convention took over the capital of California. We attended workshops,
swam, shopped, and dined. We know Down syndrome is normal, but it’s a
nice experience to be in a community where it is the norm. We met families
and amazing individuals from all around the world, including two recently
engaged young couples with Down syndrome, a missionary family from Africa,
an adult advocate working in Governor Schwarzenegger’s office, and a
young man who had recently earned his drivers license! A highlight of the
weekend was the dance on Saturday night. This crowd knows how to party
— we danced for hours! The energy, love and acceptance were intoxicating.
We had a blast and left renewed and rejuvenated!
But it wasn’t all play. We were in workshops daily from morning to evening.
There truly was something for everyone. The information was current
and accurate and the presenters were professionals who also showed
sincere warmth and concern for enhancing the lives of people with Down
As my husband came with me, we divided and conquered. I attended sessions
pertaining to speech intelligibility, handwriting development, behavior
and communication. My husband was interested in Sue Buckley’s Teaching
Children to Read and a workshop conducted by a gentleman who has a sister
with Down syndrome called, What Your Other Children Without Ds are thinking:
We took away much from the convention. It was educational, inspirational,
but most of all it was a celebration! We are so blessed to have our children
and this was a celebration of how awesome they are today, just the way