The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) just completed our Adult Summit held from April 4-6 in Detroit, Michigan. The staff flew in the day before to prepare for registration such as stuffing bags, getting name tags ready for the speakers and fellow advocates for the summit.

The first day, we started with a soft opening for registration, having the exhibitors come early to get ready for their tables. That night we had a board and speaker dinner so we could meet and mingle with some of the participants that registered, others attended a screening of Intelligent Lives, a movie about individual differently-abled people and their lives.

Day two, the registration table was open for business as well as the breakfast before the plenary. Karen Gaffney was the keynote and welcomed all advocates and parents to the Adult Summit. One of the sessions that morning was Down Syndrome International (DSI), Nathan Rowe from the UK talked about their program and what it offers. Following the plenary were breakout sessions throughout the day with an award lunch. During lunch, Brandon Gruber awarded the Gruber scholarships to applicants.

After lunch, the breakout sessions continued. Day one closing speaker was Dr. Laurie VanderPloeg who empowers students to succeed. Registration was continuous during the summit.

Saturday morning ‘s plenary was Nathan Rowe and I. Nathan spoke about the DSI program and what was done in the session the day before. We talked about what self-advocacy is and what it means to everyone personally. We started out asking the self-advocates what self-advocacy means to them. The self-advocates came up to the stage and shared with the audience their ideas regarding advocacy.  Nathan showed the crowd a map of the ambassadors who were serving internationally and showed that there was no ambassador for the United States.  He presented a certificate to me, naming me as the United States International ambassador! I am very humbled and thankful to receive this award and serve as the U.S. Ambassador for DSI.

Additionally, there were many more breakouts, one of the first breakouts was the policy team and what our efforts are, we talked about what we are continually working on. Another breakout was on social etiquette by Dr. Rebecca Partridge who spoke about personal space, table manners and how to do a firm handshake.

One of the last courses presented was by Dr. Hackie Reitman. He spoke about how all of our brains work differently for all of us that are differently-abled.

Day two closing was the Cronin’s. Their speech was about the foundation of their company and how they have structured it.

In conclusion, NDSS hosted a dance party. The advocates and their families danced pretty much all night. It was a great way to end the Adult Summit.

We are looking forward to the 2020 summit which will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, May 7-9. Hope to see you all there!


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