Indy was my 3rd NDSC conference. My first, two years ago on my home turf in DC, was good, but I was beginning to learn the limitations of a child in a grown-up setting, in a place where the hustle and bustle of adults and the timbre of big voices and even bigger laughs and cheers can overwhelm a sensitive child such as Samantha. Steve and my mother also came, but it worked out best when Sammi went home with one of them and I hung out there on my own. My second conference was last summer in Denver, which I attended solo. I was freed up to volunteer on the IDSC table, attend the film festival, and go to a few research sessions, where I learned some pretty amazing stuff.
This year I gave it another go, and took Samantha and my mother along with me to Indianapolis.
And Samantha hated pretty much every second of it.
Mom and I did some tag-teaming, each taking turns attending sessions while the other did the child-entertainment duties. Happily, once we managed to get her out of the room each day, the child was open to holding court in the lobby (the unattended shoe-shine stand with its large, throne-like leather seats was her favorite venue) to read her books or play endless hours of "doctor" with any child who happened by. On occasion the act of moving from point A to point B was cause for a tantrum or, much to my horror, doing a runner! This kid is totally not an elopement risk, not a runner, but for some reason, most likely because she knew it would totally get a rise out of us, she made a break for it not once, but twice. Once was outside in the lines at the food trucks (those are a topic for another post altogether, I think...those of you who were there are all probably nodding in collective agreement that the situation could have been a lot better...). I proved to the world at that moment that yes, I do get really mad. And yes, I do yell at my kid. I'll never forget a voice behind me, as I bolted after my bolting child, saying, "And...we have a runner!" In mid-stride, in my head, I was, like, "Me? You talking about my kid? No way..."
|With old friends, Kayla and Lucas|
But, other than that, the conference was really pretty fabulous. I actually got to meet and spend time with many, many of my Facebook and blog friends, able to now put faces to names. My mother learned what it was like to be related to Samantha, the star of The Bates Motel blog, when she got mobbed in a restaurant at lunch time while I attended a session. Got a text message from a friend who had been present at said mobbing, telling me all about it, worried that my mother may never recover from it.
She was okay.
And so was my impulse-control-challenged kid who was completely disinterested in the mobbing, focused instead on getting her hands on Moxie's iPad...and the next day at lunch time focused on getting her hands on Moxie's banana... Hey, Moxie, got anything else my kid can take from you??
I think I've harped on enough about Sammi's bad behavior.
A few quick notes about the hotel. The JW Marriott is beautiful. I'm completely in love with their bath products in the rooms (Aromatherapy Associates - dude, this stuff smells sooooo goooood, and totally luxurious - you only need a tiny bit of the shampoo, conditioner and body wash, unlike the watered down crap I've gotten from other hotels). The staff was amazing. The location is great for some things (like running along the canal or going to a baseball game), and not so great for others (like finding shops or restaurants that a tired, hungry little girl doesn't mind waiting for/walking to). It was easy to find your way around in (I've never seen interactive maps in a hotel! Fabulous!), and the bathrooms were spotless.
The sessions that most interest me at these events are the ones that focus on research. I attended the session by Dr. Harpold and Dr. Reeves about "Advances in Down Syndrome Cognition Research" and the session by a clinical researcher from Massachusetts General, "Research 101: What is a Clinical Trial and Why Participate?" This is really an exciting time for Down syndrome research and the creation of drugs to boost cognition. I know people get all weirded out when you mention cognition-enhancing drugs ("I would never change my kid! How can you suggest such a thing?"), but the truth is it's not about changing someone with Down syndrome. It's not about removing Down syndrome. It's not about altering a personality or making a person into someone they're not.
It is about enhancing abilities. Our kids have issues with memory function, with decision-making and self-help skills.
They have issues with cognition.
From Wikipedia: Cognition is mental processing that includes the attention of working memory, comprehending and producing language, calculating, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Cognition is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences.
And yes, I want to enhance that for my girl.
And there is a bright light on the horizon - some very promising clinical trials going on at this very moment.
My mother attended the session by Dr. Blumenthal on "Biomedical Research on Down Syndrome and Alzheimer's Disease."
This is what keeps me up at night.
People with Down syndrome are predisposed to getting early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
What do I want for my daughter?
I want her to have a happy, healthy, long, productive life. Alzheimer's has no place in this picture.
And while the parents of the little ones with Ds are crowded into the sessions on speech, gross motor skills, reading and math, I prefer to focus on the future and hope that something can be done now, while she's still young, to alleviate the fears and destroy the monstrous shadow that threatens to take and alter her in her adulthood. There is a lot of research going on right now into Alzheimer's and Down syndrome, drug trials seeking to eliminate the threat both for those with Ds and without. And I'm optimistic that this can happen sooner than later.
And before I turn this post into a pit of despair, a fount of doom and gloom, I'll finish my NDSC weekend wrap-up with a little more of the fun stuff.
On Saturday night I attended the dance alone, while my mother went up to our room to put my exhausted child to bed. I was alone, but not alone. Everywhere I turned, another friend to talk to. And, through one of these conversations, I discovered that Produce, a film I had wanted to see that afternoon but that had been shown in a room filled above capacity, was being re-shown at 11pm. I raced down to the room and got a private screening with 4 other people. Great film showcasing an amazingly talented young actor with Down syndrome named David DeSanctis, who I was excited to get to meet on Sunday morning.
Being there was like being with family. I was surrounded by friends old and new, creating and cementing friendships that I know I will have for a long, long time to come. I had a little moment there at one point, when a woman approached me and said, "Is that Samantha? I read your blog!" I didn't get her name, but based on that comment, I don't think I know her from Facebook, and think she's just a regular reader here. That seriously made me feel good, and inspired me to come back and start writing again. I wish I had gotten her name, though, and would give her credit for these last 2 posts and the many others I plan on writing, going forward. Maybe I could tell her she pulled me from the cold depths of blog retirement.
Next year the NDSC conference will be in Phoenix. I'm definitely planning on attending, one way or another, and can't wait to do it all again! Good people doing good things.
I love this club. :-)