The SLN’s fifth national conference, held May 30-31 in Louisville, KY, was a huge success! We welcomed 110 attendees from 24 states, as well as Ireland, Israel, and Taiwan. Participants spent the weekend learning from national leaders in the sibling movement and forming strong connections with each other.
The conference kicked off on Saturday with lunch and an introduction to the importance of storytelling led by Pat Carver, the SLN Outgoing Board Chair. Then, Tori McClure, the President of Spalding University, located in Louisville, shared her own sibling story, weaving in her life with her brother Lamar and her expeditions to the South Pole and solo kayaking trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Next, Don Meyer, Executive Director of the Sibling Support Project, facilitated a panel of siblings who shared their perspectives. Attendees were invited to continue discussing their own experiences at their tables.
The first day concluded with Keynote speaker Andrew McQuaide, Consent Decree and Settlement Coordinator for the State of Rhode Island, who shared about his journey of bringing all of his various identities together, and the importance of mobilizing those experiences for social change. People got to have dinner in downtown Louisville with new friends they had made at the conference. Saturday evening a book signing reception for The Sibling Survival Guide was held where people could purchase books, get them signed by the editors and authors, and network with other attendees.
Day Two of the conference started strong with SLN Executive Director Katie Arnold’s Keynote on the sibling movement and the SLN. Katie provided a context both for the history of the SLN and its present and future goals, while connecting her own family experience to the broader movement. This helped set up the more specific breakout sessions. The first round of breakout sessions included: “Planning for the Future: The Sibling Roadmap,” led by Katie Arnold and Liz Mahar of The Arc which addressed starting the conversation in families, including all family perspectives, and various areas to consider in future planning. The second breakout, which focused on translating research into advocacy for siblings, focused on key findings from recent research and discussed implications for making change at the policy and practice levels. Meghan Burke, Tom Fish, Kristina Majewski and Shea Tanis analyzed how sibling can be effective advocates. The third breakout focused on supporting self-determination, and was led by Rachel Patterson, Pat Carver, and Liz Weintraub. This session discussed ways that siblings and self-advocates can advance self-determination, incorporating multiple perspectives into those strategies. The role of self-determination in enhancing quality of life for the whole family was also emphasized.
A final set of breakout sessions included a session on legal documents including wills, trusts and power of attorney. This session, led by Karen Perch and Carolyn Wheeler, both Kentucky residents, provided a detailed overview of the various documents, processes and strategies needed when considering legal and financial aspects of future planning. Harriet Redman and Erin Sweeney Hutzelman presented on how to develop chapters of the SLN, highlighting strategies and models that worked for past chapters and other organizations. The third breakout emphasized the collective family voice, with Shea Tanis, Eric McVay, Debbie Gilbert and Tia Nelis presenting on how multiple family perspectives can add to our overall understanding and implementation of improving outcomes for people with disabilities and their families.
SLN thanks everyone for making the conference such a success! We would also like to extend another thank you to our 20 amazing conference sponsors: Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, EasterSeals and MassMutual, Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, The Arc, American Network of Community Options and Resources, Human Services Research Institute, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, A good friend of the SLN, Cedar Lake, Lee Specialty Clinic, National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, Quality Trust and The National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making, Community Drive, Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University, Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky, Center for Outcome Analysis, Nora and Bruce Handler, and Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters.
Many chapters also used this weekend to meet in person-sometimes for the first time! Christiana Redman, from Wisconsibs, wrote two terrific blog posts about her experience at the conference-check them out here and here!
The SLN looks forward to many more successful conferences in the years to come.