The SLN’s seventh national conference, held June 22-23, 2019 in St. Paul, MN was a huge success! We welcomed 118 attendees from 27 states, as well as Taiwan, India, and Zambia. Attendees spent the weekend learning from national leaders in the sibling movement and making connections to last a lifetime.
The Conference kicked off on Saturday with breakfast and a welcome by Dr. Colleen Wieck, Executive Director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. Katie Arnold, SLN’s Executive Director, provided a welcoming presentation about the sibling experience and the strength of the Sibling Leadership Network. Lindsey Polansky, the SLN Board Chair served as our welcoming and enthusiastic Master of Ceremonies. Don Meyer, founder of the Sibling Support Project, author, and creator of Sibshops, provided an energizing and engaging Keynote Presentation that had siblings nodding their heads in agreement, experiencing goosebumps from the sense of being understood, and laughing at humorous sibling experiences.
Conference attendees had the opportunity to choose from four different power-packed morning breakout sessions on topics including: sexuality, siblings of Special Olympics athletes, the role of siblings in Supported Decision-Making, and resources, emotions, and caregiving.
After the first round of breakout sessions, attendees came back together to enjoy lunch and a dynamic Sibling Panel led by Don Meyer and five siblings with a range of experiences.
Attendees then moved on to the second round of breakout sessions which included: disability policy, research implications for siblings, a sibling film called Woody’s Order, and parenthood from the sibling and sib-in-law perspective.
The first day of the conference concluded with a great reception where Don Meyer was given the first SLN Lifetime Achievement Award. He was met with a standing ovation as siblings around the world have truly benefited from the support he has created and provided. In his honor, several founding members of the SLN generously and spontaneously created an award in Don Meyer’s name.
Day Two of the conference started strong with Table Talks where attendees could choose a topic and engage in discussion. Topics included self-advocacy perspectives, diversity & social justice, future planning, transitions, the needs of young siblings, educational & service planning for siblings, sibling grief & loss, the club sandwich generation, and writing about siblinghood. Conference attendees reported that Table Talks provided them with a great space to connect and engage.
Everyone then joined together again for an engaging keynote presentation by the Alexander-Calloway family. Two generations of amazing siblings spoke about their sibling journey. Lynne and Leah talked about their life against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, educational rights/advocacy, and the experience of aging parents. Lynne’s children, Alex and Layci continued their story in the millennial voice with a positive message of hope for future generations.
The Conference concluded with a plenary session entitled Using Charting the LifeCourse to Support our Siblings and Ourselves to have a Good Life. Emma Shouse Garton, Barbara Sapharas, and Alison Whyte led this meaningful session.
The SLN is truly grateful to everyone for making the conference such a success! Our Board of Directors is a group of engaged sibling leaders and our Conference Planning Committee was committed to creating a wonderful conference. Traveling from all across the country requires resources and commitment and we are so thankful that we had the chance to meet each person who attended the Conference.
We would also like to extend another thank you to our generous conference sponsors:
Community Drive, Inc., Orange Socks, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, DC Developmental Disabilities Council, GT Independence, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities , The Arc, Carver and Associates, National Association on Councils of Developmental Disabilities, National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, John’s Crazy Socks, Values Into Action, Woman’s Society of First Congregational Church of Western Springs, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Barbara Sapharas, WisconSibs, SibsNY, Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, American Network of Community Options and Resources, The Arc of Midland, National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities, Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters, Tamar Heller, Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute, Wayne State University, Tom Fish, Carla Washinko and Deb Larkin, Jeremy Cares, Inc., GoldenFit Homes, Inc., The Arc Michigan, Nancy Webster, Community Living Services, Inc., MI SIBS, Nora and Bruce Handler, Angela Martin, Anne Richardson, NCR Roofing & Maintenance Inc., Richard and Ellen Russell, Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine, Center for Outcome Analysis, Mary Dempsey, Core Balance Pilates, Pinckney, Michigan, Sibling Tree , Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, Autism Society of Minnesota, Living Well Disability Services, and The Arc MN.
We are already looking forward to the next conference in 2021!