Support close to home: Free mini-conference offers tips and support to local families of children with disabilities

By Rebecca Long Pyper

The Midweek Mini-Conference, designed to support families of children with disabilities, will be held April 14 through 16 at the Clarion Inn in Pocatello.

This marks the first time the biennial mini-conference is being held in east Idaho. Sponsored by Idaho Parents Unlimited, the mini-conferences are designed to address topics from early childhood to transition to adulthood and every juncture in between. “It really, truly is the broad range — there’s really something for everyone,” said IPUL executive director Angela Lindig.

And to make it easier for parents to attend, the conference is free.

“We don’t want any family to have any barriers in attending. Our families who have children with disabilities have complex lives, and if there’s any barrier to them getting important information for their children, we just don’t want to see that happen,” Lindig said, adding that organizers love to see teachers and service providers in attendance too; a diverse blend of attendees “gives them a chance to discuss each other’s perspectives, especially at our roundtables at lunch.” The cost for professionals is $15, through the fee is waived if they bring along a parent.

For years the mini-conferences were held in Boise, but “every year we would hear, ‘Everything happens in Boise, you don’t understand our region, come to us, things are different here,’ and so we did,” Lindig said.

IPUL is a statewide group providing training and information to parents of children with disabilities. Officials help families gain the education needed to make informed choices about healthcare and connect them with area resources.

The event kicks off April 14 with a keynote address by Nancy Thomas, author of “When Love Is Not Enough: A Guide to Parenting Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder” and producer of a video series on raising and teaching children. According to Lindig, Thomas is well known as an expert on RAD, but any family with a child having behavioral issues will benefit from attending the keynote.

Some April 15 highlights will include sessions on school-based Medicaid services and roundtable discussions on topics like facilitated Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), independent living and inclusive education. And April 16 will feature a presentation on infant-toddler development and breakout sessions addressing coordinated health care for the child, effective parent advocacy and teambuilding.

Also, this year’s conference will include a resource swap for the first time, where families and caregivers can bring and trade books, literature, supplies and the like.

Early registration is encouraged, though attendees can register the day of the event at the Clarion. For more information, including online registration, and for a full agenda of events visit www.ipulidaho.org.

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