Parents of children with special needs can find support, new ideas and even camaraderie Friday and Saturday at Reaching Across the Plains, an annual conference hosted by The Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma.
The conference, which will be held at Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman, 2501 Conference Drive, will feature a special presentation and informational sessions by keynote speaker Don Meyer, a nationally known leader in the Down syndrome community.
Meyer, who created the Sibling Support Project in 1990, will give information about SibShops, which are fun and educational programs for younger brothers and sisters of kids with special needs.
“Whatever you can say about being the parent of the child with special needs, you can pretty much put ditto marks underneath for brothers and sisters,” Meyer said.
Siblings are often virtually overlooked by service providers who generally focus on the patient and parents. “Brothers and sisters will be in the lives of that family member longer than anybody will.”
Siblings of children with special needs often experience feelings their peers don't, Meyer said. These can include embarrassment, guilt, isolation, concern about the future, resentment and pressure to be the family achiever. On the other hand, Meyer said, these siblings often display many admirable qualities as a result of their situations.
During the conference, Meyer will lead a demonstration of a typical Sibshop where attendees who wish to start Sibshops in their area can learn the techniques Meyer developed for the program.
“The conference is not just for parents of children with Down syndrome, but also for professionals, educators and anyone else who has contact with individuals with Down syndrome,” said Megan Winkler, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma.
Additionally, teens 15 and older with Down syndrome (also known as Self-Advocates by the Down Syndrome Association) are invited to a simultaneous conference that will cover topics such as relationships, exercise and fitness, performance art and health and nutrition.
Admission to Reaching Across the Plains for individuals is $40, $60 for couples and $100 for out of state attendees. The cost for teens 15 and up to attend the teen conference is $25.
The conference begins with registration at 1:30 p.m. March 9. For information about the conference, go online to www.
Local Sibshops are held in several metro locations and will resume in fall. For information about meetings in Oklahoma City, contact Sandra Kirkpatrick at sibshop@