Posted on October 01, 2006 at 08:41 AM
My cousin Michelle and her husband went to their very first National OI conference this summer which was held in Omaha. I asked her to write down her thoughts on what they experienced in order to possibly persuade others who might be undecided on making the trek to Virginia in 2008.
Here is what she said:
Our trip to Omaha was a real eye opener. This was the first OI Conference we have attended. I highly suggest going, if possible. We received so much information that we never did think of and met with other OI parents who told their stories. It was very emotional.
We decided not to bring Ryan, not knowing what to expect. We wanted to learn anything & everything, but we missed having him there. I suggest bringing your kids. They have trained caretakers there or you can bring your kids into the sessions with you. It is a very relaxed atmosphere, and you can pick & choose the sessions you want to attend.
A couple of things we learned in which we never thought of was: Who was going to take care of Ryan if something happened to us, God forbid. Financially, most children are under some type of medicaid/social security and the money part has a lot to do with it. All of our assets/belongings could not go to him. For Ryan, any assets above $2,000 would make him ineligible for his insurance.
Also, we needed to make sure whomever was to take him would be physically & emotionally ready to do so. It is a huge decision, but should be done right away. We learned that children have IEP's when they go to school or some type of written document stating from how to treat and take care of them, what they can & cannot do during school and any special needs that they have during school, i.e. riding the school bus, therapy during school, going to the bathroom, gym class, recess, etc... So many things that people take for granted.
During the IEP class we found out that there are people who advocate for your children's needs and specialize in helping parents get what their child needs at school. We attended a peer to peer group for parents with children going to school and we found that very informative. They told us their experiences and what they have done. It is so much better to hear from people who deal with it than the text book version. Throughout the whole conference people were willing to share their life story. It is so much better to hear it in person than on the Internet where you cannot see the emotion.
Attending the conference is somewhat expensive, but if you start saving for it ahead of time it is well worth it. Most states offer funding for people to attend these types of events.
If you would like share your National OI Conference experience as well, please do so in the comments section.