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Families and Professionals Log On for Annual Virtual Family Connect Summit

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Thursday, October 6th marked ADAPT Community Network’s 7th Annual Family Connect Summit. The Summit, which has been virtual since 2020, helps children and adults with disabilities and their families to gain an understanding of the resources and knowledge available to them. The day is comprised of six expert-led educational sessions, each with a Q&A at the end. 

With over 800 people registered, the Summit was attended by people from across New York State. The introductory plenary session featured ADAPT Community Network CEO Ed Matthews, OPWDD Executive Deputy Commissioner Roger Bearden, Director of the Metro Team for the Corporation for Supportive Housing Patricia Hernandez, CSW, and moderator Tracy Pickar, ADAPT’s Vice President of Family Services. During this first session, the panelists discussed housing support and services available to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The plenary session introduced and set the tone for the next five sessions of the day.  

The first panel was titled “Advocating at the IEP Meeting: Strategies for Success – What Every Parent Needs to Know,” and taught parents how to advocate for their children’s education while navigating the Individualized Education Program, or IEP. The next panel, “Introduction To Medicaid Waiver, Self Direction, and Independent Housing,” informed participants about obtaining Medicaid Waivers through OPWDD and explained Self-Direction, a way for people with developmental disabilities to choose their own services. The third session, titled “Parent Panel: How to Be an Effective Advocate for Your Child with a Disability,” featured a diverse panel of family members of children with disabilities educating other parents on how they could best build a network of support and advocate for their loved ones. Next, panelists described how family members could address challenging behaviors and figure out why they occur in a session called “Positive Approaches to Behavior in Adults and Children.” Finally, the day ended with the “Mental Health in Children & Adolescents: How to Support Your Child” seminar, in which guardians learned how to understand their children’s mental health struggles and how they could support them through those struggles. 

To wrap up the day, ADAPT Community Network Chief Executive Officer Ed Matthews addressed the Summit’s attendees in a speech. 

“Thank you for joining us in our Family Connect Summit,” Mr. Matthews said. “I hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you again to all of our staff and all of our panelists who came and shared their expertise and shared their love of kids and adults with disabilities with you today.” 

After the Summit, participants were provided with a survey to provide us with feedback about the day’s events. They praised the presenters, especially the parents, who one survey respondent said had admirable strength and self-advocacy.  

Tracy Pickar and Wendy De Leon, who organized the Summit with the Family Connect team, summed up the conference. 

“We are so happy we were able to reach so many people supported, family members, and professionals in the IDD community and provide useful information,” Pickar said. “This year we were able to hold the conference live virtually so that people from all over New York were able to attend. We also had the added feature of allowing participants to ask questions in real time so presenters could answer their questions during the session. It was great to see how engaged the audience was in all of the sessions. We look forward to next year where we will continue to expand our reach and provide valuable information to all interested.” 

If you missed the Summit or would like to review the material, recordings are available here with subtitles in English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese. Thanks to the organizers, panelists, and all who attended for making the Summit a success! 

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