What Exactly Happens At The Conference?

Image may contain: sky, plant, tree, ocean, bridge, cloud, outdoor, water and natureMy very first CASANA Conference for Childhood Apraxia was this past week from July 6th through the 8th in Paradise Point, San Diego.

CASANA relocates the annual conference to different cities across the United States. We do not yet know where the 2018 Conference will be, but hopefully we find out soon!

As far as this years conference though, I really didn't know what to expect and for those who have not attended before, I'd like to provide some information as to what my family, friends, and I did for the conference. There really was something for everybody! Also, full disclosure, there's never enough time nor energy to do EVERYTHING at the conference. It's an extremely fun, and exhausting weekend. The highlight though is the people you meet from all over and all different stages of their Apraxia journeys. Anyways, here's how our weekend went:

Thursday, July 6th

4:30PM: Reception

Outside on this patio next to the gorgeous bay with the sun setting and palm trees; it was stunning. We met and talked to a lot of different people. Personally, I met CASANA members whom I had only ever emailed (such as, Lincoln Purdy, Justin LeWinter, Kathy Hennessy) and also met new people from across the United States. It was just a lovely early evening of hour d'eourves and socializing.

Some even recognized me from the blog, which was a shock to my parents and myself. I forgot that there's real people out there reading my posts-not just me and my computer (whoops!) Anyways, I digress.

6PM: Keynote Address

At around 6pm, we entered the largest hall for the Keynote Address. The beginning consisted of honoring Sharon Gretz, the founder of CASANA. There were gifts presented and discussion of Sharon's immense contributions into ensuring all children have a voice and the amount of passion it took to start CASANA.

Then, right after, Theresa Fagundes gave the Keynote Address. She shared her story of being a dedicated Aunt to her nephew, Harrison, and also a dedicated Speech Pathologist. The catch of her story though was Harrison and his family lived in Illinois, but they spent Summers out with Theresa in California for constant speech therapy practice. She then showed a video of their adventures with emphasis on the family members and close friends that contributed to Harrison's success.

8PM: Dinner time with a mad craving for Tacos del Pollo
My family and I had made the mistake of not really eating a lot prior to the Reception and Keynote Address. Our stomachs were growling and we quickly left for a late dinner at Old Town San Diego.

It was a late night for us, but we knew my mom and I needed rest for our session the next day so we decided to sleep in.

Friday, July 11th
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6AM-8AM: Too early for us to function (Whoops!)

The conference offered 6AM Yoga overlooking the bay and also breakfast covered in the registration fee from 7AM-8AM.

I had initially thought that I could attend that, but I had to present at 10AM and I stayed up too late- no early morning yoga for me!

8AM-9:30AM: First round of sessions

I just couldn't bring myself to attend the first round of sessions. Shame on me, I know! There were six going on at this time in different conference rooms.

Meanwhile, our family and friends group met at 9:00AM. My parents drove their car from their RV resort and I was staying with my friend at another hotel, the Four Points Sheraton, as it was much cheaper for us.

My parents had picked us up and offered the breakfast of champions, McDonalds. I didn't eat any, my nervous butterflies naturally deterred my appetite.

We drove to Paradise Point where the conference was and began our long day.

10AM-11:30AM: Second round of sessions

There was my session, "Achieving with Apraxia," but also 6 others going on simultaneously in other conference rooms. Mind you, the sessions vary on topic from Speech Pathologists, to parents, to medical professionals-there's really something for everybody.

11:30AM-1PM: Lunch!

After there was an hour and a half lunch. On the patio overlooking the bay, there were paper-sack lunches with a sandwich, chips, and a chocolate chip cookie.

Personally, I was barely eating. I continued to talk to those that attended the session with questions and comments.

1PM-2:30PM: Third round of sessions

My family and I decided to attend a session called, "Life After Apraxia: The Good, Bad and the Ugly," by Michelle Leigh (Blogger of Apraxia Momma Bear) and Laura Smith (Blogger of SLP Mommy of Apraxia). Michelle and Laura not only blog and serve as Apraxia advocates, but they are also very dedicated mothers.

The session was fantastic as I was able to see the parental perspective of an Apraxia journey along with its beauty and pain. Also, it was great for parents in attendance as well as the speakers to unite together, address the issues in raising a child with Apraxia, but also remain hopeful and optimistic for their future.

3:00PM -4:30PM: Fourth round of sessions

The last session I attended was, "Overcoming Apraxia: I Couldn't Be Bitter, I Had to be Better," by a young woman named Charlotte Trattner. She had the disorder as a child, but most recently has been active in pageants and is attending college in Florida. She shared her story and strategies her family had utilized in the journey.

Personally, it was nice meeting someone and even catching up afterward with her and her family. I hadn't really met someone around my age before who had childhood speech struggles; it was definitely a unique experience!

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Dedicated Walk Coordinator &Advocate Bree & I!
(If local to SoCal, look into
attending the Inland Empire Walk for Children
With Apraxia in Oct 2017)!
After 4:30-6ish?: Drinks and Donors Reception

Look, I was having fun and had a few cocktails so pardon the time estimate.

Anyways, there was a small Donor Reception on a small grass lawn exclusively for CASANA members, donors that had given the organization a certain amount of money either by donations or I suppose walk coordinating, and Conference speakers.

It was a great evening, with a fantastic view, food, cash bar, and people. We all exchanged information and some of our backgrounds in our Apraxia Journey and our passion for advocacy, it was great!

Afterward we were on our own for dinner, where we went to the Cosmopolitan in Old Town for a celebratory dinner...and yes, a few more cocktails.

Saturday, July 8th: The Final Day

I'm going to be completely honest-I was exhausted by the final day of the conference. Most people in our party were exhausted, but I just had to go for at least some part of the day!

They started with 6AM Yoga and 7AM breakfast, with the first round of sessions beginning at 8AM.

As much as my friend and I thought we could get up for 6AM Yoga; sleeping totally won.

We slept in completely and didn't arrive to the conference until 9:30AM to at least attend a 10AM session. On the final day, it was my Dad, my college friend Michelle, and myself.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, sky, sunglasses, bridge, ocean, outdoor, closeup and waterWe attended a 10AM session led by Ruth Stoeckel called, "Co-Occurring Diagnoses: Other "Letters" That May Go With CAS."

To be honest, I was expecting to lose interest. My friend Michelle works as a nurse at a clinic and REALLY wanted to attend this session. Me on the other hand, I can often do without the fancy jargon entailed in 'diagnoses.'

However, I was very pleasantly surprised. Michelle, my dad, and I all kept heavy interest. Ruth was able to provide the technical definitions, but her explanations and real-life perspective and empathy with the audience was amazing. It was pleasant to see a professional in the speech pathology and clinical field that just felt down to earth and human!

Right after, we ate lunch and there was a Mexican cuisine buffet. We met with a few others, caught up with friends, and after lunch at around 1 we decided to leave in order to explore San Diego. My friend Michelle was catching an early flight and it was our last day in San Diego, so we wanted to make the most of it.

This was our schedule for the conference and by no means is this how everyone's schedule was like. I just know when I was prepping for the conference weekend, I had NO idea what to expect. So if you're thinking of attending in the future, prepare for the best, most inspiring, yet exhausting weekend of your life-it's absolutely worth it!