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Vermont Family Network Annual Conference: Imagine, Inspire, Innovate

April 9 @ 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on April 9, 2021 at 9:00 am



| Free


VFN Annual Conference 2021

April 8th 9:00-2:30 and April 9th 9:00-2:30

FREE EVENT – Register Here!

Attention all Registrants! – A Zoom link for the conference will be sent the day before on Wednesday April 7th.

Please join us for our 2021 Annual Conference, held over two days on Thursday, April 8th 9:00-2:30 and Friday, April 9th 9:00-2:30. As we all adapt to life during the pandemic, this year’s event is free of charge and will be held online over Zoom. Our goal is to bring inspiring speakers and practical information to families of children and youth with special health needs or disabilities and the professionals who serve them. We hope that this format will allow greater accessibility for our attendees.

This year our theme is “Imagine, Inspire, Innovate” and we are featuring two wonderful Keynote speakers. On day one, Rachel Callander will join us from Australia to speak about her experience with her daughter in “Life, Love and Awesomeness: The Impact and Implications of Language” and on day two, Karen Gaffney will share her story as a person with Down Syndrome in “Today is a Journey of Hope!” Both Rachel and Karen will surely inspire you!

We have a fabulous line-up of 6 workshops on topics including: a special 2 hour workshop on using the “Charting the Life Course” tool, Resiliency and Self-care, Transition to Adulthood from both the young adult and parent perspectives, navigating Care Conferences, and Anxiety with our Puppets in Education program! There will also be an opportunity for parents to chat over lunch.

After you register, you will receive a Zoom link the day before the event that will cover both days. With this link, you will be able to join at any time for any part of the conference that you wish.

We look forward to seeing you on April 8th and 9th!

Register Here!

Full Conference Schedule:

Day 1 – Thursday April 8

  • 9:00-9:15      Welcome
  • 9:15-10:15     Keynote Rachel Callander

“Life, Love and Awesomeness: The Impact and Implications of Language” This presentation focuses on the impact and implications of language. Rachel shares her story as the mother of Evie, a daughter with complex medical needs, and her years as a patient (and Rachel’s as a parent) in the healthcare system. Rachel unpacks the Health Language Matrix, showing how different communication styles affect patients, parents and healthcare professionals in their efforts to collaborate.

Presenter: What is so moving about Rachel Callander’s story, is not how close to death she’s come, but how close to life. She’s been described as a great leveller of people. She’s deeply passionate about the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, and how understanding others and drawing out their strengths are the embodiment of the skills necessary to communicate effectively in high context cultures. She brings art, science and lived experience to help people collaborate effectively, achieve positive outcomes, feel seen, heard and understood and communicate clearly. She’s the author of 2 books “Super Power Baby Project and “Super Power Kids”, and an award winning artist and photographer.

  • 10:15-10:30    Break
  • 10:30-12:30   Workshop 1

“A Good Life for All using Charting the LifeCourse!” The Charting the LifeCourse Framework was created “by families, for families” to help individuals and families of all abilities and all ages develop a vision and plan the supports for a good life. The LifeCourse Framework can be applied to your current situation/stage of life and helps people look ahead to think about life experiences that will help move them toward an inclusive life in the future. Brenda will guide you through the key concepts of the framework, including the Trajectory and Integrated Supports Star. Participants will learn tools that offer new ways to frame conversations, problem-solve, and plan.

Presenter: Brenda Smith is a certified Person-Centered Thinking Mentor Trainer, LifeCourse Ambassador, parent and advocate. She has been involved in disability issues for 40 years. She currently provides training to professionals, educators, families, and self-advocates. Brenda is recognized nationally in the PCT movement as a family leader. She feels her greatest life teachings have come from her son, as well as from other individuals with disabilities and their families. She is passionate about helping families, educators, and other professionals envision positive futures for our family members with disabilities.

  • 12:30-1:30    Lunch Break with Parent Chat
  • 1:30-2:30      Workshop 2

“Building Resilience through Self-Care during Times of Trauma” Many people experience trauma in their lives, yet somehow are able to continue moving through life with grace. With the onset of the pandemic, many more are experiencing a new kind of trauma along with increases in anxiety. As somebody who is fascinated by human nature and people’s stories, Dr. Basoglu will talk about trauma and its effects on the brain, with a focus on resilience and ways to overcome its impacts on life.

Presenter: Dr. Feyza Basoglu, MD is a graduate of Istanbul University School of Medicine. She completed her adult psychiatry residency at University of Massachusetts Berkshire Medical Center and her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at University of Vermont. In the past 7 years, she has been seeing her patients at Howard Center and Counseling Service of Addison County and teaching as a clinical assistant professor at UVM Larner College of Medicine. Dr Basoglu has a passion for children and enjoys working with them while learning from them and growing with them.  She is very interested in breaking the stigma for mental health problems within communities and understanding and promoting mental wellness.

Day 2 – Friday April 9             

  • 9:00-9:15       Welcome
  • 9:15-10:00     Keynote Karen Gaffney

“Today is a Journey of Hope” Karen Gaffney, a hard working employee, and well known spokesperson and advocate for Inclusion in LIFE for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities , will back up that statement with an inspiring talk about her experiences overcoming challenges to build an active and full life for herself. And she will talk about the achievements of many other adults with Down syndrome just like her who are demonstrating that Down syndrome is a Life Meant to be Lived! You will come away from this talk imagining all sorts of new possibilities for our children and young adults with abilities of all kinds.

Presenter: Karen Gaffney is the President of a non-profit organization dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion in families, schools, the workplace, and the community for people with intellectual disabilities. She is doing this by creating awareness and calling attention to the tremendous capabilities of people with disabilities through presentations and workshops delivered to audiences all over the country. She is the first person with Down syndrome to deliver a TED talk. In addition to her non-profit work, Karen has also earned a two-year associates degree and works part time at Providence Health Systems in a clerical role. In her free time, Karen is a long-distance open water swimmer with some incredible achievements to her name including a 9-mile solo swim across the width of Lake Tahoe and an 8.5-mile swim across Lake Champlain, just to name a few. Karen tackles any challenge she faces with determination and commitment, knowing she has limits, but not allowing them to limit her drive to succeed.

  • 10:00-10:15   Break
  • 10:15-11:15    Workshop 1

“Teens and Troubleshooting and Transitions…Oh My! Lessons Learned on Transition Plans that Will Make a Difference for Your Young Adult.” Jacqui Kelleher is the parent of adult twin sons with disabilities and she will share her experiences, lessons learned, and pitfalls to be avoided as she and her boys navigated transitioning to adulthood in the special education process. Join us for this interactive and informative session!

Presenter: Jacqueline Kelleher, MA, Ph.D., State Director of Special Education -Student Support Services Division, Agency of Education

  • 11:15-11:30   Break
  • 11:30-12:15   Workshop 2

“Building on What’s Important Through the Pandemic: Derek’s Story” Derek Smith is a self-advocate who is well known in his home state of South Dakota and nationally. When “difficult times” arose with the pandemic, Derek worried about losing many of the things that were important to him. Derek sat down with his mother Brenda, a nationally-known advocate for families and together they designed a plan which identified Derek’s Important “To’s” and “For’s” and helped him identify ways to stay connected to his community.  In this session, Derek will share his journey and discuss the person-centered tools they used along the way.

Presenter: Derek Smith is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He enjoys sports, meeting new people, helping others, and his dog, Jaxon. Derek is a Partners in Policymaking graduate, an employee, a business owner and serves on the South Dakota DD Council. Throughout COVID he has embraced technology for support and to connect with his friends and family. Always interested in helping others, Derek has organized weekly virtual events to offer others opportunities to ‘get together’ and have fun!

  • 12:15-12:30  Break
  • 12:30 -1:30  Workshop 3

“A Child’s Team Huddle: The Care Conference” The Care Conference brings a child’s medical, school and community supports together with the family to create a Shared Care Plan. This workshop will discuss the preparation and implementation of care conferences.

Presenter: Dr. Andrea E. Green, MDCM, FAAP is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. She is the Director of the Pediatric New American Program and Pediatric Global Health; her scholarship is in providing care to children in immigrant families. Areas of academic focus include mental health screening and multigenerational trauma, social determinants of health especially food insecurity and non-traditional US diets, health literacy, care coordination, community collaboration and advocacy.

  • 1:30-1:45      Break
  • 1:45-2:30      Workshop 4

“Anxiety/Worry Virtual Puppet Presentation” Peek behind the curtain of this engaging show that supports children grades K-4 with their Anxiety/Worry. This program will begin with a live, virtual introduction with a puppet, include a professionally filmed and engaging puppet skit, and end with a live Q&A with the Puppet Team! Experience what we share with children, and learn what they tell our puppets and how we can best support them.

Presenter: VFN’s Puppets in Education (PiE), is a program that teaches children how to keep them selves safe and healthy and to appreciate each other’s differences. They do this through educational programs for children and adults that utilize life-size puppets who model effective leadership and problem-solving skills and demonstrate respect compassion and inclusion in a diverse community. During the pandemic, the PiE team quickly adapted the new Anxiety (Worry) program to a virtual format to support students when they needed it the most.

Many thanks to our 2021 Conference Sponsors!

Platinum level:

Children with Special Health Needs – VT Department of Health

Gold level:

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation – VT Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living

Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council

Silver level:

Office of the Provost – University of Vermont

Center on Disability and Community Inclusion – University of Vermont

SD Associates

If you would like to become a sponsor for our conference you can do so here.


Vermont Family Network


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