guest speakers Michael K. Yudin. Dana Yarbrough, and Brooke Yarbrough, at the visions of community conference 2014
Visions of Community 2014

The Federation for Children with Special Needs held its annual statewide conference “Visions of Community, a Conference for Parents of Children with Special Needs and the Professionals Who Serve Them” on Saturday, March 8 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. It was a wonderful day! Energy and inspiration, and hope and expectation were felt throughout the day by the 900 people who attended the event.

Two keynote presentations for Visions of Community were Michael K. Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the US Department of Education and Dana and Brooke Yarbrough. Dana is the Executive Director of Parent to Parent of Virginia. Her daughter Brooke operates Brooke’s Happy Tails Dog Boarding, a microenterprise she started in 2012. Michael Yudin’s message centered around three key principles: inclusion, equity and opportunity. His message was down to earth and resonated with parents and professionals. Yudin believes that we are to change the culture of expectations and truly believes that “parents are the change agents.” Dana Yarbrough and her daughter Dana spoke about transition to adulthood and again the issue of expectation was brought forth.  Dana expressed that in her experience as a parent she values having progressed from advocating for her daughter to learning to advocate with her daughter.

Breakout workshops at Visions of Community included topics on special education advocacy, managing challenging behaviors, transition to adulthood for students with disabilities, inclusion, policy initiatives, assistive technology, healthcare, bullying, parent leadership opportunities, early childhood, autism and more. In addition to approximately 30 sessions in English, a full conference strand of many of these topics was offered in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Somali, and Vietnamese and also ASL interpretation. The conference Exhibit Hall featured about 84 vendors and resources for families.

The conference offered a wonderful opportunity for families and professionals to network and learn about important resources.  Just to illustrate this point, a staff member related his experience in passing two parents in the hallway outside of the Waterfront Ballroom as they were leaving the session on the Emotional Journey of discovering your child has special needs. They were exchanging the types of benefits they had so far been able to acquire for their children of similar ages. What impressed the staff member was that even in the most remote crevices of the World Trade Center, parents were helping parents find the support they desperately needed, and the Federation conference is a major contributor to facilitating and initiating those interactions and relationships. That reflection exemplifies the mission of the Federation, which is the commitment to listening to and learning from families, and encouraging full participation in community life by all people, especially those with disabilities. The Federation places a tremendous value on parents because of the contributions they make as the leaders of families toward supporting the health, education, and development of their children at home and in society.

It was a day filled with information, hope, inspiration, support and the opportunity to establish links and relationships for parents and professionals. We only have to wait until March 7, 2015 for the next year’s conference to feel that energizing wave again.  In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the Federation and its projects, please visit

To see past keynotes speakers and award recipients go to fcsn videos

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