Professionals, Advocates, Resources (PAR) and Ohio Self Determination Association (OSDA) recently partnered to provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for people from different locations and backgrounds to come together, share their stories, network with colleagues, and form lasting relationships.
Three advocates from Fayette County attended the three-day conference. Synergy 2017 was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Dublin, Ohio. The event kicked off on Oct. 4 with keynote speaker Anthony Ianni of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Anthony is one of the most sought after anti-bullying motivational speakers in the region.
At the age of 4, Anthony was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), which is on the Autism Spectrum (ASD). Doctors and specialists told Anthony’s parents that he would barely graduate from high school, would never graduate from college, would never have a shot at being an athlete and would likely live in a group institution with other autistic kids for his adult life. His family was devastated, but pledged they would help Anthony be successful no matter what; and he is.
Despite bullies, adversity and numerous personal challenges, Anthony worked hard and never gave up. Not only did he earn a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in sociology, but he also is the first-known athlete with autism to play Big 10 basketball. Anthony played for legendary coach Tom Izzo while at MSU. To learn more about Anthony Ianni, visit http://relentlesstour.com/meet-anthony-ianni/.
After being inspired by Anthony’s story, the advocates attended different breakout sessions throughout the day. Some of the sessions offered throughout the three-day event were: A Limited Budget Doesn’t Mean A Limited Life, Safety and Social Media, NCI, and National Core Indicators (this group is looking to hire people with disabilities to conduct interviews with other people with disabilities in their own counties).
The second day kicked off with keynote speaker, Dwight Smith, Foundation Governing Committee member of My Special Word. Dwight shared that everyone has a special word that describes them. Not the negative words that they have heard for most of their lives, but, a word that is special to them.
“Words are….important, powerful, impactful, meaningful,” Smith said. Those in the audience were asked to think of a word that was meaningful to them, a word that they could value, own, live and share with others.
Once they had “their word,” Smith gave everyone the opportunity to share “their special word” and why it was important to them, and how they planned on living and owning it. Once again, everyone left the room feeling inspired and empowered. Breakout sessions attended on this day were: Speak Up Stay Safe within your community and Interactions with First Responders (Working Together for Better Outcomes).
During the luncheon award ceremonies, Ohio Secretary of State Jon A. Husted shared his own personal story of a family member with a disability. Although the advocates from Fayette County truly appreciated becoming more informed and empowered through the breakout sessions, the networking event that took place in the evening, which included a D.J., dancing and a photo booth complete with props, was one of the most memorable times of the event.
There were over 700 registered for this conference – many of which were people with disabilities, from all over Ohio. Many left the conference feeling more empowered and with new friendships. We look forward to Synergy 2018.
For more information about the Community First department at Fayette County Board of DD, please contact Betty Reisinger, Community First director at 740-335-7453 or visit www.fayettedd.com.