The first ever PDA Society Parent Conference was held on the 23/09/15 at the Park Inn by Radisson and what a day it was! I have never, ever attended an event before that was so emotionally charged from beginning to end! The work and organisation that had gone into this conference by the PDA Society Committee was simply outstanding. How this group of people managed to organise and host such a professional and knock out conference while simultaneously balancing family life with their own children with PDA, often in conjunction with jobs and running the PDA Society is nothing short of amazing!
The PDA Society had wanted to provide parents with a conference that would differ from the professional PDA conferences and this was pulled off and then some…. It was a conference of warmth, emotion, togetherness, tears and laughter with many memorable moments and some very special touches.
The opening short film, which was a compilation of parental quotes and pictures of individuals with PDA and parents of individuals with PDA, set to the music of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ really was an emotional opener and set the tone for the whole day. From that point on I think that many of us were charged up to the max and riding on the wave of a most incredible buzz.
On each table were strips of coloured paper for each parent to write on stating what things gave them strength. A huge paper chain was to be made from all of the completed strips but it wasn’t until the end that the reasons for this would be revealed. There were also some other really nice touches like raffles and prizes for different things which again gave the conference a really lovely flavour and differentiated it from your standard conference.
There were four presentations throughout the day which were really nicely balanced between professionals and parents.
Phil Christie, Consultant Child Psychologist got things off to a flying start with the opening presentation talking about the history of PDA, information on recent and ongoing research, where PDA now sits on the spectrum as well as some really lovely insights about how we can better understand what drives the behaviour for our children with PDA.
Jo Clarke, PhD., Director of Petros: Resilience for Life was on next and gave a very fabulous and witty presentation discussing the Dr Ross Green model for parenting based on the premise that ‘children do well if they can’ and how the use of collaboration and flexibility with your child towards a better shared understanding of each other can be so hugely beneficial for all concerned.
Following Phil and Jo’s presentations the parents attending all went to have a break, attend their preferred workshops and then have lunch. The idea of workshops in additions to the presentations was a stroke of genius. Not only could parent’s attending listen to the speakers but they could also get specific information, in small groups, on a variety of subjects that affect the daily lives of families living with PDA like sensory issues, siblings, de-escalation techniques, sleep and educational issues to name but a few.
I was up next and yes I was shaking with nerves and just hoping that by hook or crook I would get through it without completely losing the plot or going completely blank. I have only ever done one presentation before which was to about 25 people and so speaking to 250 people including the likes of Phil Chrisitie, Ruth Fidler and Jo Clarke was a bit of a steep curve to face head on to say the least. The theme for my presentation was about developing the confidence to parent the PDA way and after a shaky start I managed to get into my stride and even ran over my allocated time. I had practiced and practiced at home and had even struggled to spin things out for my allocated 20 minute slot and so running over was somewhat of a miracle. My apologies to anyone on the day whose workshop time was affected by running over, I was simply in a haze of fear and forgot about anything and everything else in a bid to get through my presentation in one piece.
Here are the slides from my presentation.
Parenting the PDA Way
Next up was Neville Starnes, PDA Society trustee and creator of the “bluemillicent” YouTube videos. As ever Neville presented a beautifully written and humerous presentation. His use of words and language was both profound and poetic striking a chord with many parents. He finished off with a really funny comparison between the PDA diagnostic criteria and how the behaviour of many education authorities actually perfectly fits this criteria. It was a lovely way to finish the presentations with humour and laughter.
Following the speeches the parents went to their respective workshops and I practically did a Usain Bolt to the bar for a much needed glass of vino. It was here that I had one of my very special memories of the day when I shared an emotional hug with a parent who has found my ramblings over the past few years helpful.
The day finished off in much the same way that it had started, emotional and uplifting. Myself, Neville, Deb West and Margo were all surprised with a lovely gift each for our support to parents, during the past few years for me and going even longer back for the others. Then the music piped up again ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and the video began to play all of the comments of support and thanks from many parents. The paper chain, now complete and all strips linked together, was held aloft and past from the front of the room to the back in a Mexican style wave move as the music and video continued to play. Wow what a moment, what a feeling and what a way to end the most amazing conference.
The conference had come to an end and what a buzz it was, time to have a chill with a few of the others in the bar and savor the memories of the day.
Special thanks from me to everyone who put this conference together and for the honor of inviting me to speak. Also a huge thank your for the massive support that was given to me both before, during and after my presentation from so many people and to the parents who came over to say hi. It was lovely to meet you all and to be able to put real life faces to so many facebook profiles.