Friends and Family--

Welcome to the second edition of this letter from the Executive Director, my seasonal overview of what's going on at DSACT. One of our big goals for 2015 is increased transparency and better overall communication.

It may be late July, and we may still be in collective denial, but school shopping lists are being mailed out this week. It is time to cross off a few more titles on our summer reading lists before it is too late.

Fall is forever associated with back-to-school. As we wait for the heat to break and enjoy these last precious moments of summer, our minds here at DSACT have returned to education. Our preparation for the school year begins earlier than most, and we've got a lot in store for you.

Education is one of the most important things we do. That means educating new parents on Down syndrome fact and fiction at the moment they need it most. It also means supporting our adult members by offering scholarships for continuing education. The University of Texas at Austin offers semester-long continued educational opportunities for adults with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. Professor Jon-Pierce Shimomura is a DSACT member and professor; he just finished teaching his summer course, Fun with Science: Building Better Brains.

Education is also one of the most stressful topics I discuss with parents, teachers, staff, donors, and Board members alike. When I think about our mission, one of the best things I think we can do is help you sort through options and next steps when high stakes decisions about education arise.

At times, every parent feels like they are trailblazing. In reality, many parents have been there before and many more will follow your footsteps. Our number one priority when it comes to education is ensuring all learn from those around us. It does indeed take a village.

DSACT has made a conscious, significant investment in education every year and this year is no different. We are doing more and we are spending more than ever before. I want to remind you of the services and resources we offer as the fall approaches, and encourage you to mark you calendars now.

Here we go!

In 2013, we hired Peggy Wolf, who is our Education Manager at DSACT. Many of you know Peggy, but many more ought to. For one, Peggy manages public seminars and the speakers needed for them. But more importantly, she's available to you to answer questions and talk through concerns on a one-on-one basis.

As a former teacher, Peggy is able to see and understand the perspective of both parent and educator. I strongly encourage you to find some time with Peggy. This is her job, and her life's work. You can do so by emailing her at peggy.wolf@dsact.org. Now is a great time to meet -- having a solid plan heading into each school year can make a world of difference.

Next, we recently launched a new DSACT website, for which a revitalized Resources section was a focus. Our education section is packed full of information like how to introduce your child to a new teacher or new school, a topic that comes up frequently. Did you know for example that a simple "All About Me" book is very helpful and most welcome by teachers? Such a guide allows your school to tailor educational methods and styles to your child's particular needs.

Information on the education page on the website is currently updated and covers a wide range of topics. We put a lot of effort into these resources, and I hope you will find them useful. Please check back early and often here.

Speaking of resources, the DSACT Facebook and Yahoo groups have grown more and more active. They are incredible peer-to-peer support networks for parents to not only discuss best practices, but also celebrate moments of joy. I strongly recommend that you subscribe to one or both. If you are a parent and would like to sign up to be a part of the yahoo group, please email DSACT-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Special education legal consultations are also available through DSACT at zero charge to you. These consultations can last up to two hours and generally focus on inclusion and placement. Another frequent topic is the provision of services including curriculum modifications. Our goal is to help you be a better advocate. I encourage you to schedule a consultation, which you can do here.

Finally, there are three brand new things that we are debuting this Fall that I want to outline.

One, mark your calendars for Thursday, September 24th from 6-9pm in the Norman Hackerman Building at UT. The LuMind research foundation in conjunction with DSACT will host a presentation on the current state of Down syndrome cognitive research.

Diseases like Alzheimer's occur in 75% to 85% of the Down syndrome population, and LuMind has funded several studies related to this correlation. Real improvements are coming in our lifetime, and I'd love for you to come learn more. A common misconception is that these medical advancements are coming "too late" for teenagers and adults with Down syndrome, but many treatments are being developed that can impact an individual at any age.You can find more information here.

Second, we will offer a workshop on improving academic outcomes for children and adolescents with learning and intellectual disabilities. The workshop will be lead by Christopher Lemons (bio), who is a very big deal if you know his work. We are thrilled to have him come to Austin for this session. We will be in touch shortly with the exact date and time.

Third, there will also be an important October seminar on communication between parents and teachers, led by Peggy. She will focus on the learning styles of individuals with Down syndrome. The workshop will be open to both parents and teachers to encourage collaboration. Please consider attending, and inviting your child's educators. We want to get everyone in the same room and on the same page. Our members have said repeatedly that this is a topic they care about enormously. More details will follow soon on this seminar also. 

Wow, that was a lot! 

I'm proud of how much we're able to accomplish this year and I hope you'll do two things in summary. One, please attend as many seminars, workshops and  events as possible. The donors who underwrite these expenditures (and our Board, who approves them) need to see attendance if we're to continue investing in education in these ways. 

Two, I cannot over-emphasize that you can help the whole community advance simply by sharing your experiences with others. One of the things I think we as a group can do a much better job of is opening up in a more transparent way, sharing our victories and closing feedback loops. None of us is as smart as all of us, and best practices are constantly evolving. Please help keep this community open and vibrant through the channels listed above, but also 1:1 with each other too. Bottom-up, word-of-mouth assistance has always been a pillar of our community.

I'm energized by a wonderful, relaxing summer full of activity and play. Many of our pools will soon close and our schedules will realign. I'm looking forward to a fall of learning --  about you, and about myself. 

Thanks for listening. Please keep this email on file and mark your calendars accordingly. I hope to see you all in the real world soon!

Cameron LaHaise
Executive Director

Upcoming Events & Announcements

16th Annual Buddy Walk
Sunday, October 18th
Registration will open Monday, Aug. 3rd
Click here for more information 

Kendra Scott Gives Back
Tuesday, September 29th
6-8pm at the Domain 
Click here for more information

LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation Research Presentation
Thursday, September 24th, 6-9pm
Norman Hackerman Building - UT Campus
Click here for more information

Adults Independent and Motivated
Welcomes interest from adults with intellectual disabilities who want to explore the option of apartment living with support. See the attached flyer to learn more or visit AIMtx.org!