Lily and I have just got back from Christchurch where we spent 2 nights at the NZDSA transition camp. 15 soon to be school leavers with Down syndrome and a parent each learning about the complex structures that exist to help ease the transition from school to work.
We left the house at 8.50 got to the airport far too early for our 9.50 flight and had half an hour for a cup of coffee. We arrived in Christchurch at the same time as the group from Auckland, all of whom had needed to leave home at 7am or earlier to catch a flight leaving at a similar time to ours. It made me realise how much easier our life is now than when we were in Auckland.
Before collecting our luggage, Lily and I went to use the ladies toilets, I came out, waited patiently for Lily and when she didn't appear went in to call her - no answer but remembering her hearing loss I thought perhaps she couldn't hear me so wandered around a bit, thought about collecting our bags alone but decided I might loose her altogether, then went back into the toilets and called a bit louder. After about 10 minutes of this I decided to go to baggage collection and to phone her from there. On the way I walked past the DVD shop and there was Lily, earphones on blissfully listening to music!
The conference was held at the Sudima hotel, within walking distance of the airport. The staff were very welcoming to the delegates with Down syndrome and even one of the other guests came up to me saying he'd never seen so many people with DS together and wishing us well.
There were some great speakers, although it was a bit scary seeing just how many organisations and government departments are involved in this transition process - ministry of social development, WINZ, MoH, MoE, VASS, ASENZ, IHC etc etc
On the whole the kids with DS had their own sessions (which included a trip to the Antarctic centre just next door) but this morning we had a joint session where they shared their dreams for the future with their parents. One of the exercises was to ask what they'd wish for if they had three wishes. Lily's not terribly helpful answers were
1. to meet Julie Andrews
2. to meet Alan Rickman
3. to start in a Harry Potter Movie
Lily had prepared a poster which had some more realistic ideas like, go flatting, learn to read and learn to tell the time and some less realistic but still interesting ones like developing a film making unit for people with DS.
Lily was chosen as the speaker to report back their work to the main forum, She really has remarkable speech skills and confidence for doing this.
The highlight of the weekend was probably the disco on Saturday night - the UPP club members from Christchurch also attended so there were around 30 young people with DS. Once the music had started they danced and danced and only stopped when literally the plug was pulled out!