Several years ago, the NWDSA began to discuss the need for a dynamic and informative forum about inclusion. As an organization made up of parents of children with Down syndrome, the NWDSA has a history of stepping in to help families navigate the public school system. When the number of parents calling for help rose to the point where it became impossible to address each request on a one-to-one basis, we began to identify systemic issues that could be better addressed through a collaborative, skill-sharing venue. Parents were feeling increasingly discouraged and under-served by the programs designed to provide an appropriate, integrated education for their children. We recognized an urgent need for parents and professionals to come together to share, encourage and inspire.
In 2006, the NWDSA presented the first annual All Born (In) conference in partnership with Portland State University. In a one-day, best-practices driven symposium we build awareness and passion for creating inclusive educational opportunities. The All Born (In) conference offers concrete skills to parents and educators committed to ending unnecessary segregation in our schools. Inclusion is a cross-disability issue, and the conference led us to form partnerships with several local agencies and organizations that serve families touched by disability. These partnerships have deepened the impact of All Born (In), and created a strong circle of parents and educators dedicated to creating an inclusive community.
Since the first All Born (In) conference in the spring of 2006, The NWDSA and PSU have held a conference every April. Each year we reach more families and educators, and expand the offerings available to conference attendees. Conference speakers have included Norm Kunc, Kathie Snow, David Pitonyak, Madeleine Will, Joan Medlen, Michael Bailey and numerous other local and national leaders in the inclusive education movement.
In January of 2007, we took the All Born (In) movement from the confines of the world of education to the broader public with the development of the All Born (In) Photo Gallery, which debuted at OHSU’s Center for Health and Healing. The All Born (In) Photo Gallery grew out of the need to bring the broader community into the discussion of inclusion. Since its debut, the photo gallery has traveled around Oregon and Washington, including trips to each of the state capitols. It has been shown at numerous conferences, and even taken a trip to the nation’s capitol in Washington, DC. A 2009 calendar based on the images from the photo gallery has been an instrumental part of our advocacy around inclusive communities and we are in the process of expanding our gallery.
The All Born (In) movement expanded in the spring of 2011 to include the Kindergarten Inclusion Cohort, a cross-disability program to help parents advocate general education placements for their kindergarteners. You can learn more about the Kindergarten Cohort here.