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24 conferece

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Minneapolis Marriott Northwest | 7025 Northland Drive Brooklyn Park, MN 55428

This Statewide Learning Conference is for parents, grandparents, siblings and caregivers of individuals with Down syndrome.

The Self-Advocate Retreat, which runs in conjunction with the conference, is for teens and adults with Down syndrome. You must be a high school freshman or older to attend the retreat.


Conference Fees

CLICK HERE to register


Statewide Conference Fees
(Breakfast & Lunch included)

  • $125 Early Bird Registration through February 29th
  • $150 Registration - March 1st - March 31st
  • $200 Late Registration - April 1st - April 5th, subject to availability
  • $250 Onsite Registration - subject to availability


Self-Advocate Retreat Fees
(Breakfast & Lunch included)

  • $85 Early Bird Registration available through February 29th
  • $110 Registration - March 1st - March 31st
  • No Late or Onsite Registration available

The self-advocate retreat is open to individuals with Down syndrome 9th grade and older.
*There will be plenty volunteers at the event, however if your loved one with Ds needs a PCA or support to attend an event like this, we’d love to have them. Just let us know and we will make accommodations for the PCA/support person to attend.

Hotel Information

Minneapolis Marriott Northwest | 7025 Northland Drive North Brooklyn Park, Minnesota 55428

CLICK HERE to book online

  • $129 per night, subject to availability
  • Book by March 15th

Statewide Learning Conference Schedule At-A-Glance

  • 8:00am: Registration & Breakfast
  • 9:05am: Breakout Session 1
  • 10:15am: Breakout Session 2
  • 11:25am: Breakout Session 3
  • 12:25pm: Lunch & Keynote Program
  • 1:40pm: Breakout Session 4
  • 2:50pm: Breakout Session 5
  • 4:00pm: Breakout Session 6
  • 5:00pm: If you would like to continue to network or visit, we will be gathering in the bar/restaurant.

Featured/Keynote Speakers

Dr. Brian Chicoine, MD

Dr. Brian Chicoine has provided medical care to individuals with Down syndrome for over 30 years. He graduated from Loyola University of Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and completed his Family Medicine residency at Lutheran General Hospital. That is where he first started treating patients with Down syndrome, which would later play a pivotal role in his career. Dr. Chicoine is co-founder of the Adult Down Syndrome Center in Park Ridge, Illinois, and he is also an award-winning author who co-authored two books on mental and physical health for adolescents and adults with Down syndrome.


Kareem Neal

Kareem Neal is a self-contained Special Education teacher, having taught students with severe cognitive delays for 21 years. Neal began his career as an educator working at The Developmental Learning Center of New Providence, New Jersey, a school for students with autism, where he received training in Applied Behavior Analysis and learned techniques for reaching students with special needs. After three years, he relocated to Arizona for opportunity to teach at The Children's Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies where he learned to apply advanced cognitive and behavioral teaching strategies and Sensory Integration within a classroom setting. He has been a special education teacher at Maryvale High School for the last several years and earned Arizona's esteemed Teacher of the Year award in 2019.

Detailed Session Schedule

7:45 - 9:00: Registration and Breakfast for both Parents/Caregivers & Self-Advocates

8:45 -9:00: Self-Advocates make their way downstairs for the Self-Advocate Retreat

Parent/Caregiver Conference Schedule

9:05 - 10:05: Breakout Session #1

  • Sexual Health & Abuse Prevention with Katie Thune, President & Founder of Mad Hatter Wellness Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers 10 to Adult in Northland Ballroom
  • Occupational Therapy & Sensory Processing with Alexi Christensen, MA, OTR/L, and Marlee Olson, MA, OTR/L, Co-Founders of SENSE-ational Spaces, LLC (Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers Birth to 12 in Hennepin Salon 1
  • Giving the Gift of Reading: A Case Study of a High School Junior Learning to Read with Jen York EdD, and Sonya Roe, Special Education Teacher, District 196 Target Audience: Parent/Caregivers 12 to Adult in Hennepin Salon 3

10:15 - 11:15: Breakout Session #2

  • A Unique View at School and Community Inclusion with Kareem Neal, High School Special Education Teacher & AZ Teacher of the Year. Target Audience: Parent/Caregivers Birth to 18 in Northland Ballroom
  • Physical Health for Adults with Down Syndrome with Dr. Brian Chicoine, Adult Down Syndrome Center Target Audience: Parent/Caregivers 18+ in Hennepin Salon 1
  • Strength in Self-Care: Coping Strategies for Caregiver Fatigue with Mandy Wannarka, LICSW, PMH-C and Owner of Mindful Wellbeing Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers All Ages in Hennepin Salon 3

11:25 - 12:25: Breakout Session #3

  • Helping You Ensure Quality of Life For Loved Ones with Special Needs – Financial Planning implications for families. Presented by Emmy Mastel, Financial Planner, CFP Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers All Ages in Hennepin Salon 3
  • Down Syndrome & Obstructive Sleep Apnea including information about the Inspire Implant with Dr. John Garcia, MD Sleep Medicine Specialist Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers All Ages in Hennepin Salon 1
  • Down Syndrome, Aging & Alzheimers: An overview of the research, legislation, and resources available with Colleen Hatcher, Chief of Staff, NDSS Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers 18+ in Northland Ballroom

12:25 - 1:40: Lunch & Keynote Presentation

  • Join us in the Northland Ballroom for a lunch program and keynote presentation by Dr. Brian Chicoine about the history of healthcare for people with Down syndrome - where we were...where we are today...and where we need to be to serve the needs of people with Down syndrome from birth THROUGH adulthood and aging.

1:40 - 2:40: Breakout Session #4

  • Intersection of Race and Disability with Kareem Neal, High School Special Education Teacher & AZ Teacher of the Year Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers All Ages in Northland Ballroom
  • Learning More About Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), a complement to Federal Disability Benefit with John Petroskas of DHS. Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers 18+ in Hennepin Salon 1
  • Parent Focus Group: Understanding the unique needs and medical challenges of people with Down syndrome birth through adulthood and how we can better serve them with Dr. Tori Bahr, Gillette; and Sarah Curfman, DSAMn Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers All Ages in Hennepin Salon 3

2:50 - 3:50: Breakout Session #5

  • Mental Health for Adults with Down Syndrome with Dr. Brian Chicoine, Adult Down Syndrome Center Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers 18+ in Northland Ballroom
  • Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI) Benefit - What Is It & How Do You Qualify? with Christine Hendrickson, Founder & Director of Services for On Track Minnesota Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers Birth to 7 in Hennepin Salon 1
  • The Housing Journey; Understanding and Navigating Residential Housing Options: A conversation with Brian Kelly, Program Coordinator at Hammer Residences Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers Middle School through Adult in Hennepin Salon 3

4:00 - 5:00: Breakout Session #6

  • Five Ways for Adults with Down Syndrome To Live A Healthy Lifestyle with Katie Frank, Ph.D., OTR/L, Adult Down Syndrome Clinic Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers 18+ in Hennepin Salon 3
  • How to De-Escalate Your Escalated Child with Jamie Waldvogel, MS, BCBA, Owner of Behave Your Best LLC, Target Audience: Parents/Caregivers Birth to 18 in Northland Ballroom
24 Gala


Self-Advocate Spring Gala

Free Registration CLICK HERE to register

Registration is required, to speed up the line to check-in. A designated caregiver is required to check-in and check-out each attendee.

We are so excited to continue the well attended Self-Advocate Gala! If you'll be joining us, you can expect a night of desserts, dancing, friends and fun!

  • When: Friday, April 5th 7:00 - 9:00pm
  • Where: Fireside Room at the Minneapolis Marriot Northwest, 7025 Northland Drive, Brooklyn Park, MN 55428
  • Who: Individuals with Down syndrome high school age through adult
  • What to Wear: Cocktail Attire Suggested! This is your chance to dress up if you want!


Additional details: The event will have desserts and refreshments. Attendees should plan on eating before the event. This event is for self-advocates only. There will be plenty volunteers at the event, however if your loved one with Ds needs a PCA or support to attend an event like this, we’d love to have them. Just let us know and we will make accommodations for the PCA/support person to attend.
Parents & Caregivers, The Wadsworth Restaurant and Bar is in the hotel about 200 ft. from the event. We encourage you to meet up, have a bite to eat or a drink together.

Self-Advocate Retreat Schedule At-A-Glance

  • 8:00am: Registration & Breakfast (Combined with Caregiver Conference)
  • 8:45pm: SA Retreat Check in, Lower Level
  • 9:00am: Welcome + Session 1
  • 10:20am: Session 2
  • 11:30am: Session 3
  • 12:30pm: Lunch
  • 1:30pm: Session 4
  • 2:40pm: Session 5
  • 3:40pm: Transition Upstairs to Hennepin Salon 1
  • 4:00pm: Minnesota's Got Talent SA Talent Show
  • 5:00pm: Parents/Caregivers will pick up in Hennepin Salon 1

We are so excited for the 2024 Self Advocate Retreat for Teens & Adults with Down syndrome. The theme of this year's retreat is Healthy Living!

This year's sessions will promote physical, mental, social and emotional health. We are thrilled to welcome Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L of the Adult Down Syndrome Center in Chicago, IL. Each registered participant will attend her session - Living A Healthy Life...5 Ways To Promote Your Health!

In addition to Dr. Frank's session, participants will have a chance to choose from a list of electives including

  • Boxing & Movement with our friends from Element Gym
  • Employment & Entreprenuership with our friends from NDSS
  • Dance, Dance, Dance! with our friends from Young Dance
  • Public Speaking & Self Advocacy...Finding Your Voice with Nick Doyle, Self-Advocate and 40 under 40 honoree
  • Theater Arts with DSAMn teaching artist Alex Barreto Hathaway
  • Mind Body Movement with Katie Thune of Mad Hatter Wellness

We will end the day with Minnesota's Got Talent! Each participant that wants to will have a chance to showcase their 2-minute talent! Registered participants will see an email in the next few days to choose their electives and learn more about the talent show!




Scholarship & Financial Support

The Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota is dedicated to our promise to provide high quality, affordable programming and services for ALL individuals and families with Down syndrome regardless of income. Most programs are free or highly subsidized for all. Our new sliding-fee program provides additional assistance by providing a standard reduction for those programs that do have fees.
The scale is based on published Federal Poverty Guidelines and is as follows:

  • Households at or below 200% Federal Poverty Guidelines are fully scholarshipped (100%) discount.
  • Households between 200 – 250% of Federal Poverty Guidelines receive a 50% discount.
  • Households between 250 – 300% of Federal Poverty Guidelines receive a 25% discount.


To register using sliding scale for the 2024 Statewide Learning Conference, please complete this form. We will respond back you with additional information.

Documentation is not required but may be requested if verification is necessary.

Documentation and invoices can also be provided if submitting for assistance or a waiver through another organization.

Fees should not be a barrier to programming for any family. If you do not qualify for the sliding fee scale, but still need assistance to access programming we will work with you. Please email ashleyazar@dsamn.orgfor more information.