(From left) Members Brad Frigon, Amy Tripp and Kelly Thompson at the SNA booth.

SNA board member Brian Rubin spoke “Parent-to-Parent, Heart-to-Heart” to a packed room last month at The Arc’s 60th Annual Convention in Denver. His presentation on special needs legal and future planning drew from both personal and professional experience to answer questions concerning government benefits, special needs trusts, guardianship and more that challenge families with special needs. As the father of Mitchell, 30, who has autism, Brian could address the everyday implications of the tangle of laws and programs affecting individuals with disabilities.

Member Ann McGee Green hosted a “standing room only” roundtable session on “Issues in Transition: How to best prepare for the future for my loved one now that they are an adult.” “Parents were so generous about sharing their experiences,” she says. “They just kept dragging more chairs over to our table.” One hot topic was employment opportunities that don’t endanger eligibility for government benefits. Talk also centered on long waiting lists for housing and other community-based services and related suits against Florida and California.

“There’s a new generation of parents and self-advocates who have different expectations,” Ann continued. “Young adults with disabilities want careers and to live as independently as possible. Cuts to Medicaid and other public programs are a serious threat.”

Throughout the two-day conference, attendees stopped by the SNA booth to inquire about topics such as choosing trustees and how to find a special needs attorney close to their hometowns. Nearby, self-advocates staffed their own booth, where they sold crafts and challenged stereotypes. Business was booming for Lindsey Rose Roy, who displayed her handmade jewelry, and Teddy Fitzmaurice, president of “Teddy’s Ts,” offered “disability rights and social justice t-shirts. “Jill Egle, former co-executive director of the Arc of Northern Virginia, talked about her book, Jill’s Journey, A victory Over the R-Word. And David Taylor, Jr., owner of RaceCAR Waterboy LLC, sold bottled water that he also supplies at NASCAR races. The self-described “vendor, speaker, author” has published a book on how to become an entrepreneur.