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April 27, 2024 | 8:00 AM

Early Connections Conference 2024

Learn, connect, and ask questions for your child, student and family in a supportive environment made up of experts and families like yours—with children from birth to age 7 who are blind, deafblind, or low-vision, including those who have multiple complex disabilities.
A young Nolan wears glasses and smiles.

You’re invited

Let’s connect!

Join us April 27, 2024, on our Watertown campus or via our conference app. For 2024, the theme is Educate!

Come explore resources, share your story, and learn from experts who are here to meet the needs of families and educators of children with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. Early Connections is a day dedicated to you—to meeting other families who are also starting their journey in special education, celebrating your children, and helping you find guidance on next steps for you and your child.

Find and build a community for the rest of your child’s life.

The 2024 Early Connections Conference is presented by the Van Sloun Foundation.

No childcare will be provided.

Registration is open!

We’re excited to offer both in-person and virtual tickets.

In-person tickets

The in-person experience includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Plus activities like raffles and exploring vendor booths. Please note that childcare is not provided at the 2024 conference.

Regular: $50 starting March 1, 2024

Virtual tickets

Sessions will be available on our conference app. Login instructions will be emailed to registered participants closer to the conference date.

Regular: $35

Groups and scholarships

Groups: Purchase 3 tickets and receive a 4th at no cost. Contact us for more information and next steps.

Attendance and Personal Care Attendant Scholarships: A limited amount of scholarships are available for families and Personal Care Attendants of attendees. Contact us for more information and next steps.

Justification letter for employers

Why should your employer send you to our conference? Use our sample justification letter as a template to help explain the benefits you will get (and be able to share) by attending the 2024 Early Connections Conference.

Register today

Tickets

The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking “Get Tickets” will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Standard in-person admission
$50.00
Unlimited
Virtual admission
$35.00
Unlimited

Keynote

Empowering Through Education

Expecting, Experiencing, and Experimenting with the Expanded Core Curriculum

Robbin Clark is an Expanded Core enthusiast! She currently serves as the Curriculum & Instruction Director at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. Her past professional roles include: Camp Abilities director, teacher of deafblind children, an early intervention provider, vision rehabilitation therapist and director for various programs of students with vision impairments. Robbin offers professional expertise, tips, and resources to parents and educators on her 9MoreThanCore social media accounts (IG, Facebook). She collaborates with a number of schools for the blind to provide professional development on Expanded Core instruction and is often invited to be a keynote speaker in workshops and symposiums.  

Personally, Robbin has been active in the vision impairment community since her youth: living and working with her mother who has total vision loss provided the foundation for her life’s passion. Her credentials include a vision rehabilitation therapist graduate degree from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and a graduate endorsement in curriculum & instruction from Walden University. She is currently pursuing an Ed.S in Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky.

What to expect

Sessions will include valuable advice and tips to help you make connections with, and for, your child or student — including time to connect with other families and professionals to swap stories, share tips and just get to know one another.

Our speakers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and expertise including:

  • Accessible Technology 
  • Literacy 
  • Adapted physical education
  • Orientation and Mobility 
  • Cortical/Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) 
  • Deafblindness
  • Medically complex diagnoses

Information about third party providers, products, and services does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Perkins School for the Blind (“Perkins”). It is the user’s responsibility to verify and investigate providers, products, and services. References to or information regarding commercial products, information, services, manufacturer, or company do not constitute endorsement or recommendation by Perkins.

2024 Sessions

Description

Parents play a crucial role in creating a supportive home environment that addresses accessibility, learning and accommodation needs for the successful implementation of a personalized program for children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities. This presentation explores the seven golden guidelines for effectively facilitating inclusive learning  for a child with visual impairment and multiple disabilities to reach their maximum potential.

Meet the presenter

Description

In this presentation, attendees can expect to receive a comprehensive introduction to psychological testing. The presenter will delve into the nuances of psychological testing for students who are visually impaired, blind, or deafblind, and how it differs from testing for the general population. The audience will also gain insight into the objectives of psychological testing, along with the essential questions to ask before undergoing an evaluation. Furthermore, the speaker will provide an overview of the various psychological services available to young children.

Meet the presenter

Description

This session will cover the Expanded Core for early childhood. Participants will learn key facts about the Expanded Core and its place in early childhood. Families will learn simple actions they can take to support Expanded Core learning in their home.

Meet the presenter

Description

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have undertaken an IEP Improvement Project, and released a new IEP form at the start of the 2023-24 school year. By the 2024-25 school year, all school districts in Massachusetts are expected to implement use of this revised form. Some schools, including Perkins, have begun using the new IEP form during the 2023-24 school year. DESE considered significant stakeholder input throughout this project, and the resulting form includes renewed focus on student-driven and student-centered planning, as well as collaboration between families and school-based teams. This presentation will provide an overview of the IEP form, and the ways in which students and families contribute to development of the student’s plan.

Meet the presenters

Description

This presentation reviews the importance of posture and positioning, what is ideal, what is seen, and what we can do to improve it. Case studies, benefits of changing positions, and positioning tools will be discussed as a group. Attendees will leave understanding why positioning and postural support is significant for the child with visual needs, what positioning options are available, and how this information will support their child or the children they work with.

Meet the presenter

Description

This presentation will focus on the basics of structured literacy (also described as “Science of Reading”) via considerations and inclusive practices in reading for students with vision impairment and other disabilities. School based and outside literacy supports will be showcased, as well as practical resources and activity ideas for home and daily living.

Meet the presenters

Description

Join Katie Norton, a Deaf adult with bilateral hearing aids, as she shares her experience growing up with hearing loss, being mainstreamed in her town’s public school system, navigating building friendships, and ultimately her acceptance of her Deaf Identity. Throughout her story, Katie will reflect on what she wishes her mom knew about raising a Deaf child, and her advice for parents who are raising a child with a disability. Following, there will be a round table discussion and participants are encouraged to bring questions.

Meet the presenter

As a parent of a young child with a visual impairment, it often feels like you are consumed with the here and now. Understandably. Yet, knowledge about different transitions for your child, including formal and informal ones, can help anticipate and plan ahead so your child is as ready as they can be for the next step. Join Andrea Rutherford, TVI, Director of Compass @ Perkins, a college readiness program, and Leslie Thatcher, EdM, Director of Program Development and Planning at the Transition Center @ Perkins, to learn more about transitions, and how you can be prepared as an advocate, parent and key player in your child’s growth. We will explore the skills, including skills through the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), your student can work on at home and school, to create a range of opportunities and options as your child grows.

Meet the presenters

Description

In this presentation, learn how to adapt board games and other types of games for families to play together, and what materials are needed to do so. Attendees will also get a chance to see examples and discuss how they were made accessible.

Meet the presenters

Description

Sign up for an in-person or virtual small group Parent Support session. Whether your child’s diagnosis is new or not, we are here to talk and provide you with information and resources. We know how hard this is and all the challenges parents have to navigate. We can focus on sharing the hard truths, asking the tough questions, and creating space for what’s really on our hearts and minds.  Lean in. We’ve got you. 

Meet the presenters

Description

In this presentation, apps suited for visually-impaired children and the technology used to engage with them will be explored. These apps will be separated into different centers of learning, providing a broad spectrum of subjects ranging from early language development to fine-motor skills.

Meet the presenter

Description

Supporting your child’s ability to share their wants, needs, and desires can be one of the most challenging and important steps in parenting a child with complex needs, especially if they have Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI). This presentation will review the total communication approach to Augmentative-Alternative Communication (AAC) and the Communication Bill of Rights, and will share case study examples of students with CVI exercising their rights to communicate.

Meet the presenter

Description

Families of children who are either blind, have low vision, or DeafBlind (where the child has a combination of hearing and vision loss) will gain an awareness, knowledge, and confidence in creating a supportive virtual environment that addresses safety, accessibility, and accommodation needs of their child. In doing so, families will learn how to co-navigate (through touch) the digital world for a successful implementation of a positive experience when using various technologies (e.g., mobile phones, tablets/iPad, computers, etc.).

This presentation explores the three Cs for an effective and inclusive user experience for their child. In addition to learning how to conavigate the digital world, families will also learn the resources and services that are available for them and their child about accessible technologies. Moreover, families will learn how to advocate for their child to ensure they are not only safe in the digital world, but also have the tools they need for a promising outcome.

Meet the presenter

Fall foliage with Howe Tower in background

Traveling to Perkins

Perkins is located in Watertown, MA, just 20 minutes from downtown Boston and Logan International Airport, and only 10 minutes from Harvard Square.

Driving and public transport

Directions to Perkins, public transportation information, and a campus map can be found on our visit Perkins webpage.

Hotel discount

We’re excited to offer a hotel block with the Hampton Inn & Suites Watertown Boston at a discounted rate of $249/night for a King Room and $269/night for a two Queen room. And it’s less than a mile from our campus!

Deadline: March 28, 2024

How to reserve: Book using the custom reservation link or call 617-926-0005.

Amenities and location: Hotel amenities include a free breakfast and access to the hotel fitness center. The Hampton Inn is located in the new Arsenal Yards shopping center, neighboring several shops, and restaurants for your enjoyment.

Aira Visual Interpretation Services

Did you know that the Perkins campus is an Aira access location? Aira is a live, human-to-human professional assistance service, an accommodation or productivity tool that enhances independence by delivering on-demand, skilled and reliable visual interpreting for just about any task. Using the camera and an app on your smartphone, a trained agent will assist by visually interpreting your surroundings, from describing to reading, from explaining to navigating – just about anything, safely and securely.

As an Aira access location, any visitor to Perkins can use the service free of charge. To connect with an agent, download the app for iOS or Android then create an account using your email or phone number. Once you have an account, simply make a call when you are on the Perkins campus, and you can use the service for navigating, reading, or any task that requires visual assistance.

Download the app

We’re thrilled to announce that the Early Connections Conference now has an app! You will be able to view sessions live, create your own schedule, access session and exhibitor resources, receive immediate conference updates, and more!

How to download: Instructions are on the Early Connections Conference vFairs page.

How to login: Login instructions will be emailed to registered participants.

Questions about the app? Email us at [email protected]

A closeup of two balloons featuring the Early Connections Conference logo.

Thank you to our conference sponsors!

The Van Sloun Foundation logo

The Van Sloun Foundation

Logo that reads, "OPTASE Brought to you by Scope"

OPTASE by Scope Eyecare

Eastern Bank logo that reads, "Eastern Bank: Join Us for Good"

Eastern Bank

What are people saying about the Early Connections Conference?

Parent

“It’s always great to listen to tips on making learning more accessible for our kiddos. I always enjoy hearing from the other parents’ perspective – it is extremely powerful!”

Educator

“I love the opportunity to hear from other professionals in the field! I especially enjoyed when [the CVI moms] shared their journey. I found this so inspiring. ”

Parent

“What I liked most about this conference is the knowledge that I’m taking away that will help my daughter.”

Recordings from past sessions

Get a sense of the expertise and insight available at the Early Connections Conference. Browse past sessions for best practices, advice, and action plans from some of the best in early education for children with vision impairment.

Inclusion and access are our priority.

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully, including those with disabilities.

For questions or to request accommodations at the Early Connections Conference, please contact our team today.