A discussion during the 2019 Minnesota Gathering.

Wondering how others are keeping person-centered values strong today? 

Bringing together nationally recognized speakers, practitioners of person-centered practices, and real-world families coping with COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 Minnesota Gathering for Person-Centered Practices will take place online Oct. 14–15. 

Always billed as more of a conversation than a conference, this year’s event moves the Gathering’s most-loved sessions online, including the popular Learning Marketplace, which allows any participant to post a topic of interest and invite others to join an online small-group meeting.

Presented by the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, as well as the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and The Learning Community , the Gathering is one of ICI’s largest annual events. It is for organizations, employers, individuals—anyone who wants to learn about or deepen their efforts to ensure people with disabilities have control over their lives.

“We’re very excited because this year we have an opportunity to include speakers from around the country that we might not have had access to otherwise, and to lower the cost of attendance ($99) to allow a larger group of people to exchange ideas,” said ICI’s Claire Benway, a program committee member for the event. 

Natasha Merz, who earlier this year began her role as director of the disability services division of the Minnesota DHS, is among the speakers joining the event.

Ted Bowman, an experienced grief and loss educator, will lead an exchange of ideas on how to ease pain and increase understanding as the pandemic continues. Psychologist Karyn Harvey will use her published work on trauma-informed behavioral interventions to walk participants toward resiliency. 

Other speakers will facilitate discussions on how diversity and culture intersect with person-centered practices and how the pandemic is causing many people with disabilities and their support staff to rethink many aspects of daily living.

Self-advocate Derek Smith and his mother, Brenda Smith, will share their personal journey through the pandemic and how they used person-centered and other skills to deal with the isolation and logistical challenges during the pandemic. 

Other self-advocates and people with disabilities will share their experiences with person-centered practices throughout the event, Benway said.