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What is the WSA National Convention?
We all learn very quickly that the statement “It takes a village” takes on special meaning when you are parenting a child with challenges. The WSA National Convention helps us to create our personal “village.” It provides a forum for learning - both from experts on the many medical, emotional and cognitive challenges of Williams syndrome, and from parents/caregivers who have been there before us, and are walking the same path now. In short, the convention is the single most powerful tool in your toolbox - providing a wealth of information as well as parent and professional contacts.
The Convention also provides an opportunity for both parents/caregivers and those with Williams syndrome to get a glimpse of what’s to come through the many children and adults with WS of ALL AGES who will be in attendance, and everyone makes life-long friendships along the way.
Why is it important to attend?
In just four days, you can gather information from others that could take years to gather on your own. WSA conventions provide families an unparalleled opportunity to learn about Williams syndrome from every angle, and network with families from all across the country and abroad. But the convention is also SO MUCH MORE - providing rich programs for your children of all ages as well as entertainment for all!
How much does it cost? Is food included?
The WSA works hard to keep family expenses as low as possible - covering more than 45% of the costs internally. Registration fees for attendees are between $350 (one) and $500 (bundle price for two) for parents/caregivers/adults, and $150 - 200 for individuals with Williams syndrome and their siblings. Registration includes continental breakfasts and breaks. Other evening activities will be optional and carry additional fees. Hotel fees are extra. The WSA has secured a special convention room rate of $119 plus taxes at the Hyatt Regency for the convention. The rate will be available to attendees between July 5 and July 14 for those who wish to extend their stay to vacation in the area. Link to register with this discount will be available to registrants during the registration process.
2020 Convention Fees:
Educational Programming for Adults
Individual Parent/Caregiver Registration: $350
2 Adults bundled (in same family) $500 (includes continental breakfast each day—lunches and dinners are not included)
Programs for Individuals with WS and their siblings
Infant/Toddler $150 each (includes snacks/does not include lunch)
School age (Camp) $200 each (includes transportation & lunch)
Teens/Young Adults $200 each (includes all excursion fees & lunches when off‐site)
GANG/Dream Team (older adults) $200 each (includes all excursion fees & lunches when off‐site)
Did you know that our convention counts as educational services and may be funded by state and local agencies? Find out more here.
Is there financial assistance/scholarships?
The WSA provides more than $75,000 in need-based scholarships of “up to” $2,000 each to help families attend. For more information and to download the application: https://williams-syndrome.org/convention-scholarships
What do parents do during the day?
The convention includes more than 50 educational session options for parents, plus topic-driven and age-specific networking opportunities, IEP reviews, lunch and learn small group sessions and more. Daily program hours are between 8:30 and 4:00 PM each day.
What will my child do during the day?
Registered individuals with Williams syndrome of all ages and their siblings will attend specialized, age-specific programs. Programs are led by adults who have deep professional and/or volunteer experience with Williams syndrome and staffed by volunteer care-givers. Our minimum care-levels for the programs are as follows: for our youngest attendees (infants and toddlers) there is one volunteer for every three children; for school-age kids and teens, we staff at 4 to 1 and adults will have assistance at a level of 5 to 1.
- Infants and pre-school (to age 5) - will be in the hotel, in spaces that will allow for outdoor play, as well as indoor entertainment from storytellers, musicians etc.
- Elementary school-age (to age 12) children will attend a day-camp program at the nearby KROC Center, an indoor camp facility with activities ranging from climbing walls to computer centers.
- Teens will spend their days exploring Phoenix area entertainment venues
- Adults will divide their time between educational sessions on sexuality, social skills, community safety and employment, and excursions to local entertainment venues.
Can I volunteer? Whom do I contact?
The WSA relies on the support of approximately 150 hard-working and dedicated volunteers EACH DAY to make our convention a success. We welcome volunteers for one day or all days--even half a day. Volunteers are needed for the childcare/WS teen and adult programs as well as general convention activities. Please contact Michele Bauer: email@example.com to discuss availability and need.
Do we have to stay in the convention hotel?
The short answer is No. You are welcome to stay at any hotel in the area, or with friends or family in the area etc. However, most families report that it’s super helpful to stay at the convention hotel if possible - so much easier to help your kids (and you!) follow-up with new friends “after hours,” run up to your room between sessions or at lunch etc. But others really feel like they (or their kids) do better with a break from all the activity, and of course the cost savings of having a place to stay with friends or at a different hotel is always a consideration.
The WSA secures a block of rooms and the best rate possible at the convention hotel and at 2 or 3 additional hotels close by, for those who need suites, or prefer a hotel with a better breakfast and afternoon reception option. Links to each of the convention hotel’s online registration for the WSA room-blocks are included as part of the convention registration process.
I can't attend for the whole time. What are my options?
You can attend the convention for a half day, or for just 1 or 2 days. Registration fees are adjusted accordingly and we will be posting the comprehensive program so you can pick or choose. If you aren’t able to attend at all, you can purchase audio recordings of all the sessions. The recordings include the powerpoint presentations (when available) and are a great alternative. We are also exploring the possibilities for streaming video from 1 or more of the meeting spaces for sessions that will benefit from video coverage for everyone.
What amenities does the hotel have?
The Hyatt Regency is a full-service hotel. There are 2 restaurants, fitness center, outdoor pool, business center, gift shop and coffee shop on site, and it is within easy walking distance of many other restaurants of all types and public transportation.
What should my family pack?
The convention dress code is strictly casual and comfortable. Many individuals and their families wear WSA Awareness gear throughout the week - great for increasing local awareness when you are out and about! There will be a dance on Saturday night so don’t forget your dancing shoes and keep in mind that hotel meeting spaces are notoriously air conditioned to the point of COLD - you should always have a sweater or sweatshirt handy. And of course, keep in mind that we will be in Phoenix in July - sunscreen and water bottles are mandatory!
What do families do in the evenings?
Optional evening activities are provided for families on most evenings - you can attend those for all or part of an evening. Beyond that, families use the evenings to relax with their family, enjoy the local night scene, have dinner with friends (old and new) who are attending the convention, or just “hang out” in the lobby and visit with adults with Williams syndrome.
We will be flying to Phoenix. Should we rent a car?
Most people do not need a car during the convention dates, and hotel parking can be quite expensive. The hotel is only 15 minutes from the airport and is easily accessible by Lyft, Uber or taxi for approx. $20. There is also a trolley from the airport to a stop 1.5 blocks from the hotel - the trolley trip is just $3.00. The Phoenix airport bills itself as “one of the most accessible in the world” as far as accommodations and special needs are concerned. More information can be found on this site.
Everything convention related happens either at the hotel or within walking distance and most folks don’t find time to travel during the convention dates. We suggest that if you will be traveling before or after the convention you rent a car for just the dates of your travel.
What are the best extended vacation opportunities around Phoenix?
The vacation locations that immediately come to mind are Red Rock State Park, Red Rock Canyon, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. Each of these areas is within a 2-4 hour drive. The convention hotel has area suggestions for family activities, museums, outdoor activities and shopping, including a map indicating distance from the hotel listed here. Did you know that persons with disabilities can apply for complimentary national park passes? The application can be found here. It takes several weeks to process and requires a note from a physician, so it's best to get the process started early.