Have you ever taken one of those silly photos that attempts to distort your perception of a landmark or scene? For example, you might make it look like someone is holding the Eiffel Tower by its point or a friend is standing in the palm of your hand. Those photos are all about your point of view or your perspective. Perspective affects a lot of things. Perspective can affect your focus, opinion and even your advice. Recently, as I attend my first ICN Community Conference, the concept of perspective was with me throughout.

For starters, I'd say that my perspective at the conference was somewhat unique. Like others, it was my first time, and the first time that you do something it is always a bit overwhelming - there is always a learning curve. What made it really unique though was that I was attending something for the first time, that my son had attended many, many times before. I know that my outlook on the conference was altered by ideas and thoughts shared by him over the years. It was affected by his enthusiasm and anticipation of seeing all of his PAC friends. It was impacted by the things that he needed to do and talked to me about as the event approached. To be honest, all of this made me pretty anxious about attending. ICN and Community Conferences had always been Alex's thing. I had not wanted to interfere, but lately, as he had been shifting from PAC co-chair to his first job at an ICN center, I was thinking it might be time to check it out. Before attending the conference, I thought all of these things through and felt like I had made peace with my decision to go.

But as I've mentioned (a lot) - perspective - I should have known that just when you think that you are prepared, you aren't. I had prepared myself for the academic stuff and for meeting people that I had only heard about; people I had only listened to on webinars or exchanged emails with. The stuff that I wasn't prepared for was the human factor. At the conference, I quickly lost track of all the people that told me conference stories about Alex through the years. People would see my name tag and say, "Oh, you’re Alex's mom" and out would come a story, a question or a commendation. It was an emotional roller-coaster, which I wasn't expecting. Suddenly, I had all this insight into a part of Alex's life that I had really not fully seen before and...you probably guessed it, it changed my perspective. I was looking at Alex's conference attendance from other people's point of view as every one of those memories were shared.

To summarize, what I learned by attending the conference, is that everyone, regardless of their position in the ICN community, takes the time to share their talent and opinions with the group, from their particular point of view, and it is important, and it makes an impact. The impact might be academic or provide insight or offer provide support. Attending the conference reinforced my belief that many different perspectives can shed true light on problems and help create useful solutions. In the past year, with funding changes, there have been changing discussions about patients and parents attending conferences. I say the perspectives these people bring to the table are important and should not be left out. As the parent of a PAC member, I have seen firsthand how empowering a patient to share their experience and point of view can make a real difference. My advice is to never underestimate the power of sharing different perspectives, it can change everything.


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