Wednesday, 21 March 2012

International Caregivers Conference

Very soon, in May this year from 7th - 9th, the third International Caregivers Conference will be held in Germany.  This is held in partnership with two residential providers in Germany: Regens-Wagner Absberg, and the Diakonische Stiftung Wittekindshof.

Pam Eisen, opening the first conference in Herne, Germany
This conference is specifically for professional caregivers and attended by countries from around the world.  This was the brainchild of Pam Eisen, IPWSO's past President, and as such has provided the world with the new International Best Practice Guidelines for Residential Care for Prader-Willi Syndrome.  (Copies of this are available here from IPWSO.)    All participants attend workshops of their choice and contribute their own knowledge, ideas, concepts, and country's models of care, which then get translated into draft guidelines.  Each workshop has a facilitator, a scribe, and a translator.  At the end of each day, time is taken to write up all the notes which are tacked up on large boards and presented at the "market place" where everyone gathers to hear what has taken place.  These draft guidelines are then thoroughly discussed and tested by the PPCB before becoming recommended as international best practices.  In effect, they are contributed by each and every caregiver from all corners of the world - what more could you ask for!

Topics included range from the understanding of the syndrome and its characteristics, nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological make-up, psychiatric care, communication, social skills and empathy, what makes  a good residential home run well, the transition into and out from the education system, to, more recently a topic for this year's meeting, how to develop a PWS curricula for staff.

Because these guidelines are something IPWSO wants to be able to endorse internationally, there are, understandably, very different cultures contributing some very different ideas and it is always interesting and exciting to learn how these cultures can be absorbed into our international network of care.  And, not to be forgotten, are families supporting adult children at home.  Their needs are just as great as those in residential homes and must be acknowledged and woven into the whole concept of care.

The 1st and 2nd conferences were held here in Herne, Germany
Care must  be holistic and inclusive.  It needs to acknowledge that home life has a series of transitions to overcome - from home into school, from school into the workforce, and also into the community.   IPWSO and the PPCB strive to support all our families, our residential providers, schools and educationalists, as well as medical professionals throughout the world.

One of the workshops' diagram of "Anatomy of a crisis"
This is not a small task, and the PPCB is completely dedicated to helping provide professional support and help through its combined international knowledge.  This year's conference is in Wildbad Kreuth, about an hour's drive from Munich.  Speakers are from all corners of the world, there are two days of workshops (and 'work' is the operative word!), and the best opportunity professional caregivers will ever have to work with some of the world's experts in this specialised topic.

If you are a professional caregiver and would like to attend the conference, please go here for registration information.   Likewise, if you are a parent and have a son or daughter in residential care and think it would be beneficial for someone to attend the conference, please let them know.

As usual, we have great expectations from this unique gathering, all in the name of Prader-Willi Syndrome!

Onwards and upwards!!

Friday, 9 March 2012


This is a personal post, nothing to do with IPWSO, yet everything to do with us all.  These past months have been, for me and my family, difficult.  We have been trying to get our daughter back into the residential system and nearly everything has contrived to go against us.  The more that things didn't work out, the larger the conspiracy seemed to become and the slower the wheels seemed to grind.  Of course, it is not a conspiracy, it's just the way things happen in real life.  Or don't happen.  And in the world of disability, wheels grind even slower.

I think now that we are close to suceeding.  But I say that, knowing full well, that as the saying goes, "there's many a slip twixt cup and lip" and plenty of time for things to go wrong.  I don't think one can ever say, "hooray, we've worked that one out - finished, completed!"  Because in the world of PWS life is not a stroll across the meadows.  Rather it is fraught with things to trip us up, therefore the way we live is to prepare for the worst.  It takes some of the joy of just "living" out of life. But that is the way of it and we all do it,  and in 97 countries who are members of IPWSO, I know there are parents going through exactly the same sort of thing.  Night and day.

Sometimes I feel as though I've truly had enough.  And it's no help to remember 'there are others worse off than yourself'; right at that moment, it's the most unhelpful advice there is.  I feel like the little dog, condemned to death, who just needed a hug:   Have a look at her and you will know what I mean.  Just a hug, that's all. (

Sometimes I feel great joy in seeing how others can overcome disability and show the most perfect ability.  Like Kyle Coleman, who has autism and is speech-mute, but can sing like an angel.  He has perfect pitch.  Just look and listen to this young man.  This is what his mum says about him: and you can hear him sing his trademark song, "Just Listen", but a better rendition is on his own website where you can hear him sing, 'Lady D'Abanville' and 'Sunny Afternoon'   Isn't it wonderful that someone just listened?

I've always said it's about listening - if you don't really, really listen, then you don't hear what the person is saying, particularly if that person has a disability.  The first thing that is different is the way they communicate.  If you don't listen, you will never, ever hear.

And, even for those of us who can communicate, talk, write, speak to many, and seem completely confident in this world - there are times when they need to be listened to as well.  We're not that strong.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

February at IPWSO

February has been busy, as usual.  We have had several requests for help and been able to send information and network with other professionals in a bid to help our families across the world.

A 26 yr old woman with PWS living in Kuwait who has had little or no support throughout her life.  At this time we don’t have educational material in Arabic, so we contacted one of our consultants in the States who is now following this case and supporting the medical professionals.  We had a similar case in Sudan which has brought up the same problems of having no educational material in Arabic available yet.

We sent information to a doctor in New Delhi about bariatric surgery in PWS, and supported another enquiry from India with a free diagnosis at BIRD for a 20 year old patient with a clinical diagnosis of PWS.  Our professional delegates in Lithuania and also Guatemala requested instructions on sending blood samples to our lab in Italy for a suspect case of PWS. 

In Malaysia, we were delighted to learn of the first gathering of PWS families in Kuala Lumpur on 19th February.  This coincided with a new contact from Malaysia needing help and we were able to put them in contact with our professional delegate, and the new family gathering.  They were delighted and relieved as the only information they’d been able to receive was in Singapore, which meant the financial cost to the family was quite high.  

We had a request for information for medical references from an English family living in Dubai, butthis is another area where we are in the early stages of trying to build professional networks.  We sent her our packages of information.  Other educational and support information was sent to Porto Rico where they are keen to establish a parent support group in her country, and educational information was sent to the PWS Association in Colombia.
Our parent delegate in Spain put us the following question: ”We have problems here in Spain because some doctors do not allow GH therapy on several children with PWS that are only 11-14 years old. What is happening in the rest of Europe or the world? Do you know?”  His request was sent out to most of our member who immediately replied to him.

On Leap Day, February 29th, BIRD organised a wonderful event in a beautiful theatre in Vicenza (Italy) to celebrate the International Rare Diseases Day.  Over 1,000 students and their teachers from local high schools participated.  Giorgio gave a short talk about his experience as a parent, then sang "Ich Auch" (listen here) at the end, with great success!
Finally, we are indebted to our wonderful supporters who have lit candles to help IPWSO continue its work across the world – we thank you so much for your graciousness and generosity.  You can check on the candles by going to our Light A Candle for IPWSO page.


One of IPWSO's three information packages:  General Awareness, Medical Awareness, and Crisis Intervention

Invoices for membership fees 2012 have been sent out, and the following member countries are now subscribed for this year:
  • Australia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Slovakia
  • USA