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Retreat helps parents of children with disabilities

Parents of children who have life-long disabilities, special health needs and learning differences are invited to the 2009 Windmill Parent Retreat.

The theme, "Balancing Needs, Abilities and Relationships," addresses key factors that families face when they learn about the challenges their children have. The 24-hour event is set for April 3-4 at Lake Geneva Camp and Retreat Center in Alexandria.

Each year, parents return home with new ideas, perspective and insights that rekindle their hope and renew their energy for the road ahead, according to organizers.

On last year's evaluation, one parent made this comment: "I thought the retreat was exceptional. I wish that my child's teacher could have heard the speakers."

After coming for the first time, another parent said, "We are not alone. There is hope and people do get through the tough times. "

On Friday night, parents will view Including Samuel, an award-winning film that documents a family's efforts to include Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, in every facet of their lives. Visit to see a clip from the movie.

Participants will learn how to use proven, positive, esteem-building techniques when typical parenting, therapy and teaching are ineffective.

Tina Feigal's morning keynote, Transforming the Challenging Child, is based on The Nurtured Heart Approach created by Howard Glasser, M.A. The methods apply to children who have ADHD, ODD, autism, giftedness, or to any child, ages 2-18, whose behavior does not improve with typical techniques.

During the morning breakout session, Feigal will answer questions as she shares parenting tips and techniques. Another morning workshop, Asperger's in the Family, features the perspectives of a mother and her teenage son. How Health Impacts Learning and Behavior with Dr. Bymers is a third workshop offered in the morning.

Attorney Lisa Bowen will provide information about supplemental and special needs trusts in the morning and guardianship issues in an afternoon workshop.

Dr. Ted Bowman will kick off the afternoon with Caring for Self and Others: The Critical Challenge for Parents. Bowman is a trainer, educator and consultant. He specializes in change and transition, whether it occurs in families, an organization, or the community. He has authored more than 80 articles appearing in books, journals, newspapers, and magazines.

Loss of Dreams: A Special Kind of Grief and Finding Hope When Dreams Have Shattered, written by Bowman, underscore his understanding of the stresses parents are facing.

Bowman will also address special needs of siblings in an afternoon workshop. Parents may choose a workshop to make-and-take items that accommodate their child's special needs while playing and learning together. IEP Advocacy and Guardianship round out workshops in the afternoon session.

Parents will have time to share experiences and insights with other parents facing similar challenges. They will also have opportunities to talk with representatives of organizations that provide various services and experiences for children with disabilities and their families. Parents will be encouraged to take some time to relax and pamper themselves during this time away from care-giving activities.

This year marks the 20th parent retreat held in west central Minnesota. The Windmill Project got its start from the first parent retreat held in 1990 when parents met to identify what they would need to keep their children at home rather than in an institution.

For more details, go to the Web site Arrange to register or to make a donation by calling (320) 763-9228 or sending an e-mail to