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It’s hard to believe that the 19th Annual Conference in Chicago is only a week away.  The IOCDF offices are a flurry of activity today, as we get ready to travel from Boston to the midwest to see you all next week.

Photo of Ali FarquharIn the meantime, we have a great post today from Alison Farquhar, the mother of a son with OCD and Tourette’s, who discusses the effect that their first IOCDF conference had on both her and her son, and talks about what she’s looking forward to in Chicago next week.

Please note that we are still accepting online registrations through Monday morning at 9am ET, and then after that we will be accepting walk-in registrations at the conference in Chicago. For more information, visit the Conference page online at ocfoundation.org/conference.

Tell us a little about your background: How did you find out about the IOCDF? What made you first want to attend the Annual Conference?

I am an executive coach who works with senior business people to develop their leadership effectiveness and with teams to improve their productivity and positivity. I also spent many years working with parents of children with learning, mood, and behavioral challenges. I found out about the IOCDF after my son was diagnosed with both Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD. I was looking for any resources I could find on OCD so that I could understand what my son was dealing with and be a better support and advocate for him. I signed up for the IOCDF Conference in Minneapolis in 2009 and discovered that there were tracks especially for kids. At home, my son didn’t want anyone to know about his OCD but I felt sure that it would be a comfort for him to be able to meet and speak with others struggling with the same issues. I suggested he come along as no one at the Conference would know him. To my surprise, he agreed.

Were you nervous about attending?

 No, but my son was.

What was the first year attending like?  Any memorable moments?

It was extraordinary! At breakfast the first day, I heard my son say the words I had never heard him utter before, and to a family we had only just met: “I have OCD.” When the first sessions started, he was a little reluctant to go with the kids group but he agreed to try. Later that morning when I met up with him to see how things were going, the first words out of his mouth were, “Can we come again next year?” He has found enormous support in coming to know other kids just like him who struggle with the same (and other) symptoms and our three conferences have been instrumental in helping him come to accept and be more public about his journey, even to people back home. I am so grateful to the IOCDF and all the work they do to ease what can be a very rocky path. I have no doubt that my son’s successes are in large part due to the community he has found at the Annual Conference.

Did you feel out of place as a non-therapist?

Not at all. I have enjoyed attending clinical, therapeutic, and family sessions. I read widely about the condition and am always keen to learn about the latest neurobiological findings and therapeutic approaches. There is something for everyone.

Were the talks helpful?

They have been very helpful in validating a loving but non-enabling parenting approach. I have also learned about different types of OCD distinct from my son’s, about Tourettic OCD specifically, and about a whole range of parenting and treatment options that have helped us find the right path forward. In addition, the keynote speakers and personal stories of tragedy and triumph have been very touching.

Do you have a favorite talk from past year’s conferences?

No, I value the breadth and depth and variety.

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Conference?

Reconnecting with people we have come to know and care for, making new friends, and getting new insights. Also running a Friday night parent support group — always a privilege and a pleasure.

If you could give any advice to someone who is not sure about attending the conference, what would you tell them?

Nike says it best: “Just do it”!

As a parent of someone with OCD, did you gain new insight and understanding into your child’s disorder? Did you find the conference helpful? What was your perspective on other attendees?

I have absolutely learned and felt that past learning was validated. The Conference is helpful on so many levels: educational, community building, parenting support, and most of all for my son. There is an unusual blending of parents, therapists, and academics and for the most part, presenters are extremely approachable. This is a warm and welcoming environment and I highly recommend it to families seeking information and support.

Alison Farquhar will be facilitating the Parent Support Group at 7pm on Friday evening at the Conference to help other parents feel they are part of a supportive community. Visit ocfoundation.org/conference to learn more.

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