Down Syndrome Conference Speakers and Sessions


This information is from our 2017 Conference in Banff. Check back in early 2018 for details on the 2018 Canadian Down Syndrome Conference in Hamilton, May 18 to 20, 2018.

Keynote: Elena and Sean from A&E’s Born This Way

Elena is dynamic, opinionated, and somewhat unpredictable and can always be counted on to bring energy to the group.

Elena was born in Japan to a Japanese mother, Hiromi, and an Australian father, Stephen, and this multi-cultural influence has carried throughout her life. She enjoys practicing traditional Japanese Taiko drumming and cooking.

Elena has often struggled with accepting herself and her disability. Even just hearing the words, “Down syndrome,” evokes a visceral reaction. Her personal conflicts inspire the other cast members to examine their own self-images and ideas of what it means to be an adult with Down syndrome.

Sean is a self-professed, “ladies’ man.” But beneath a seemingly singular focus on “babes” lies a multi-talented athlete and a caring friend.

Sean is the focus of three books written by his mother, Sandra, detailing Sean’s journey navigating the school system and beyond. Together with his father, Rick, Sean’s parents are devoted to helping him accomplish his goals.

With his parents downsizing and moving to a new home, Sean strives to gain greater independence and one day live on his own.

Endnote: Jon Jon Rivero

Jon Jon Rivero is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, the Global Speakers Federation, and has served and connected with thousands of people all over the world.

In 2006, he was the recipient of the Alberta Rehabilitation Coordinating Council Sunrise Therapist Award, which recognized him as the top clinician contributing to rehabilitation medicine within their first 2 years of practice.

As the Founder and CEO of Qi Creative Inc. ( he integrates his creative talents and passions to inspire children, adolescents, families, and schools living with special needs and trauma by celebrating their talents and strengths to overcome challenges.

Biography (continued)

Jon Jon co-authored the International Children’s Book, My Name Is Trauma ( and conducts seminars, keynotes, and resilience training in disaster relief areas. He is featured internationally at educational and leadership conferences around the world.

As a spoken word artist and producer, he has collaborated with thousands of youth activists and leaders from various countries to use their strengths and talents to promote peace, creativity, and unity in their respective local communities.

Jon Jon is the founder of the Balikbayan Project Philippines ( and is committed to working with youth and families living with trauma in Tacloban, Leyte by collaborating with orphanages, rehabilitation medicine clinics, and schools to create safe and meaningful art forms of therapeutic healing through self-expression.

As an author, 5th Dan black belt Master, musician, and filmmaker, Jon Jon is committed to positively influencing the world, one community, one family, one child at a time.

Create YouR Awesome: "Use What You've Got, You've Got More Than You Know"

Create YouR Awesome: “Use what you’ve got, and you’ve got more than you know” promotes the celebration and awesomeness of caregivers, families, educators, and people living with special needs around the world to grow their talents and skills in service to others. Through collaboration, creativity, coaching, and celebration people can achieve meaningful success in their respective homes, schools, and communities.

Past Conference Keynote and Endnote Speakers

Year Speaker Role
2016 Kevin Pearce Keynote
2016 Jean-François Martin Endnote
2015 Spencer West Keynote
2015 Celebrating 10 Years of VATTA (self-advocates) Endnote
2015 Tara McCallan, Happy Soul Project Pre-Endnote
2015 Joey Moss (self-advocate) Ambassador
2014 Danny Soucy Keynote
2014 Will Brewer (self-advocate) Pre-Keynote
2014 Donna Thomson Endnote
2013 Lauren Potter (self-advocate) Keynote
2013 Dr. Brian Skotko, M.D., M.P.P. Keynote
2013 Voices At The Table Advocacy Committee and Paul Sawka (self-advocates) Endnote
2012 Joe Dale and Mark Wafer Pre-Keynote
2012 Marlee Matlin Keynote
2012 Dr. Dave Williams Endnote
2011 Tamara Taggart Pre-Keynote
2011 Robert Pio Hajjar (self-advocate) Keynote
2011 Lauren Potter (self-advocate), Blair Williamson (self-advocate), and Gail Williamson Endnote
2010 Karen Gaffney (self-advocate) Pre-Keynote
2010 Rosario Martin Keynote
2010 Alvin Law Endnote

Take a walk in their shoes and discover a world of possibilities - not disabilities - that will motivate and encourage you to learn more and get involved.