Northwestern College to host conference on embracing intellectual abilities

Northwestern College will host a new conference, titled “Involve,” on Tuesday, Feb. 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will take place in the college’s DeWitt Learning Commons and Ramaker Center.

During the conference, attendees will focus on how to fully embrace individuals with different intellectual and developmental disabilities. Attendees will learn how to create patterns of inclusion in their communities, classrooms, ministries and direct care services. Educators, school administrators, social workers, church leaders and individuals who work with differently abled individuals are encouraged to attend.

The conference will include a keynote, seven breakout sessions, a virtual autism-reality simulation and a resource fair. Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from a panel of students and parents involved with Northwestern NEXT, a two-year program that offers students with intellectual or developmental disabilities the opportunity to participate in campus life and learning.

Dr. Benjamin Conner, professor of practical theology and director of the graduate certificate in disability and ministry at Western Theological Seminary, will open the conference with a keynote presentation titled “Disabling Education: A First Step Toward Universal Design in Learning.” He will also speak in Northwestern’s chapel service at 11:05 a.m. on Feb. 11.

Prior to working at the seminary, Conner worked in youth ministry for 20 years, during which he ministered to and with young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Conner has written three books, including “Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness: Exploring Missiology Through the Lens of Disability Studies”; “Amplifying Our Witness: Giving Voice to Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities”; and “Practicing Witness: A Missional Vision of Christian Practices.”

Breakout sessions during the conference will focus on universal design in learning, behavior strategies, person-first language, inclusion of persons with disabilities at church, enhancing service delivery to individuals with autism, and transitions and adult resources. Conner and regional professionals will lead the sessions.

Registration for the Involve Conference is required by Feb. 10. Attendees can register for the full-day conference for $60, a half-day conference for $30, or a lunch-and-learn session for $20. Lunch is included with each registration. Educators can pay an additional $50 for a license renewal credit. More information and the registration form can be found at

The conference is offered in partnership by the Northwestern NEXT program and the college’s campus ministry, education, and graduate and adult learning departments.