For two long weekends out of the year, the National Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Conference becomes a welcoming “home” for kids, teens, young adults, parents and caregivers affected by childhood rheumatic diseases. It is a weekend filled with education, networking and encouragement for the entire family.
The annual National Juvenile Arthritis Conference is the Arthritis Foundation’s signature, nationwide event for families affected by juvenile arthritis. For more than 30 years, we’ve brought together thousands of families – more than 25,000 people – kids, teens, young adults, siblings, parents, caretakers and health care professionals and experts across the country.
This four-day educational conference focuses on health, wellness and fun for families and children affected by JA and related childhood rheumatic diseases. There are educational sessions for parents and caregivers, child and teen-specific programming and activities – even siblings have their own session. The whole family is invited!
What’s Special About the JA Conference?
Many past attendees have noted that when their child was first diagnosed – regardless if they are living in a bustling metro or a small town – the overwhelming feeling was that they were all alone.
The JA Conference aims to resolve that feeling, and provides an opportunity to meet other families going through similar challenges, share stories, learn about the latest treatments and research from experts, discover strategies for managing daily activities, educational rights and support for developmental and social issues.
Throughout the weekend, kids, teens and siblings participate in their own educational and social programming throughout the weekend. They learn about their disease, advocacy, fundraising, how to tell their story as well as fun-filled activities where kids can just be kids.
Young adults, ages 18-25 years old, have their own tailored educational and social programming as well. These topics include transitioning from pediatric to adult care, solutions for college and entering the workforce and how to advocate effectively for yourself.
While your child or children are in their own sessions, parents and caregivers participate in their own programming as well. Adults can set their own schedule of topics such as: networking opportunities with other moms, dads and caregivers, general sessions with keynote speakers, breakout sessions that include disease-specific education, educational rights and fundraising.
Who Is the Conference For?
The JA Conference is for the whole family! Whether you’re a child with JA or a sibling of a child with JA, you are welcomed at the conference. Parents – whether you are a couple or a single-parent, are always welcomed as well. We’ve had grandparents, aunts and uncles that are secondary caregivers, because we understand that JA affects the entire family.
And it’s for all of those affected by juvenile arthritis. You see, JA is a general term that refers to many types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases that affect children. Related conditions include uveitis, spondyloarthropathy, ankylosing spondylitis, irritable bowel syndrome, lyme arthritis, immune system diseases and much more. It’s just a brief way to describe the many diagnoses that our families are dealing with.
Special Programming for All Ages and Roles
Whether you are a child or young adult with arthritis or a sibling to someone with the disease, you’ll benefit from special programming at the JA Conference.
- Infants and Toddlers: The youngest (ages 0-4) are cared for in a nurturing and enriched environment by childcare experts.
- Kids: In a kid-friendly atmosphere, children break into groups by grades K-4th (ages 5 & Up). Led by experts, these sessions are designed for fun and play, but kids also learn how to manage their arthritis.
- Middle & High School: The middle and high school programs are offered for teens in grades 6th-12th, supervised by a team of highly experienced program activity managers. All activities are designed to help teens overcome obstacles, recognize and accept differences in themselves and others, and to build and maintain rewarding friendships that can last a lifetime.
- Young Adults: Tailored for those18 – 25, the young adult program includes workshops on real-life issues, from relationships and dating to college and employment.
- Parents and Caregivers: Moms and dads learn about and discuss the latest medications, parenting tips, educational rights, social and developmental issues, and how to advocate for more research and greater access to pediatric rheumatologists.
- Siblings: Brothers and sisters are encouraged to join in on the fun and share how JA has affected their lives.
What Do I Need to Know to Go?
Each year, the JA Conference is held in different locations throughout the country. The Arthritis Foundation has made a commitment to hold TWO JA Conferences to serve more kids and families throughout the country.
A limited number of travel awards are available to families each year. The travel award application process typically opens in January for a limited time.
Registration for each conference typically opens in February and is open until the event has reached maximum capacity. Early bird pricing is available, so signing up early is encouraged.
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