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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Mary Poppins File: Be Prepared for the Team Meeting

From SPaN
The Special Needs Advocacy Network

September 17, 2014

Presenters: Christine Riley and Jennie Dunkley.

Bring your questions and hear these very experienced advocates discuss how they handle meeting-related topics such as:
  • What to bring with you to every Team Meeting, and why.
  • How to prepare for a Team Meeting (process and what specific items you might prepare based on meeting type or client).
  • How to prepare parents for Team Meetings (process and what they need to know).
  • How to act during the meeting, and how to use what you brought.
  • How to follow-up after the meeting (with parents, with district).
  • How to write measurable goals.
When:    Friday, October 10, 2014
                    Networking - 9:30 to 10:00am
                    Presentation - 10:00am - 12:30pm

Where: The Hampton Inn
                   319 Speen St.
                   Natick, MA 01760

Cost:     SPaN Members - $40.00; Non-Members - $60.00.
                 After the close of registration on October 6th, walk-in
                 rate at the door will be $70.00 if space is available.

Register HERE.

To register for the WEBINAR ONLY, click here.

For Martha

From Special Education Today
A SPED Law Blog from Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP

By Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.
September 15, 2014

News came this past weekend that Martha Ziegler has passed. No matter that Martha lived a long and robust 84 years, the loss is, as our friend Julia Landau at the Mass. Advocates for Children put it, “stunning” – to think that our world will now be without her “vibrancy, passion, and vision.”

At MAC’s celebration of the 40th anniversary
of the signing of Chapter 766, Bob Crabtree,
Martha Ziegler, Larry Kotin, and Connie Rizoli

Martha was a major civil rights leader for children with disabilities. She arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1970’s, thinking, as she loved to say, that she would now be able to set aside the advocacy work she had done in Pennsylvania and devote her energies fully to family and friends, only to find herself immediately and completely immersed in organizing a coalition to help carry a new special education reform initiative, “Chapter 766,” into law.

As she saw it, the victory Martha and her coalition celebrated in the signing of Chapter 766 was not enough by any means. She well understood that without an ongoing reliable organization to educate and train parents and professionals over the long haul and to monitor and advance the promises of our special education reform act, it would be all too easy for the law to become dead letter.

She turned her energies accordingly toward the creation of what became the Federation for Children with Special Needs – an agency that all who work in our field know as the gold standard of parent training and advocacy.

Along with that, she dedicated countless hours to advancing the principles and many of the solutions built into Chapter 766 at the federal level, developing bonds with leaders in Congress that contributed greatly to the eventual enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or “IDEA”).

Some years ago, when my now-retired partner, Larry Kotin, and I stood as co-recipients of the Martha Ziegler Founder’s Award from the Federation, I turned to Martha during my remarks and said:

“Without your enormous energy and indomitable spirit, your great humor, your organizing skill among warring factions, and your pragmatic political savvy in 1972, Chapter 766 might never have come into being, and without your formation and leadership of this great organization for so many years, there would quite certainly have been no Federation for Children With Special Needs.”

There is so much more to say to and about Martha as advocates in our field begin to mourn her loss. As for me, I feel the loss not only of a powerful and sophisticated colleague in advocacy, but of a true and loving friend for more than forty years. Rest in peace, old friend.


Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.


Upcoming Special Events
  • October 2 (Thursday) 1:00pm Eastern: "Between the Synapse" internet radio broadcast on educating students with emotional or behavioral challenges, featuring special guests Jessica Minahan, M.Ed., BCBA, director of behavioral services at NESCA, and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. Free app required to listen. Details HERE.
  • October 7 (Tuesday) 7:00 - 9:00pm: Stressed-Out Students: How Boarding Schools Can Help. Panel discussion with admissions officers from five schools at the Wellesley College Club. Co-sponsored by NESCA and Hunnewell Education Group. FREE and open to the public; advance registration required. Details HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:30am - 5:00pm: "Practical Perspectives, Positives Lives" - Annual Asperger's Syndrome Connection conference sponsored by AANE at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA. Keynote Speakers: Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D.; Winnie Dunn, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA; Michael Forbes Wilcox. Info, registration HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:00am - 4:00pm: MABIDA's 7th Reaching All Readers Conference; "Dyslexia, Inattention & Anxiety." Keynote speaker: Dr. Edward Hallowell, with NESCA Neuropsychologist Angela Currie, Ph.D. Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center. Details and registration HERE.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NESCA's Angela Currie to Speak at MABIDA's 7th Reaching All Readers Conference - Saturday, October 25th

The MA Branch of the International Dyslexia Association

September 8, 2014

Dyslexia, Inattention and Anxiety

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Edward Hallowell will present an in-depth look at emotional and learning problems in children with reading disorders and/or ADHD. He will explore the
various kinds of problems children may contend with
that have a biological or genetic basis. 

Breakout Session Presenters and Topics
  • Adam Hickey - Metacognition, Reading Comprehension and Writing
  • Peter Morris - Beyond Mathematical Literacy
  • Panel Discussion - Transitions & Accommodations
  • Dr. Leslie Laud - Evidence-Based Writing Practices
  • Dr. Nathan Doty - Dyslexia's Common Comorbidities
  • Joe Green, Esq. - Going to Hearing at BESA
  • Lesley Maxwell - Academic Vocabulary
  • Dr. Joseph Moldover - Assessment & Diagnosis
  • Dr. Angela Curie (NESCA) - Relationship between Dyslexia & Anxiety 

Sessions have been designed for teachers, reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, parents, individuals with dyslexia, and others interested in helping struggling readers.

For the conference brochure and to register, please go to MABIDA's website:


When:   October 25, 2014

Where:  Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center
                   1657 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA

Cost:    IDA Member - $95
               Non-Member - $120
               Student - $25

Contact:  MABIDA
                    P.O. Box 562
                    Lincoln, MA 01773 


Certificate of Attendance and .5 ASHA CEUs available.

How a Bigger Purpose Can Motivate Students to Learn

From KQED's Blog Mind/Shift
How we will learn.

By Ingfei Chen
August 18, 2014

A few years ago, psychologist David Yeager and his colleagues noticed something interesting while interviewing high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area about their hopes, dreams and life goals.

It was no surprise that students often said that making money, attaining fame or pursuing a career that they enjoyed were important to them. But many of them also spoke of additionally wanting to make a positive impact on their community or society — such as by becoming a doctor to take care of people, or a pastor who “makes a difference.”

What’s more, the teens with these “pro-social” types of goals tended to rate their schoolwork as more personally meaningful.

Given this information, Yeager and his colleagues wanted to know: could such a bigger sense of purpose that looks beyond one’s own self-interests be a real and significant inspiration for learning? They believe the answer is yes.

And, they’ve devised a new social psychology intervention to foster a “purposeful learning” mindset as another way to motivate pupils to persevere in their studies.

Yeager, now based at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, conducted the work in collaboration with UT colleague Marlone Henderson, David Paunesku and Greg Walton of Stanford, “grit” guru Angela Duckworth of the Univ. of Pennsylvania, and others.

They recently explored purposeful learning in a series of four studies and put their intervention to the test against one of the banes of learning: boredom. Initial promising results suggest the psychology strategy could encourage pupils to plug away at homework or learning tasks that are challenging or tedious, yet necessary to getting an education that’ll help them reach their greater life goals.

Can Drudgery Be Eliminated from Learning?

The idea of drudgery in schoolwork is anathema to many progressive educators these days. Game-based approaches to learning are far favored over “drill-and-kill” exercises. And while an emphasis on fortifying students’ academic “grit” and self-discipline in their study habits has been explored in depth, it’s controversial. Along with criticisms about deeper implications relating to race and poverty, some observers say the buzz over grit neglects the need to make dull classroom lessons more compelling to today’s learners.

As education author Alfie Kohn has written, “not everything is worth doing, let alone doing for extended periods, and not everyone who works hard is pursuing something worthwhile.”

It’s complicated, though. At Stanford’s Project for Education Research that Scales, Paunesku believes that teachers and educators should make learning more engaging wherever possible. “However, the reality is that schoolwork is often neither interesting nor meaningful,” he said — at least, not in a way that students immediately get.

“It’s hard for students to understand why doing algebra, for example, really matters or why it’ll help them or why it will make a difference in their life.” Yet, he noted, such work is often key in building basic skills and knowledge they’ll need for a successful future.

With that in mind, Yeager and Paunesku designed an intervention that subtly guides students to connect their academic efforts with pro-social long-term goals, to see whether it might help inspire them to plow through assignments that are “boring but important.”

As a baseline, the research team first investigated a mindset of “self-transcendent” purposeful learning by surveying 1,364 low-income high-school seniors at 10 urban public schools in California, Texas, Arkansas and New York. The teenagers sat down at a computer and took an “academic diligence task” devised by Duckworth and Sidney D’Mello of the University of Notre Dame. For a few minutes, the participants had the choice of either doing lots of simple, tedious math subtraction problems, or watching YouTube video clips or playing Tetris.

The students with a purposeful-learning attitude (who agreed with socially oriented statements like “I want to become an educated citizen that can contribute to society”) scored higher on measures of grit and self-control than classmates who only reported self-oriented motives for learning such as wanting to get a good job or earn more money.

The purposeful learners were also less likely to succumb to the digital distractions, answering more math problems on the diligence task — and they were more likely to be enrolled in college the following fall, the researchers found.

The Potential of a Purposeful Mindset

Next, a pilot experiment tested the sense-of-purpose intervention to see if it would improve grades in math and science (two subjects often seen as uninteresting): The researchers asked 338 ninth graders at a middle-class Bay Area high school to log online for a 20- to 30-minute reading and writing exercise.

The teenagers read a brief article and specific quotes from other students, all conveying the message that many adolescents work hard in school not just to gain knowledge for, say, pursuing a career they like — but also because they want to achieve “something that matters for the world.”


Study participants then wrote short testimonials to other, future students describing how high school would help them become the kind of person they want to be or make an impact on society. As one teen explained, “I believe learning in school will give me the rudimentary skills to survive in the world. Science will give me a good base for my career in environmental engineering. I want to be able to solve our energy problems.”
Another ninth grader wrote that having an education “allows me to form well-supported, well-thought opinions about the world. I will not be able to help anyone without first going to school."

A few months later, at the end of the grading quarter, the researchers observed positive effects from the intervention, most notably in the weakest students: Underachieving pupils saw their low GPAs go up by 0.2 points. That’s a helpful improvement, said UT Austin’s Henderson, because many pivotal educational decisions hang in the balance based on a GPA cutoff. A few tenths of a point can make or break a student’s acceptance into a program or a school, which could in turn affect what type of job she ends up getting and ultimately, the salary she earns, Henderson said.

“GPA is really a better long-term predictor of not just educational outcomes but all kinds of positive life outcomes,” commented education researcher Camille Farrington of the University of Chicago. A 0.2 point gain in GPA could bump a B to a B+ or a B+ to an A-, she noted, which is an important impact given how brief and relatively inexpensive the sense-of-purpose treatment was.

Many other education interventions take a lot more time, energy and money, yet “don’t give any more of a bump than that,” she said.

How Does It Work?

As with other kinds of academic mindset strategies, the benefit from the sense-of-purpose intervention “almost seems like magic,” Henderson said. But it’s not, (as Yeager and Walton have previously elaborated). The research team ran two other experiments (with college undergrads) that helped unpack how the intervention might work: by motivating students to engage in deeper learning, and by bolstering self-control in resisting tempting distractions from schoolwork (as measured again by Duckworth and D’Mello’s diligence test).

What a purposeful mindset does for students is that “when they encounter challenges, difficulty or things that could potentially be roadblocks to learning, it motivates them to persist and barrel through,” Henderson said. The psychology researchers don’t know how long the positive effects last, but they speculate that just a small shift in students’ attitudes could spark a chain reaction of stronger academic performance and confidence that builds upon itself and endures over time.

Such a payoff can be hard to believe. After all, grownups have forever been telling children any number of reasons why a good education is important for their future. But here’s the thing: The technique for nurturing a sense-of-purpose mentality is designed so that “the student owns that and kind of puts those pieces together in their own heads, for themselves,” Farrington noted. “And that is a different thing than your mom or your teacher telling you, it’s important to do this because blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Other, self-oriented goals such as making money or getting out of their parents’ house didn’t seem to inspire students as much as the self-transcendent goals did in the studies. That’s worth noting, Farrington said, especially considering that youths from low-income backgrounds are often exhorted to study hard so that they can get out of their disadvantaged neighborhoods and go to college or find a good job.

If the research results are right, these kids may get more motivational mileage out of the goal of making a meaningful contribution to the world. “That’s consistent with what we know in social psychology: that people are motivated by, they care about having meaning in their life,” she said.

The sense-of-purpose work is just in its beginning stages, Henderson said, with the psychologists still tinkering to improve the intervention. They want to explore whether the technique can reduce student cheating, and whether teachers can “activate” the purposeful-learning mindset by writing simple, subtle and carefully tailored messages of feedback on classwork, he said.

Finding Meaning in Schoolwork

The experiments with the new strategy beg the question of whether the researchers are implicitly endorsing drill-and-kill-style learning. They aren’t, Paunesku is quick to say. He’s all for project-based learning and other efforts to make school more relevant and alluring for students. Yet, he added, it isn’t practical or possible to render every lesson or assignment in K-12 “super fun and game-y” for kids — and even if it were, doing so could be a disservice to them later.

What would they do when they get to law school and are faced with having to memorize long lists of laws? Or when they land a job that calls for mastering information that no one has “gamefied” to make it exciting to learn?

Students go to school not just to learn specific facts, he pointed out. They’re learning how to learn, how to practice self-discipline and motivate themselves through frustrating roadblocks, and thus are preparing for adulthood. That’s important even if it isn’t always fascinating, he said. But having that bigger sense of purpose, that personal mission of making a positive difference in the broader world, might help students to find meaning in difficult or mundane schoolwork.

“If you think about it the right way, you can actually be motivated and you can find it interesting, even if on the surface it’s not fun,” Paunesku said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Safe and Supportive Schools - Free Presentation Wednesday, October 8

A flexible framework for trauma-sensitive schools, to promote and maximize the success of all students. Please join us to learn how Safe and Supportive Schools can:
  • Support better learning practices based on neuroscience research;
  • Reduce unhealthy levels of stress at a systemic level;
  • Promote safer, healthier and more effective behavioral interventions;
  • Increase the amount of classroom time available for learning.
A rare opportunity to learn how our schools can better support our students; free and open to the public.

When:  7:00 – 9:00pm Wednesday, October 8, 2014 

Where: Newton North High School Auditorium
                   457 Walnut St., Newton, MA 02460
                   (Plenty of free, off-street parking available)

Speakers: Program Welcome - Representative Ruth Balser
                         Lead Sponsor, Safe and Supportive Schools Legislation,
                         Enacted August 13, 2014

                         Keynote Speaker - Joe Ristuccia, Ed.M.
                         Trauma & Learning Policy Initiative,
                         Adjunct Professor, Lesley University / Certified School Psychologist

For more information, please contact either Lucie Chansky at (617-244-7310) or Greg Smith at (617-584-9993).

Empowering Kids Who Learn Differently - A Conversation with David Flink about How to Succeed with LD and ADHD

From the Child Mind Institute

By Rae Jacobson
September 9, 2014

David Flink is the founder and CEO of Eye-to-Eye National, a mentoring program that connects kids with learning disabilities and ADHD with older LD students. David recently published his first book, Thinking Differently, which tells, among many others, his story of growing up with ADHD and dyslexia. It's written as a guide for parents to understand kids with learning and attention issues.

Author David Flink, who is dyslexic and has ADHD.

It also speaks to kids directly, relaying stories from members of the LD community that offer a roadmap to success while making no bones about the hard work it takes to get there. David and I both have learning disabilities and ADHD and we sat down to talk about how it felt to write, and read, a book about ourselves.

Rae Jacobson:  First off, I have to say I loved the book. As a person with an LD and ADHD, reading it felt so familiar—I found so many places where I could relate to the stories you relay because they are essentially my story, too.

David Flink: Our community holds so many amazing stories. I started with mine because I knew it best, but the book is many stories intertwining and forming a common bond on learning differences.

In 1998, when I started mentoring, I started telling my story. But the other side of it was that people started telling me theirs. I found that if I offered just a little bit of my experience—I didn't even have to say much—I'd get this access to the most personal and profound moments in people's lives.

Rae: The book rose out of all the things you heard along the way.

David: Over the years, as I listened to people, I started seeing common strands and themes—some traumatic, some wonderful, most of them both—and it led to me to wonder, what were the collective stories that led to success?  I think many of the books that have come out focus only on the negative parts of having a learning disability, and so often they miss the good part. I have access to this whole generation of young people who have succeeded in school and I wanted to kind of explore how and why they succeeded.

Rae: There are so many things that focus on what we can't do, it was refreshing and comforting to read something that focuses not only on what we can do, but on how to maximize the potential for success by creating an environment that works with how you learn.

And speaking of things we can do, what kind of reactions did you get to the fact that you have dyslexia and wrote a book?

David: The funniest headline I got was on a newspaper story was "Learning disabled CEO Writes Book of Advice."

Magically, this poor learning-disabled CEO, you know...

Rae:  He seems to be writing a book!  Isn't that adorable?

David: So, yeah, some of the questions have clearly been laced with surprise: "Oh! You have dyslexia and you wrote a book?!" Like that's miraculous. But the miraculous thing is not that I am a dyslexic person who wrote a book, it's that people are surprised that I can have dyslexia and write a book.

I embrace that I have dyslexia and ADHD, and like anybody, I have strengths and weaknesses, mine just have labels. And I put a team together to help me with those weaknesses, like any of us do.  You have a weakness; you find a way to get through it.  So in my case, I got a good editing team.

Rae: To me what you do both in the book and at Eye to Eye is invite mutuality. You're not saying "Sit down and let me tell you about myself." You're saying, "This is me, and I'm okay with me." And just showing that means that somebody else can feel comfortable enough to say, "Me too."

David: A good example—this just happened last week—is a father I met at our Eye-to-Eye summer camp for our mentees. He said, "You know, my daughter had a great experience, but it was really profound for me, too."

He went on to tell me that he had ADHD and had been struggling with it for 40 years. He went to a top-tier university, but he didn't understand that he had ADHD, and ended up graduating late—even though he was at the top of his class.

This was indicative of his whole career—he'd get a job, because he was super-qualified, and then he'd fail at the job because of his ADHD, and he didn't understand why. He didn't understand how he learned.  And then slowly over time he started to figure it out and turn things around in his life.

But he had to wait like 40 years of his life to figure that out, and now his daughter isn't going to have to do that. Those kinds of stories always find me.

Rae: What was the hardest part about writing the book?

David: There was this moment right before writing the book that I had a freak-out. I took a three-month sabbatical from Eye-to-Eye and I changed my email address, I changed my phone number. Everything that felt like it could be a potential distraction for me I got rid of.

Rae:  So you were like a book monk.

David: I was like a book monk.  And so, so I did all the things that I thought I needed to do to be successful, and then I had this freak-out because I didn't have a blueprint to follow.

And the night before I officially went on sabbatical, I couldn't sleep, I turned to my wife Laura and I said, "You know, I don't think I can do this."  She said, "Why don't you think you can do this?"  And I said, "Well, I've never done this before."  She said, "This is exactly what life is."  She said, "You just try.  And then if it doesn't work, you look at why it doesn't work and you put in accommodations as needed, the same way that if you tried spelling something and couldn't spell it, you'd use spell check."

And she was right. And then I just started writing; it was fine. In the end I decided to put the freak-out in the book.

Rae: This is something I think is really comforting for a lot of learning disabled people, because freaking out is sort of penalized in a lot of the world.  Right?  But you're saying it's okay to have a freak-out as long as in the end you're finding something positive from it.

David:  Right. It was just part of the journey.  I don't think I could have done it without the freak-out.

Rae:  I don't know how anybody does anything without a freak-out.

You've been doing this work for so long and now the book is out. How does it feel to see what you've started expanding out into the community?

David:  It's thrilling because I kind of got into this because I felt very alone. I didn't know how many of us there really are growing up, I didn't think I knew anyone and I'm reading in this textbook here that we represent every fifth person.

Rae:  It's true. Growing up with an LD I always felt like an anomaly, but as an adult I know how many of us there really are and it makes me feel like I've come in from the cold. There's a shorthand between people who are in our community.

David:  Yeah.

Rae:  You don't have to explain yourself or be embarrassed. Like the fact that I forgot to charge my phone before I got here, and the voice recorder is on my phone. If I wasn't interviewing someone with ADHD I would be humiliated by that.

David:  Yeah. And the reason why I had a charger here you could use is that I have them everywhere, because I just know I'll lose them.

Rae:  That is brilliant!

David: I just gotta get around my weakness and my weakness is I forget stuff.

Rae: So let's put things in places that they need to be.

David: Looking around you, you don't know who has an LD. At Eye to Eye we literally wear our LD's on our sleeves—we have T-shirts! We want to make sure people know where to find us. We're here in a public, prideful way. We're out there saying, "Get seen!" "Get heard!"

The last chapter is a call to action. If we want to change the world, we have to work together. If you succeed and don't pass it on then we don't advance. My hope is that this will be a one-generation issue—that in ten years we'll have rebranded LD's so well that that term will be a compliment, a way of saying "this person sees the world in a unique way."

It hasn't been an easy journey for me to say, "I'm loud and I'm proud." But what I'm now saying is, "Go be louder and prouder."

Thinking Differently is available on Amazon. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

October 16th: Parents Have the Power! A Talk by Authors Judith and Carson Graves with Remarks by Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.

Sponsored by NESCA
September 14, 2014
Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work is an "elegantly written and wisely pragmatic" guide to navigation for parents adrift in today's storm-tossed seas of special education.
Authors Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves "learned the ropes" by advocating successfully for their own child from preschool through high school, and by engaging extensively with many other parents and professionals along the way.
The will join us at NESCA from 7:00 to 9:00pm on Thursday, October 16th to discuss their experiences, following introductory remarks by renowned Special Education Attorney Robert K. Crabtree, who wrote the book's robust Foreword.

L-R: Carson Graves, Robert K. Crabtree, Esq., Judith Canty Graves

A question and answer period and book signing will follow the presentation. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. Refreshments will be served.

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where: NESCA, Lower Lobby Meeting Room
                   55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458

This program is free and seating is limited; reservations are required. RSVP to Amanda Renzi at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or email

There is ample, free, off-street parking in the lot opposite the main, Chapel Street entrance to NESCA's offices.


NOTE: In their acknowledgements, the Graves cite NESCA's Jason McCormick, Psy.D. as "the best neuropsychologist we have ever worked with."