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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dr. Jonathan Jenkins to Join NESCA in September

From NESCA

August 27, 2014

We are very pleased to announce that Jonathan Jenkins, Psy.D. will join NESCA in September as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Neuropsychology.

A Natick native, Jenkins was a three-time All-Academic Old Dominion Athletic Conference lacrosse player at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., where he studied Health Sciences and Psychology. He holds his Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.) from the University of Denver.

Dr. Jenkins previously served as the Postdoctoral Fellow in Clinical Psychology with a Focus on Autism at The Help Group of Sherman Oaks, California where he engaged in individual psychotherapy and psycho-educational assessment for children and adolescents with cognitive and developmental challenges.

In addition to his responsibilities at NESCA, he will also hold a position at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the Child and Adolescent Outpatient Department, where he will provide psychotherapy and participate as a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty.

Dr. Jenkins recently authored a therapeutic book, “Wednesday Afternoons with Dr. J.,” which chronicles a child’s first interactions with his new therapist so as to help familiarize children with what to expect when in therapy.

 Dr. Jenkins’ past professional clinical work includes his pre-doctoral internship at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA, where he provided both psychological assessment and outpatient individual and family psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and adults.

He also completed the prestigious Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship, a program sponsored by UMass Medical School and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center focused on public policy initiatives and advocacy related to those with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Can Mindfulness Help Mothers of Severely Disabled Children?

From Greater Good
The Science of a Meaningful Life

By Summer Allen
August 25, 2014
A new study suggests a way to help the parents of children with autism and other developmental disorders.

Parenting is hard work, but having a child with a severe disability takes an extra toll. Mothers of children with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders report high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. This, in turn, can negatively impact how they care for their vulnerable children.

Many studies have focused on therapies for the children, but the serious issue of parental stress has been largely overlooked—until now. A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that both mindfulness and positive psychology techniques can reduce mothers’ stress.


 In their study, Elisabeth Dykens and her colleagues randomly assigned 243 mothers to a six-week group treatment program that employed either mindfulness techniques, like deep-belly breathing, or positive psychology exercises designed to foster virtues like gratitude and patience. Trained mentors who also had children with disabilities led the weekly hour-and-a-half sessions.

The mothers completed mental health assessments before, during, and up to six months after the study.

At the beginning of the study, 85 percent of the mothers reported significant stress levels. Many also suffered from mental illness—41 percent had anxiety disorders and 48 percent were clinically depressed. The researchers expected that certain mindfulness and positive psychology techniques would significantly improve their stress levels and mental health; similar interventions have been successful in other group treatment studies.

With the mindfulness group, mentors employed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program to teach mothers breathing, movement, and meditation techniques. Specific techniques included breathing exercises, self-observation without self-evaluation, loving-kindness meditations, and Qigong (gentle movements), among others.

The positive psychology group learned evidence-based techniques that focused on dealing with feelings of guilt, worry, and pessimism, mainly by identifying and developing character strengths, doing exercises designed to foster “gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.

Participants from both groups practiced their techniques as homework and shared how these exercises worked for them with their respective groups.

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More on Mindfulness
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Both treatments worked. They led to fewer feelings of anxiety and depression and fewer dysfunctional parent-child interactions. On average, mothers slept better and had greater life satisfaction during treatment.

Even better, the mothers either maintained these improvements or continued to improve six months after the group treatment sessions had ended.

But in this study, the mindfulness group showed more immediate improvement than did those in the positive psychology intervention, reporting less anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

The researchers suggest that the greater effects associated with mindfulness techniques may be due to “the immediacy of physiologic relaxation responses incurred in mindfulness practice, including strengthened attention to bodily sensations, and less reliance on rumination or other automatic emotions.”

In contrast, the positive psychology interventions were more cognitively focused and required more time and reflection. However, six months out, the positive psychology group saw greater improvements in life satisfaction and depression compared to the mindfulness group. Because both groups saw such significant improvement, future work will integrate both meditation and positive psychology techniques.

“This study helps bring these mothers into the research limelight and justifies future efforts to promote their well-being and long-term caregiving abilities,” write the authors. Their work shows that a relatively short-term, easy-to-implement group intervention program can having a lasting impact on stress reduction, likely reducing downstream health problems and positively influencing family dynamics.

Could this study have further implications? “This approach meets urgent calls to improve global mental health by training non-specialists to address unmet mental health needs,” they write. Indeed, these techniques could be integrated into basic healthcare for all parents and caregivers—not just mothers and not just those whose children have disabilities.

About The Author

Summer Allen, Ph.D. is a science writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. A graduate of Carleton College and Brown University, Summer now writes for a variety of publications including weekly blog posts for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also very active on twitter: follow her, or just reach out and say hello!

Friday, August 29, 2014

NEW! Saturday Morning Therapeutic Yoga Sessions with Ann-Noelle McCowan, RYT

From NESCA

August 27, 2014

NESCA Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Ann-Noelle McCowan will be offering yoga-based therapy for individuals and small groups on Saturday mornings starting in September. If your children have anxiety, ASD, ADHD or other behavioral self-regulation issues and might benefit, seriously consider enrolling them!

Please call 617-658-9800 for additional details.


Therapeutic yoga uses movement, breathing, mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques to bring children to an awareness of what is happening in their bodies and minds and to provide them with specific tools they can use to regulate themselves. Games, music and other fun yoga-based activities are incorporated to engage children and teach targeted skills.

Many children respond better to the body-based approach used in therapeutic yoga than to traditional talking-based therapies. This approach can be especially powerful for kinesthetic learners and those with language processing difficulties.

Gifted – or Just Privileged?

From GreatSchools.org

By Gail Robinson
August 25, 2014

Some say gifted kids are a national asset – others argue they’re just the rich kids getting spoiled. Where do you stand?

Since her oldest daughter started kindergarten, Jennifer Glover’s* life has revolved around finding suitable schools for her two gifted children, Lauren, 15, and Emma, 10. She saw them get easy A's with almost no effort, she moved them to different schools, she confronted teachers, she watched as her daughters struggled to make friends in schools filled with less atypical kids. At one point, Jennifer quit her job as a social worker just so she could take Emma to school in a different district.

While the pursuit of positive educational experiences for unchallenged children like Glover’s are taking place in communities across the country, the plight of the gifted child is still a battleground of opinions. With no agreed upon standard or definition for giftedness parents, educators, and politicians debate whether gifted children need special programs or whether the very idea, particularly in a time of tight resources for public education, smacks of elitism.

Myth: The Gifted Kids are Alright

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the number one myth about the gifted is that highly intelligent students don’t need extra help. "There's an assumption … that gifted children left to their own devices will rise to the top,” says Mariam Willis, NAGC parent outreach coordinator, “and that is absolutely, positively not what happens."

Because gifted students learn quickly or are already ahead of the curriculum, says Willis, “their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits." And though no one has precise figures, an estimated 5 percent of gifted children drop out of school.

Failing to meet the needs of gifted children, some argue, hurts us all. "The gifted are our country's most neglected resource," says Joan Franklin Smutny, founder and director of the Center for the Gifted in Glenview, IL. "These kids need to be challenged; they need creative activities, strategies, materials."

Raising Expectations, Without Tracking

But some education experts suggest the solution isn’t creating new programs for gifted children, but raising the bar for all students."If schools had higher standards and were more challenging, you wouldn't need [special programs]" — at least not for moderately gifted children, says Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College.

In New York City, some parents of gifted children agree. A number of the city's best public elementary schools do not offer gifted programs, yet many parents choose these top schools for their gifted children. Back in Northern California, Jennifer has high praise for a charter — not designated as a gifted school — where both her daughters ended up. The school serves only fifth and sixth grades, and all the teachers have been trained on offering differentiated learning. They provide the depth and complexity Jennifer found lacking at her local district school.

Only for the Affluent?

The entire gifted industry has come under fire as a bastion of elitism and privileged helicopter mothers gone wild. The makeup of gifted programs only fuels such charges. While 8 percent of white students and 13 percent of Asian students were in public school gifted programs in 2006, only 3.6 percent of blacks and 4.2 percent of Hispanics were.

Tests to assess giftedness come in for even more criticism, often because tutoring programs — like the $1,300 tutoring "boot camp" that preps 4- and 5-year-olds for New York City public schools' gifted program admissions test — are beyond most family budgets. In fall 2012, the city announced plans to change its test program to try to make it more equitable, but few expect it to work. As soon as the new program was announced, parents went into a frenzy, enrolling in test prep programs and buying test prep booklets for the new exam, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Indeed, many experts question the value of such early screening. "I do not recommend testing very young children," child clinical psychologist Deirdre V. Lovecky, director of the Gifted Resource Center of New England and a panelist for the Davidson Institute for Talent Development has written. "Under about age 4-and-a-half, scores are exceptionally unreliable... Some kids are just too immature to assess at all."

Overusing the G Word

Although experts believe only 2 to 5 percent of the population is gifted, seven states placed more than 10 percent of their students in gifted programs in 2006. In affluent Montgomery County, MD, about 60 percent of white and Asian students qualified for gifted programs, according to the Montgomery County Education Forum, but only about one fifth of all black and Hispanic students did (though that’s still a staggeringly high percentage compared to 2 to 5 percent).

The Montgomery County Education Forum is seeking to stop labeling students “gifted” before third grade. Instead, they want more rigorous learning for all students. "Our philosophy is to make every school a high quality school," says Ana Sol Gutierrez, a former school board member who now serves in the Maryland House of Delegates. "You recognize low-income kids are coming in with a disadvantage … and help them catch up. … We don’t deny that there's a difference, but we want to provide rigor and challenge for all students."

Some areas are like Lake Wobegon, where all children are above average. As Devra Renner, coauthor of Mommy Guilt, wrote "The word 'good' is like the new 'bad.' Why settle for even 'smart' when you could instead call your child 'gifted'?"

Other Kids Left in the Cold

Controversy also stems from the process by which school districts determine giftedness. Many rely entirely or in part on an IQ test, but experts caution that many tests for giftedness have serious limitations. At best, they provide a snapshot — a rather fuzzy snapshot at that — of the child on the day of the test. Most tests do not measure artistic or social abilities and may give short shrift to a child with extraordinary math abilities, but ordinary talents in other areas.

In addition to tests, schools may use classroom observations, grades, and samples of work. The more subjective judgments can lead to biases — a teacher may not consider a child who constantly acts out or one who does not speak fluent English gifted, regardless of how smart she is.
No standard approach

Even for those parents and educators who find value in the gifted label, the current system leaves a lot to be desired. Many schools lack programs for gifted students and when they do exist, they vary widely in quality. The majority of states do not have a full-time person working on education for the gifted; and twenty-four states require no specific training to teach in gifted programs, according to the National Association for Gifted Children. Twenty states don’t bother to monitor gifted programs.

And the classes themselves, according to the association’s 2010-2011 State of the States report, represent "a crazy quilt collections of services and inconsistency from district to district and even school house to school house."

No one model has emerged as the standard for gifted education. As a result, parents find their choices limited by what is available in their community and their own resources. But finding the right program — whatever it is labeled — does make a difference, parents say.

Jennifer Glover quickly saw the change once she put Emma in the charter school. "All of a sudden, my child is thriving academically and socially. She's finding kids who are in the same mindset," she says. Emma's classmates at the public school considered her a "weirdo" for playing the cello, Jennifer says – but at her new school, there are many "highly imaginative, quirky" kids with similar interests. "Every day, I could almost cry seeing the welcoming committee of her friends."

*The family's names have been changed.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

50 Apps for the New School Year

From eSchool News

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
@eSN_Laura

August 11, 2014

Apps for productivity, travel, geography, and more can help teachers and libraries use and share new resources.

As some schools welcome students back and as others gear up to do the same after Labor Day, teachers and librarians have a chance to become familiar with apps to help their productivity and increase the resources they’re able to share with students.

In many cases, apps intended for personal use help educators stay organized, manage expenses and tasks that are associated with school, and more. And when students use a wide variety of apps, their knowledge increases, as do the skills they’ll use in college and the workforce.

Not all schools have one-to-one programs or are ready to implement such programs, but because mobile devices are so prevalent among today’s educators and students, apps are some of the most impactful and easy-to-access tools, said Michelle Luhtala, head librarian at New Canaan High School in CT.

“We’re not all ready to launch into one-to-one, and not every school is ready for one-to-one,” Luhtala said during an edWeb presentation. “But with testing, more schools are looking at one-to-one, or certainly more mobile technology, because testing is going to be computer-based, and we’re scrambling to come up with resources to meet those needs.”

She said that often, schools launch mobile technology but don’t necessarily follow up with training for teachers.

“[Here is an] opportunity for you to take the device you have today and start thinking about it as a computer,” she said, noting that the majority of people have access to smartphones.

Luhtala reviewed 50 apps that can help teachers and librarians organize materials, locate information and resources, and more. Her entire presentation is available here, and resources found in that presentation are available here (free registration is required in both cases).

Twenty-two apps are included below, and you can locate the rest via the two links above.

Utilities

Airdrop: Users receive a notification that someone wants to share something, they accept, and the resource is shared wirelessly.

Airplay: A neat AirPlay function is mirroring, in which users can take what they do on their phone and display it on a computer. If you add that with a screencasting tool, Luhtala said, you have fabulous tutorials that you’ve made on your phone.

Numbers

Google Sheets (iOS and Android): Create, edit, and collaborate with others on spreadsheets from your device with the free Google Sheets app.

OneReceipt: Store receipts in the cloud, automatically pull in eReceipts, organize spending, and scan receipts to enter electronically. A useful tool for teachers to keep track of school spending, and a nice way for students to learn about budgeting.

Information Management

Feedly (iOS and Android): Feedly is an RSS news reader re-imagined for mobile devices. It makes browsing faster and more fun: the content of your rss feeds, news sites and blogs are transformed into pocket-sized cards which load very fast and are easy to browse.

Flipboard: It’s a single place to discover, collect and share the news you care about. Add your favorite social networks, publications and blogs to stay connected to the topics and people closest to you.

News360: News360 is an app that learns what you enjoy and finds stories you’ll like around the web.

Pocket: This app helps people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment. Once saved to Pocket, the list of content is visible on any device–phone, tablet or computer. It can be viewed while waiting in line, on the couch, during commutes or travel–even offline.

Pearltrees: Pearltrees is a place for your interests. This free app lets you organize, explore and share everything you like. Add web pages, files, photos or notes and organize them naturally. Explore amazing collections that relate to your interests and subscribe to their updates. Access your account anytime and share anything from your computer, mobile and tablet.

LastPass: LastPass is a password management app that saves your passwords and gives you secure access to them from every computer and mobile device. With LastPass, you only remember one password–your LastPass master password. LastPass will fill your logins for you and sync your passwords everywhere you need them.

Geography

Google Maps (iOS and Android): The Google Maps app for iPhone and iPad makes navigating your world faster and easier. Find the best spots in town and the information you need to get there.

Museum Finder: This app quickly identifies your location and lets you choose the nearest museum. When you select a listing, you can see the museum’s location on the map, the address, telephone number, and the distance from where you are. You can also call the museum directly by tapping on the phone icon on your iPhone.

World Explorer Gold: With more than 350,000 locations, it’s like having a professional tour guide always by your side. Using the speaker or headphones, listen to explanations about locations and resources. The app also has augmented reality features.

LibAnywhere: The library catalog is now available for your mobile phone! Search, discover, and interact with participating libraries–anywhere you are, right away.

History Pin: This app reveals photos near your current location and allows you to view them layered over the modern scene in front of you. You can also explore collections of some of the best old photos from around the world, wherever you are.

What Was There: This app will detect where you are and show you any historic photographs that were captured nearby, plotted on a map. Switch into Camera view for an augmented reality experience of the history that surrounds you. If you’re at a location where a historic photo was taken, enlarge the photo to full screen mode to use your camera and the on screen fader to transition between past and present.

FieldTrip (iOS and Android): Field Trip can help you learn about everything from local history to the latest and best places to shop, eat, and have fun. You select the local feeds you like and the information pops up on your phone automatically, as you walk next to those places.

Field Trip runs in the background on your phone. When you get close to something interesting, it will notify you and if you have a headset or Bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you.

Images

iStopMotion Remote Camera: iStopMotion Remote Camera allows the use of the camera as a remote camera for iStopMotion running on an iPad (2 or newer, incl. iPad mini) or iStopMotion 3 on a Mac. The remote camera is connected via a WiFi connection.

iTimeLapse Pro: Create stunning time lapse and stop motion videos straight from any iphone, iPod, or iPad 2.

Strip Designer: Use this app to create your own personal comic strips, created on your iPad, iPhone or iPod, using photos from your photo album or iPhone camera.

Fuse: Get photos and videos from your mobile device to your favorite TechSmith desktop products. Import an existing photo or video, or capture something new using the app’s built-in camera. Then, send your video to TechSmith Relay, or use the editing power in Snagit and Camtasia to create custom, shareable content.

Twister: Take photographs, enhanced videos and panoramas in a snap. Watch your iPhone rotate automatically when you put it on a flat surface.

Fantastic Opportunity at MIT for Individuals with Disabilities to Help Design Their Own Custom Assitive Technologies!

From Mass. Institute of Technology

August 25, 2014

"Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology" is an assistive technology design class at MIT that has run since 2011.

We are looking for 10-15 individuals with disabilities who may be interested in working with MIT engineering students as project clients, to create a piece of assistive technology that will improve their quality of life. Some project examples can be found on the class website.

Clients should preferably be:
  • willing to educate students about their life and challenges related to living with a disability 
  • adventurous/willing to try new things 
  • available to meet with students 
  • local (1h away from Cambridge by T) 
Some important details for potential clients:
  • The first client-student meeting will be the week of Sept 22, 2014.
  • The last client-student meeting will be the week of Nov 24, 2014.
  • A team of 2-3 students would likely meet with clients about once a week for 1-2 hours 
  • Students are responsible to coordinate a time to meet with clients.
  • Here is an agreement that details the expectations of both students and clients. This would be signed at the first student-client meeting, if everyone is amenable to it.
  • Students usually have mechanical or computer engineering backgrounds.
  • Students have formal labs, lectures and mentoring sessions, outside of client meetings.
  • Although it is rare, there is a possibly that some clients will not be matched with any students. If this happened, clients would be notified by Sept 15, 2014. 
Clickable Web Links
  1. http://courses.csail.mit.edu/PPAT/fall2014/index.h...
  2. http://courses.csail.mit.edu/PPAT/fall2011/handout...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Transitioning a Child with Special Needs from Summer Relaxation to School Routines

From The Washington Post's Blog "On Parenting"

By Mari-Jane Williams
August 22, 2014

Just as parents of kids with autism and other special needs have gotten them used to being on a more relaxed summer schedule, it’s time to head back to school. That means more transitions: New supplies, new clothes, new teachers and sometimes a new school. Parents are also trying to ease their children into earlier bedtimes (and wake-up times) and slowly returning to the structure that the school year brings.

While that structure can be welcome for children with autism and other special needs, transitions are also tough. The anxiety of a new situation, whether it’s a school or just a classroom or teacher, can be overwhelming.

I recently spoke with Piper Phillips, the head of PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families, a group that operates two public special-education day programs in the D.C. area. She shared ways parents can help children with special needs get ready to head back to school:


Take baby steps. Instead of exposing your child to the change all at once, Phillips said, break it down into small pieces so she has more time to adjust. Slowly introduce your child to the new school, teacher or routine. Start by looking at a picture of the outside of the school, then try to find a map of the building online so you can talk about where the classroom is and where she will have lunch. Drive by the school to show her where she will be dropped off each day. Try to arrange a time to visit the school when it’s not crowded, to meet the teacher and see the classroom.

Follow successful outings with a treat, such as a trip for ice cream, so your child will associate the stress-inducing trip with a pleasant result, Phillips said. Try to be matter-of-fact about the whole process. If you make too much of a fuss about it, or talk about the change too much, Phillips said, it can increase the child’s anxiety.

Another option is to create a picture or social story for your child, using photos from the school, of what to expect, Phillips said. The Web site Child-Autism-Parent-Cafe.com offers instructions and free templates to help you build a story to fit your child.

Involve the child in the planning. Children with autism and other disabilities often struggle with executive function skills, or the ability to focus, get organized and manage their time. There’s a lot of planning involved in school, from getting ready and out the door in the morning to getting the homework done in the evenings. There is no one size-fits-all routine or organization system, Phillips said. You have to figure out what works best for you and your child.

Sit down with your child and ask what he needs to be successful, so he’s invested in the schedule and system. That will make him more likely to go along with the plan, Phillips said. Then set up a reward system so if your child gets ready and out of the house on time three or four out of the five days, he gets a treat.

It’s also important to recognize that while certain tasks, whether it’s packing a backpack or turning in homework, come easily to some children, they are much more challenging for others. Take that into account when you are setting expectations and defining success in meeting them, Phillips said.

When it comes to homework, ask your child if he wants you to set a timer for breaks, or just give verbal warnings, Phillips said. Some kids respond well to timers; others find them very stressful.

Take care of yourself, too. It’s easy to lose sight of yourself in the shuffle to get everyone else taken care of, but if you don’t do it, no one else will, Phillips said. So while you’re thinking about what your child needs to get ready for school, think about what you need, and treat yourself well.

“You’re going through this and you have the extra burden of working with a child who is not as flexible about schedule changes,” Phillips said. So it’s important to know your limitations and what triggers your frustration.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed yourself, ask for help from your spouse, partner, family or friends, and take a break. Or seek help from a professional who can help you or your child better cope with the stress.

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