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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yoga For Autism Course

From TriYogaBoston

June 22, 2016

Learn to teach yoga meaningfully and effectively to children and adults with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). 

Individuals with ASD often experience a high level of daily stress and anxiety, challenges with motor planning, and co-morbid health challenges such as chronic GI distress. Individuals with ASD are often unable to benefit from traditional language-based therapies due to impairments in speech and communication, making a body-based approach to therapy ideal. These individuals may not be able to participate successfully in a typical yoga class, however, when presented appropriately yoga is a natural fit for many individuals with ASD and can provide immense therapeutic benefits.

5 Day Yoga For Autism Workshop

In this workshop you will learn to utilize and individualize the Yoga Connects visual yoga method developed by Hannah Gould. Yoga Connects is both a ready-to-use visual yoga curriculum with 20 preset mini-sequences (designed for ease of use by non-yoga teachers such as parents and educators) as well as a comprehensive teaching methodology that can be infinitely adapted and expanded to include any poses, sequences or exercises that the yoga therapist would like to use with a client.

Course will be taught over 5 days. Each day will begin with participation in a 20-30 minute Yoga Connects yoga session.
  • Day 1 will be primarily presentation and discussion and will familiarize participants with ASD.
  • Days 2-4 will be a combination of presentation, discussion, and hands-on experience with the visual yoga curriculum.
  • Days 3 and 4 will include designing and practice teaching several Yoga Connects sessions and going beyond included sequences to adapt and expand the curriculum.
  • On day 5, the course will be open to parents and professionals. Day 5 will serve as a comprehensive review of the curriculum as well as an opportunity for yoga therapists to discuss ASD with parents and professional experts, and for parents and educators to benefit from the knowledge of practicing the sequences with guidance from yoga therapists.


5-day program: $450 
5-day Price includes Yoga Connects binder (Over $100 value)

1-day program – Sunday only: $135 
1-day price does not include Yoga Connects binder. You may optionally purchase at cost for $100

Instructor: Hannah Gould,  M.ED, E-RYT, RCYT

Hannah is the Therapeutic Yoga Program Director at NESCA, Newton, MA, a pediatric clinical setting providing therapeutic yoga and other services to children and adolescents with a wide range of developmental challenges including autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing difficulties, anxiety, and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder. Hannah also teaches adaptive and therapeutic yoga to adults with special needs through Jewish Family and Children’s Services. She has developed a proprietary visual yoga program called Yoga Connects to meet the needs of yoga students with autism, and she offers trainings in the Yoga Connects program to schools, clinical programs and parents as well as yoga teachers and yoga therapists.


Gould, Hannah. Yoga and Autism: A Rewarding and Challenging Assignment, Yoga Therapy Today, December 2010 Vol.6, Issue 3

Gould, Hannah. Social Skills and Behavior in Children with Asperger Syndrome: An Educational Perspective. AANE Journal, Spring 2006

Friday, June 17, 2016

Managing Social Media Stress With Mindfulness

From Rachel Ehmke at Child Mind Institute
June 14, 2016

The technique that lets you stay connected with friends while boosting your self-esteem and your self-awareness. 

It’s hard to imagine life without social media. It has become essential to connecting with our friends, getting updates about what’s going on in the world and being entertained. We can barely remember (if we’re old enough to remember!) how we stayed in touch without it. But teens and young adults are increasingly reporting that social media can also be a source of stress.

What we hear a lot about, especially from teenagers, is that when they’re scrolling through feeds they are often (consciously or unconsciously) comparing themselves to others. People tend to post the highlights — the perfect hair, the perfect friends, the perfect pre-gym selfie—and it’s fun to scroll through them.

But it can also hurt your self-esteem when your life doesn’t feel as perfect as everyone else’s looks. It can make you start overanalyzing your own social media presence, counting the likes your latest post got and pushing yourself to look effortlessly perfect, too, regardless of how you’re really feeling.

Similarly, people are talking so much about the fear of missing out that there’s an acronym for it. Social media is FOMO’s best and worst friend. If you’re worried about missing out, social media is great because you can stay connected to everything, wherever you are. But since there’s always something new, you never feel like you’ve seen everything and you can take a break.

Staying connected
When everything is online you also sometimes get proof that you are, indeed, missing out. When you see your friends hanging out without you, it feels bad. Watching an ex starting a new relationship hurts.

If spending time on social media is causing stress, the usual advice is to unplug. And while that’s good advice, it’s not very realistic advice, especially for teenagers, who do a huge amount of their socializing online.

And this adolescent socializing is more important than it looks. Teenagers are still figuring out their place in the world, and it is often through their relationships that they begin to make sense of their identity. It isn’t in their interest to stop using social media entirely. But finding a way to have healthy relationships and a healthy self-esteem while still using social media is. Sound tough? Practicing something called mindfulness can help.

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a technique for living in the moment and without judgment. It helps you become more aware of what is happening around you and how you feel. Taking the time to slow down and notice these details helps you regulate your emotions and stress levels. It also introduces a level of reflection and self-awareness that people often don’t have when they’re scrolling through feeds online.

And mindfulness isn’t just for taking a walk in the park or watching the sunset. If it is applied to the social media experience itself, says Jill Emanuele, PhD, a Child Mind Institute psychologist and mindfulness expert, it can help kids manage the emotion generated by all that information about what your friends are doing.

Dr. Emanuele recommends the following mindfulness strategies to make time spent online (and offline) happier.

Checkin with yourself
Work on being more self-aware and prioritizing how you feel and what you think when you’re using social media. “The stereotype for using social media is you’re just going going going, not really thinking about the impact it’s having on you,” notes Dr. Emanuele. “You want to try to be mindful of that impact.”

Dr. Emanuele recommends asking yourself: How am I doing right now? How is this app making me feel? How did that picture make me feel? Try to be aware of changes in your mood, and see if you notice any patterns.

It’s okay if you notice that the emotions you are having are negative. Try not to judge how you are feeling, but do acknowledge the emotion. Acknowledging when you are feeling jealous or sad can be very powerful because it actually helps take some of the bite out of the bad feeling. It can also help you process your emotion — without getting carried away by it.

Mindful reality check
However, if something is consistently making you feel bad, practicing mindfulness can also help you identify that and then ask yourself why, and if there is something you can do that might help. Taking the time to notice — and value — how you are feeling is an important skill that will make you happier and more confident in all areas of your life, not just when you’re online.

Mindfulness can also give you reality check. For example, people often try to use social media as a way to cheer up when they’re feeling down or bored. So if you’re feeling bad about yourself, you might post something that’s totally opposite, like a cute selfie or a picture of your great friends. Sometimes projecting something different, or getting compliments online, can get you out of the funk.

But the satisfaction is often fleeting, and you can find yourself feeling like you’re just fooling everyone. If you notice that you actually feel worse afterwards, know that this isn’t uncommon, and look for more reliable ways to improve your mood.

Use technology
Using technology to track technology is another strategy Dr. Emanuele recommends. For example there are apps like Moment and Checky that are designed to help you track how you use your phone.

“Do an experiment to see how much time you actually spend on certain things,” says Dr. Emanuele. “When you’re on it, what are you actually doing? What are your emotions like?”

Likewise, mood tracking apps and diaries remind you to take time to check in with yourself. They also create a record of how you’ve been feeling, which you can revisit after the fact. Gathering data on how you use technology and how technology affects you will help you notice patterns and, if necessary, develop better habits. Seeing the data might be surprising, since we often aren’t aware of how much time we spend once we start scrolling.

If you want to try to learn more about mindfulness, Dr. Emanuele notes there are also apps that guide you through the basics of how to practice mindfulness. Headspace and Smiling Mind are two popular ones. Smiling Mind is designed for young people so it may be a better fit for tweens.

Go offline
The best way to get a little perspective is to take occasional breaks from social media. Do yoga, go for a run, spend time with friends in person, hang out in nature. Whatever it is, doing things in real life can be a big stress reliever and make you feel better about yourself in a way that scrolling through a feed never will.

Try to practice self-awareness during offline activities, too. Notice how you feel in the moment when you are being active, and note what really feels like fun to you. You might surprise yourself. And chances are you’ll find that experience is pretty addictive, too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ELY Center Summer Camp Options

From The ELY Center

January 19, 2015

​The Ely Center, LLC is a speech and language center that focuses on Social Cognitive Development. 
There is still room in our summer camps and programs. 

2016 Social Intensive Camp
July 5th – 29th  Monday through Friday 9am - 4pm
For students entering grades 5 –12 

This camp focuses on teaching, reinforcing and supporting each individual student's social cognition using strategies & tools to improve Social Thinking®, executive function, (including Mindfulness) & sensory needs via natural context learning.

Summer Social Cognition Mini Camp 2016
August 22nd – August 24th 9am – 4pm
For students entering grades 3-8

This academic and social summer learning and return to school experience will include executive function reinforcement and social expectations, academic strategies, tools, & techniques for school.

Weekly 1 Hour Summer Social Learning Groups
Tuesdays, July 5 – August 9, PreK – 5th Grade
Thursdays, July 7 – August 11, Middle School & High School

More than Just a Game: Yoga for School-Age Children

From Harvard Medical School's Health Blog

By Marlynn Wei, M.D., J.D.
January 29, 2016

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular among American children. A national survey found that 3% of U.S. children (1.7 million) did yoga as of 2012 — that’s 400,000 more children than in 2007.

Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children (ages 6 to 12). Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga and mindfulness offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.

Emerging research also suggests that yoga can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can also boost school performance in children with ADHD.

A growing number of schools now integrate yoga and mindfulness into physical education programs or classroom curriculums, and many yoga studios offer classes for school-age children. Yoga can be playful and interactive for parents and children at home, too.

Jessica Mei Gershen, a certified yoga instructor who teaches yoga to children at Brooklyn Yoga Project and founder of Yoga For All Needs, recommends making yoga playful and fun for kids, whether in the classroom or at home. In her yoga classes, Gershen weaves in fun games and stories with positive themes like compassion, gratitude, and strength.

“Yoga is really effective because it’s so tangible. Learning physical postures builds confidence and strength as well as the mind-body connection,” Gershen says. She also has found that the effects of yoga go beyond physical fitness and also allow kids to build confidence and awareness beyond the classroom.

“Through yoga, kids start to realize that they are strong and then are able to take that strength, confidence, acceptance, and compassion out into the world,” notes Gershen.

Simple and Fun Yoga Exercises for Kids

Here are some fun yoga exercises and games for kids. If you are a parent familiar with yoga, you can try these at home with your family.

More yoga poses for kids, as well as some other resources, can be found here.

Simple Yoga Breath Exercise
  • Take a deep breath in and hold it for a count of three.
  • Breathe out forcefully, like you’re blowing out a candle.
  • Repeat this for five cycles of breath.

Flying Bird Breath
  • Stand tall, with arms at your sides and feet hip-width apart in standing Mountain Pose.
  • Imagine being a beautiful, strong bird.
  • Pretend to prepare to fly by inhaling and raising your arms (“wings”) until your palms touch overhead. Keep your arms straight.
  • Exhale slowly as you bring your arms back down to your sides, palms facing down.
  • Repeat in a steady motion with each breath: inhale as you raise your arms, and exhale as lower your arms.
  • Optional: Close your eyes as you repeat the movements with breath, and imagine yourself flying in the sky like a bird.

Yoga Games

Mirror, Mirror.
  • This game is a good warm-up exercise to increase focus.
  • One person starts as the leader. The leader chooses a pose to do and shows it to the others.
  • The other players copy the leader’s pose as if they are looking into a mirror.
  • Change the leader with each round of poses, so that everyone has a turn at being the leader.

Yogi Says

One person is selected as the Yogi. The other players must do the yoga poses that the Yogi tells them to do if the instruction starts with “Yogi says.” If the Yogi doesn’t use “Yogi says,” then players do not do the pose. Keep changing the person who is Yogi, so that everyone gets a turn.

Red Light, Green Light Yoga

One person is chosen as the Stoplight. He or she stands at the front of the room. The other players are the “cars,” and they start at the opposite wall. The Stoplight starts the game by calling “Green light!” The other players then use yoga poses to move forward. When the Stoplight calls “Red light!,” each player needs to be in a yoga pose and remain still. Everyone takes a turn being the Stoplight.


Meditation can be short and simple, and does not have to involve complex yoga poses or staying still in a quiet, dark room. One parent, who is also a physician, describes playing a “meditation game” with her children before bedtime, when she turns off electronic devices and reflects on the day with her children, using questions like, “What are you grateful for today?”

Here are a few simple meditations for children, which can be done for as little as 30 seconds or for several minutes.

Mindful Awareness Meditation
  • Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Try to listen to every single sound in the room.

Loving Kindness Meditation
  • Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.
  • Close your eyes and think about someone you love.
  • Hold them tight in your heart and continue to think about that person.

Related Information

Related Posts
Therapeutic Yoga Services at NESCA

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. 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.

Therapeutic yoga sessions are typically done 1-1, but in some cases small groups may be available.

Adaptive Yoga

Adaptive yoga sessions are available for children or adults with physical disabilities or mobility challenges. Sessions are offered in NESCA’s wheelchair-accessible space, and may also be available off-site in your home, school, day program or other setting. Adaptive yoga emphasizes strengthens the body-mind connection and places emphasis on what the student’s body can do.

Consultation and Training

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT is available to provide consultation and training to parents and professionals interested in bringing yoga and mindfulness based activities or the Yoga Connects program into their home, school or clinical settings.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Seeing the Benefits of Failure Shapes Kids' Beliefs about Intelligence

From the Association for Psychological Sciencevia ScienceDaily

April 28, 2016

Parents' beliefs about whether failure is a good or a bad thing guide how their children think about their own intelligence, according to new research from Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Parents who tended to view failure as a negative, harmful event
had children who were more likely to believe that intelligence is
fixed. And the more negative parents' attitudes were, the more
likely their children were to see them as being concerned with
performance as opposed to learning. 

The research indicates that it's parents' responses to failure, and not their beliefs about intelligence, that are ultimately absorbed by their kids.

"Mindsets--children's belief about whether their intelligence is just fixed or can grow--can have a large impact on their achievement and motivation," explains psychological scientist Kyla Haimovitz of Stanford University, first author on the study.

"Our findings show that parents can endorse a growth mindset but they might not pass it on to their children unless they have a positive and constructive reaction to their children's struggles."

Despite considerable research on mindsets, scientists have found little evidence to suggest that intelligence mindsets are handed down to children from their parents and teachers.

Haimovitz and psychology researcher Carol Dweck, a pioneer in mindset research, hypothesized that parents' intelligence mindsets might not transfer to their kids because they aren't readily observable. What kids might see and be sensitive to, the researchers speculated, is their how parents feel about failure.

Haimovitz and Dweck surmised that parents convey their views about whether failure is positive or negative through their responses to their children's setbacks. For example, parents who typically show anxiety and concern when their kids come home with a poor quiz grade may convey the belief that intelligence is mostly fixed.

Parents who focus instead on learning from the poor grade signal to their kids that intelligence can be built through learning and improvement.

In one study, the researchers asked 73 parent-child pairs to answer a series of questions designed to tap into their individual mindsets. The parents rated their agreement with six statements related to failure (e.g., "Experiencing failure facilitates learning and growth") and four statements related to intelligence (e.g., "You can learn new things but you can't really change how intelligent you are"). The children, all 4th- and 5th-grade students, responded to similar statements about intelligence.

As expected, there was no association between parents' beliefs about intelligence and their children's beliefs about intelligence.

However, parents' attitudes toward failure were linked with how their kids thought about intelligence. Parents who tended to view failure as a negative, harmful event had children who were more likely to believe that intelligence is fixed.

And the more negative parents' attitudes were, the more likely their children were to see them as being concerned with performance instead of learning.

And the researchers found that parents' beliefs about failure seemed to translate into their reactions to failure. Results from two online studies with a total of almost 300 participants showed that parents who adopted a more negative stance toward failure were more likely to react to their child's hypothetical failing grade with concerns about their child's lack of ability.

At the same time, these parents were less likely to show support for the child's learning and improvement. Their reactions to the failing grade were not linked, however, with their beliefs about intelligence.

Most importantly, additional data indicated that children were very much attuned to their parents' feelings about failure.

"It is important for parents, educators, and coaches to know that the growth mindset that sits in their heads may not get through to children unless they use learning-focused practices, like discussing what their children could learn from a failure and how they might improve in the future," says Haimovitz.

According to Haimovitz and Dweck, these findings could be harnessed to develop interventions that teach parents about the potential upsides of failure, showing parents how they can respond to their children's setbacks in ways that are motivating rather than discouraging.

Journal Reference
  • K. Haimovitz, C. S. Dweck. What Predicts Childrens Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents Views of Intelligence but Their Parents Views of Failure. Psychological Science, 2016; DOI:10.1177/0956797616639727

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Free Community Screening of "Paper Tigers" in Cambridge Monday, May 16th

From FCSN.org

May 5, 2016

The Recruitment, Training & Support Center (RTSC) at the Federation for Children with Special Needs and the Cambridge Public Schools are very proud to present:

A Community Screening of Paper Tigers

Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of selected students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. Set amidst the rural community of Walla Walla, Washington, the film intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities - a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).

A panel discussion will follow the community screening. Certificates of attendance will be available to all registered participants.

FREE and open to the public; registration is required.

Register HERE.

When:   Monday, May 16, 2016
                   4:00 - 6:00pm: Educational Professionals
                   (No Panel Discussion)

                   6:30 - 8:30pm: Community Screening
                   (with Panel Discussion)

Where: Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School
                   Fitzgerald Theatre
                   459 Broadway, Cambridge, MA

*The film is not rated. It does contain some profanity.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Saving the IEP Meeting When Conflict Arises

From Smart Kids with LD

By Ann McCarthy
April 25, 2016

As parents of a child with learning disabilities, it’s important to realize that conflict is likely to occur at IEP meetings; how you handle it is what matters. When dealt with appropriately, dissension can lead to positive outcomes for your child.

Following are three strategies to help keep you and your child’s IEP team on track when conflicts arise:
  • Control the emotional temperature in the room: Plan for the moment when conflict has rendered you or an IEP team member too emotional to be productive. Call a five-minute break so that everyone can collect their thoughts. Strong emotions come with having a child with special needs, but try to keep them out of the meeting room.
  • Have a Plan B: With the goals you hope to achieve in mind, come to the meeting with alternative solutions that will enable you to reach those goals. Is there another reading program that would work? Is there an option that the school district is proposing that you should consider? Determine the breadth of your “wiggle room” before you walk into a meeting.

Here are examples of how to handle some common disagreements in an IEP meeting:

School: “We are required to try strategies via Response to Intervention before we consider an evaluation for special education.”

Parent: “I’m glad you brought that up. This is a common misunderstanding, and here is a memo from the U.S. Department of Education that states the opposite. I’ll give you a moment to look it over before we talk about what John’s evaluation will include.”

School: “We cannot agree to five hours of speech/language support weekly until we get approval from the special education administrator. We’ll get back to you.”

Parent: “My understanding is that at every IEP meeting there must be a representative from the district who is knowledgeable about the availability of resources in the district. If that person is not present, can you get them on the phone now?

School: “Here are the evaluation reports. We are sorry we couldn’t get them to you before the meeting. We can use this time to review all four documents and plan for next year.”

Parent: “I can’t discuss how to use the results when I am only now seeing the information for the first time. Let’s review the reports today, and schedule a second meeting to plan for next year.”


Ann McCarthy is a former special education advocate.