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Friday, October 31, 2014

Where Science, Policy and Treatment Meet: MAC's Friends of the Autism Center Present Dr. Isaac Kohane Thursday, November 13th

From Friends of the Autism Center
at Massachusetts Advocates for Children

October 30, 2014

Dr. Isaac Kohane, of Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Children’s Hospital, has been featured on Ted Talks and in Time Magazine.

In an intimate setting with Friends of the Autism Center, together with a noteworthy panel of practitioners, we will have the rare chance to ask Dr. Kohane questions about the practical applicability of his research – to medicine, policy and parenting.

Our panel of experts include: Dr. Margaret Bauman of ICCD, a leading clinician and researcher, Eileen Hagerty, Esq., a special education attorney and partner at Kotin, Crabtree, & Strong, and Susan Senator, renowned author and autism parent.

When:   5:30 - 7:00pm Thursday, November 13, 2014

Where: The Law Firm of DLA Piper,
                   33 Arch Street, 26th floor, Boston, MA 02110

Space is limited and pre-registration is required by Nov. 10th. RSVP to Tania Duarte at, or call 617-357-8431, ext. 229.

Published on Jul 17, 2013. From TEDMED 2013: Biomedical informaticist, physician, and i2b2 founder Isaac Kohane wants to turn hospital data systems into "living laboratories" to study the genetic basis of disease.


This is an event of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children's "Friends of the Autism Center.” Annual membership is $250 per household. Prospective members are welcome to attend one trial event for free.

Membership dues support the Autism Center's comprehensive efforts to help children on the autism spectrum access services necessary to reach their full potential. The "Friends" connect at two events per year with other Autism advocates - advancing awareness, information, and policy.

The Creative Gifts of ADHD

From the Scientific American Blog
"Beautiful Minds"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NESCA's Jessica Minahan Speaks on Anxiety and Behavior at Milestones Day School on Monday, November 3rd

From Milestones Day School

October 30, 2014

Students with Autism are at greater risk than their typically developing peers for developing anxiety and anxiety disorders such as phobias, OCD, and social anxiety disorder. Without intervention, these children are at risk for poor performance, diminished learning and social/behavioral problems in school.

Understanding the role anxiety plays in a student's behavior is crucial, and using preventive strategies are key to successful intervention. Effective behavior plans for these students must focus on the use of preventive strategies and on explicitly teaching coping skills, self-monitoring and alternative responses.

As a result of this workshop participants will be able to easily implement preventive tools, strategies, and interventions for reducing anxiety, increasing self-regulation, executive functioning and self-monitoring at home and in school settings.

When:   10:30am - 12:30pm Monday, November 3, 2014

Where: Milestones Day School
                 410 Totten Pond Road, Floor 2
                 Waltham, MA 02451

Lunch will be served. To register, please respond to:


Jessica Minihan, M.Ed, BCBA is a special educator, behavior analyst, acclaimed author and director of behavioral services at NESCA, a neuropsychology group practice in Newton, MA. Jessica will be selling copies of her books:

The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, and

(New!) The Behavior Code Companion: Strategies, Tools, and Interventions for Supporting Students with Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors.

Guests will receive a 30-40% discount at $20 per copy!

When Teens Talk Of Suicide: What You Need To Know

From WBUR 90.9 FM's Blog CommonHealth

By Gene Beresin, M.D. and Steve Schlozman, M.D.
Guest Contributors

September 12, 2014

Here’s the kind of call we get all too frequently:

“Doctor, my son said he just doesn’t care about living anymore. He’s been really upset for a while, and when his girlfriend broke things off, he just shut down.”

Needless to say, situations like this are terribly frightening for parents. Kids break up with girlfriends and boyfriends all the time; how, parents wonder, could it be so bad that life might not be worth living? How could anything be so awful?

For clinicians like us who work with kids, these moments are at once common and anxiety-provoking. We know that teenagers suffer all sorts of challenges as they navigate the murky waters of growing up. We also know that rarely do these kids take their own lives. Nevertheless, some of them do, and parents and providers alike must share the burden of the inexact science of determining where the greatest risks lie.

Suicide has been in the news lately with a flurry of new research and reports and, of course, the high profile death earlier this summer of Robin Williams.

But suicidal behavior among teenagers and kids in their early 20s is different and unique.

So let’s look at a couple of fictional — yet highly representative — scenarios.

Charlie, a 16-year-old high school junior was not acting like himself. In fact, those were his parents’ very words. Previously a great student and popular kid, Charlie gradually started behaving like a different person. He became more irritable, more isolated and seemed to stop caring about or even completing his homework. Then one morning, just before before school, he told his mother that he wished he were dead.

Myths: Common But Distorted

There are countless other examples. Sometimes kids say something. Sometimes they post a frightening array of hopeless lyrics on Facebook. And most of the time — and this is important — kids don’t do anything to hurt themselves. Morbid lyrics and even suicidal sentiments are surprisingly common in adolescence.

Still, this does not mean for a second that we take these warning signs lightly. In fact, there is a common myth that asking about suicide perpetuates suicide. There is not a shred of evidence in support of this concern, and in the studies that have been done, the opposite appears to be true. Kids are glad to be asked.

We have to ask. It’s really that simple. But, we ask with some very basic facts in mind. Suicidal thinking, and even serious contemplation of suicide, is, as we mentioned, very common among high school students. In the Center for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey distributed every two years to about 14,000 high school kids in grades 9-12, students are queried about a range of high-risk behaviors, including suicide.

The Underlying Mood Disorder

In 2013, 17% of teens reported seriously considering suicide, and 8% made actual attempts. Each year in the United States, about 15 in 100,000 kids will die by suicide, making suicide the third leading cause of death in this age group. Additionally, we have no idea how many deaths by accidents (the leading cause of death) were, in fact, the product of latent or active suicide.

The greatest risk factors for a teenager to die by suicide include the presence of some mood disorder (most commonly depression), coupled with the use of drugs, or other substances, and previous attempts.

Although research suggests that girls attempt suicide more often, boys more often die from suicide. Add these risk factors together, and it turns out that Caucasian boys are at highest risk.

Some of this is also driven by a still immature brain. Impulsive behavior is notoriously common in teens, and in many cases, it looks as if the act of suicide was the result of a rash and sudden decision.

So, we know kids mostly don’t try to hurt themselves, but we also know that sometimes they do.
That sounds like a recipe for unfettered worry among parents. What can parents do when faced with these frightening scenarios?

Tips For Parents

Talk with your child. As we mentioned above, there is an insidious but understandable myth that asking specific questions about your kid’s thoughts, feelings and plans about suicide may lead him or her to self-harm. This is an extremely dangerous misconception. Kids who are in trouble are relieved to be asked. However, having an organizing set of principles when engaging in these difficult conversations is immeasurably important.
  • First, keep in mind that the thought alone is not, by definition, dangerous. Many people will find themselves thinking at some point in their lives that the world would be better off without them. Still, finding out whether those thoughts exist is an important warning sign. If those thoughts are combined with intent, then concern should immediately heighten. Most importantly, the presence of a plan should sound the alarm.
  • So, begin by asking general questions about what’s going on, and how your kid is feeling. Ask if he or she has thought about self-harm. Then, if there is any reason at all to suspect that your child is at risk, ask more specifically about what he or she is thinking, intending and/or planning.
Consider any recent significant stress factors in the life of your child or family. While suicide does not come about from stress alone, critically-trying emotional experiences — prolonged marital conflict, a death in the family, medical illness, chronic learning problems, or particularly dramatic relationship challenges — may precipitate depression and suicidal thinking.
  • Pay special attention during these inquiries to the meaning of dying for your child. For example, if Grandma (who happened to be your child’s closest friend and support) has just died, this kind of stressor could tip the scales negatively.
  • Consider as well the meaning of life events at home, in school, and among your child’s peer group. If you and your partner have been fighting, is your child upset about the possibility of divorce? Would suicide be an angry response, an enacted desire to get back at you for the problems at home? While this may seem an immature response, it may seem an entirely reasonable response to your teen.
  • Remember as well that these life stresses and emotional responses usually do not precipitate suicide. However, if your teen is clinically depressed, taking drugs or other substances, or suffering from another psychiatric disorder, the act of suicide or suicide attempts become more likely.
Talk with your partner, friends or relatives who know the child — don’t worry alone! It can be awfully hard to know what a teenager is thinking. We can define substances, irritability and even depressed mood as common among adolescents. So, how can we possibly know when, what appears to be common, is, in fact, a harbinger of risk?
  • We can know by checking in with others who also know your child. Often, kids know each other best. If you’re worried, it makes sense to (within reason) inquire among the peer group or the peer group’s parents. This may seem awkward, and these kinds of questions are by definition difficult. Still, you want to ask.
  • The increasing presence of alcohol or drugs, for example, can be discovered in this way. As we’ve discussed, substances can decrease the inhibition that would otherwise be utilized to prevent self-harm.
  • Finally, if there is a family history of mood disorder, suicide, or substance use disorders, your worry meter should increase.
Call your pediatrician or a mental health counselor. It’s wise if you’re really worried to call a professional. These are, at the end of the day, relatively common calls in the child mental health world. Start with your pediatrician, letting him or her know what has changed in your kid’s behavior. From there, you might be referred for further evaluation. Your teen’s school psychologist is also a good person to ask.

How To Navigate The Mental Health System

The mental health system is not easy to understand. Access to care is limited, especially among professionals trained in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology.

If your inventory of questions leads you to really worry, go to a local emergency room immediately. If possible, you should try to go to an emergency room that has a department of psychiatry or professional mental health workers readily available. Don’t, as we said, worry alone. Enlist others in the difficult decision about what to do next.

Suicide is a problem among adolescents. While mental health clinicians may receive these calls often, they’re never — and shouldn’t be — easy. But, this is also what we in mental health have signed up to do. We cannot be slow in taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our teenage-kids.


Gene Beresin, M.D. is executive director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Reach Gene at, or follow him on Twitter: @GeneBeresinMD.

Steve Schlozman, M.D. is associate director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Reach Steve at, or follow him on Twitter: @SSchlozman.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Evening November 18th at NESCA: Presentation on Therapeutic Yoga Services


October 28, 2014

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT
Please join from 7:00 - 9:00pm on Tuesday, 11/18 for a presentation by Instructors Hannah Gould and Ann-Noelle McCowan on NESCA's therapeutic yoga services.

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 provide 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.

Introducing "Yoga Connects"

Yoga Connects is a unique parent-child yoga program designed to meet the needs of young people with autism and other special challenges. Parents participate side-by side with their children, sharing the experience of yoga together. Yoga Connects utilizes a visual yoga curriculum and specialized teaching approach developed by Hannah Gould.

Yoga Connects is a six-week program that empowers parents to facilitate effective sessions at home. With Yoga Connects, yoga becomes a meaningful shared activity and provides a daily respite from stress for both parent and child.

No yoga experience is required - the curriculum includes all of the yoga sequences and visual supports parents will need, and the trusting relationship between parent and child provides the safe ground for yoga to be a successful experience.

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014  

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

There is ample, free, off-street parking in the lot directly opposite the main entrance to our building.

This program is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested; RSVP by calling 617-658-9800, or by email to

This School Has Bikes Instead of Desks--And It Turns Out that's A Better Way to Learn

From Fast Company's Blog "Co.EXIST"

By Adele Peters
October 6, 2014

Some schools are canceling recess. But this North Carolina grade school is going in the opposite direction: Kids ride bikes as they read.

Elementary school has always looked a little bit like training for a traditional office job: You show up at 8 or 9, sit at your desk, and fill out paperwork for most of the day. An average third grader might spend as much as six hours sitting in the classroom--only a little less time than the average office worker spends sitting at work.

But as more offices realize that sitting all day long is actually pretty terrible for health and productivity, how long will it take schools to catch up?

While some elementary schools no longer have recess, and people like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie argue that school days should be even longer, a few schools are already moving in a different direction. Some are testing out standing desks, and realizing that a little bit of activity can actually improve attention spans.

Others, like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn.

The Read and Ride program at Ward began five years ago. One classroom is equipped with enough exercise bikes for a full class of students, and teachers bring students throughout the day to use them. As they ride, they read.

The combination burns calories, but it turns out that it also helps students learn better. As the elementary school analyzed testing data at the end of school year, they found that students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83% proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores--only 41% proficiency.

Some classrooms at the school also have an extra bike in the corner, so kids who can't sit still don't have to. Teachers also use time on the bike as a "reward" that happens to benefit the students.

"Riding exercise bikes makes reading fun for many kids who get frustrated when they read," says Scott Ertl, who started the program. "They have a way to release that frustration they feel while they ride."

Using the bikes also gets students to exercise when they might not otherwise want to in gym class. "Many students who are overweight struggle with sports and activities since they don't want to always be last or lose," Ertl explains.

"On exercise bikes, students are able to pace themselves and exert themselves at their own level--without anyone noticing when they slow down or take a break."

Over the last five years, the Read and Ride program has expanded to 30 other schools.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

IEP Clinic November 9th: An Opportunity to Seek Advice from a Special Needs Advocate

From JFS
Jewish Family Service of MetroWest

October 22, 2014

JFS is hosting an IEP clinic on Sunday, November 9th. Special Needs Advocates will be available for free, one-on-one consultation with participants for 50 minutes.

This program is for you if you:
  • Want advice on the appropriateness of a proposed or current IEP
  • Want help understanding school or private testing results
This program is free and open to the public, but registration is required for an individual 50-minute consultation with a Special Needs Advocate. To register, please all Nancy Fried-Tanzer at 508-875-3100 x330 by November 3rd.

When:   Appointments from 10:00am through 1:00pm
                   Sunday, November 9, 2014

Where: JFS, 475 Franklin Street, Framingham

Co-hosted by Reva Tankle, Ph.D., a pediatric/adolescent neuropsychologist at NESCA, and Allison Kates, M.Ed., CAGS, school psychologist, with Special Needs Advocates Kathy Bach, Susan Haberman, M.Ed., and Andrea Wizer, M.Ed.

This program is made possible with support from the Julia Michelson Fund.