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Friday, August 29, 2014

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


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?


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.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

50 Apps for the New School Year

From eSchool News

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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 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.

You might also like:

Special Education Advocacy Training: FCSN Parent Consultant Training Institute

The Federation for Children with Special Needs

August 19, 2014

Are you interested in learning more about special education law and process? Have you ever thought about how you can brush up on your special education advocacy skills? The Federation for Children with Special Needs will be offering several sessions of its popular Parent Consultant Training Institute program during this upcoming school year.

This program is an 8 week course that covers a wide range of special education related topics including special education law and process, understanding the IEP form, writing measurable IEP goals, assessments and evaluations, 504 plans, school discipline, CBHI services, supporting students with complex healthcare needs, basic advocacy skills, dispute resolution options and more!

Workshops are presented by Federation staff members, distinguished attorneys and other professionals, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA).

If you are interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity you can visit the Federation’s website at, or contact Laura Yellick at

Registrations for the fall sessions being held in Boston and Dalton, MA are being accepted now!

Boston Fall, 2014 Location

Federation for Children with Special Needs
529 Main Street, Suite 1M3
Boston, MA 02129
Time: 9:30 - 3:30 each day
Session Dates: Thursdays (October 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th, November 6th, 13th, 20th and December 4th)

Dalton Fall, 2014

Location: Berkshire County Arc
65 Depot Street
Dalton, MA 01226
Time: 9:00 - 4:00 each day
Session Dates: Mondays (September 29th, October 6th, 20th, 27th and November 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th)

Boston Winter, 2015

Location: Federation for Children with Special Needs
529 Main Street, Suite 1M3
Boston, MA 02129
Time: 9:30 - 3:30 each day
Session Dates: Tuesdays (January 27th, February 3rd, 10th, 24th, March 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th)

Western MA Spring, 2015

Location: TBA
Time: TBA
Session Dates: Tuesdays (April 7th, 14th, 28th, May 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th and June 2nd)

Summer, 2015

Location: TBA
Time: 8:30 - 4:30 each day
Dates: Monday - Friday ( June 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th)

For additional information, please contact Laura Yellick, PTIC Training Coordinator at the Federation for Children with Special Needs, by calling 617-399-8315 or email to

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back-to-School: Four Sticky Situations…and How to Handle Them

The National Center for Learning Disabilities

August 22, 2014

You and your child are gearing up for (or have just started) the new school year, and it’s probably an exciting but somewhat anxiety-ridden time for both of you. Rest assured that this is true for most families dealing with the challenges of LD.

Certain scenarios can create unusually sticky situations, but you can navigate them if you’re armed with knowledge, a proactive spirit and a can-do attitude.

Here are some examples of sticky situations, as well as steps you can take to create a better outcome for your child:

Concern: Your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) but is in a new school (or simply a new grade level) this year. You’re worried about how well the IEP will make the transition along with your child. Will the new school and/or new teacher honor it?

Take Action: If your child is moving to a new school but you didn’t have a “transition meeting” with your child’s IEP team at the previous school, request a meeting to take place before the start of the school year and no later than the end of the first week of school.

If you’ve moved to a new state, your child’s new school district must provide an education comparable to that of the previous district until a decision is made to adopt your child’s IEP from the previous school district, or to develop and implement a new IEP that meets the applicable requirements pursuant to IDEA and your state’s special education rules.

(Learn more about your child’s rights if you move to a new school in the same state or to a different state.)

Even if your child is moving to the next grade level at the same school—and will have a different teacher—you may be concerned. Academic pressures increase from one grade level to the next, and teachers have different attitudes and approaches to teaching. In this case, be proactive and set up a meeting with the new teacher(s) early in the school year.

Together, you can review your child’s IEP, you can explain what helps your child learn best, and answer any questions the teacher has. Depending on your child’s age, you might include him or her in the meeting. After all, the new teacher will now become a member of your child’s IEP team too!

Concern: Your teenager insists on handling his own IEP meetings and decisions.

Take Action: Your teen’s independent spirit is a good thing since a teen with an IEP should be advocating for his own needs and leaning less on his parents. That said, few teens (with or without disabilities) have enough knowledge and maturity to handle important decisions independent from adult input—particularly from their parents. Try to gain your teen’s trust and convince him that you can help guide him in managing his IEP.

Back-to-School Tips From a Teen With LD

A Florida teen with dyslexia says it pays to be proactive with her teachers from the very beginning of each new school year…because it can help prevent some sticky situations. Here’s how she starts the school year:
  • I write a brief email to all of my teachers the first week of school, explaining that I have dyslexia, what it is, and strategies that will help me succeed in their classes.
  • I arrange to meet with all of my teachers to discuss what I could improve on and what they can do to help me succeed in their classes.
  • I talk to my teachers one-on-one after class about difficulties I’m having understanding the curriculum, asking them to explain things I don’t understand in class.
As a result, she says, “My teachers have told me that doing these things has helped them better understand me, my dyslexia, and how we can work together.”

Concern: Your child is worried about being teased, rejected, and bullied by kids at school. She wants to make friends and stay safe from bullies, but lacks the confidence and social skills to do so.

Take Action: Take your child’s concerns seriously. Children with LD often need extra help learning social skills, just as they need special help with academics. Not only do they miss or misread social cues, they can be easy prey for bullies. If your child expresses social anxiety, learn how to help her develop social skills and be well-informed and proactive in working with your child and her school to prevent bullying.

Concern: Your child attends a private school and has a new teacher who refuses to learn about your child’s LD and how to address it.

Take Action: If you haven’t already done so, put together a packet of information to share with the teacher, including articles like, What are Learning Disabilities?, Learning Disabilities: What They Are, and What They Are Not, and Learning Disabilities: Sorting Fact from Fiction. You might also go to your state’s department of education website and look into the teacher’s certification/endorsements. If you can’t find a teacher’s profile, call the department of education directly and ask to speak to an employee in the Office of Professional Development/Teacher Verification. (Use our Resource Locator to find the contact information for your state department of education.)

Understanding the teacher's training can help you understand where he’s coming from, what you may want to educate him on regarding your child’s needs and how they are best addressed. Before you approach the teacher and school administrators to advocate for your child, make sure you know about special education options for students in private schools.