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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Camp Guidelines for Kids with LD and ADHD

From Smart Kids with LD

March 17, 2015

Although it may not feel like spring yet, it’s just around the corner—and that means it’s time to think about summer plans. If camp is on the list of possibilities, now is the time to begin looking for a suitable environment that will bring out the best in your child socially, emotionally, and behaviorally.

While summer camp won’t change his character or make her learning challenges disappear, the right setting could give your child enough self-esteem to approach the school year feeling capable and confident.

There’s a lot to consider for any child, but for kids with LD and ADHD there are additional factors that must be taken into account. The following summer camp guidelines are designed to help you find a setting in which your child will be a happy camper.


Sorting through program possibilities can be overwhelming. Narrow your options by establishing objective criteria that define your non-negotiables:
  • Day camp, overnight camp, travel camp?
  • Coed or single-sex?
  • How long is your ideal program?
  • General (athletics, arts and crafts, games, etc.) or specialized programming (drama, computers, specific sports, music, etc.)?


Faculty, counselors, and staff at camps for children with LD and ADHD should have specific training and temperaments. To determine competence look into the camp’s hiring criteria, the counselor to camper ratio, and training requirements for counselors, specialists, and supervisors. Find out about supervision and support for bunk counselors, and training for front-line staff in issues common to campers with LD and ADHD.

Ask also how counselors communicate with families, and what are grounds for counselor dismissal.

Health and Safety

Sending your child off on his own raises concerns about health and safety, especially if your child takes daily medication, tends to be impulsive and accident prone, or suffers from allergies or other medical conditions. To evaluate this aspect of the camp get answers to the following questions:
  • What medical personnel are on staff?
  • Where is the closest medical center?
  • Is the staff trained in emergency procedures and de-escalation techniques?
  • Who administers medication and how is compliance assured?
  • What is the policy for campers who get sick?
  • How are emotional meltdowns addressed?
  • How often are facilities inspected for health and safety issues?
  • What personal hygiene guidelines does the camp use?
  • Are campers unsupervised at any time?
  • What kinds of supervision are in place at night?


Though all camps present a positive philosophy, some are wonderful, nurturing environments while others may foster frustration. Ask about accommodations for children who need extra help, and make sure that your child will not feel excluded or incompetent during mainstream activities. Even in specialized settings, some programs expect standardized behavior regardless of abilities. Standards are wonderful if they help your child grow; they are debilitating if they make your child feel incompetent.

Food and Nutrition

If your child has health-based dietary restrictions, make sure they are medically documented and the staff can ensure that they will be strictly observed. If it’s a matter of preference and your child is a non-mainstream eater, ask the following questions:
  • Can special diets be accommodated?
  • Who supervises preparation and distribution of special diets?
  • What is the camp philosophy on nutrition?
  • Can campers receive food packages from home?

Social Skills

Summer camp is a practicum in social skills. In addition to requiring constant interpersonal interaction, most camps do not offer a place to relax in solitude. If your child has social concerns that must be addressed, ask if social skills are taught at camp and how social inappropriateness is corrected. Are counselors trained in social skills instruction and managing social issues common to children with LD?

It’s critical to be careful, but equally important to remember that self-esteem stems from individual accomplishment. Children with LD or ADHD learn best when new information is presented in safe, supported increments. “Safe,” however, does not necessarily mean “limited.” Without challenge, no one can grow. But when you eliminate challenge that is overwhelming and unmanageable, your child will not have to face frustration and failure.

The most important element for ensuring a wonderful summer experience is an informed parent. If you are not sure how your child’s needs relate to summer programs, get help from professionals who understand both your child and the camp context you’re thinking about.

After considering your child’s age, assets, challenges and interests, remember to respect the attributes that make each person unique. Some kids love camp no matter what the deficits, others detest it despite the attributes.

Take the time to learn what things your children love to do, and find a place where they can do them in healthy, happy ways.

"Understanding My Child's Learning Style" - Free Presentation in Beverly March 30th

From the Beverly SEPAC

March 24, 2015

The Beverly SEPAC will be hosting a presentation on learning styles given by the Federation for Children with Special Needs. It will take place from 6:30 - 8:30pm on Monday, March 30 at the Beverly Public Library, at 32 Essex Street, Beverly, MA 01915.

The speaker will explain the different ways people, especially children, take in and generate information, and how those different ways can greatly affect how and whether they succeed in school and in life.

Participants will learn about various learning styles and how they can be understood and harnessed to help children achieve success in many different environments, including the classroom.

This very valuable workshop is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jessica Minahan's Behavioral Revue Coming Soon to a Venue Near You!


March 18, 2015

We've previously noted that Jessica Minahan, M.Ed., BCBA, NESCA's director of behavioral services, is a speaker in high demand nationally and, we might add, one very busy woman.

She has no fewer than nine speaking engagements between now and June 3rd that are open to the public, many more if we were to include "members only" events. And she'll kill 'em all. Always does!

Here are some you might want to attend. If links are available, click on them for additional information and to register.

March 25, 2015Lexington SEPAC
Wareham, MA
Effective Strategies for Students with Anxiety-Related and Oppositional Behaviors

March 28, 2015 - Celebrating Excellence Conference
Needham, MA
Keynote Speech: Being Part of the Solution: Effective Strategies for Students with Anxiety-Related and Oppositional Behavior
Milford MA
Theory Into Practice: Effective Strategies for Students with Anxiety

April 15, 2015 - Behavioral Health Conference, Northshore Education Consortium
Wakefield MA
Stoneham MA
Delving Deeper: New & Effective Interventions for Students with Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors
Participants will receive a copy of Minahan's new book: The Behavior Code Companion

May 22, 2015 - ABAi 41st Annual Convention

Understanding Invisible Disabilities

From Edutopia
The George Lucas Educational Foundation

March 21, 2015

Invisible disabilities (IDs) are some of the most difficult ones for educators to identify because they are just that -- invisible. Students "hide in plain sight" intentionally, or because they aren't aware that they have a disability.

Some students are fearful, along with their parents, that they won't be accepted to college or that they will carry a label through the end of 12th grade.

The silent aspect of IDs also makes it difficult for teachers to learn about their students' needs unless they are told outright.

An invisible disability is anything that cannot be seen. It can be an anxiety disorder, depression that affects a student's daily life, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or a learning disability that does not easily present itself. Some college students choose not to share their disability with their professors or the university because they had a bad experience in high school.

Other times, the student doesn't know that his or her situation qualifies as a disability even in adulthood (most common with clinical depression and anxiety disorders). Students who walk through their academic career dealing with any disability on their own are left to a great disadvantage.

Teachers working with ID students in high school are advised to speak to the school psychologist or special education consultant about the legally correct and ethically appropriate ways to handle working with such a student. If the student has not yet been diagnosed but a disability is suspected, any testing should go through the proper channels.

In the past, students with an ID were often told that they were "making it up" or that it was "just in your mind." This situation has prevented many ID students from reaching out, especially if they received their diagnosis closer to adulthood.

If educators are open to the idea that this so-called something "just in your mind" is indeed real, they are well on their way to successfully helping and understanding such a student. Remember that our brains are the drivers and our bodies simply the cars following commands. Everything that happens in the brain is real.

1). Is There a Diagnosis?

Teachers of minor children should speak with the school psychologist as well as the child's parents to see if there is any known disability. Going through the proper channels is crucial when handling this type of situation. Always talk to a school representative before talking with the parent. It's quite possible that there is a mild-to-moderate diagnosis about which the parents may be able to provide insight.

2). Respect Students' Privacy

Teachers should be ever mindful of a young student's inherent need to fit in. Adults relish the idea of being special, being set apart from the norm. As adults, we embrace our differences and view most of them as neutral or positive (with some exceptions, of course). However, if we look back at our own high school yearbooks, we will notice that we desperately wanted to be the same as our peers.

Students with IDs are faced with being different at every turn. While their contemporaries are focused on sporting the same hairstyle, students with IDs can spend most of their day trying to hide the fact that their brain works differently. Any discussion regarding a student's disability should take place far away from friends and peers. Teens love to listen in on teacher conversations (not out of rudeness but because they assume the conversation must be about them). The student's privacy is paramount.

3.) Recognize Periodic Episodes

Many IDs come and go in waves, but few educators are made aware of this. This is especially true with anxiety disorders. Students who have panic attacks may only suffer on Mondays, or during finals week, or when their best friend is absent. Students with Tourette syndrome may only exhibit symptoms in certain teachers' classes or when they are suffering from additional stress. It's essential that the school environment allows (but doesn't force) these kids to "fit in" on symptom-free days.

Teachers who are lucky enough to have less than 15 kids in their class (mostly in private schools and rural areas) will often pick up on their students' patterns, while teachers with 30+ students are advised to utilize the services of their teacher's aide, the special education department, or other appropriate resources.

4). Make Learning Accommodations

Once a definitive diagnosis has been documented, educators can work with school staff to help the student in the best way possible. Students with IDs often have a learning disability or anxiety disorder that needs to be addressed in the classroom. Hopefully, students will be given an independent educational pathway (titled differently in different school districts) after which the teacher can follow the plan and help the student throughout the year.

Although IDs are not easy to identify, students who go undiagnosed may find that they end up a straight C student and don't go on to college when their potential might have been to obtain a 3.5 GPA and a college diploma.

Patience and understanding from even one great teacher can make it or break it for these students.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Role of Imaginative Play in the Life of Children: Free Talk by Scott Barry Kaufman in Acton Thursday, March 26th

From the Discovery Museums

March 23, 2015

Over the past few decades, researchers in the field of education and child psychology have amassed evidence for the necessity of play in children’s lives. As children play, they develop critical cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills that set the stage for future learning and success. They learn to regulate behavior, lay foundations for later learning in science and mathematics, figure out the complex negotiations of social relationships, build a repertoire of creative problem solving skills, and more.

This talk will review the latest research on the crucial role of imaginative play for optimal development, well-being and creativity.

When:   6:30 - 8:30pm Thursday, March 26, 2015

Congregation Beth Elohim
                    133 Prospect Street, Acton, MA

Register HERE.

This event is free of charge but pre-registration is required. A wait ist is expected.

Paperback copies of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined will be on sale at the event thanks to Wellesley Books, and Scott Barry Kaufman will be signing copies following his presentation. Come prepared to purchase your copy!

Light refreshments will be served, including hors d'oeuvres and dessert provided by Idylwilde Farms, Acton.

About Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D.

Scott Barry Kaufman is scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the measurement and development of intelligence, creativity and personality. He is the author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined and co-author (with Carolyn Gregoire) of the upcoming book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind.

Kaufman is also host of The Psychology Podcast, co-founder of The Creativity Post, and author of the column Beautiful Minds for Scientific American. Kaufman completed his doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University in 2009, and received his master’s degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University in 2005, where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar. In the Spring of 2015, he will be teaching Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Self-Advocacy: When NOT to Advocate for Your Child

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog

By Brittany Wadbrook
March 20, 2105

I’d like to begin this post by being very clear: I am not a parent. Therefore, I cannot fully imagine what it might feel like to know your child is struggling with something -- with something you can resolve -- but resisting the impulse to come to the rescue.

I am, however, an Executive Function coach and classroom instructor who has seen countless students struggle with a reading or writing assignment, meaning I know what it feels like to hold my tongue when all I want to do is explain what a quote means or give them an idea to write about. Despite how difficult that can be, I also know there are enormous benefits to holding back.

While there are critical moments when parents need to step in to advocate for their child, oftentimes the question we need to consider is this: When should I NOT advocate for my child? The following story about one of the college students I coach might help us begin to answer that.

Photo credit: nickbollettieri via flickr. Depicted is
Heather Watson, playing in the 2009 Junior US Open

A few weeks back during a coaching session, one of my students reflected upon her preparedness for university-level demands:

“I’ve been playing tennis forever, and that involved a lot of sports camps, private lessons, practices and matches. But I never really worried about that stuff because my parents always told me where I had to be, and when, and often they were the ones who took me there. I just showed up and played. In high school my teachers always knew if I had an away match and, if I had to leave school early to travel, they just gave my homework to my mom. It was awesome.”

This does sound awesome: while she had a busy and demanding sports schedule, her parents made it possible for her to be everywhere she needed to be, and they did all the gathering of missed work and communicating with teachers that had to be done. If I were a parent, I can imagine myself wanting to do the very same so that my daughter could be successful both on the court and in the classroom.

Self-Advocacy is "Expected" in College

“But my college teachers are different than my high school ones,” she went on to explain. “They expect you to tell them in advance when you’ll be missing class for a match. They expect you to contact them to find out about the work you missed. They expect you to already know how to do all of these things, but I’ve never had to do this stuff before.”

As I listened to my student’s frustration, I realized that her parents -- who are incredibly lovely people -- unknowingly created a situation where she didn’t need to learn self-advocacy strategies for herself. For many parents, figuring out when to step in to support their child and when to step aside to allow self-advocacy, accountability and independence to develop can be a tough choice to make.

When is it Time for Parents to Step Aside?

It seems to me that answering this question comes down to answering another question: What is the priority?

When I pose this to parents, the most common response I receive is “to avoid failure.” And the things they’d like their child to avoid range from relatively small-scale items (flunking a quiz) to larger concerns (flunking 8th grade).

If your reason for stepping in to advocate for your son or daughter is to avoid failure, it’s a good one. As a teacher, I can totally get behind this idea: wanting my students to fail seems totally ludicrous. But it’s not the only priority to consider. When I ask parents if they hope their child becomes responsible, accountable and independent, they give me a resounding “of course” as if I’ve asked the most obvious question in the world.

And, perhaps I have. If you’d like your son or daughter to become more responsible, accountable and independent, sometimes experiencing failure -- not avoiding it -- can help.

An Example of How Parents Can Help Students Learn to Self-Advocate

Let’s consider my tennis star again: imagine that, come 11th grade, mom and dad sit her down and explain that this year she needs to take more ownership of her schoolwork and her schedule. They give her some insight into the behind-the-scenes work they’ve done to make life manageable for her. They let her in on their strategies and approaches. They convey to her that they’ll support her development of self-advocacy skills so she can figure out what she needs, and from whom, and how to go about getting it, so she’ll be ready when she’s off to college in a few years.

Now imagine that after this conversation, she’s three weeks into the tennis season and an away match is coming up. While she leaves school early to get there, her science class is reviewing chapter 8 before their big unit test. When she arrives to science class the next day, she sits down to take the test and oh-my-gosh, there’s a bunch of questions that feel foreign to her. She’s nearly in tears when she gets home and shares the news with her parents.

Possibly, she’s failed her unit test. Ouch. But even so, there are many more unit tests ahead that can balance out that grade. More importantly, though, she’s learned the cost of not communicating with her teacher in advance -- a key lesson to learn now so she’ll be prepared for college.

Perhaps when the next away match comes up, she’ll remember the cost of bounding out of school before getting things in order. Perhaps she’ll check in with Mr. Dalton to gather the materials she needs. Perhaps she’ll even realize how easy it is to tell him she’s headed to her match and to get the study guide she needs.

Or, perhaps, she turns an essay in late and misses a lab and nearly fails a pop-quiz before before she begins making a turnaround. Despite the accumulation of small failures she may have, the benefits of mom and dad stepping aside will drastically outweigh the cost. The moment when failure teaches her to advocate for what she needs, and to be accountable for what she does and does not do, the more prepared she will be to face the university-level demands when she’s miles and miles from home.

About the Author

Brittany Wadbrook is a college instructor, certified writing tutor, and senior executive function coach at Beyond BookSmart. She began her career in education at Quinnipiac University earning a bachelor of Arts in English and Masters degree in Secondary Education. While at Quinnipiac, she became a certified Master Level Writing Tutor by the College Reading and Learning Association, and spent three years working for the University's Learning Center. Wadbrook earned a second Masters in Composition and Rhetoric at UMass Boston, where she has since become a full-time lecturer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stressed-Out Students! Presentation on Anxiety by Dr. Angela Currie Tuesday, March 24th

From the Milton SEPAC

March 23, 2015

All parents and educators are invited to join the Milton SEPAC for a discussion of how to identify and manage anxiety in children of all ages and abilities. Guest Speaker Dr. Angela Currie will address what teachers and parents can do to help prevent or alleviate stress for all students.

Her presentation will also cover what can be done when there is concern about the severity of a particular student’s anxiety, and include an overview of school-based recommendations and therapeutic interventions.

Dr. Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist who oversees the Anxiety and Attention Skills Coaching (AASC) Program and cognitive-behavioral therapy services at NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents)  in Newton, MA and Londonderry, NH.

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Where: Pierce Middle School Auditorium
                   451 Central Avenue
                   Milton, MA 02186

For more information, please contact Michelle Connolly by email to miltonsepac@yahoo.com, or call 617-947-1873.

* PDP credits available to Milton Public School educators.