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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Coming of Age: Autism and the Transition to Adulthood

From Media Planet's Blog "Future of Personal Health"

By Linda J Walder, Founder and Executive Director
The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation for Adult Autism

“If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism.”

Jimmy Scancarella, stock room clerk and “go-to”
employee at PPI-Time Zero, Fairfield, New Jersey

In the next decade, 500,000 children with an autism diagnosis will become adults. But what do we really know about them? What are their hopes and abilities, and what can we as a society do to provide the opportunities and support they will need to live, work and attain their individual goals?

Updating the Dialogue

It’s time to get real about adult autism and the diverse individuality of this population. What does it mean to “get real about adult autism?” First, we need to acknowledge the misconceptions and misinformation that exists.

Internationally respected teacher Dr. Stephen Shore, who is also diagnosed, has stated, “If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism.”

Adults have various manifestations of autism, but all are people like others with a unique personality, abilities and struggles. The fact is that strengths and talents can be enhanced and nurtured when given opportunities to work in the mainstream.

Jimmy Scancarella, a 26 year old man, is a great example of how an opened door to employment at PPI-Time Zero led to full-time job success as a stock room clerk.

Individualized Understanding

Another misconception is that one-size fits all in housing and residential options. Denise Resnik, Founder of First Place espouses the view of professionals that a variety of safe, community settings leads to greater self-sufficiency, independence and fulfillment for individuals and peace of mind for their families.

According to 32-year-old Amy Gravino, one of the biggest misconceptions is that “not having the skills to form interpersonal relationships means that the desire is not there.” In her upcoming book, “The Naughty Autie,” Amy writes about her dating journey. Like most people, Amy is looking for someone to love and accept her for who she is.

Getting real about adult autism means that people are not defined solely by a diagnosis and that all are worthy of living their best life possible in an open-minded society.


NESCA Comprehensive Transition Services

Transition is the process, ideally beginning at age 14 if not sooner and extending through high school graduation and beyond, by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in post-secondary school or the workplace.

NESCA can provide complete transition assessment (including testing, community-based observation and coaching), consultation, planning, college selection and other support services, coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS. Other members of our transition team include NeuropsychologistJason McCormick, Psy.D.Sandy Storer, MSW and Transition Pioneer Marilyn Weber.

We are unique--and unmatched in this region--in the wealth of experience provided by our veteran staff, the breadth of their offerings, the in-depth approach that these embody and the positive outcomes they help to achieve.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tuesday, October 27th in Needham - Through My Eyes: A Dyslexia Simulation

From Decoding Dyslexia - MA
via the Commonwealth Learning Center

September 30, 2015

When a loved one has dyslexia, it can be frustrating to feel like you don't truly know what they're going through. Decoding Dyslexia Director Nancy Duggan will lead us through an interactive simulation to help participants experience what this language-based learning difference is like, and understand it like never before.

We will explore the challenges that dyslexic students face, and discuss an overview of some of the best ways to help them.

Topics covered will include:
  • Accommodations: Understanding Access and Barriers to Curriculum
  • Structured Literacy Instruction
  • Neuroscience in Relation to Reading 

Learn More

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Where: Commonwealth Learning Center
                   220 Reservoir Street, Suite 6, Needham, MA

Admission is free and open to the public, but space is limited and first come, first served. Please call (781) 444-5193 or email us to RSVP at your earliest convenience. See you there!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Understanding Girls with ADHD: Symptoms and Strategies

From GreatSchools

By GreatSchools Staff
October 3, 2015

Girls with ADHD often suffer in silence — and remain undiagnosed. When their symptoms finally surface, they can be dangerous. Learn what to watch for in your daughter — and how to help her.

Mrs. Dawson’s fourth-grade students assemble in small groups to work on a project. She asks Steven and Julie to join three other students. A mother helping in the classroom notices Steven is better behaved than during her last visit. While he still wriggles in his seat and occasionally interrupts a classmate, he doesn’t pound his desk and talk non-stop like he used to. He also smiles now and is more cooperative.

Julie is her usual chatty, polite self. She smiles and waves her hands as she talks to the group. Today, though, the other girls in the group seem annoyed with Julie.

When the group session is over, Steven sits attentively at his desk in the front of the classroom. Julie’s smile has faded and she stares out the window.

What’s going on with Steven and Julie? Steven was diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) four months ago. His teacher has made classroom accommodations, such as allowing him to sit up front where he’ll be less distracted. He’s taking medication and being coached on his behavior. His self-esteem grows as he succeeds in his school work and relationships.

What no one knows is that Julie also has ADHD. She struggles to please others, but they don’t seem to understand her friendly overtures. Determined to be a good student, she spends hours on homework because daydreams get in the way. Her self-esteem is sinking as she questions her academic and social abilities. Julie suffers in silence.

Squeaky Wheels Get the Grease

Many people think of ADHD as a boy’s disorder. In fact, some studies estimate at least six times as many boys as girls are referred to clinics for diagnosis. But field studies suggest that, in the general population, the actual ratio of boys to girls with ADHD is 3:1. To understand why this disparity exists, we must understand how professionals have traditionally defined and diagnosed ADHD — and how that view is changing.

For many years, hyperactive and impulsive behavior was considered the primary trait of children with ADHD. Since many more boys than girls fit that description, they’ve been much easier to diagnose and treat. This also explains why most ADHD studies have focused on boys. Then, in the 1980s, researchers discovered a population of boys who were inattentive but not hyperactive or impulsive.

With this discovery, the definition of ADHD was updated and now includes three different types:
  • Inattentive
  • Hyperactive/impulsive
  • Combined type (a combination of the first two types)

The inattentive type of ADHD is harder to diagnose in both boys and girls since their behavior doesn’t “give them away.” Bright, inattentive girls often compensate for inattention by becoming super-organized or hyper-focused on school work. Such girls often succeed in school, but their private struggle remains a secret.

Girls who are hyperactive and impulsive are rare. Some hyperactive girls are seen as tomboys and have a better chance of being diagnosed. Other hyperactive girls aren’t overactive in a physical sense; instead, they’re super-talkative “social butterflies.”

Set Up by Social Expectations

Having ADHD seems to impair girls’ social relationships far more than it does for boys. As Janet Giler, Ph.D. points out, “Males and females, in general, operate by different social rules. … Female social rules place a greater value on cooperation, listening, care-taking, and relationship maintaining activities. … It would make sense that the traits of ADHD might make females seem less cooperative.” As a result, girls with ADHD suffer more peer rejection.

Remember Julie? While friendly and well-meaning, she often gets distracted while a classmate is talking to her. She misses the other person’s social cues, and doesn’t respond in a desirable manner. Boys tend to be more direct with each other and resolve their conflicts more openly, so a boy with ADHD doesn’t require the same set of social skills. A girl who is both impulsive and inattentive is likely to commit many social blunders.

Mothers often expect their daughters to conform to the standards of society by being especially thoughtful, polite, and compliant. If a girl has ADHD, this can be a difficult goal to attain.

Brain Differences in Boys and Girls

At least one research study found the brains of boys with ADHD showed significant shape and volume differences compared to boys without ADHD. The size and shape variations suggest that ADHD in boys affects brain circuits that control basic motor responses, such as “hitting the brakes” or suppressing impulsive actions. These variations were not evident in the brains of girls with ADHD, which may account for the way ADHD plays out in boys versus girls.

Also, a study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that girls with ADHD have greater control over their physical movements than do boys of the same age with ADHD, possibly because girls’ brains mature earlier.

When Hormones Wreak Havoc

ADHD is often hard to detect in girls until they reach puberty and hormone changes can cause dramatic mood swings and disruptive behavior. A girl who has kept her ADHD hidden until puberty may appear to “erupt” suddenly when female hormones flood her body. Because the current criteria for ADHD state symptoms must be present before age 7, many doctors dismiss the possibility of ADHD in girls whose symptoms don’t appear until puberty.

(By contrast, hyperactive/impulsive boys who’ve been treated for ADHD since their early years often calm down when they reach puberty. For them, hyperactivity mellows into restlessness.)

Teenage girls with ADHD appear to be at greater risk for eating disorders than their non-affected peers. Girls with the combined type of ADHD (both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) seem more likely to develop bulimia than girls who have the inattentive type of ADHD. But, studies show, both groups of girls are likely to be overweight and to suffer from rejection and low self-esteem. There is also a concern that girls taking stimulant medication for ADHD might abuse the drugs to suppress their appetite and lose weight.

The Emotional Cost of Under-Diagnosis

Girls whose ADHD isn’t diagnosed and treated by the time they reach puberty are at risk for developing other psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression. This is understandable, since many girls have spent their lives suffering, struggling, and blaming themselves for poor academic performance and peer rejection.

As girls mature, they tend to internalize their feelings, making their struggle less noticeable to adults who might help them. Adolescent girls who don’t receive help for ADHD and co-existing psychological problems are at high risk for addictive behaviors, such as over-eating, smoking, alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity.

Help and Hope for Girls with ADHD

Clearly, better methods for diagnosing and managing ADHD in girls are needed. Fortunately, many professionals are working toward this goal. They have found, for example, that because a girl’s outward behavior can mask her ADHD, having her answer certain questions (self-reporting) can help make a proper diagnosis.

Professionals have also found some methods that are especially effective for managing ADHD in girls, including:
  • Group counseling with other girls who have ADHD. This allows girls to support and learn from each other while improving social skills within a peer group.
  • Coaching for ADHD by a trained adult outside the family. Having a mentor provides support beyond what the girl gets at home and can relieve pressure on her family relationships.
  • Understanding and support from mothers. Mothers who understand the impact ADHD has on their daughters may be more effective in steering them, not forcing them, toward success.

As professionals pay more attention to the traits and needs of girls with ADHD, we can hope for earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. Parents can help by staying abreast of the research in this area – and by staying in close touch with their daughters.

ADHD by Other Names and Acronyms

While Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the official term and acronym used by today’s mental health care professionals, it is sometimes referred to by other names and abbreviations. For example, it is sometimes called:
  • AD/HD (with a slash)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Attention Disorder

  • Is ADHD More Likely To Affect Movement In Boys Or Girls?, American Academy of Neurology, November 5, 2008.
  • Brain Abnormalities That May Play Key Role in ADHD, Kennedy Krieger Institute, November 18, 2008.
  • Adolescent Girls with ADHD Are at Increased Risk For Eating Disorders, Study Shows, University of Virginia, March 15, 2008.

Values Based Parenting: Guideposts for Choices

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog

By Robert H. Howard
June 15, 2015

What’s the difference between A and B in the following statements?

A. Raise your hand if you want to talk in class.

B. Every student needs a chance to contribute and be heard because every voice matters.

A. No talking in the hallways.

B. We respect others’ learning time by being quiet in the hallways.

You probably have a few observations already. The A versions are simple prescriptions, or rules for keeping in a teacher’s good graces. If Danny shouts out an answer in math or belts out a chorus of Let it Go on the way to Miss Moffat’s science class, we can expect that Danny will bear some consequences for flouting the rules. Maybe he stays in from recess that day.

In Danny’s mind, he might not make the link between his impulsive actions and how they affect others, though that’s the underlying reason those rules were created.

The B versions, on the other hand, are statements of values that guide expected behaviors. They provide the reason for behaving a specific way that is tied to an overarching value. Danny’s same behavior in a classroom that observes this method may be met with a reminder of the classroom’s values: “Is everybody getting a chance to answer questions? I see quite a few hands from students who want to share their ideas.” Or “Mr. Brown’s class is trying to take a test. How do we show respect for his students?”

Many teachers adopt the B method because they know it gives students a deeper sense of their responsibility to the school community. They know that when students understand why there are guidelines for everyone’s behavior, instead of just arbitrary rules, they are more likely to internalize those values.

Now, let’s look at similar comparisons in home life. I’ll bet by now you can readily see the differences in these parental statements:

A: Clean up that mess in the kitchen, or you can’t watch TV.

B: We respect each other by cleaning up after ourselves.

A: Walk the dog now, or you can’t go to your friend’s house later.

B: We all contribute to taking care of our pets because we are all responsible for our pets’ well being.

OK, don’t pack your bags; this is not a guilt trip. Every harried parent has uttered statements like the A versions above, right? The point here is to help us all be mindful of the differences between a directive/consequence (A versions) and a statement of the deeper value that a behavior exemplifies (B versions). Values based parenting emphasizes the latter approach.

Think of the typical directives you may give your child: Don’t hit your sister, Don’t leave your clothes on the floor, Put that phone down, Don’t interrupt me, Don’t lose your jacket again, Watch your language.

What are the values that underlie those statements? We could probably sum it up by saying:

"We show care and respect to others by using civil words when we have conflicts, by taking responsibility for our possessions, and by taking turns speaking and listening to each other."

Teaching children by reminding them of the reasons for behaving in specific ways and the connection to the values we want them to embrace gives kids a way to understand their personal responsibility to their family, friends, and neighbors. It’s easy to get hyper- focused on whose turn it is to feed the cats or empty the litter box. By bringing the discussion back to the guiding values those tasks represent (empathy, responsibility, kindness), we can help our kids build a strong foundation for making good decisions.

A teen faced with an opportunity to cheat on a test may think: “I don’t want to get caught. My folks would probably take away my phone.” Or “Honesty is more important than a grade to me. It just wouldn’t feel good to cheat.” Which framework would you prefer your child to use? When parents emphasize values such as respect, responsibility, integrity, and empathy it creates a guidepost for every decision: “Is this consistent with what I value?”

How do academic coaches incorporate values based parenting with their students?

Homework is a key area where academic coaches use a family’s values as a guidepost. When parents want their child to take personal responsibility for their schoolwork, coaches help students learn the internal satisfaction of a job well done without the need for external punishments or rewards.

In the end, students make their own decisions about whether to be honest on tests or take responsibility for getting their work done. And those choices are influenced by their family’s explicitly stated values.

Values based parenting helps children become good citizens through their good choices. Do your kids know what you value as a family?

If you would like to learn how to build a foundation that will create the space for values based parenting, click the button below to download a free whitepaper written by our CEO, Michael Delman. The white paper is titled "Building Blocks for Lifelong Success: A Parent's Guide for Raising Successful, Independent Kids."

Download White Paper Now


Robert H. Howard has been involved with Beyond BookSmart for over five years. He is essentially retired, but he is also in high demand as a substitute teacher for elementary and middle school kids in the North Shore area. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Northwestern University. He was voted Teacher of the Year of the School of Business at Loyola University in Chicago.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Transition Planning for College

From Smart Kids with LD

By Linda Talbert, MAT and Gerri Fleming
September 23, 2014

At a Glance
  • By the time students with LD served under the IDEA turn 16 years old, the law requires them to have a transition plan to prepare them for life after high school.
  • Ideally, transition planning for college begins when a student enters high school to maximize options as they move through the next four years.
  • Understanding college requirements is key to making smart decisions about high-school course selection.

For students with learning differences, the law recognizes that transition to adulthood may require specialized services to help them attain the skills and education they’ll need to succeed after high school.

The IDEA requires that transition planning must begin, at the latest, for the year a student turns 16. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for that year must contain goals that will advance the likelihood of further education, economic self-sufficiency, and independent living.

Preparing for College

The transition plan must consist of a coordinated set of activities within a results-oriented process and may include instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment, and other post-secondary adult living objectives.

If, for example, your high-school freshman wants a career in engineering, then the IEP team needs to be cautious about modifying high school academic courses. The courses must be rigorous enough to prepare her for the educational challenges of college.

In addition, many college programs require that certain academic requirements be satisfied in high school. So when the high-school IEP team offers to waive the Foreign Language requirement in an effort to lighten the load, or make room for something else, they may also be making it more difficult for your child to get into a college of her choice. It is, therefore, important to investigate the high-school course requirements for college, so that your child is not precluded from attending the college of her dreams.

The double-edged sword of an IEP is that the team has the power to“individualize” the program to such an extent that a student can find herself unprepared for a competitive college.

Likewise, if your child struggles with skills necessary to succeed in college—time management, note-taking, studying, task analysis, organization, and working independently—those skills should be targeted for goals and objectives in the IEP transition plan.

Finally, the issue of self-advocacy cannot be over-emphasized. Once your child graduates from high school, the protections of an IEP vanish, and she is covered under the 504 provision—a civil rights statute that requires students, among other things, to self-disclose their disabilities to individual professors prior to receiving accommodations. (Some college disability offices will assist with this process.)

Because Section 504 carries a different standard than IDEA, the transition IEP should contain a goal and objectives regarding self-advocacy, understanding 504 accommodations and protections in college, and identifying personal strengths and weaknesses. Parent training in the differences between IDEA and Section 504 rights might also be appropriate.

Year-by-Year Student Guide

While the college transition process is overwhelming for some students, it’s important that your child be involved. Share the following information with her, then monitor and support her through the process as necessary.

Start by encouraging your child to become familiar with the high school’s college and career resources as a freshman, and have her work with a guidance counselor to come up with a 4-year plan. This might include some of the following benchmarks, which can even be restated as IEP goals and objectives:
  • Freshman Year: Know the graduation requirements and stay on top of them throughout high school. Get involved in an after-school activity (sports, drama, music, school clubs, volunteer work, etc.). Determine the accommodations needed for any college entrance exams and make appropriate application.
  • Sophomore Year: Focus on one or two after-school activities. Register for the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) or if offered in your area, the ACT’s equivalent preliminary test, the PLAN.
  • Junior Year: Attend college fairs and develop a preliminary list of colleges that interest you. Schedule inquiries, interviews, and college visits. Register for the SAT, ACT, or both; and consider whether tutoring or a preparation course would be a smart choice.
  • Summer After Junior Year: Research colleges of interest. Request catalogs and financial aid information from your selected list. Brush up on skills you’ll need to get your best score on the SAT or ACT; consider whether taking a course or working with a tutor would be helpful.
  • Senior Year: Establish a timeline to complete and meet the deadlines for college applications (September-December); plan plenty of time to work on your essay and obtain teacher recommendations. Make plans about financial aid, including preparing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Take Action

Getting to a 4-year college requires a 4-year plan. The best way to get the college acceptance letter you desire your senior year is to have a sound transition plan in place and…
  • Make smart course selections in high school
  • Rely on your support team
  • Develop independence as you keep up academic performance, and work your plan.
  • Leave nothing to luck!

Linda Talbert runs her own practice as a non-attorney parent advocate and researcher for special education law firms. Currently, she is completing coursework toward certification as a behavior analyst. Gerri Fleming is also a non-attorney advocate who graduated from the Special Education Advocacy Training Program, a joint program of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the University of Southern California, and the Department of Education.


NESCA Comprehensive Transition Services

Transition is the process, ideally beginning at age 14 if not sooner and extending through high school graduation and beyond, by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in post-secondary school or the workplace.

NESCA can provide complete transition assessment (including testing, community-based observation and coaching), consultation, planning, college selection and other support services, coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS. Other members of our transition team include NeuropsychologistJason McCormick, Psy.D.Sandy Storer, MSW and Transition Pioneer Marilyn Weber.

We are unique--and unmatched in this region--in the wealth of experience provided by our veteran staff, the breadth of their offerings, the in-depth approach that these embody and the positive outcomes they help to achieve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Teens Need More Sleep, But Districts Struggle to Shift Start Times

From Education Week

By Evie Blad
September 22, 2015

"Studies show that adolescents who don't get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental-health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents, and a decline in academic performance..."

Most high school students in Durham, N.C., start school at 7:30 a.m., a time that's early enough to negatively impact their engagement and focus in the classroom, researchers say.

That's because biological shifts during the teenage years drive the need for longer sleep durations and later wake times, research shows. That means requiring an older teenager to wake up at 7 a.m. is like asking a teacher to wake up at 4:30 a.m.

So, at the direction of its school board, the Durham district will shift its high school start times to 9 a.m. next year. The hope is that the district's responsiveness to sleep research will pay off in gains in student engagement and academic achievement.

Students arrive at The School of Creative Studies, a magnet
school for grades 6-12 in Durham, N.C., last week. Next year,
most of Durham's high school students will start around 9 a.m.,
allowing them to get more sleep Justin Cook for Education Week

"I think the board's intent is spot on; it's to try to benefit every student we can benefit to increase student learning," Assistant Superintendent Scott Denton said. "There will be some pain for some families, and we don't take that lightly, but at the same time, the investment those families make will pay off down the road."

Many districts start their high school day between 7 and 8 a.m. Many have explored the process of changing start times only to retreat altogether or to make smaller, incremental changes after hearing pushback from parents and uncovering logistical issues associated with changing bell schedules. Others never even consider changes, despite reams of research and expert recommendations.

Five out of every six U.S. middle and high schools ring their first bell before 8:30 a.m., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August. That's despite a 2014 recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that secondary schools should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to better sync with students' changing sleep cycles.

"Studies show that adolescents who don't get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental-health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents, and a decline in academic performance," the organization said in a position paper. "But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.—and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day.

Lazy Teenagers?

Even U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supported the suggestion, tweeting out articles about the report with his own comment. "Common sense to improve student achievement that too few have implemented: let teens sleep more, start school later," Duncan wrote.

An international group of sleep researchers expanded that recommendation in August, when they said classes should ideally start no earlier than 10 a.m. for 16-year-olds and no earlier than 11 a.m. for 18-year-olds.

The researchers—from Oxford University, Harvard University, and the University of Nevada—acknowledged schools were not likely to follow their guidance, in part because of logistical concerns, and because schools still don't recognize the importance of changing biological rhythms in the teen years.

"The impact of early school times on adolescents is not understood by most educators: A common belief is that adolescents are tired, irritable, and uncooperative because they choose to stay up too late, or are difficult to wake in the morning because they are lazy," the researchers wrote. "Educators tend to think that adolescents learn best in the morning and if they simply went to sleep earlier, it would improve their concentration."

Other research shows that teens' ability to make responsible decisions, like going to bed on time, is still developing during adolescence. And the use of items with "blue light," like tablets and smartphones, close to bedtime can affect the quality of their sleep. But teens are also affected by a changing cycle that affects many other mammals, the researchers wrote.

Over time, severe sleep disruption can lead to a host of effects that weaken classroom performance, like reduced concentration, attention, and memory capabilities.

But even administrators who are committed to changing bell schedules say it is one of the decisions that sparks the most concerns, comments, and even resistance from parents and members of the public.

That's because many school districts use school buses in shifts, taking several waves of students to different schools throughout the morning. Changing start times for secondary schools typically forces districts to either expand their transportation budgets to buy or lease more buses, or to also shift start times for elementary schools to make the schedules work.

Tough Decisions

Shifting school times often causes conflicts with carefully crafted family schedules and the timing of afterschool activities and sports.

The Fairfax County, Virginia district, for example, took years of planning and discussions to change its start times, a plan that took effect this year. But even after seeking community input and consulting with the National Children's Hospital in Washington, the district's new start times fall short of the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Under the new schedule, high school start times shifted from 7:20 a.m. to between 8:00 and 8:10 a.m., and middle schools start earlier, shifting from 7:55 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. The move cost the 185,000-student district about $5 million, according to the plan approved by the school board.

In nearby Montgomery County, Maryland, parents and students campaigned for later high school start times for years, even holding "sleep-in" protests in pajamas and sleeping bags. But their efforts won only a modest change in schedules.

The 157,000-student district's board voted down a plan to move the earliest high school start times from 7:25 a.m. to 8:50 a.m., in part because of a $3.9 million annual cost associated with the change. The board opted instead to shift the earliest bells to 7:45, giving teens 20 extra minutes of sleep.

The change wasn't easy in Durham, either, district leaders said.

Following the research, the school board first advised leaders to draft plans for starting high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The district then surveyed parents and held focus groups to see how amenable families would be to various schedule changes, Denton said.

"It was almost 50-50 for a lot of the questions we asked," he said.

Parents were concerned about elementary school start times that wouldn't align with their work schedules and later end times for high school students, which would leave some younger siblings at home alone after they were dropped off.

But there are also families who will benefit from a school schedule change, Denton said, "and the reason you don't hear from those people is they're used to dealing with it."

"There are going to be logistical challenges no matter what," he added.

The plan the board eventually adopted required many elementary schools to start earlier to compensate for changes at the high school level without adding transportation costs. District leaders acknowledge it will take some time to get used to the changes, and there may be some bumps in the road.

It's a change many districts say they don't have the capacity, resources, or parental will to make.

But authors of the recent international report say it's worth it.

"The financial cost of most other interventions to improve health and attainment in adolescents appears to be far greater than later starts in schools," they wrote. "Implementation of later starts may have some financial costs depending on the education system, though such costs are relatively modest in comparison with the positive impact."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Register Now! Excellence in Special Education Summit Wednesday, Sept. 30th

From Ivy Street School, NESCA and
the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts

September 28, 2015

Ivy Street School's second annual Excellence in Special Education Summit will take place on Wednesday, September 30th. Co-hosted by NESCA and the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts,  the summit is comprised of two parts:
  • Morning and afternoon workshops held at Ivy Street School on topics relating to brain injury, autism, and effective transition programming. (Participants may be eligible for free Continuing Education Units (CEU's).)

The goal of the Summit is to highlight innovative research and its practical implications for special education.

This event is free, but space is limited; you must RSVP online to reserve your space(s). You may register separately for each component of the Summit.

Register online using the links below or at ivystreetschool.org/summit.


9:00am - Coffee/Muffin Reception and Registration

9:30 to 11:30am - Morning Workshops (See Below)

11:30am to 12:15pm - Boxed Lunch

12:15 to 2:15pm - Afternoon Workshops (See Below)

2:30 to 3:30pm - Tour of Ivy Street School

For attending any of these workshops, Continuing Education Units (CEU's) will be provided for: Nursing, Social Work, Nursing Home Administrators, Psychologists, and LMHC's.

Morning Workshops

9:30 - 11:30am

Transition to Adulthood-Strategies for Success

Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS
Helping young adults with special needs land successfully in the adult world is our biggest challenge. Most want very much to live independently and to be contributing members of society, but helping them make this a reality is difficult. Our panel of experts will share their knowledge about what works.


Brain Injury and Behavior-Best Practices
  • Michael P. Mozzoni, Ph.D, BCBA-D, CBIST
Each year, thousands of school-age children sustain injury to their brain that causes behavioral problems ranging from impulse control and poor judgment to short concentration spans and violence. These behaviors make it difficult for the child to succeed in the classroom as well as in the adult world.

Dr. Mozzoni will share best practices that can be used by clinicians, teachers, and parents to help these students manage their behavior and achieve success.

Afternoon Workshops


From Our Perspective - Parenting Children with Learning Difference
  • Parents of Ivy Street School Students
Facilitated by Maryellen Pambookian, Ph.D.

The members of this panel will share their experience as parents of children with special needs. They will talk about what interventions and approaches were most effective and will explain what they wish teachers and clinicians understood about working with children like theirs. 


"I Can't Think When I'm Stressed!" - Understanding the Relationship Between Anxiety and Executive Function, and How to Help
Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Children confronted by developmental, emotional, learning or other neurologically-based challenges struggle with aspects of self-regulation, including executive function.

While it is important to teach skills to compensate for such challenges, exclusively doing so often proves ineffective due to the need to concurrently address other weaknesses, particularly anxiety.

This presentation will focus on the dynamic relationship between anxiety and executive functioning, and will discuss methods for supporting the development of these skills at home and school.

When:   9:00am - 3:30pm Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Where: Ivy Street School
                   200 Ivy Street, Brookline, MA 02446

Ross Greene, Ph.D.

John Pratt Memorial Lecture

"Solving Problems Collaboratively: Nurturing the More Positive Side of Human Nature in Our Kids and Ourselves"

6:00 pm - Registration and Opening Reception

6:30pm - Program:
  • Remembrance of John Pratt 
  • Lecture 
  • Presentation of Professional Development Awards to Ivy Street School Staff 
  • Closing Reception 

Dr. Ross Greene is the is founder and director of the non-profit organization Lives in the Balance and the originator of the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions approach to improving outcomes for behaviorally challenging youth. He served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, and is now adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech.

John Pratt served as Associate Director of the Whitehead Institute for twenty-five years. He was also a member of the MAB Board and cared deeply about the work that MAB and the Ivy Street School do to help young people with special needs develop the skills they need to lead successful lives as adults.

The John Pratt Memorial Fund and Lecture is dedicated to facilitating the impact of research on practice at the School in order to improve student outcomes. John would be delighted to have this as part of his legacy.

When:   6:00pm Wednesday, September 30, 2015

                   9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142