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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Free EdTech Workshops at NESCA Starting 7/15 for Students with Learning Disabilities


July 2, 2015

NESCA Intern Courtney Rose Dykeman-Bermingham, a rising senior majoring in Neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College and volunteer at their AccessAbility Services (AAS) office, discusses top tech tools students with learning disabilities and executive function challenges to use to optimize educational experiences.

Program Schedule

July 15: Executive Functioning, Time Management & Organization — Learn about apps and web-based programs to help in these areas.

July 22: LiveScribe Smart Pens — Learn about this new format of note taking, where recordings and notes are synced.

July 29: Kurzweil 3000 Firefly — This is more than a screen reader; it can help your child organize their notes and makes finding specific passages easier.

August 5: Evernote — An innovative way to organize materials, it can create compilations of notes, images recordings and more.

Each sessions will include a seminar, relevant demonstrations and a Q&A period.

The use of these technologies would be most beneficial for high school and college aged students, but parents of younger students could also benefit from the knowledge.

When:   9:30 - 10:30am; four successive Wednesdays
                    starting July 15th

Where: NESCA (Lower Lobby Meeting Space)
                   55 Chapel Street Suite 202, Newton, MA

Who:     Students, and parents or guardians of students with
                   language-based learning disabilities, attentional
                   and/or executive function issues.

Cost:      FREE!

To register, please email info@nesca-newton.com, and include the student’s age or grade. Seating is now very limited; advance registration is required.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What Overparenting Looks Like from a Stanford Dean’s Perspective

From KQED's Blog "Mind/Shift"
How we will learn.

June 9, 2015

Excerpted from HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, published June 9, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Julie Lythcott-Haims 

To What End?

A heightened level of parental involvement in the lives of kids obviously stems from love—unquestionably a good thing. But by the time I stepped down as dean at Stanford in 2012, I had interacted not only with a tremendous number of parents but with students who seemed increasingly reliant upon their parents in ways that felt, simply, off.

I began to worry that college “kids” (as college students had become known) were somehow not quite formed fully as humans. They seemed to be scanning the sidelines for Mom or Dad. Under-constructed. Existentially impotent.

Tremendous good can be said about the baby boomers—they were drafted into and questioned the Vietnam War, lay their bodies on the line in the monumental civil rights and civil liberties struggles of their day, and fueled the greatest economic growth our nation has ever seen. But did Boomers’ egos become interlaced with the accomplishments of their children to such an extent that they felt their own success was compromised if their children fell short of expectations?

And did some of these parents go so far in the direction of their own wants and needs that they eclipsed their own kids’ chances to develop a critical psychological trait called “self-efficacy”—that is, what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura identifies as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations”?

There’s a deeply embedded irony here: Maybe those champions of self-actualization, the Boomers, did so much for their kids that their kids have been robbed of a chance to develop a belief in their own selves.

Author Julie Lythcott-Haims
(Kristina Vetter)
Did the safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, checklisted childhood that has been commonplace since the mid-1980s and in many communities has become the norm, rob kids of the chance to develop into healthy adults?

What will become of young adults who look accomplished on paper but seem to have a hard time making their way in the world without the constant involvement of their parents? How will the real world feel to a young person who is used to problems being solved for them and accustomed to praise at every turn? Is it too late for them to develop a hunger to be in charge of their own lives?

Will they at some point stop referring to themselves as kids and dare to claim the “adult” label for themselves? If not, then what will become of a society populated by such “adults”?

These were the questions that began to gnaw at me and that prompted me to write this book.

These questions were on my mind not just at work but as I made my way in my community of Palo Alto, where the evidence of over-parenting was all around me—even in my own home. Many of us do some combination of over-directing, overprotecting, or over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives.

We treat our kids like rare and precious botanical specimens, and provide a deliberate, measured amount of care and feeding, running interference on all that might toughen and weather them.

But humans need some degree of weathering in order to survive the larger challenges life will throw our way. Without experiencing the rougher spots of life, our kids become exquisite, like orchids, yet are incapable, sometimes terribly incapable, of thriving in the real world on their own. Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own?

And, why do these problems I’m writing about seem rooted in the middle and upper middle classes? After all, parents care deeply about doing a good job and if we’re fortunate enough to be middle- or upper-middle-class, we have the means—the time and disposable income—on our side to help us parent well. So, have we lost our sense of what parenting well actually entails?

And what of our own lives as parents? (“What life?” is a reasonable response.) We’re frazzled. Worried. Empty. Our neighborhoods are photo-worthy, our food and wine are carefully paired, but with childhood feeling more and more like an achievement arms race, can we call what we and our children are living a “good life”? I think not.

Our job is to monitor our kids’ academic tasks and progress, schedule and supervise their activities, shuttle them everywhere, and offer an outpouring of praise along the way. Our kids’ accomplishments are the measure of our own success and worth; that college bumper sticker on the rear of our car can be as much about our own sense of accomplishment as our kids’.

In the spring of 2013 I attended a board meeting for an organization that provides financial support to Palo Alto’s public schools. In casual conversation afterward as the parents were taking one last piece of coffee cake and heading out into their day, a woman who knows of my work pulled me aside. “When did childhood get so stressful?” she pleaded with a faraway look. I put my hand on her shoulder as tears slowly filled her eyes.

Another mother overheard and came toward us, nodding her head. Then she leaned in, asking me, “Do you know how many moms in our community are medicated for anxiety?” I didn’t know the answer to either question. But a growing number of conversations like this with moms like these became another reason to write this book.

The dean in me may have been concerned about the development and prospects of young adults who had been over-parented—and I think I’ve made better choices as a parent thanks to spending so much time with other people’s young adults. But the parent in me has struggled with the same fears and pressures every other parent faces, and, again, I understand that the systemic problem of over-parenting is rooted in our worries about the world and about how our children will be successful in it without us.

Still, we’re doing harm. For our kids’ sakes, and also for our own, we need to stop parenting from fear and bring a more healthy—a more wisely loving—approach back into our communities, schools, and homes.

Through research woven together with real-life observations and commonsense advice, this book will show us how to raise our kids to become adults—and how to gather the courage to do so.


Julie Lythcott-Haims served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising for over a decade at Stanford University, where she received the Dinkelspiel Award for her contributions to the undergraduate experience. A mother of two teenagers, she has spoken and written widely on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, and her work has appeared on TEDx talks and in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Monday, June 29, 2015

For a Child With Learning Differences, Making Home a Safe Harbor

From The New York Times Parenting Blog "Motherlode"

By Jessica Lahey 
April 29, 2015

Recently, a mother approached me for advice about how to support her daughter, who has learning differences. In a large family of children for whom most of school comes easily, with parents who could say the same about their own pasts, the little girl is often frustrated by comparing herself.

Worse, the mother says, both the siblings and, sometimes, the parents, can (unintentionally) reveal their own frustration when the child can’t solve a problem or perform a task. Those moments threaten to erode her belief in herself and her abilities.

My first email was to Mona Delahooke, a psychologist who specializes in guiding families through the challenges of raising a neurologically atypical child. She replied:

“I get this question a lot from parents of kids who have differences. The key is to help parents shift their mindset from a natural, yet pervasive, notion that their child is being purposefully difficult, or that if the child just tried harder, they could do better. Their child doesn’t choose to have a hard time with homework or learning, it’s just that her learning style is different.”

Dr. Delahooke counsels families to acknowledge the elephant in the room, that a learning difference exists, and the challenges that learning difference creates — both for the child and her family — can be frustrating. Dr. Delahooke helps parents and siblings remember that when they do become frustrated, however, it’s important that everyone communicate from a place of empathy and compassion.

Even young siblings can learn to validate their sister or brother with supportive sentiments such as, “That must be frustrating for you,” or “I get frustrated when I can’t remember a word, too.”

I also spoke with Katie Hurley, child and adolescent psychotherapist and author of “The Happy Kid Handbook.” Ms. Hurley wrote in an email that the best gift this mom can give all of her children is information.

“If the other kids are rolling their eyes and becoming impatient, then that’s an issue of empathy, but knowledge helps,” she said. “If possible, find out what the ‘glitch’ is, and use that language; explain to her siblings what it means. When we are honest with kids, and say, ‘This is how your brain works, and this is how you learn best,’ we put kids back in the driver’s seat. We empower them to take an active role in their learning instead of feeling like a failure and an outcast.”

Ms. Hurley is backed up by the research of the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. In her research and in her book Mindset she has shown that when we maintain what she calls a “growth mindset” (the belief that learning and challenge change the brain by forming additional neural pathways, and that we are all in control of this process through our own efforts) we have a stronger belief in the power of our own efforts, exhibit fewer behaviors of helplessness, and make more constructive, positive choices in response to failure.

An entire family can benefit from adopting a growth mindset, and it can help everyone shift their thinking about the challenges one of them faces every day. We all have our own glitches and cognitive differences, after all, and benefit from empathy and compassion when we run up against a task that tests our patience or makes us doubt our abilities. It can be hard to cut ourselves slack when we get caught up in an endless loop of try, fail, repeat.

Our family should be our allies in that struggle. Kids with learning differences are bombarded with subtle and overt messages of difference and shortcomings all day long, so home needs to be a safe harbor from that barrage.

In order to best support one child, the entire family needs to shift its focus away from her failings and toward her potential. Her differences are viewed all too often as negative, something that threatens her normalcy, but she likely possesses unique strengths as a result of those cognitive differences.

As the authors of The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain point out in the book’s opening pages, what some label as disability can also be viewed as advantage, given opportunity and context. We all possess disability and ability, and the difference between the two is often a matter of perspective.


Jessica Lahey is an educator, writer and speaker. She writes about parenting and education for The New York Times, The Atlantic and Vermont Public Radio Her book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” will be published by HarperCollins in 2015. Find her at JessicaLahey.com.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kill the Motor, Dude. Find Out What Your Kids Can Do on Their Own

From Great Schools

By Christina Tynan-Wood
June 14, 2015
Curious how you can raise independent kids without putting them at risk? See what the experts have to say.

My favorite scene in Finding Nemo is when Marlin (Nemo’s dad) encounters the wise, ancient turtles and their adorable offspring. One of those turtles — Crush, age 150 — has lived long enough to know a few things about being a dad. When his son Squirt, playing, gets accidentally shot out of the current they’re riding, Marlin rushes to rescue him. But Crush holds up a fin to stop him.

“Kill the motor, dude. Let us see what Squirt does, flying solo.”

Sure enough, Squirt has fun, finds his way back to safety and revels in his own sense of accomplishment. Crush is proud. And Marlin, watching, learns something: his intentions for Nemo are to protect him but his fear is teaching Nemo that he isn’t capable.

“How do you know when they’re ready?” Marlin asks Crush, contemplating his own parenting skills. “You never really know,” Crush answers, appropriately cryptic. “But when they know, you’ll know. You know?” Because, in this, you have to learn to pay attention and trust your judgment. We all have questions we’d like to ask Crush. But because he’s an animated character in a children’s movie, I asked some of the experts who offered me advice for Is that Love or Fear?

Be an Island

The first step, says Dr. Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, “is to fight against this trend.”

Like Marlin, many parents don’t let their kids play outside, walk to school, ride their bikes in their own neighborhood, go the playground alone, or do many things that made most of us adults confident and capable. Not letting kids do anything on their own sends the message that we think they can’t do it, even if we are just trying to protect them. This is dangerous for their mental health.

“There are things you can do,” he says. Create a culture within your own family that sends the message that whatever the rest of the world may say or do, you believe your kids are competent. “Even if you have to think in terms of your family as a desert island, where you live by your own rules.”

Ask the Children

In fact, why not start by letting the kids decide how to get this going? “Let your children tell you one thing they think they are ready to do,” suggests Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry). “Walk to school, ride their bike to the library, or make dinner — something they think they can do. Then, think about whether you might be willing to let them try it just once.”

This is exactly what schools doing the “Free-Range Kids Project” propose to parents, she explains. And the results are fantastic. Skenazy says that parents who filled out pre-project surveys admit they are “very anxious” about doing it. But they overcome their anxiety and let the kids do the project and end up thrilled when their kids — like Squirt — come home happy and proud.

“That’s because when parents see their kids as blossoming young men and women, instead of needy bundles of vulnerability, it changes them. Both generations are thrilled."

Teach Independence

“It makes no sense to say a kid is ready to perform some independence skill by a certain age,” says Mike Lanza, author of Playborhood. It all depends on the kid and if you are teaching them to be independent. Lanza let his son start small — with just a three-block range at age 5 — and work up to being able to ride his bike to local stores, make purchases, meet up with his friends, handle his own transportation to friends’ houses, organize his own play dates, and get himself home in time for dinner by age ten.

“Parents should be teaching kids independence skills all along, not just wait for some magic age before they can walk across the street or walk to school alone.”

Change the World

But the decision is not just up to you, points out Peter Gray, Ph.D., developmental psychologist and research professor at Boston College and the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. The world you live in affects your options and will react to your choices. And telling kids to go outside and play is not as simple as it once was. “There are no children out there to play with,” he says. “It was a child’s world in the ’50s.” But that has changed since.

When our parents said to go out and play, there was likely a child’s world to play in. “That’s because there were playground supervisors and other services. So kids could go to the park alone. They could get equipment from that adult, ask questions. But towns don’t do that anymore.”

You can change that though. Make an effort to create a neighborhood that encourages independence. Get together with other parents to pool funds to pay a retired person to supervise the playground after school, or open the school up for free play. “You could just have one teacher and a couple of teenagers after school,” says Gray. “It would solve a lot of problems.”

Want more? Read Is that Love or Fear?


Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column in Family Circle magazine, the Family Tech blog at FamilyCircle.com, the Spark! Blog at ITworld.com and has written about technology for dozens of national magazines.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Praise for Acupuncturist Dan Chace - Now Practicing Exclusively at NESCA


June 22, 2015 

Dan Chace, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
Today we received the following testimonial for NESCA Acupuncturist Dan Chace (who prefers to be known simply as "Chace"). It was originally emailed to the Newton SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Committee) listserv, and then forwarded to us by the author, a Newton resident.

Chace is uniquely--and extensively--experienced in working with children, even toddlers, whom he treats for anxiety, depression, attentional issues and some of the symptoms associated with developmental, digestive and other disorders.

He practices a minimally or even non-invasive form of Japanese acupuncture, using very fine-gauge needles or in many cases, no needles at all, instead relying upon various other special tools applied externally. He also addresses nutritional and other lifestyle factors that influence child development.

"I would strongly recommend Daniel Chace, who is now the acupuncturist at NESCA! Dr. Ann Helmus interviewed Chace, and he is now working with their clients. Chace’s expertise is working with children who have ADHD, anxiety, autism, etc.

I have also been his patient for the last 4 years, and I can’t say enough about how wonderful he is at what he does. I had severe back issues and, as many of you know, I am a walker. Thanks to Chace, I have been pain free for the last 4 years.

Chace is a former Fessenden teacher (15 years) and also teaches at the New England School of Acupuncture. He can be reached at NESCA at 617-658-9800."
-- Educational Advocate and Newton Resident

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

For Students with Disabilities, Transition from High School Requires Self-Advocacy

From Education Week

By Sarah Sparks
May 29, 2015 
Blake Yee, center, watches his MY VOICE presentation with his father,
Steven Yee, and mother, Rolyn Yee, at the Supported Training
Experiences Post Secondary (STEPS) building in Naperville, Ill.,
along with Kate Bruno, far left, a case manager and support
teacher in the program. As part of the program, youths with
disabilities prepare a multimedia presentation to showcase
their post-graduation plans. --Alyssa Schukar for Education Week

The first few years after high school are a huge period of change and growth, when many students fumble through the process of learning to be independent.

For students with disabilities, who are now graduating from high school and entering higher education in greater numbers than ever before, the transition can be even more jarring, and the need to develop self-reliance more critical.

"Many students with disabilities ... experience educational programs which stress compliance and teach them to second-guess their instincts and defer to others," said Julia Bascom, the director of programs for the Washington-based nonprofit Autistic Self Advocacy Network. "When you couple that with the bullying our students face, we tend to find a significant need for explicit, supportive instruction in self-advocacy skills."

Changing Supports

To a large degree, students with disabilities must do the same college- and career-planning that any high schooler undertakes: understanding what courses are needed to qualify for a college or degree program, working through financial aid, and so on.

But there's also a lot that most students on track to college don't have to think about. For example, accommodations and services for students with disabilities after high school are no longer provided through the individualized education programs required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. They are provided instead through the legal framework of two other federal laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which do not require the same level of supports.

"We send them off to college where everything they are used to in high school—repetition, structure, assignments broken down—is gone, and we fail to provide them with an understanding of themselves as learners and how to work using their strengths and around their areas of weakness," said Elizabeth C. Hamblet, a learning specialist at Columbia University and the author of the 2011 book, Seven Steps for Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities.

Teaching Advocacy

In college, students are expected to manage their own paperwork and time. While a student's high school IEP might include extra time for assignments, a student in college would be expected to just take fewer classes per semester. And all students are expected to seek out support services on their own.

Under federal law, schools must draft a transition plan with a student with disabilities, no later than age 16, focused on his or her strengths, preferences, and interests.

While self-advocacy is supposed to be part of that planning, there is no specific reporting on it. A 2004 federal longitudinal study found only 3 percent of students with disabilities in general education classrooms were specifically trained to speak and plan for themselves.

A forthcoming study in the journal Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals found transition programs stressing self-determination are more strongly associated with students with disabilities showing better higher education, employment, and independent-living outcomes.

Specifically, those programs included goal setting, such as students establishing their own IEP targets, and autonomy, such as students making their own post-high-school plans and taking ownership for learning while they were in school, according to the study's authors, Valerie L. Mazzotti and Dawn A. Rowe, both special education assistant research professors at the National Post-School Outcomes Center at the University of Oregon, in Eugene. But, Ms. Mazzotti warned, "We don't have any data on where these skills are being taught or how often."

A separate report in the federal longitudinal study found that while nearly seven in 10 students with disabilities said they understood what services they would need to deal with their disability, less than a third said they often gave their opinions on services to professionals they interacted with.

Sometimes, school supports can be "more harmful than helpful" in a student's transition to the adult world, said Daniel Kish, the founder and president of the Long Beach, Calif.-based nonprofit World Access for the Blind, which teaches blind children self-advocacy and mobility skills. When blind students, or other students with disabilities, are restricted in physical education or extracurricular activities because of concerns for their physical or emotional safety, Mr. Kish said, it does more than make a student's college résumé less competitive.

"This has devastating consequences to social development, which, of course, affects career readiness. … [Students] are guided around everywhere with the idea that this is safer and more efficient, but all this does is cause all capacity for freedom of movement to atrophy."

"The biggest problem here," Mr. Kish added, "is [when] extra time and modifications are being allotted liberally without regard to the fact that the real world won't make such allowances."

When possible, Ms. Hamblet recommends that schools begin to taper off accommodations that would not be available in college or work for 11th and 12th graders. "Anything that involves adults doing things for students are things that need to be closely examined," she said.

Finding a Voice

Self-advocacy training should go beyond simply teaching students to replace old supports with new ones and instead help them start to find their own voices.

A former high school special education teacher, Toni R. Van Laarhoven, said often students in IEP meetings with parents and teachers "just sit silently, or people would ask them yes-or-no questions."

In response, Ms. Van Laarhoven, an associate professor of special and early education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, launched Multimedia for Youth to Voice Outcomes Individually Created for Empowerment, or MY VOICE.

Preservice special education teachers work with high school students with disabilities planning for life after high school. Together, each pair discusses the student's interests, strengths, and weaknesses. The student also learns PowerPoint, video editing, and other skills needed to put together a multimedia presentation on his or her postgraduation plans.

At the end of the program, students give presentations to their IEP teams, including parents. At one meeting, Ms. Van Laarhoven recalled, "The young man's parents kind of had in their minds that the student would live in a group home and work in a structured environment, but the kid said, 'No, I want to go to college and live with some friends,' " she said. "The presentation was life-changing for him."


NESCA 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 offers complete transition assessment (including testing and community-based observation), planning and consultation services, coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Upcoming Free Workshops at NESCA: Learn How Tech Can Help Students


June 22, 2015

Assistive Technologies can be more fun, efficient and organized than older tools for learning and organizing information. We live in a world full of technology, and it can be both to our advantage and disadvantage.

Come learn how to maximize some of the technological offerings out there to improve educational experiences. The goal of these sessions is to provide information about tools that can be used to maximize independence and efficiency in a school setting.

Program Schedule

July 15: Executive Functioning, Time Management & Organization — Learn about apps and web-based programs to help in these areas.

July 22: LiveScribe Smart Pens — Learn about this new format of note taking, where recordings and notes are synced.

July 29: Kurzweil 3000 Firefly — This is more than a screen reader; it can help your child organize their notes and makes finding specific passages easier.

August 5: Evernote — An innovative way to organize materials, it can create compilations of notes, images recordings and more.

Each sessions will include a seminar, relevant demonstrations and a Q&A period.

The use of these technologies would be most beneficial for high school and college aged students, but parents of younger students could also benefit from the knowledge.

When:   9:30 - 10:30am; four successive Wednesdays
                    starting July 15th

Where: NESCA (Lower Lobby Meeting Space)
                   55 Chapel Street Suite 202, Newton, MA

Who:     Students, and parents or guardians of students with
                   language-based learning disabilities, attentional
                   and/or executive function issues.

Cost:      FREE!

To register, please email info@nesca-newton.com, and include the student’s age or grade. Registration is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome.

About the Speaker

Courtney Rose Dykeman-Bermingham is a rising senior majoring in Neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College & completing an internship at NESCA. She is training to become a clinical Neuropsychologist herself. Currently she volunteers at her college’s AccessAbility Services (AAS) office. Through that position, she works with students as they transition into college life, and work to overcome difficulties related to their disabilities or transition.

She has presented workshops and done tutorials on the use of assistive technologies at her college and is looking forward to teaching you about them as well.