55 Chapel Street, Suite 202, Newton, Ma 02458

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Community Supports for Effective Transition Planning - Venturing Outside the Classroom: Workshop Monday, March 23rd


February 24, 2015

We are very pleased to announce a workshop for parents and professionals on an essential element of successful transition planning too seldom addressed, particularly by the public schools: the need for community-based assessment of, and coaching in the practical life skills needed to thrive in and beyond post-secondary education. This program will be appropriate for parents of students aged 12 and older.  

Topics to be covered in this workshop will include:
  • Transition planning and service guidelines identified by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (MA DESE);
  • Why learning to navigate one’s own community is essential to independence in adult life;
  • Effective strategies for transitioning from classroom education to community experiences;
  • What community experiences supporting transitions to college, employment, recreation, leisure, independence and a range of post-secondary outcomes look like;
  • How to implement the “I” in individualized educational program in the community.
When:   7:00 – 8:30pm Monday, March 23, 2015

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

Cost:    $20/person payable by credit card over the phone,
                  or cash/check at the door.

Coffee and light refreshments will be served. Space is limited. RSVP required to Amanda Renzi at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or by email to arenzi@nesca-newton.com.


Marilyn Webber is a distinguished, highly experienced transition specialist dedicated in working with adolescents and young adults. She provides Community-Based Skills Coaching services as well as short-term consultation to families and professionals.

Ms. Weber brings decades of experience working in schools and community agencies as a job developer, job coach, work study coordinator, school to careers coordinator, transition coordinator, parent and professional trainer and parent consultant. She is a veteran advocate who trained at The Federation of Children with Special Needs (FCSN), Wrightslaw and OSEP/COPAA’s SEAT program, with a practicum at FCSN.

Ms. Weber was the Partnership Director for DRYVE, a youth career center funded by the Workforce Initiative Act. She is a member of Massachusetts Advocates for Children Autism Advisory Committee and Transition Coordinator Subcommittee which recently passed “An Act Relative to Students with Disabilities in Post-Secondary Education, Employment and Independent Living.”

She is the proud mother of a young adult with autism.

Making It Up As You Go Along…Or Not

From the Academy MetroWest Blog 

By Bruce Sabian, M.A., LMHC
February 24, 2015

Before I went to graduate school and embarked on a professional career, I flirted with the world of hippie-dom for a few years. I was captivated by Jack Kerouac’s writing that extolled the life of on-the-road spontaneity and the freedom to “dig” all that was around us. I spent my share of time at Grateful Dead shows, captivated by their “make it up as you go” ethos, embodied in the lyric “Gone are the days we stop to decide…Where we should go – We just ride.”

Even though I was never a full-fledged hippie (my wife reminds me that I like showers and air conditioning too much to be a real hippie) I entered the world of human services very much in that mindset.

When I started running my own groups, there were times I’d bring that outlook to bear in the way I structured – or rather, didn’t structure – my groups. Rather than creating an agenda for my group, I’d often go into a session with nothing in mind. My feeling was that I’d try to follow the group’s lead, respond to their moods and preferences, and gently steer the agenda in a productive direction rather than imposing a preconceived program that might not have suited that particular group on that particular day.

I don’t run my groups that way anymore. As anyone who saw the Grateful Dead more than a couple of times can attest, while there were many moments of inspiration and empathic collaboration in the music, there were also plenty of times the music fell flat. Group improvisation doesn’t work too well when musicians, for whatever reason, aren’t in sync with each other during a performance. My groups often devolved to a similar state of listlessness or chaos.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’ve seen a lot of articles that have been touting the virtues of unstructured play for kids. Pieces in The Washington Post, Education Week, The Atlantic, and other sources point out the many benefits of stepping back and letting kids figure things out for themselves as they just play. In general, I’m a big supporter of this idea.

Some of these articles cite studies that link kids’ participation in unstructured play with the development of executive functions. Aside from the empirical support cited for this association in the articles, it makes a great deal of sense on an intuitive level as well. When kids play with each other and don’t have an adult scripting the experience, they need to address issues of time management, emotional regulation, flexibility, impulse control, and a host of other considerations.

And, they have fun while they’re doing it, which, after all is said and done, is really the point.

While there’s a lot to recommend about this approach to children’s play, its utility isn’t as universal as we’d hope. Among quirky kids – those with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Anxiety, and other associated issues – the benefits gleaned from unstructured play are often overwhelmed by the challenges that come along with it.

If you know a parent of a child with ADHD, go ahead and ask him or her what the most challenging parts of a school day are for their child. It’s a good bet that the answer is going to be one of the following: 1.) The school bus, 2.) Recess, 3.) Lunchtime, or 4.) Transitions. What do those times have in common? Those are the times during a typical school day when the structure is minimized or non-existent.

Social and behavioral expectations are often loosely implied rather than being clearly and explicitly stated. Adults are not positioned to provide a consistent flow of limit-setting or feedback. Kids who are susceptible to becoming overstimulated, distracted, or impulsive tend to get overwhelmed and lose sight of boundaries. Kids who struggle to read social cues or who may have trouble seeing “the big picture” tend to fall through the cracks when the explicit rules and guidelines they rely upon are taken away. Kids who struggle with perspective taking can lose sight of the fact that their peers may not share their enthusiasm for whatever activity or plan they might have in mind.

Rather than seeing unstructured times as being fun and enriching, quirky kids may see them as just another frustrating social experience.

So, what are parents of quirky kids to do? Should they try to help their kids avoid failure and frustration by steering them away from unstructured play? Or should they, in effect, throw their kids to the wolves, figuring that the skills they can gain justify the frustrations and stumbles that go along with it. Neither extreme is all that enticing.

The trick is to find a middle ground where skills can be acquired without self-image being devastated in the process. Success depends on many factors but one of the most important is having a good sense about where to set the bar. In general, the right place is at a height that’s challenging for kids but not so challenging that, with some effort, they can’t get over it most of the time.

If the bar is too low, kids don’t learn new skills and often wind up getting bored or complacent. Set it too high and the struggles and frustration involved with getting over it wind up drowning out any new skills that may have been acquired along the way.

There are a number of adaptations that you can use that serve the purpose of adding a little bit of structure or scaffolding to unstructured play. Here are just a few:

1.) Don’t leave things entirely open ended. Instead of having the kids fashion their own agenda from scratch, offer them a finite number of choices.

2.) Place time limits on the unstructured or open-ended aspect of a play date. Suggest to the kids that they play on their own for a certain period of time before you all do an activity together or you begin to set more specific parameters. Try to monitor things as they progress so minor frustration doesn’t escalate quickly into heavy drama.

3.) Talk things through with your child prior to the start of the play. Anticipate the potential pitfalls or problem areas and provide suggestions on how to deal with them.

4.) Make adaptations that add some structure to activities that are usually open-ended. For example, if the kids opt for playing with Lego’s, sit down and help them figure out what they’re going to build before they get to it.

5.) Establish clear rules or boundaries about what is and what is not permitted. Think about what activities have the potential to escalate quickly into conflict and make sure the kids know that they’re not allowed.

With a few tweaks here and there, it’s possible to help quirky kids experience the fun and benefits that can only be gained from unstructured play. Sharing the exhilaration of making it up as you go along leaves you open to new experience and lets you truly live in the moment. Why should the jam bands have all the fun?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Is Your Teenager Struggling With Behavioral Challenges? NAMI 7-Week Basic Mental Health Course Starts Tuesday, March 17th

The National Alliance on Mental Illness

February 27, 2015

Experts agree that children and adolescents are growing up in an increasingly complex and stressful world full of social and academic challenges. Some are struggling to manage these challenges due to biological, psychological and/or social issues.

The symptoms of these underlying issues may include school avoidance, isolation, poor grades, self-harm, problems with relationships, impulsivity, poor decision-making, defiance, eating disorders and substance abuse.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is offering a free educational program specially designed for parents and other caregivers of adolescents and children living with emotional or behavioral challenges. An evidence-based program, NAMI BASICS is taught by trained parent volunteers who themselves have children with these issues.

The program runs for 7 weeks and covers topics such as neurobiology, problem solving skills, listening and communication skills, accessing services and supports, crisis management and caregiver self-care.

When:   7:00 - 9:30pm (Seven successive Tuesdays starting
                   March 17, 2015)

Where: Acton, MA (Call for specific street address information)

This 7-week program is offered at no cost, but pre-registration is required. Space is limited.

To register, please call or email Dee at 978-697-3441 (deefebba@comcast.net) or Cara at 978-760-2455 (cjvoutselas@gmail.com).

Mountain Valley Treatment Center in NH - An Important Resource for Adolescents with Significant Anxiety Disorders


February 24, 2015

"Severe Anxiety is like a weed. It grows fast, damages the garden, and if not removed at the stem, has a tendency to return."

On alternate Tuesday mornings throughout the school year, we host educational seminars for our clinical staff, because it's essential that they stay abreast not only of the latest developments in the field, but also of the resources to which they can confidently refer clients. This week, we heard a compelling presentation by Dan Villiers, Ph.D., founder and admissions director of Mountain Valley Treatment Center (MVTC) in Haverhill, New Hampshire.

Situated on a beautiful, 1800-acre "campus" bordering the White Mountain National Forest, MVTC is a unique non-profit, short-term residential treatment center for adolescent boys and girls struggling with anxiety disorders. Which we know from painful experience to be proliferating! In a supportive and nurturing milieu, Mountain Valley provides well-researched, evidence-based therapies to students aged 13 - 20 whose lengths-of-stay average 75 days. You can learn much more on MVTC's website.

We thought you might be interested in this poignant "Open Letter" from Dan Villiers, in which he describes his own struggles with crippling anxiety as a teen, and his motivations for establishing MVTC:

Origins & Motivations 

Some people have asked me about the motivations behind Mountain Valley. I do tell them about the data: from the almost 10 million children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in the United States (NIMH, 2012); to the 700% increase over the last forty years (Gray, P., 2010); to the treatability statistics of CBT and anxiety disorders that would make even the biggest skeptic give you a high five.

I do tell them about the benefits of exposure therapy, how the victim of the fight and flight response can heal more rapidly in an environment where there is no one to fight, and nowhere to flee. I do tell them about the concerning shortage of anxiety disorder treatment programs, and how this is an epidemic, so I think we should be doing more.

I don’t tell them about how my life as a teenager was circumscribed by anxiety, and the decisions it made for me. I don’t tell them about the America I lost at 17 years old because “tough it out” was not the panacea I needed. I don’t tell them about the Mountain I climbed to overcome panic, and the Valley of recovery I was fortunate to find; a valley where I became more the arbiter of real threat and less the victim of perceived danger.

While my own experience inspired the design of Mountain Valley, my frustrations as a clinician treating anxiety provided equal motivation.

I was frustrated that however “in the zone” I was, the benefits of the 50-minute hour wore off on my clients almost as fast as the euphoria I feel after hot yoga. I was frustrated by parent’s who saw medication as the first line of attack, and rarely as an adjunct to therapy, or the “if all else fails” scenario.

I was frustrated by how my client’s fear, and their fear of fear, made “no-shows” as frequent as I remember it raining in London. I was frustrated by my attempts of social anxiety skills groups and panic attack support groups, where 6 were scheduled to attend, and only one showed. There is nothing like five empty chairs, and decaffeinated herbal tea, to make a 17-year-old feel like he is the only one.

I know that you probably know that movement and change is tough without the normalization and empathy from a student’s peers; the power of, “I know exactly what you mean,” and, what I heard a student say on her graduation from Mountain Valley last week, “guys, if I did it, I promise, you can too.”

Anxiety was once a mechanism to solely prepare and protect us from harm, but it seems to have evolved into something annoyingly unnecessary at best and pervasively destructive at worst. While the complex story of the origin of anxiety disorders needs to be told, it is important for our anxious teenagers to know that the experience of it is just an experience; a series of symptoms, and a symptom itself.

Mountain Valley helps our students to understand that they are not defined by their anxious temperament, or the anxiety they experience, but more by their response to it. Denial, apathy and avoidance are responses and strategies that provide some immediate relief, but overtime, become equally as damaging as the anxiety itself.

Severe Anxiety is like a weed. It grows fast, damages the garden, and if not removed at the stem, has a tendency to return. Symptom reduction is merely the beginning of the Mountain Valley journey. It is the origin that provides the motivation for our teenagers to address anxiety at its root; from enmeshed relationships with a parent, to years of teasing and bullying, to sibling rivalry. I know you see this all the time.

This is not to downplay the influence of “genetic vulnerability” and “biological predisposition” in the origins of anxiety; merely, let’s focus more on what we can change, and less on what we can’t. In our daily challenges working with students in need, I think they need to know that just as much as we do.

Daniel P. Villiers, Ph.D.

Mountain Valley Treatment Center is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and contributions to it are fully tax-deductible.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Take a Look at NESCA's New Website!


February 26, 2015

Some screen shots from our new website: 

Please visit if you haven't already!

When Students Need More: Taking the Long View

From Responsive Classroom
via the "Responsive Blog" 

February 18, 2015

A reality of teaching that all teachers know well is that no matter how effectively we teach, no matter how hard students try, and no matter how many good days the class has together, students will sometimes need more--more direction, more support, more teaching, more time.

But in one of those “Aha” moments that sometimes come along just when we need them, I realized recently that just because some students need extra help doesn’t mean the proactive teaching we do every single day is ineffective. Far from it.

It’s all the daily teaching of classroom procedures and expectations, all the modeling, practicing, and re-teaching, that make the moments of focused, joyful learning possible and enable us to work productively through the moments of struggle.

Here’s how I came to that realization.

A Meltdown in the Midst of Progress

A couple of months into the year, our classroom was beginning to click. More than previous classes, this one had struggled to meet both academic and social expectations. But now, as I looked around the classroom, I saw definite signs of progress. The students’ illustrations of their hopes and dreams (or learning goals) for the year were displayed close to the rules poster they designed together.

Students were practicing routines and procedures we’d taught earlier as they navigated the classroom gathering supplies for their math work. I heard academic conversations. And I caught the occasional giggle as students settled into the day’s rhythm. Things felt good!

And then I noticed Ella, very distracted by a piece of paper clutched in her hand. Suddenly she startled her classmates by yelling at another student across the room, “I don’t want to be your friend anyway!”

My sense of accomplishment gave way to frustration and concern. Despite all of our proactive teaching, were my co-teacher and I really helping our students? Were we doing the right things for them? Was all our work working?

Stepping Back for a Longer Look

After stopping Ella’s misbehavior and getting everyone’s learning back on track, I kept a watchful eye on Ella while reflecting on what I’d just observed and why it might have happened. First, I considered all the hard work we’d done--and were still doing--to establish a community of learners who supported one another:
  • Taught, modeled, and gave children plenty of practice with classroom routines and procedures;
  • Created classroom rules with students and taught them how to put those rules into action;
  • Presented students with engaging, appropriately challenging academics;
  • Used plenty of reinforcing and redirecting language to acknowledge and encourage students’ efforts and help them when they struggled;
  • When students’ behavior was heading off-track, used redirecting language, proximity, and nonverbal cues before turning to logical consequences;
  • Used one-on-one modeling, problem-solving conferences, and written agreements to help students resolve sticky social or academic struggles or progress toward long-term goals.

“Quite a list!” I thought, particularly pleased with our progress in using reinforcing language when students struggled. (We’d noticed early in the year that we were tending to focus more on redirecting behavior mistakes than on reinforcing positive efforts).

Then, I considered the many successes we’d had lately. Ella had learned several strategies for controlling her tendency to lash out and often used them successfully. Kai used a private checklist to keep track of positive comments he made during the day, and his daily average was steadily increasing. A problem-solving conference (and follow-up support) gave Zoelle strategies for handling her aversion to writing. She now usually got to work quickly, without disturbing classmates.

And the class as a whole had many periods of sustained, productive work.

Yes, It’s Working

As I reflected, I realized that all students sometimes have the sort of incidents that Ella had that day. But the teaching practices and interventions on my list--along with Morning Meeting, Closing Circle, Academic Choice, and all our other Responsive Classroom practices--were indeed working for her and for all the other students in our class.

That’s why I was able to observe all that progress in the moments before Ella’s outburst--and why she was able, with my help, to get back to productive learning so quickly.

Stop, Breathe, Reflect

As you move through a school year, with all of its inevitable ups and downs, I hope you’ll stop now and then to do a bit of reflection and perspective-taking. Remind yourself that all students and all teachers experience good times and challenging ones. And trust that the proactive teaching you do every day not only makes the successes possible; it also makes the additional support effective when students do need it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Register Now for "Asperger/Autism and Disclosure 2015" - An AANE/NESCA/MGH Aspire Conference Saturday, March 14th

From AANE.org
The Asperger/Autism Network

February 10, 2015

Especially in light of the changes in the DSM-5.

This conference will cover all aspects of disclosure pertinent to children, teens and adults: from parents disclosing to their child, their family, and to the community, and adults disclosing to colleges, potential partners or employers.

Featured Speakers: NESCA’s Dr. Jason McCormick, Daniel Rosenn, M.D. and Gina and Katie Gallagher (of Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid).

When:   8:30am - 4:00pm Saturday, March 14, 2015

Where: Bentley University Conference Center
                   175 Forest Street, LaCava 300
                   Waltham, MA

Cost:   $125/professionals; $90/non-professionals

Register here.

Co-sponsored by AANEMGH/Aspire and NESCA.

But They’re Only 12: Why and How to Begin Transition Planning

From the Needham SEPAC
Special Education Parent Advisory Council

February 19, 2015

This workshop, which is free and open to the public, will include:
  • A brief overview of transition assessment, planning and services in Massachusetts with particular emphasis on why and how caretakers can start developing independence at any age.
  • Identification of key factors that make a difference in postsecondary life with specific focus on transitioning to postsecondary learning environments including a college setting.
  • Effective strategies for developing critical skillsets required for success and satisfaction in adult home, community and work life.
  • Community resources every caretaker should know about as they engage in the process of helping their child to become a more independent and self-sufficient adult.

When:   7:00 – 9:00pm Monday, March 9, 2015

Where: Broadmeadow Elementary School
                   120 Broad Meadow Road,
                   Needham, MA 02492


Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS is director of transition services at NESCA. She has over a decade of experience facilitating social, life, and career skill development programs for transition-aged youth.

Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Challen founded an array of programs for teens and young adults at MGH Aspire and spent time as Program Director of the Northeast Arc's Spotlight Program, where she often collaborated with schools to develop in-district social skill and transition programming.

She is also co-author of the chapter "Technologies to Support Interventions for Social-Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personal Style, and Self-Regulation" for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism.

While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with students with Asperger's Syndrome and related profiles, she provides transition assessment, consultation, planning and support for individuals with a wide range of learning and developmental needs.

Does Your Child Need a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog

By Dr. Anya Dashevsky
February 20, 2015

At every age, a child is working on mastering a particular set of skills or developmental tasks. Thus, every age and every stage of development brings with it its own set of challenges. Difficulties in mastering age-appropriate developmental tasks will likely manifest as behavioral problems, academic struggles, or challenges in interacting with family members or peers.

Parents can see that their child is struggling, but are not always sure what is going on and how to help. In order to understand the nature of a child's difficulties and to chart the most appropriate course of action for addressing the problem, parents might choose to bring their child in for a neuropsychological evaluation.

Neuropsychological Evaluation of Preschool Children

When a child is between one and three years of age, a huge developmental task to master is learning to use language in order to communicate with others. Being able to express themselves through language enables children to interact with family members and peers, better tolerate their frustration by labeling their emotions, think symbolically and engage in pretend play. If a child has difficulty learning to communicate effectively, parents become concerned.

A big worry at this age is that the delay in language acquisition is due to the presence of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Parents might bring in their child for an evaluation in order to determine if the child's difficulties are due to the presence of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or due to other factors, such as developmental delays or a language disorder.

By four or five years of age, the “terrible twos” and the “terrific threes” are supposed to be over, and children are expected to learn to manage their frustration by ways other than temper tantrums or physical aggression. When parents bring their 4- or 5-year-old in for an evaluation, they typically have concerns about their child's behavior at home or in preschool. “When something doesn't go according to plan, my son becomes so upset, he starts pushing other kids or knocking over chairs!” a parent will tell me.

A number of factors might be involved in a preschooler's difficult behavior – from anxiety to attentional difficulties to language delays. The goal of an evaluation is to find out what is causing the child to act impulsively and to determine best ways to help him.

Neuropsychological Evaluation of Elementary School Children

In early elementary-school years, children are expected to learn to read, write, and master basic math concepts. Sometimes children who have not had any difficulties prior to starting school will struggle in the classroom. “I know my daughter is really smart, but she just can't seem to learn how to read,” a parent will tell me. “Could she have dyslexia?”

Some children try to take attention away from their learning difficulties by acting out in school. Parents of 6, 7, and 8-year-olds bring their children in for a variety of concerns related to learning and school performance. These difficulties could be caused by a variety of factors, including learning disabilities or ADHD.

In later elementary-school years, academic expectations increase to include completing larger assignments and grasping more complex concepts. Some children who have done reasonably well until 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, might struggle with increased expectations for independence and for managing larger, more complicated tasks. A neuropsychological assessment might reveal executive functioning difficulties, attentional challenges, or a learning disorder, as the root cause of a child's struggles in school.

Neuropsychological Evaluation of Adolescents

The emotional up-and-downs of early teen-age years, coupled with the challenges of navigating a complex social world of middle school, make it difficult for many children to make it through this stage without bumps along the way. Low self-esteem, anxiety about school performance or friendships, strained relationships with parents, are some of the typical concerns that I hear from parents of middle school children.

High school years bring with them increased expectations for structuring time, navigating peer and romantic relationships, and outlining plans for the future. Because of increased academic demands, a child with an undiagnosed learning disability, executive functioning difficulties, or performance anxiety might find it difficult to remain successful. Even if they have been able to “compensate” for their difficulties up until high school (often through high intelligence, hard work and determination), the students realize that in order to remain successful in high school, they will first need to address their difficulties.

Transition to college is a major developmental task of later adolescent years. Adjusting to living away from home, making new friendships, choosing a career path, and managing the academic workload are only some of the challenges that college students face. If there are learning or emotional issues that have not been addressed prior to this time, these issues will likely come to the surface during the college years. Again, a comprehensive evaluation can help figure out what is standing in the way of success, and how to help the student clear the road blocks.

At every age, a child is working on mastering age-appropriate developmental tasks. If parents see their child struggle in the process, they may choose to bring their child in for neuropsychological testing. A comprehensive evaluation is often the best way to identify each child's unique pattern of strengths and challenges and to develop a plan for using the child's strengths in order to address areas of challenge.

About the Author

Dr. Dashevsky holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the MA School of Professional Psychology and a Master's degree in Child Development from Tufts University.

She was director of the Neurodevelopmental Assessment Service for Young Children, a program at the Brenner Assessment Center that she envisioned and co­founded.

Her background includes working with young children in need of Early Intervention services, providing therapy to children, adolescents, and families, and facilitating parent groups. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Upcoming Enrichment Programs at The Ely Center in Newton - Register Now!

From The Ely Center

February 23, 2015

Join the fun! Snacks will be provided.

Lego® Club

Back by popular demand, starting on Tuesday, February 24th, we are resuming the Lego® Club. This hands-on enrichment program is offered to the community and is designed to facilitate social language development through a fun, hands-on approach to play. Group decision-making, turn-taking, and social-interactions will be modeled and encouraged in a supportive learning environment.

All ages welcome; cost: $10 per session.

Group Facilitator: Louie Gonzalez
Louie started working at the Ely Center in January 2015. He studies industrial design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His passion for Legos® began as a young child and he continues this passion through hands-on activities designed to support social language development.

Saturday Studio @ Ely

This program offers something for everyone! Starting in March, The Ely Center, LLC will be open Saturdays for drop-in between 10:00am - 4:00pm. Attendees can participate in a variety of activities: a strong body/strong mind program, "culinary delights" meal preparation or a variety of other hands-on, exciting activities pertaining to science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Offered for ages 6 - 18; cost: $20 per hour.

Sign-up is required for all Enrichment Programs. Please contact The Ely Center at 617-795-1755 or email office@elycenter.com to sign-up or if you have any questions.


The Ely Center, LLC
84 Rowe Street
Newton, Ma 02466

Special Education Resources for Massachusetts Parents

From the Mass.gov Blog
Official Blog of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

By Mass.gov Staff
February 15, 2015

Massachusetts parents of children with learning disabilities can find special education resources through their local public school district or through the Executive Office of Education (EDU), primarily at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), to ensure their child receives an education that takes into account the challenges they face.

Special Education and Public Schools

Public school districts must provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities. This may include specially designed instruction for access to the general education curriculum and services such as physical therapy or counseling, depending on an individual student’s needs.

Creating an Individual Education Program

Part of the special education process is creating an individualized education program (IEP) for children who are determined to be eligible for special education services. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) offers a breakdown of the basic special education process and how IEPs are created:
  • Parents, teachers, or school district officials identify students who may be eligible for special education.
  • Students are then evaluated by qualified professionals. A meeting takes place with the school district and the parent to determine if the student has a qualifying disability, and, if so, whether the disability is causal to the student’s inability to make effective education progress.
  • If their child is determined to be eligible, then parents must give their consent in order for services to be provided. In cases where a student is determined to be ineligible, parents can appeal this decision.
  • Once eligibility has been determined, parents, school officials, and experts (collectively known as the IEP team) meet to discuss the student’s needs. For older students, the student’s input is also considered. Parents should review required team membership and meeting guidelines.
  • The IEP team writes up an IEP, which is put into action upon the parent’s consent to the services.
The IEP is reviewed annually, or more frequently upon the request of parents or school officials. This enables revisions to be made based on the student’s development.

The IEPs of children with learning disabilities are also reevaluated by experts at least every three years if there is a need to confirm that the disability continues to exist or additional information is required to plan services for the student.

Special Education Appeals

Occasionally, parents may not see eye-to-eye with school officials or other parties regarding a child’s IEP. The Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) within the Executive Office of Administration and Finance (ANF) handles such disputes.

Topics covered by BSEA: matters regarding a student’s special education eligibility, placement, evaluation, or IEP.

Resolution Solutions Offered
Who Can Make a Request

Parents, legal guardians, students 18 years of age and older, duly authorized representatives, and school district officials can request to have a dispute resolved through BSEA.

How to Make a Request

Hearing request forms must be submitted for due process hearings and advisory opinions. An additional written request for an advisory opinion is also required. Parties can submit an advancement/postponement request form to reschedule a hearing.

Mediations may be requested by phone. To explore mediation, call the BSEA Coordinator of Mediation at (617) 626-7291.

One of the most widely used special education appeals channels is mediation, and it’s proven successful in the past. During 2014, more than 84 percent of mediations resulted in a mutual agreement, according to BSEA data.

Transition Planning

Planning for adult life is an important part of the special education process. There are two common tools parents should consider when they start transition planning.

The Transition Planning Form (TPF), which outlines postsecondary education goals for the student, his or her special needs, and the course of action that should be taken. Massachusetts requires that this form be filled out annually, beginning when the student turns 14 years old.

A Chapter 688 Referral helps plan for adult services and support for students with special needs once they graduate high school or turn 22 years old, which ends special education eligibility. Referrals should be discussed in IEP team meetings at least two years before special education ends.

Another transition service available to high school students with disabilities and their parents is the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program run by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), part of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (HHS).

What Services Are Offered
  • Development of an individual plan for employment;
  • Career counseling and guidance;
  • Education and training;
  • Tutoring;
  • Job placement;
  • On-the-job training; and,
  • Post-employment support.
How to Apply

Speak with a school official or directly contact a VR area office to learn more about the application process.

For additional information, read “A Family Guide to Transition Services in Massachusetts” or call the MRC at (800) 245-6543. The guide is also available in Spanish.

Additional Resources

There are numerous legal, support, and advocacy resources available to help parents navigate the special education process.

They include:
Parents are often their children’s best advocates. If you suspect your child has a learning disability, talk to your child’s teacher or another school official about whether your child qualifies for special education instruction.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Camp Kaleidoscope for Families Affected by ASD June 27-30: Online Application Open

From Camp Kaleidoscope

February 23, 2015

The 9th session of Camp Kaleidoscope, which provides a relaxing summer camp experience for families affected by autism, will take place this June 27 - June 30, 2015 in Starksboro, Vermont. You can apply HERE! The deadline for applications is March 7th.

Camp Kaleidoscope is dedicated to strengthening families through a holistic approach. They support the unique needs of those in the autism community so they may enjoy a memorable vacation, create positive memories and network with other families.

Special features include: 
  • Planned by families, for families; 
  • Volunteer support for each family (Family Partners); 
  • Gluten-free and casein-free choices at each meal;
  • Art, sensory and nature based discovery programs, developed to be universally accessible for all campers; 
  • Adult classes in art, hiking, trends in autism and self-care. 
Camp Kaleidoscope is a program for children between the ages of 3 and 11 on the autism spectrum and their families. Margaret Novotny and the Mosaic Learning Center have designed the Family Partner program for university pre- professionals in health related fields who provide family support during the weekend.

One parent noted, "Going to camp was rejuvenating to each of us in different ways. We enjoyed family time together in a community that embraced our family for who we are. Each of our children had special time with us and made friends with other campers. It was the highlight of our year!"

If you have any questions about Camp K or our fees, please follow links for general information or fees and registration. You can also download the 2015 flyer here.

Please contact Camp Director Carole Blane at 802-881-8267 or by email to cgccampkaleidoscope@gmail.com with any questions.

Why Schools Are Failing Our Boys

From The Washington Post's Blog
"On Parenting"

By Jennifer Fink
February 19, 2015

My 8-year-old son has been struggling in school. Again.

Re-entry after winter break has not been easy for him. The rules and restrictions of school--Sit Still. Be Quiet. Do What You Are Told, Nothing More, Nothing Less--have been grating on him, and it shows. His teacher recently emailed me; she’d noticed a change in his behavior (more belligerent, less likely to cooperate) and wanted to know if there was anything going on at home.

My guess, I said, was that he was upset about having to be back in school after break. I was right.

The lack of movement and rigid restrictions associated with modern schooling are killing my son’s soul.

Does that sound dramatic to you? Perhaps. After all, most of us go through school and somehow survive more or less intact. But if you really think about it, you might remember what you hated about school. You might remember that it took you years after school to rediscover your own soul and passions, and the courage to pursue them.

The stress of school, of trying to fit into an environment that asks him to suppress the best parts of himself, recently had my son in tears. Again.

[Read: Why we have to stop labeling our boys]

He hasn’t been allowed outside at school all week; it’s too cold. Yet this son has spent happy hours outside at home this week, all bundled up, moving snow with the toy snowplow, creating “snowmobile trails” in our yard with his sled and shoveling both our walk and our neighbors.

Because he wants to.

This morning, as always, my son was up and dressed before the rest of the household; he likes time to play Minecraft before school starts. But he also cleaned the dirty glass on the woodstove, started the fire and brought wood into the house.

Because he wants to.

And it hit me this morning: He would have done great in Little House on the Prairie time.

We’re reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, one of the books in the Little House series, aloud right now. Back then, boys (and girls) primarily learned by doing. Kids between the ages of 5 and 18 weren’t corralled into schools and kept apart from real life; out of necessity, boys worked on the farms and girls helped in the house. Entire families worked together to survive, and along the way, boys and girls learned how to function in the real world.

That’s the kind of learning my son craves.

Kids haven’t changed much over the past 150 years; our society has. So while my son still needs movement, still craves real-world learning, physical labor and ways to contribute to his family and his world, he’s expected to spend most of his time in a desk, in a classroom, with 20-some other kids his age.

He’s not allowed to go outside at school when it’s too cold or wet; he’s expected to sit quietly in the library or auditorium during recess time. He’s allowed few opportunities for “real” work; today, when you hand an 8-year-old a saw or allow him to start a fire, people look at you askance.

One hundred and fifty years ago, my son would have been considered a model boy. Today, more often than not, he’s considered a troublemaker due to his failure (or inability?) to conform to the expectations of the modern educational system.

I understand that society today is much different than society in the 1800s. Most of that change is good; I applaud antibiotics and equality. I’m a big fan of the internet and indoor plumbing. But at the same time, I think our current approach to education fails to honor the needs of children, especially the needs of our boys.

Boys today aren’t fundamentally different than the boys of 150 years ago. Yet today, they’re confined to classrooms, expected to remain still for the majority of the day, and barely allowed to tackle meaningful labor or the real world until they reach the magical age of 18. Is it any wonder our boys are struggling?

Statistically speaking, boys now lag behind girls on every single academic measure; they also get in trouble and drop out of school much more frequently than girls. There are fewer boys in college than girls, and far more lost 20-something boys than 20-something girls.

Our boys are not the ones who are failing; we are the ones failing our boys.

My son’s struggles break my heart. I worry that they’ll break his spirit next. For now, I wipe his tears, e-mail his teacher, allow him outside every chance I get and share his story, because I want other parents of boys to know they are not alone. I want them to know that the problem is not their son, but rather a system that is failing far too many boys.


Jennifer L.W. Fink is a freelance writer and mother of four boys. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's 3:58pm on Sunday - Do You Know Where Your New Website Is? We Do....


February 22, 2015

We'd be seriously remiss if we didn't give a very loud shout out to our superb designer Nancy Dobos of Dobos Design in Wellesley, without whom our new site would never have come to fruition.

Here's her contact information:

Nancy Dobos
Wellesley, MA 02482

781 239.0645

For the record, Nancy also designed NESCA's letterhead, business cards and brochure.

We'd also like to acknowledge parent consultant and all-around great Friend-of-NESCA Leslie Tsui, who lent her business acumen and an extra-sharp set of additional eyeballs to this project from its inception. Many thanks to you both!

Effects of ADHD In Young Children

From Smart Kids with LD

October 21, 2014

New research confirms what many parents of children with ADHD know from experience: the effects of ADHD often begin to take their toll on children as early as second grade.

According to an article in HealthDay, Australian researchers have found that, “Children between 6 and 8 years old who were tested and scored high for ADHD symptoms were more likely to get lower grades in elementary school and have trouble fitting in with other kids, compared with children without ADHD.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Daryl Efron, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician with the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne said:

"Already at this stage, which is relatively young, it’s very clear the children have important functional problems in every domain we registered. On every measure, we found the kids with ADHD were performing far poorer than the control children."

This study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is one of the first reports to come out of a long-term project that is following nearly 400 children ages 6 to 8, 179 of whom have ADHD while the rest serve as a control group. The children will be followed throughout their remaining school years.

In other findings, this study showed that the children with ADHD were also “more likely to have other mental health or developmental problems, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.”

Commenting on the study, Dr. David Fassler, a University of Vermont clinical professor of psychiatry noted, “I would fully agree with the authors’ conclusion that the results of the study underscore the need for earlier recognition and treatment of ADHD in young children.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Empowering Parents in Special Education: Free Talk in Needham February 24th

From Decoding Dyslexia MA
via Commonwealth Learning Center

February 20, 2015

Learn to navigate the special education system from the people who literally wrote the book on it!

Authors Carson Graves and Judith Canty Graves

Carson and Judith Graves have spent 15 years working to obtain an appropriate education for their son. Through trial and error, success and failure, they have learned what it takes to weave through the bureaucratic maze and often hidden agenda of school culture so that their son could receive the schooling he deserved, and by law was entitled to. Their goal is to help other parents achieve similar results for their children.

The Graves will be selling their book, Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work, at the event for $15 (cash only, please), and would be happy to autograph them. If you already own their book and would like your copy signed, you’re welcome to bring it.

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

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

Admission is FREE, but space is limited and first come, first served. Please email us or call (781) 444-5193 to RSVP at your earliest convenience.

Coffee and dessert provided. We look forward to seeing you!

Summer Programs Abound!

From the Hunnewell Education Group

By Oakes Hunnewell, Ed.M., CEP
Winter, 2015 Newsletter

Summer is a perfect time of year for further exploration, enrichment and adventure.

There are many opportunities for teenagers to further explore their interests in the summer. Not all of them are program-related. Students can be creative on their own. Tim, for instance, liked journalism and photography. He spent his summers on a lake in the town where his father had grown up.

With his father’s help, Tim was able to secure an internship with the town’s local newspaper. His duties included some office work and taking photos to go along with the stories printed in the paper.

Tim had access to the newsroom and was able to observe how journalists worked, and soon he was finding stories of interest around town and following police reports. He also was able to use digital equipment to create a portfolio of his work to take with him at the end of the summer.

Colleges are looking for students who are both proficient in English and who have a passion that they have explored and further developed. Not all students can identify their own passions, but a curious mind is also one that is willing to explore its many interests.

For international students, it is recommended that the younger middle school and lower upper school students choose programs that will give them academic and language enrichment. Many of these programs occur on boarding school campuses.

As the students mature and develop some interests that go beyond language and traditional academic subjects, they should begin to explore opportunities that further build on their skills foundation.

They are also encouraged to experience more independence. College campuses offer summer programs that allow students to broaden their knowledge in academic and non-academic fields in an environment that is less structured. There are also non-affiliated programs focusing on specific interests. Below are some examples of programs for both middle and upper school students.

Summer Boarding Programs for Middle and High School Students

Academic Enrichment, Writing, SAT Prep

7th-12th Graders

English as a Second Language (ESL), Writing and Literature, Journalism, Theater, Economics, US History, Math, Ceramics, Public Speaking, SSAT Prep +SAT Prep

8th-11th Graders

Academic Enrichment, Theater Arts, English as a Second Language (ESL), Environmental Science, Filmmaking, Science, Marine Biology, Math, Writing Workshop, Community Service
Writing, Academic Enrichment, Studio Arts, SSAT Prep, Foreign Language

Creative and Visual Arts Programs

5th-12th Graders

Dance, Theater Arts, Visual Arts, Writing, Film, Photography, Mixed-Media

Academic Enrichment, Theater Arts, Economics, Foreign Language, Visual Arts, Humanities

Grades 6-9
Grades 10-12
Outdoor Education

Grades 7-12
Summer Residential Programs for Rising 11th and 12th Graders


Earth Watch
(Science Field Work)
(Aerospace Engineering)
Crow Canyon
(Archeological Excavations)
(Archeological Excavations)

New York Film Academy
SOCAPA at Pace University
(Digital Design, Game Design)
(Digital Design, Game Design)

Eisenhower Institute
(Leadership Activities, Current Events Courses and Guest Speakers)
Youth Leadership Forum
(Leadership Activities, Current Events Courses and Guest Speakers)

Brown University
(On-Campus Living, College-Style Courses)

Babson Entrepreneurial Program
(Experiential Product Development, Marketing and Finance)
  • http://www.babson.edu/admission/visiting-students/high-school/Pages/entrepreneurial-development-experience.aspx


(Group Travel)
(Wilderness Survival)
Outward Bound
Wilderness Survival)
About Hunnewell Education Group

The Hunnewell Education Group helps students succeed throughout their schooling. They believe that all students can achieve, given the right guidance, the right resources and the right environment. Their goal is to help families find the place where their student can thrive academically, emotionally and socially.

They help students assess which schools are best for them, and how to maximize their chances for acceptance. Their mission is to meet the students' needs so that they may feel free to explore their interests with confidence and enthusiasm.