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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

Anxious Parents Can Learn How to Reduce Anxiety in Their Kids

From NPR's Health Blog "Shots"

By Patti Neighmond
May 26, 2014

Children are increasingly anxious, stressed out and overly worried. Part of that has to do with increased pressures to excel in school, sports and extracurricular activities. But part of it has a lot to do with parents.

Noah Cummings, 13, starts the morning with his mom,
Heather Cummings, at home in Epsom, N.H.

Like other mental and physical health problems, anxiety can be inherited. And some children are more vulnerable because of the way their anxious parents "parent."

Children whose parents struggle with anxiety are 2- to 7-times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder themselves, according to Golda Ginsburg, a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who studies childhood anxiety.

That's partly a result of how parents view the world. If they see it as a scary place, their children often do as well. Parents are a child's role model for many behaviors, including anxiety, says Ginsburg. "So if a parent is showing anxiety, jumping up on a table when they see a mouse versus reacting calmly, we know children are more likely to develop fears similar to what their parents are showing."

Take the example of Heather Cummings and her son Noah. It was difficult for Noah to go to elementary school. He was constantly worried that he would get sick and throw up, particularly at school.

It turns out that Heather suffered similar worries when she was a child. "In science I'd read about a condition and think I had it, cancer or diabetes, for example," she says. "If I bumped my head I'd think I'd get a concussion. If I got hit in the temple I'd watch the clock because I thought I was going to die."

Anxiety is a normal human emotion in the face of challenges, such as taking a test or performing in public. But in more severe forms it can be debilitating. Anxiety that interferes with normal life activities like school, work or social relationships can be an indication of a severe anxiety disorder.

Noah's parents had to learn to let him deal with his
worries on his own. Ellen Webber for NPR

When Noah was a toddler, if he disappeared behind a tree Heather worried that he had been kidnapped. "I was panic-stricken." As Noah got older Heather's anxiety shifted, and she worried more about his anxiety. Both Heather and her husband, Dave, who live in Epsom, N.H., found themselves constantly reassuring Noah that he was fine, that he wouldn't throw up and that everything would be OK.

They got the school to agree to allow Noah to call home when he got worried. He did, five or six times a day. Dave even once spent an entire day in the classroom. He says, "I just went there to be sitting in the classroom with him; my entire focus was on Noah, on how he was doing. I'd give him a reassuring smile, rub his back, anything in my power to reassure him that things are going to be OK."

But all this reassurance and effort turned out to be exhausting for everyone.

By the time Noah was 11, the family was so overwhelmed that they knew they had to do something. They had heard an expert in anxiety speak at a parent meeting and they decided to go see her. By the time they arrived at the office of psychotherapist Lynn Lyons in nearby Concord, Noah's anxiety was severe, Lyons says.

The first step for Noah was to help him understand how anxiety made his stomach ache. Lyons often draws cartoons to show children how their bodies react to anxiety, with an increase in stress hormones accompanied by a racing heart, faster breathing, tense muscles and a churning stomach. Noah got the message.

The biggest surprise, though, was for Heather and Dave. Lyons told them that all their efforts to help Noah avoid his anxiety were actually fueling it.

"The way you learn how to manage life is by making mistakes or by stepping into things that feel uncertain, uncomfortable, or overwhelming and then proving to yourself through experience that you can manage it," Lyons says.

The Cummingses were inadvertently suggesting to Noah that he couldn't handle it.

Noah had to learn how to face his fears, and his parents had to help him. This meant no more reassurance. It wasn't easy, but both Heather and Dave were committed to change. So was Noah.

Lyons used a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy that helps people learn how to change negative thoughts about specific experiences. This therapy has been shown effective in treating anxiety disorders, but can be useful as well for anyone dealing with stressful life situations.

Noah had to limit phoning or texting home from school to twice a week, then once a week, then every other week and so on, until he stopped altogether.

As for throwing up in school, Noah had to accept that he might. "So rather than avoiding it, he had to start saying, 'Hey, if I get sick, I get sick. I won't like it, but I'll survive,' " Lyons says.

When Lyons told Noah to think about the worst that could happen, he realized that going to the nurse's office and being sent home just wasn't all that bad. He never did throw up in school. And today, two years after therapy started, he no longer worries about it.

His parents now know what to say when he does get worried. That includes labeling the worry as worry, and asking, "What's the worst that could happen?"

In short, the therapy worked, for parents and child.

About a month ago Noah, now 13, went on a five-day school trip to Washington, D.C.

"As it got closer and closer, I got more and more excited rather than worried," Noah says. "When I got onto the bus to go I was not worried at all! I didn't have one worry about going on the trip."

And rather than being inundated with calls or texts, Noah's parents didn't hear a thing. "On this trip we would have liked a couple more calls," Dave Cummings says. "It's ironic that he didn't call at all; it's the greatest victory possible."

Lyons says it really doesn't matter what's provoking a child's anxiety — it could be school, or getting up at bat, performing in a play or singing a song in public. The key, she says, is helping children expect it and have a plan on how to deal with it. Then they can move on, stronger and more capable of coping with life's uncertainties.

(Lyons recently co-authored a book entitled Anxious Kids Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous & Independent Children.)

Cognitive behavioral therapy may also help prevent anxiety from developing in the first place, Ginsburg says. She has studied vulnerable children who had at least one anxious parent. In her study, half of the children ages 7 to 12 and their parents received cognitive behavioral therapy. Half did not.

It turned out that one-third of those who did not receive therapy developed an anxiety disorder within a year. None of those who received therapy developed anxiety.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mindful Parenting for ADHD

From Mindful Magazine Online

September 16, 2015

Mindfulness may add more than you expect to ADHD care.

Your child has ADHD. He impulsively acts out; he struggles in school; he seemingly won’t settle down for even one second after you walk in the door to let you catch your breath. A visceral hook grabs hold, and you do the same old thing you’ve always done: you yell, you retreat, you set another rule, or you bend one.

Then, you mentally berate yourself for not staying calm or your child for not doing as he was told.

Challenging as it is, we are all capable of being mindful, such as staying fully aware of something unpleasant and pausing before responding. Your impulsive child is going to be impulsive today, even while you work on a longer-term plan for change. Avoiding the reality that you’d like something to be different without being proactive about it won’t change anything.

But while you sort through the next best action to take (or perhaps decide not to say or do anything for a moment), your child will benefit when you drop the often unconscious assumption that life can be any different that it is right now.

Because ADHD itself increases family stress, it makes it harder for you to manage your child’s ADHD, which then amplifies stress further. Incorporating mindfulness into your life can break this draining cycle.

ADHD is far more than a disorder of attention. It influences social skills, communication, morning routines, bedtime, technology use, eating habits, homework, and anything requiring coordination, planning, or foresight. In addition, your child’s ADHD affects others around him, especially family members.

In fact, ADHD often creates unproductive patterns in parents’ lives. When parents become overly stressed or overwhelmed, that affects their children. None of us are at our best when tapped out. And because ADHD itself increases family stress, it makes it harder for you to manage your child’s ADHD, which then amplifies stress further. Incorporating mindfulness into your life can break this draining cycle.

Mindfulness and Your Family

The practice of mindfulness provides tools for cultivating focus, resilience, and well-being—both yours and your child’s. They take advantage of the brain’s innate capacity to rewire itself, an ability we all maintain at any age.

In ways that support the rest of ADHD care, you can build skills such as these for yourself and your children:
  • Attention and awareness (vs. distractibility and operating on autopilot)
  • Responsiveness (vs. reactivity)
  • Intentional, creative problem solving (vs. reliance on entrenched habits)
  • Open-minded discernment (vs. reflexive judgment)
  • Compassion for yourself and others (vs. criticism and impatience)

A centuries-old practice accessible to anyone, mindfulness aims to build various traits that make the ups and downs of life easier to handle. Clinical research has confirmed its benefits, explaining why it’s an exponentially growing part of Western psychology and medicine.

With mindfulness, you develop an increased capability to balance seeing things as they are with doing everything possible to change what you can, making everyday living more manageable.

Seeing ADHD as it is and realizing its broad and often insidious effects enhances planning and successful outcomes by any measure. As both a parent and a pediatrician specializing in child development and ADHD, I remain awed by the consistency with which mindfulness supports families.

Time after time, no matter the cultural background or family dynamic, parents learning mindfulness report concrete changes that make their child’s ADHD far easier to overcome.

Parenting books and psychologists often ask parents to do things like stay calm when angry, or approach old problems from entirely new perspectives. Yet all of us have beliefs and assumptions developed over a lifetime, and these habits die hard. As you’ll see, practicing mindfulness makes change of this kind easier.

Here is a large part of why practicing mindfulness can profoundly change your family life: addressing ADHD requires perseverance, flexibility, responsiveness, and an ability to find moments of joy and success during challenging times. All are harder to sustain when you’re mentally swamped by anger, fear or exhaustion.

By practicing mindfulness, you’ll be promoting your own resilience and well-being not only for your own sake, but because your child will benefit.


Adapted from Mindful Parenting for ADHD, released September 2015 by New Harbinger.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What Factors Influence Executive Function Development?

From Beyond BookSmart

By Jackie Stachel
September 11, 2015

Parents often ask us about their children’s Executive Function development. Is my child on track with her peers? Is it unusual that a 4th grader has a poor sense of time? Will my son manage his emotions better by the time he gets to high school?

The short answer is that each child develops Executive Function skills on his or her own timeline throughout childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. The more nuanced answer is that there are several factors that influence a child’s Executive Function development.

For our purposes, we can divide them into internal (within the child) and external (in the child’s environment) factors, to give you a better sense of how complex this topic can be.

Internal Factors that Impact Executive Function Development

Internal factors that can affect the development of a child's Executive Function skills include intellectual disabilities, struggles with physical or mental health, or learning differences such as ADHD (a common diagnosis in the students we coach). Recent research suggests that the brains of children with ADHD may mature about three years behind their typical peers.
(Shaw, et al, 2007)

Although there are no differences in how their brains mature; it’s more a matter of when. So, you can see why it’s not surprising to us when we see a bright 13 year old with ADHD who has a lot of trouble planning and prioritizing.

Environmental Factors that Affect Executive Function Development

Environmental factors that can influence a child’s Executive Function development include economic hardship, abusive or neglectful caregivers, violence in the home or community, chaotic surroundings, and poor access to nutritious food. Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child notes that toxic stress from environmental factors can actually alter a child’s brain and disrupt normal development of Executive Functioning.

Building a Foundation for Executive Function Development

It’s helpful to think about the foundation that Executive Function skills are built upon: adequate sleep, good nutrition, safe surroundings, and a pain-free body. If any of these foundation elements are missing, a child’s higher level cognitive skills can be at risk.

Have you ever tried to lead a presentation at work on 2 hours of sleep? Or pay bills with a raging migraine? Or plan the details of a family vacation when your stomach is rumbling with hunger?

When a child’s foundation is shaky in any of these areas, the first priority is shoring up and stabilizing themselves before any substantive progress on skills -- such as impulse control -- can occur.

If it seems to you that good Executive Function progress hinges upon a host of both internal and external influences, you’re correct. But the good news is that parents, caregivers, and educators can take specific steps to foster growth of these skills in all children.

“Adults can facilitate the development of a child’s executive function skills by establishing routines, modeling social behavior, and creating and maintaining supportive, reliable relationships. It is also important for children to exercise their developing skills through activities that foster creative play and social connection, teach them how to cope with stress, involve vigorous exercise, and over time, provide opportunities for directing their own actions with decreasing adult supervision.”

Executive Function Skills Are Developed Over Time

Perhaps the most important environmental factor in Executive Function growth is the fact that children learn these skills through experience, cumulatively, over time. Some children can learn skills such as time management by trial and error. When they have a bad outcome, they recalibrate and change their approach. Many others learn best when given explicit strategies to gain awareness of time and to stay on schedule.

Either way, if children are not given opportunities to practice and use skills such as organization and planning, we can’t expect them to be independent planners and organizers when they reach young adulthood.

Click here to see our infographic featuring Executive Function milestones from birth to young adulthood.


Shaw, P., Eckstrand, K., Sharp, W., Blumenthal, J., Lerch, J.P., Greenstein, D., Clasen, L., Evans, A., Giedd, J. & Rappaport, J.L. (2007). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci, 104:19649-19654.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

Jackie Stachel is the Director of Communications for Beyond BookSmart. She joined the company in 2010 and is based in our Boston branch. Jackie leads Executive Function presentations for parent groups throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Additionally, Jackie manages our You Tube channel as well as our company blog content through editing submissions, writing articles, and collaborating with professionals from outside Beyond BookSmart to create useful, informative content.

Finally, Jackie coaches students supporting them in learning and developing Executive Functioning strategies.

Turning 22 - A Transition Planning Panel Discussion in Arlington October 7th

From the Arlington SEPAC

September 22, 2015

Whatever your child’s special needs might be, at the age of 14 transition planning begins. This is a crucial time for families to begin planning for what the future might hold for their child and what supports he or she may need when they enter the adult service world.

When:   6:30 - 8:30pm October 7, 2015

Where: Ottoson Middle School Media Room
                   63 Acton Street, Arlington, MA

Panel Members

Crystal J. Hodgkins, M.S., CRC, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Ms. Hodgkins is a QVRC counselor from the MRC Somerville office. She will focus upon transition planning for students who are graduating from high school and accessing services through the MRC vocational rehabilitation division as consumers.

Kevin McDonough, Acting Area Director, Central Middlesex Office, Department of Developmental Services. Towns served by the Central Middlesex Office include Acton, Arlington, Bedford, Boxborough, Burlington, Carlisle, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Stow, Wilmington, Winchester and Woburn. Mr. McDonough will address generally what families need to to think about when transitioning their children to adult services offered by the Department of Developmental Services.

Annette Hines, Esquire, Special Needs Law Group – Framingham, Massachusetts. Attorney Hines will focus generally on the legal rights of families associated with the “Turning 22” process. Whether you need a guardianship or an alternative to guardianship, social security benefits, a special needs trust, services from a state agency, estate planning or other needs, Attorney Hines and her staff have solutions to your child’s special needs considerations.

Alexandria Nadworny, CFP® Shepherd Financial Planning, Winchester, MA. Ms. Nadworny will address the financial planning pressure points throughout transition and the top to-do’s.

Each panel member will touch on some of the important steps required for success in the transition planning process focusing on their particular area of expertise. The panel will then open for discussion and Q&A!

This program is free and open to the public. To RSVP, please email ksfeen@aol.com.


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.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

John Pratt Memorial Lecture by Ross Greene, Ph.D. Wednesday, September 30th

Co-Sponsored by NESCA and Ivy Street School

September 22, 2015

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

Speaker: Ross Greene, Ph.D., Founder and Director of Lives in the Balance

Founder and Director of the non-profit organization Lives in Balance and originator of the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions approach to improving outcomes for behaviorally-challenged youth. Greene served on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years and is now adjunct Associate Professor in the Dept. of Psychology at Virginia Tech.

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

Where: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
                   Nine Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142

Free and open to the public.

Go HERE for more information and to register.

Honoring John Pratt

John Pratt served as associate director of the Whitehead Institute for 25 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 have successful lives as adults. The John Pratt Memorial Fund and Lecture are dedicated to facilitating the impact of research on practice at the school in order to improve outcomes. He would be delighted to have this as part of his legacy.

Not All Attention Problems Are ADHD

From the Child Mind Institute

September 22, 2015

It's a common assumption, but there are other causes that are easily overlooked.

Problems with attention are often first identified by a teacher
who notices that a student seems more easily
distracted than most other kids his age.

Maybe the child takes an unusually long time to finish schoolwork in class. Maybe when the teacher calls on him, he doesn't seem to have been following the lesson. Maybe he seems to tune out when instructions are given, or forget what he's supposed to be doing. Maybe homework assignments often go missing.

While all children, especially those who are very young, tend to have shorter attention spans and be more distractible than adults, some have much more trouble focusing and staying on task than others.

Since difficulty paying attention is widely associated with ADHD, that tends to be the first thing teachers, parents, and clinicians suspect. But there are a number of other possibilities that can be contributing to attention problems. To avoid misdiagnosis, it's important that these other possibilities, which are not always obvious, not be overlooked.

Here is a checklist of some of the other issues that may make a child struggle to pay attention in school:

Anxiety Often Makes Children Distracted

A child who seems not to be focusing in school could have chronic worries that teachers (and even parents) are not aware of. There are many different kinds of anxiety, but what they have in common, says neurologist and former teacher Ken Schuster, Psy.D., is that anxiety "tends to lock up the brain," making school hard for anxious kids.

A child with separation anxiety might be so preoccupied about something bad happening to her parents while she is apart from them that she is unable to concentrate on schoolwork.

Some kids are extremely worried about making a mistake or embarrassing themselves. When the teacher is calling on them, they may try to disappear, Dr. Shuster notes. "They might look down, they might start writing something even though they're not really writing something. They're trying to break the connection with the teacher in order to avoid what's making them feel anxious."

Sometimes when a child takes an unusually long time to finish her work in class, it's not because she's daydreaming but because she's, struggling with perfectionism that requires her to do things exactly the right way. Or if she doesn't turn in her homework, it could be not because she didn't do it, but because she is worried that it isn't good enough.

Anxiety in the Classroom
  • What it looks like, and why it's often mistaken for something else. READ MORE

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Kids with OCD, which often starts in the grade-school years, have an added source of distraction: They not only have obsessive thoughts, but feel they must perform rituals, or compulsions, to prevent bad things from happening. A child with OCD might be compulsively lining things up on his desk, or tapping, or counting in his head. Or he might be focused on needing to go to the lavatory to wash his hands.

"A kid may be sitting in class having an obsession about needing to fix something, to avoid something terrible happening. Then the teacher calls on him," says Dr. Jerry Bubrick, the senior director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorder Center at the Child Mind Institute. "When he doesn't know the answer to the question, it looks like he wasn't paying attention, but it's really because he was obsessing."

Since children with OCD are often ashamed of their symptoms, they may go to great lengths to hide their compulsions while they're in school. To a teacher who's not aware of the OCD, distraction might look like ADHD, but it isn't.

What Does OCD Look Like in the Classroom?
  • How to recognize the signs, which can be easily mistaken for ADHD, learning disorders or oppositional behavior. READ MORE

A Child Could Be Distracted by Stress or Trauma

Children can also appear to be suffering from inattention when they have been impacted by a trauma. Kids who've witnessed violence or other disturbing experiences may demonstrate difficulty paying attention and a persistent sense of insecurity called hypervigilance.

Kids whose home lives involve acute stress may develop these symptoms, or even post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Many of the symptoms of PTSD look like ADHD," explains Dr. Jamie Howard, the director of the Trauma Response and Education Service at the Child Mind Institute. "Symptoms common in PTSD, such as difficulty concentrating, exaggerated startle response, and hypervigilance, can make it seem like a child is jumpy and spacy."

Learning Disorders

When a child seems to be looking everywhere but at the pages of the book she is supposed to be reading, another possible cause is that she has a learning disorder.

Children with undiagnosed dyslexia might fidget with frustration or feel ashamed that they can't seem to do what the other kids can do, and be intent on covering that fact up.

If a child struggling with math, he might welcome distractions that allow him to think about something else, or avoid completing the assignment.

Auditory processing problems could cause a child to miss some of what the teacher is saying, even if she's listening, and that could look as if she's not paying attention.

Some kids are able to compensate for their learning disabilities by working extra hard, and they may be successful until they reach a grade where the work becomes too challenging.

"They've been able to hide their weakness until they get older and there's just too much heavy lifting," notes Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a Harvard Medical School professor who specializes in mental health care in school setting. "They're often diagnosed with ADHD or depression, unless someone catches the learning problem."

Breaking the Behavior Code
  • How teachers can better understand and reduce problem behavior and increase learning for everyone. READ MORE

Is it really ADHD?

Inattention that is outside the typical range is one of the three key symptoms of ADHD, along with impulsivity and hyperactivity. Some kids do demonstrate only inattentive symptoms. But a diagnosis of ADHD shouldn't be made just on the basis of teacher reports or one quick visit to the pediatrician.

To make an accurate diagnosis, a clinician should collect information from several people who have observed your child, including you, other caregivers, and teachers. Parents and teachers should be asked to fill out a rating scale, to capture an accurate assessment of the frequency of symptoms. The behavior has to continue over an extended period, and be observed in more than one setting-both at home and at school, for instance.

And, clinicians should carefully rule out other possible reasons for his behavior.

It's also important that a child's ability to pay attention be compared to others of his own age, not everyone in his grade. A study published in 2012 found that boys who are the youngest in their class are 30% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest boys in the class, and younger girls are 70% more likely to be diagnosed than the oldest girls. This suggests that that immaturity may also be mistaken for ADHD.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ivy Street School's Second Annual Excellence in Special Education Summit September 30th

Co-Sponsored by NESCA and Ivy Street School

September 22, 2015

On Wednesday, September 30th, 2015, Ivy Street School will hold its second annual Excellence in Special Education Summit, co-hosted by NESCA and the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA).

Comprised of two parts, it will feature:
  • 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 we ask that you RSVP by registering online to reserve space. You may register separately for each component of the Summit.

Register HERE.

Summit Workshops

Transition to Adulthood – Strategies for Success
NESCA Transition Specialist Marilyn Weber; NESCA Director of Transition Services Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS; Brooke Howard, M.S., OTR/L. Facilitator: Maryellen Pambookian, Ph.D.

Brain Injury and Behavior – Best Practices
Michael P. Mozzoni Ph.D., BCBA-D, CBIST

From Our Perspective – Parenting Children with Learning Differences
Parents of Ivy Street School students. Facilitated by Maryellen Pambookian, Ph.D..

“I Can’t Think When I’m Stressed” - Understanding the Relationship Between Anxiety and Executive Function and How to Help
NESCA Pediatric Neuropsychologist Angela Currie, Ph.D.

Tour of Ivy Street School

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

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

For more information and to register, please call: 617-658-9800.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Save the Date! January 13, 2016 - Stressed-Out Students: A Presentation on Anxiety

From the Tyngsboro SEPAC

September 22, 2015

Parents and teachers will learn:
  • what they can do to help prevent or alleviate stress for all students
  • how to identify manage anxiety in children of all ages and abilities
  • what can be done when there is concern about the severity of a student's anxiety
  • an overview of school–based recommendations and therapeutic interventions.

Speaker: Dr. Angela Currie, Ph.D.
                      NESCA Pediatric Neuropsychologist

When:     7:00 - 9:00pm Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Where:   Tyngsborough Middle School Library
                     50 Norris Rd #2, Tyngsboro, MA 01879

Free and open to the public. No pre-registration necessary.

For more information, please email ajmaciel@comcast.net.

Yoga Generates Huge Benefits for Children with Autism

From Yoga International

By Hannah Brandstaetter
October 30, 2014

Yoga is growing in popularity in the U.S. as a complementary therapy for children with special needs and autism, with rising numbers of schools and parents participating in innovative programs which are cropping up around the country.

Scott Anderson, teacher and founder of YogAutism, mentions on his site that in addition to benefits typically associated with yoga—improved strength and flexibility, and an increasing sense of peace—autistic children also experience a reduction of pain, anxiety, aggression, obsessive behavior and self-stimulation.

And, there's more good news. The children are also having greater success making new friends and regulating emotions. 

Yoga is growing in popularity in the U.S. as a complementary
therapy for children with special needs and autism.

Louise Goldberg, author of Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs, also has first-hand experience witnessing the enormous benefits children on the autistic spectrum experience from practicing yoga. In 1981, Goldberg and a colleague were invited to teach a demo class for teachers at a residential hospital for children with severe emotional and behavioral disorders.

“We were both fairly new yoga teachers and we just made it up as we went along. But seeing the kids—many of whom were extremely anxious, withdrawn, or angry—let go, for even a moment, was a revelation. We were amazed at how effective yoga was with these children and how much they enjoyed it,” says Goldberg.

Anxiety and Yoga

Children with autism have very different sensory experiences from other people, and these responses often cause their bodies to get stuck in fight, flight, or freeze modes that divert blood from the digestive organs to the skeletal muscles. This activity results in disrupted digestion, increased heart rate, and shallower breathing—all of which readily provoke anxiety.

“I had a student, a little boy who got very, very anxious if the school bus was late. His mother drove him to school everyday and one day she saw him lying down in the back seat of the car, and she asked him, 'Are you sick?' He responded, 'No, I am relaxing.' The mother said she had never seen him so calm.

"Practicing his floating on a cloud (shavasana), he was able to self-regulate and calm his emotions,” explains Goldberg.

The Importance of Visualization

Autism educators often highlight the importance of visualization practices, so Goldberg designed the program Stop and Relax, which uses over 50 cue cards to help children visualize the pose they are supposed to take. Through this visualization, they are able to successfully imitate and model physical actions and postures they would not have been able to previously.

“Some of the kids don’t speak—don’t have language—but they can look at a visual cue card and respond. Some children also have trouble engaging, even if they can achieve fluid sentences and can perform motor planning. However, they don’t have the kind of motor planning skills like going from point A to point B to point C. But on seeing the visual cue, somehow it triggers something in their brain and they can replicate it,” she explains.

Resistance to the Word "Yoga"

When Goldberg started teaching her specialized yoga classes, she received some resistance from parents and schools, as some people didn’t feel comfortable with the word "yoga."

“I think some people around the U.S. were a little bit narrow-minded. Some even thought it was a cult,” she explained. "One thing that I want to impart here is that yoga, as it’s practiced in public schools, is not a religious practice. The postures and breathing exercises, the relaxation techniques and self-regulation tools, can be culled from yoga’s vast well of resources to be implemented in a public school curriculum."

This program is applicable to all children and ages, as it is just another form of movement involving exercise, mindfulness and breathing.

Goldberg now uses the name "Creative Relaxation," and takes yoga poses and applies them to challenges that children have in either their school or everyday lives. This program is applicable to all children and ages, as it is just another form of movement involving exercise, mindfulness, and breathing.

“The idea is that when we are in a school, we don’t use any Sanskrit names. We don’t call it the prayer pose. We call it the tree pose. Viparita shalabhasana is our Superman pose. I don’t want anyone to feel that it is religious. We don’t do any chanting. When we sing, it’s just generic songs.”

Goldberg believes that all children would benefit from yoga practice in school classes. “Ten years ago, when I was teaching in a school, I had a chance to go into all the classes which had a child with autism and I taught the whole group. It wasn’t just the one child that benefited from this. Everyone did,” she explains with a smile.

Benefits for School Classes

Dr. Judy Willis, who has combined her 15 years as an adult and child neurologist with her teacher education training and years of classroom experience, explains in her book, How Your Child Learns Best, that children need breaks every 15 minutes. If that time is exceeded, no learning takes place, which leads to frustration for the children and the teacher.

Goldberg agrees and believes that yoga provides the perfect antidote. Just holding a pose for a minute, while sitting down or standing next to the desk, and learning can continue without teachers having to discipline the children for the rest of the lesson.

In 2012, researchers who investigated another yoga program in the study, "Efficacy of the 'Get Ready to Learn' Yoga Program Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders," (published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy) found that "use of daily classroom-wide yoga interventions have a significant impact on key classroom behaviors among children with ASD."

The study, which lasted 16 weeks, divided children into two groups. The first group participated in the morning classroom yoga program, and the second group participated in a standard morning classroom routine.

Challenging behaviors were assessed with the standardized measurements of the Aberrant Behavior Checklist and behavior coding both before and after the study period.

Researchers concluded that the Get Ready to Learn program "reduces irritability, lethargy, social withdrawal, hyperactivity and noncompliance in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)," and that incorporating the program into the school day "can maximize academic engagement and optimize classroom time."

It is unclear how many children are currently participating in similar programs, but Goldberg states that there are hundreds of teachers who teach thousands of children in the U.S. She likes to refer to the movement as "a snowball effect" that benefits more and more students—and their teachers and parents—over time.

“I think that one of the ways to change a culture is to start with the children. In the U.S., we have a terrible problem with bullying.... Mindfulness activities that incorporate breath, like yoga, are perfect ways to create a community that's more compassionate, less competitive, and more self-aware,” says Goldberg.

For more information about Louise Goldberg’s classes and teacher training please visit relaxationnow.net


Hannah Brandstaetter is a freelance journalist and yoga enthusiast who grew up in Vienna. She currently lives in London after spending 5 years in Los Angeles where she became more involved in yoga and meditation. She has been practicing yoga since she was 16 and enjoys Bikram and Hot Vinyasa.