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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why Schools Should Make Sleep a Priority

From Education Week

By Marva Hinton
March 8, 2016

"We need to change school start times, and in the meantime, it starts in the home. You have to make sleep a priority. Sleep is a pillar of health. It's as important as eating and breathing. Sacrificing it is only to our society's detriment."

Sleep. We all know kids need it, and without it, they don't perform as well in school.

As we've reported in the past, the National Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to better align with the natural body rhythms of adolescents.

But it's not unusual for the first-period bells to ring at many middle and high schools much earlier than that.

So how are these kids affected?

A study by National Jewish Health concluded that more than half
(55 percent) of teens who were homeschooled got the optimal amount
of sleep per week, compared to just 24.5 percent of those who attend
public and private schools. (National Jewish Health)

In honor of Sleep Awareness Week, we spoke to an expert in adolescent sleep. Lisa J. Meltzer is an associate professor of pediatrics at the National Jewish Health in Denver. She was the lead researcher on a groundbreaking study on the differing sleep patterns between home-schooled students and students who attend public or private school.
The study, which was first published in October 2014 in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine, found that home-schooled students wake nearly 90 minutes later than their peers in traditional school settings. It was the first study to compare the groups in order to research their sleep patterns.
We recently spoke to her via phone about her work and her passion for sleep. Below is a lightly edited version of our conversation.
What are the key ways your study found sleep differed for home-schooled students versus those in public or private schools?
The biggest difference you find is what time they wake up. Homeschool students are waking up—the average time was almost 8 o'clock—which is about the same time that public and private school students are starting school. So the additional sleep that homeschool students get is obtained by sleeping later in the morning.
Why are they able to sleep later?
Public and private middle and high school students on average start sometime between 7 and 8 a.m., which means that the buses arrive sometime between 6 and 7 a.m. So public and private school students often have to wake very early to catch the bus to get to school. Homeschool students don't have that restriction in terms of either a school start time or having to wake in order to get to school on time and so it allows them to sleep later in the morning.
Despite your research and that of others, there are still people who see these reports and say teens just need to go to bed earlier. Can you explain why it's not that simple?
When teens go through puberty, all of their hormones change, and one of those hormones is melatonin, which is a clock regulator. It helps to keep your internal clock on schedule, and as you go through puberty the timing of melatonin that's released moves later on average by about one to two hours.
And what that means in simple terms is that even if teens went to bed earlier they can't fall asleep earlier. Their body is not ready to fall asleep. So it's challenging to say just go to bed at 8:30 or 9 o'clock to get more sleep because their body is not physiologically able to fall asleep that early.
On the flip side, they're being asked to wake up and go to sleep and learn, and, in many cases, get behind the wheel of a car and drive at a time when their brain is basically physiologically at its peak of sleepiness. So it's not of any help to our students to have them have early school start times.
Your work also found that cellphones, computers, and tablets play a role in students' sleep patterns no matter where they attend school. Can you explain that?
When you have technology in the bedroom, students obtain less sleep. The presence of technology in the bedroom on average equates to 30 minutes less sleep per night, and over the course of the school week that's 2.5 hours of lost sleep. So that's why we keep recommending over and over having technology-free bedrooms with central charging stations for the entire family.
If parents don't model the behavior, students won't follow the behavior. So having everyone at a certain time of night plug the phones, tablets, computers, video games, all the electronic devices in the kitchen in a central charging station, so the bedrooms become technology-free.
But that might be more difficult now that so many families have gotten away from having land-line phones.
You can switch phones to night mode. So if somebody really needs to receive phone calls, turn everything else off. Turn the texting off. Turn the Wi-Fi off so that it remains just a phone. Get a flip phone. That's what I have, a dumb phone, so it just serves the purpose of being a phone as opposed to all these other things.
The problem with technology is one, it's very engaging. It's hard to turn it off. So for students, it's a lot of social media and texting, all of those types of engaging activities that keeps them up at night.
The second reason is that technology emits light, and light exposure suppresses melatonin. So if you have a lot of bright light, your brain doesn't make the melatonin that you need to sleep. Really dimming the screens and getting them off within a certain time before bed can help facilitate an easier sleep onset and increased sleep duration.
What can parents do to help teens who have to be at school very early in the morning?
Prioritize activities. Students these days are overburdened with activities. They have to volunteer. They have to work. They have to do athletics. They have to do the school play. And then on top of it, they have three hours of homework.

Our students can't do it all. By trying to do it all, they are sacrificing sleep, and ultimately what happens [is that] they're not performing as well at school. They're not performing as well in athletics. Their mood is depressed. They're not at their best.
Have a set bedtime. Studies have shown that students who have parent-set bedtimes, sleep more and function better.
Don't shift weekend bedtimes by more than one to two hours, and [the] same thing with wake times. If they sleep until 12 or 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, they are not going to be tired at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. They haven't been awake enough hours. Maintaining that consistent sleep schedule over the weekend, in particular the wake time, can really help a student maximize their sleep.
Anything you want to add?
We need to change school start times, and in the meantime, it starts in the home. You have to make sleep a priority. Sleep is a pillar of health. It's as important as eating and breathing. Sacrificing it is only to our society's detriment.
See Also

Social Intensive Summer Camps at The Ely Center in Newton: Registration Now Open

From The Ely Center

March 20, 2016

These annual programs are outstanding! For more information, please call 617-795-1755. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Journey to 22 and Beyond - Free Transition Conference with Top Speakers Saturday, April 2nd in Concord

From the Minute Man ARC

March 22, 2016

This is a free Minute Man Arc event for parents/guardians who are helping their loved ones with disabilities to achieve a smooth transition from school into the adult world. We will be offering six workshops that will address issues facing your families.

Workshop Topics

Climb Every Mountain - Transitioning to Adult Services

Presenter: Sue Loring, R.N., Director of the HMEA Autism Resource Center of Central Massachusetts

Transition is fraught with anxiety for every parent. Knowing what to expect, where to go for assistance and having a timeline will help your son or daughter move from school based services to being an adult and creating an "enviable life." Information will be provided for those who have loved ones on the autism spectrum as well as other disabilities.

ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience) and the Military Survivor Benefit Plan

Presenters: Fred Misilo, Esq. and Theresa Varnet, Esq., Special Needs Attorneys, Fletcher Tilton, LLP

Special needs planning was given a big boost when two new bills became law: The ABLE Act and the Military Survivor Benefit Plan.The ABLE account allows an SSI recipient the opportunity to hold funds in an account (of up to $100,000) without interfering with SSI or Medicaid eligibility.

The Military Survivor Benefit Plan for the first time allows a child with special needs to receive a parent's military survivor benefit left in a special needs trust.

Beyond the Classroom and 22: Developing Community-Based Skills

Presenter: Marilyn Weber, Transition Specialist, NESCA

As you set up goals on your child's IEP/ISP, more life objectives need to be encompassed than what you may typically consider. School can address some of those pieces, but when your child moves out, there are skills that will help them become more independent, more enriched, and more satisfied.

What are those skills and how do we, as parents and caregivers, teach them? Who can help us? How do we get our children on board? Addressing those everyday facets of learning is essential in order for your loved one to live safely, confidently and lead a fulfilling life.


Presenter: Ken W. Shulman, Esq., Special Needs Attorney

Current information on the process of obtaining guardianship, the various levels, and complications that may arise regarding anti-psychotic medications or extraordinary medical interventions will be presented. Given the recent changes to Massachusetts guardianship law, the alternatives to guardianship will also be addressed.

Department of Developmental Services

Presenter: Kevin McDonough, DDS Acting Area Director, Central Middlesex Office

Services provided, eligibility requirements, Chapter 688 transition, how to access services and the differences between DDS and MRC (Mass Rehabilitation Commission) will be discussed.

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)

Presenters: Nancy Donovan, Mass. Rehab Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Lowell Area office, and James Fratolillo, Director, MRC Statewide Employment Services Department (MRC/SES)

Services provided, eligibility requirements, and the process for applying will be addressed.

When:   9:00am - 1:00pm Saturday, April 2, 2016

Where: Minute Man Arc
                  35 Forest Ridge Road,
                  Concord, MA 01742

Registration Information

Attendees can choose from two topics per session. Please choose one topic per time slot. Attendance is free but pre-registration is required by Friday, March 25th.

Respond by completing the form located HERE and mailing it to Minute Man Arc, 35 Forest Ridge Rd., Concord, MA 01742, or by completing the form HERE to register online.

An inclement weather date is set for Saturday, April 9.

We are very excited to be offering you an opportunity to gather information, ask questions, share your concerns and know that there is help for the people you love. We hope you will join us.

Transition Conference 2016 is a free event made possible by private donors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Understanding Dyslexia: It's Not an Effort Problem

From Noodle

By Kyle Redford
December 8, 2014

Does it ever seem as though your child with dyslexia puts more effort into avoiding his work than completing it? The excuses, the distractions, the stalling — it is easy to perceive your child's allergy to homework as an effort or attitude problem.

If only it were that simple. When a child with dyslexia is work-avoidant, the reasons are complex and cannot be reduced to a tidy matter of effort. Since dyslexia is invisible and can often prompt academic shame, many of the struggles associated with the condition go unseen and unnamed.

If we imagine a school day from a dyslexic child’s perspective, it is not hard to understand why he doesn’t rush home to do his homework. A dyslexic child is exhausted after school, and not just a normal kind of tired: the kind of tired you feel when everything you have been asked to do all day is profoundly challenging.

Drained dry.

It is also likely that a child with dyslexia has spent a good part of his day trying to hide how hard he is trying. Think about how you feel when doing things you are not very good at. Now think about how you would feel if your day were primarily made up of those tasks. Not good, right? School for a dyslexic child is not only tiring, but can be humiliating as well.

A child with dyslexia may also privately worry that he can't meet his teacher's expectations when working independently. A teacher may design an assignment as a simple reinforcement of the day's lesson, but it may amount to much more than that for a dyslexic child. There may be directions that are hard to read or understand, or writing expectations that are outside his perceived ability range. It may be more appealing simply to skip the work than to struggle with it and draw attention to one’s challenges.

To complicate matters further, teachers may misinterpret unimpressive output as a reflection of a dyslexic student not caring about his learning. When parents and teachers assume all a child needs to do is to try harder, they may neglect to develop an effective support system.

That is why it is important to shift the conversation away from evaluating how much invisible effort your dyslexic child is expending and toward addressing the obstacles your child faces.

The goal should be to partner with his teacher to explore ways that home and school can work together to make his assignments less frustrating. Children will put more effort in areas where they feel they can be successful.

Here are several effective home-school supports for students with dyslexia:


At home and at school, an adult scribe can help get a dyslexic student’s words and answers down on paper. Dictating can eliminate the complexities and frustration associated with writing, and it allows the child to share his ideas and understanding. Or if voice-to-text tech tools are available, speaking into a device may be a more practical solution.

Using dictation tools usually requires practice, but it is a great investment for a child who can express knowledge better aloud than in writing. Once the initial kinks are worked out, written expression (and output volume) can improve significantly. While most teachers appreciate these kinds of supports at home, parents should explain home strategies and workarounds to provide the full context of the child’s learning process.

Read Aloud

Depending on the student’s reading ability, he may need to have content read to him (at home and at school). Adult readers or audiobooks can be critical alternatives for students with significant gaps between their intellectual and reading levels. There are even audio options that sync the text and voice so the child can simultaneously read with his ears and eyes. Having content read aloud to a child with dyslexia can make the difference between engagement-investment and avoidance-retreat.

Spelling Helper

Spelling is difficult for most students with dyslexia. It can also be embarrassing. Spelling hangups, as trivial as they may sound, may be keeping your child from wanting to write. One of the best ways to offer spelling assistance is for adults to stay within earshot when the child is writing something (particularly on paper) to help him spell anything he asks (without any commentary or spelling lesson attached).

Regardless of whether he engages adult assistance during this process or after composition, he will usually appreciate an additional set of eyes on his paper to review his spelling and conventions before he turns it in. Teachers usually appreciate this kind of home editing support, but again, assisting adults should clarify the role they played in the writing process.


Handwriting is usually more difficult for children with dyslexia. If your child has a lot of writing assignments, using a keyboard will provide a version of predictive spelling and grammar check. It will also feature a standard font that will help him produce work he can read himself and not diminish his good ideas with illegible handwriting. Inquire about whether your child has access to a keyboarding alternative for written assignments at school, and try to secure that option for home composition as well.

Time Expectations

Dyslexia makes reading and writing more time-consuming. Sometimes what may appear to be minimalism or generalized laziness is simply a reflection of your child not having enough time to finish an assignment. Explaining how long things take at home can help your child’s teacher make adjustments with respect to deadlines, expectations, or volume. If homework is taking more time than the teacher intended, cutting into your child’s sleep, or triggering emotional meltdowns at home, his teacher needs to know.

Finally, it is always important to remember that dyslexia is a mechanical disability, not a thinking disability. But those mechanical challenges fundamentally alter the school experience for dyslexic children, making assignments more difficult and time-consuming. Explaining your child’s unique learning experience offers an opportunity to work with his teacher to devise strategies that will keep him engaged and interested in school, rendering conversations about his invisible effort irrelevant.

About Kyle Redford

Kyle Redford has been an educator for over 25 years. She currently teaches at Marin Country Day School and is the Education Editor for The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. You can follow her on Twitter @kyleredford.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Save the Date: Thursday March 24th - PAC Speaker Series Featuring Dr. Nancy Roosa

From the Rockport PAC
March 14, 2016

Troublemakers and Class Clowns:
How to Understand the
Classroom’s Worst-Behaving Students

Most children behave well at school, if they can. How can we understand the ones who can’t or won’t behave?
  • who have tantrums and meltdowns;
  • who refuse to do classwork;
  • who are always goofing off or tuning out.

This talk will introduce several perspectives on why children misbehave, and how to manage them. Caveat: there is no “one size fits all.” Be prepared to think empathically and creatively.

Where: Rockport Elementary School Library
                 34 Jerden’s Lane, Rockport MA

When: Thursday, March 24th at 6:00pm

This talk is free and open to the public.


NESCA Neuropsychologist Nancy Roosa, Psy.D.

Dr. Roosa has been providing neuropsychological evaluations for children since 1997. She enjoys working with a range of children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorders, as well as children with attentional issues, executive function deficits, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, or other social, emotional or behavioral problems.

Dr. Roosa's evaluations are highly-individualized and comprehensive, integrating data obtained from a wide range of assessment tools with information gained from history, input from parents, teachers and providers, and important observations gleaned from interactions with the child.

Her approach to testing is playful and supportive. Her evaluations are particularly useful for children with complex profiles and those whose presentations do not fit neatly into any one diagnostic box.


The Rockport Parents Advisory Committee provides education to parents and the broader community on Special Education issues and services. We encourage parent leadership and parent-school partnerships as we work towards the understanding of respect, support, and appropriate education for all children in our community.

For more information regarding RPAC and to follow our relevant posts on issues in education, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rockportpac.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Autism in Love - Documentary Film to be Shown April 7th at the JCC in Newton

From ReelAbilities Boston Disabilities Film Festival

March 14, 2016

"Finding love can be hard enough for anyone, but for those with autism, the challenges may seem overwhelming. The disorder can jeopardize the core characteristics of a successful relationship — communication and social interaction.

In a polished yet highly personal style, Matt Fuller’s Autism in Love offers a warm, stereotype-shattering look at four people as they pursue and manage romantic relationships."

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Talking to Children about Cheating: Dishonesty is Worse than a Bad Grade

From The New York Times Parenting Blog

By Jessica Lahey
December 19, 2013

"Cheating may be endemic in our nation’s schools, but parents have the power to reverse this trend, one family at a time."

I’ve had cheating on the brain this week because I’ve been researching an article about creating cheating-free classrooms. A few friends asked me to write about how parents can best address the topic of academic dishonesty with children.

Students cheat for lots different reasons, but chief among them are the competition for grades, the pressure of high-stakes testing, the failure to prepare or understand academic material, and, as reported in one study, the thrill of “cheater’s high.”

Whatever the reason, cheating ramps up during middle school, where just over 60% of students reported cheating on exams and 90% admitted to copying another students’ homework, and peaks during high school, where about 75% of students admit to having committed acts of academic dishonesty.

Researchers in another study found that almost half of all students have committed “cut-and-paste plagiarism,” lifting text from websites and passing it off as their own work. What I find most disturbing, as a teacher and as a writer, is that more than 75% of undergraduate students believe that copying off the Internet, whether through for-profit essay websites or cutting and pasting snippets of text, is not a serious offense.

In fact, as I was researching this piece, I discovered one of my own published articles for sale at a popular essay retail outfit (and to add insult to injury, I was on sale for just $10 a page).

Despite these statistics, 34% of parents don’t talk to their kids about cheating because they don’t believe their children would cheat. It would be lovely if those 34 percent of parents who don’t believe their children would cheat happen to overlap with the parents of those 30 percent of undergraduates who are not cheating, but I hardly think so.

If you are ready to be honest with yourself and admit that your child is likely to cheat sometime during her academic career, here are some ways to turn that dishonest impulse into a valuable life lesson:

First and foremost, talk about academic dishonesty. Place that elephant right in the middle of the room and describe it. Don’t assume your child understands the difference between collaborating and cheating, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Brush up on the definition of plagiarism and the reason we give others credit for their work.

Discuss the realities of cheating: Academic dishonesty can destroy her reputation as an honorable person, not to mention her relationships with teachers.

Next, get to the root of the reasons behind the cheating. Find out why she is cheating. Does she not understand the material? Has she asked her teacher to clarify? Talk to her teacher about your concerns, and find out if her teacher has any insights into the cheating, whether it’s to gain a leg up on her peers or to get around having to ask for help.

In my experience, the most common parental response to an accusation of student cheating is denial, so teachers will find this line of inquiry refreshing. It will also go a long way toward reinforcing the partnership between you and your child’s teacher.

Frame your conversation around school in terms of individual effort and personal goals rather than grades and test scores, as competition fuels academic dishonesty. Dissuade your child from comparing grades with her friends, and teach her that learning is not a means to an end, but the end itself.

Speaking of friends, if you discover your child talking or texting with friends during homework time, ask whether or not her teacher has given students permission to work together on assignments. If she’s not sure, talk to the teacher about her guidelines regarding collaboration and homework.

Think about your own involvement in your child’s academics. Do you help your child with homework? One in five adults admits that he has completed part of his child’s homework assignment. Worse, adults that do this believe that helping their kids with homework is fair.

This is your child’s education, not yours; let your child discover her own answers and keep your participation in her homework to a bare minimum.

If your child has not been caught cheating (yet), remind her that even when she gets away with it, dishonesty undermines her future success. If she’s cheating, she isn’t really learning the material, and she will be behind when the next unit begins. In courses such as math or science, where one concept or skill builds toward the next, students can get so far behind they are unable to recover.

Finally, if you catch your child cheating, don’t cover for her. Take this opportunity, while she is still young and the stakes are still low, to hold her accountable for the consequences of her actions. Lisa Heffernan, writer of the parenting blog Grown and Flown, offers advice plucked from her own parenting:

If it is a choice between cheating and a lower grade — take the D. I tried to convince them that they would rather face my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade rather than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass.

I let them know that far from going to bat for them, if they were found to be cheating, I would let them burn in the fires of both their school’s and our home’s disciplinary hell.

Cheating is only a failure if there is no lesson learned in its commission, and it is our job to help our kids locate that lesson amid the embarrassment and reprisal.

An episode of plagiarizing on a high school science report will result in a zero and detention today, but later, out in the professional world, that plagiarism can spell the end of a career.

Cheating may be endemic in our nation’s schools, but parents have the power to reverse this trend, one family at a time.


Jessica Lahey is an educator, writer and speaker and the author of  “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.” Find her at JessicaLahey.com.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Boston Public School Students Stage Walkout Over Proposed Budget Cuts

From WBUR 90.9 FM's Blog
"The Learning Lab"

By Peter Balonon-Rosen
March 7, 2016

Hundreds of students across Boston walked out of their classes on Monday to protest proposed districtwide budget cuts.

Hundreds of Boston Public School students run toward the steps of the
State House during a protest on Boston Common. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston Public Schools is facing an up to $50 million budget shortfall for the 2016-2017 school year. As a result, individual schools across the district are bracing to lose teaching positions, extracurricular activities, librarians, language programs and music and arts classes.

Jailyn Lopez helped organize Monday’s walkout. In a letter circulated on Twitter last week, the Snowden International High School student urged students at all of Boston’s public schools to leave class Monday at 11:30 a.m. and march to the State House to rally for more funds for public education.

“No matter what class you’re in get up and walk out of school,” the letter read. “Let’s stand up for our future, if we don’t then no one will.”

Students from the Snowden International School cross Arlington Street
en route to the Boston Common to meet with other schools. Students
staged a walkout to protest the proposed budget cuts Boston
Public Schools could face next year. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston Public Schools had written a letter to parents asking them to encourage their children to stay in class. That did not deter a large group of students from the Snowden International School from walking to the Common.

“We’re losing our Japanese class. We’re losing somebody in the Math Department, somebody in the Guidance Department, and I think there was one more…,” said Simon Mariano, a freshman at Snowden. “Librarian.”

On the Common, Snowden students were joined by students from all over Boston who marched to the State House. Half the crowd marched on to City Hall, then dispersed.

Although the schools budget from the city of Boston is $13.5 million more than last year, the district is still facing a deficit due to rising expenses.

Boston school officials proposed closing that deficit with $20 million in cuts to central office. They also proposed $10 million to $12 million in cuts to the district’s per-pupil funding formula.

As a result, all district schools would get less funding for high school students, students with emotional impairments and students with autism.

Boston Community Leadership Academy, Boston Latin School and John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science could all lose at least six teaching positions, according to the BPS Citywide Parents Council. At least five schools could see substantial reductions to librarians.

Mayor Marty Walsh says the city will continue to work to try to close the school budget deficit.

The Boston School Committee is expected to approve a budget at their March 23 meeting.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Are You Ready for Your IEP Meeting?

From Smart Kids with LD

March 7, 2016

Editor's Note: Readiness includes anticipating that the clinician you choose to conduct your child's independent evaluation (or 3-year re-evaluation) may have a waiting list, and scheduling the testing soon enough to allow the production of a written report, a process that generally takes around six weeks. In planning your schedule, work backward from the end of the school year to make sure that you'll have all of your materials in hand in time to arrange a meeting, before school personnel depart for the summer. Allow even more lead time if your evaluation is likely to require one or more school visits.

For most practices, the busiest time of the year is fast approaching. Make any necessary appointments NOW!


Although it may not feel like Spring in your neck of the woods, warmer days are just around the corner. With Spring comes that annual rite of passage—and no, I’m not talking about Easter egg hunts.

I’m talking about IEP meetings: the yearly gathering of the school team (link to who’s on team) to review your child’s progress and the special education services he’s receiving.

At Smart Kids with LD we know the importance of IEP meetings, which is why we devote an entire section of our website to The ABCs of IEPs. From who’s on the team to choosing the right accommodations, we have the resources you need to be the effective advocate your child deserves.

If this is your first IEP, take a look at our Primer for Parents New to the Process. It will be helpful to scan Tips for Writing an IEP when it comes time to clarify the objectives for the coming year. If your child struggles with social issues, take our advice and Put Social Skills in the IEP—something that is too often overlooked.

And, don’t forget to check out Progress Monitoring, a worthwhile reminder of how to know if this process is working for your child.

The following is a full list of articles to help parents make the most of the IEP process:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Opinion: Parents Can — and Must — Talk about Ugly 2016 Politics with Kids

From WBUR 90.9 FM's Blog

By Dr. Steve Schlozman
March 4, 2016

"We’ll have to admit to our children that, developmentally, our politicians just can’t play nice in their sandboxes."

I’m not that old, but I’m old enough to remember when it was routine to hear in grade school that if you worked hard, you might get to be president of the United States someday.

Never once did I hear any of my teachers tell me what kind of hard work I’d have to do as a parent when, about 40 seconds into a presidential debate, one party’s leading candidate references the size of his…um….hands.

Are you kidding me?

How did we get to a place where you have to explain to your 10-year-old daughter that the Republican front-runner is bragging on national television about the size of his penis? Seriously. Tell me how we make that sound OK in any arena?

That was my task Friday morning when my 10-year-old daughter saw me watching clips of the debate. You might say that a 10-year-old is too young to watch the presidential debates, because it can include references to things like wars and lives lost. I think there are ways we can talk about those unfortunate aspects of a complex world to children of all ages.

But I (and I’m a child shrink) don’t have a great template to help my daughter understand the reasons a presidential candidate might refer to his penis. Not just anyone said this, mind you. It was the front-runner! What a mess. And it’s not like the debate got more admirable after all that.

People are, of course, allowed to argue for their beliefs. We even encourage these kinds of arguments. In fact, the entire fabric of our society is based on our ability to engage in these kinds of arguments in a thoughtful and civilized manner.

The problem, therefore, is how we reconcile the basic human desire to disagree with the values of civility and truth that we all pretty much agree save us from anarchy. It feels to me like right now, we’re only really accomplishing half of our goals. We have no problems disagreeing. We do, however, have all sorts of problems disagreeing in ways that we can later be proud of.

This is when we parents need to step in. Even if you don’t agree with the government, think the country is heading nowhere good, and really dislike the current leadership’s platform, you must (and I’m begging you) make the case to your kids for a reasoned and thoughtful process of objections.

As parents, we have an obligation, an absolute duty, to be crystal clear with our kids right now. When someone running for office says that certain religions are unquestionably and across the board more dangerous than others; that he should “rough someone up” because he doesn’t like the way that person behaved, or what he believes in; that he tends to respect the soldiers who don’t get caught and become POWs — you can’t just shake your head, chuckle, and explain that politics is a contact sport.

Let’s do a little thought experiment. Say little Timmy, age 10, gets a paper back from his teacher, and the teacher’s written comments make him very unhappy. Let’s say he wads up his paper, and with a dramatic and disgusted flourish, throws it into the trash in front of his teacher and peers.

We’d all agree that little Timmy will find himself in the principal’s office pretty quickly. If the school is good at what they do, and his parents are thoughtful in the lessons they impart to their son, then Timmy will come to learn that while he is allowed to disagree, even with his teacher, he must be able to organize his reasons for disagreeing into a coherent argument.

But what if you’re a U.S. senator, and you and your constituents disagree with the president of the United States? What if, instead of doing what you just encouraged little Timmy to do, you use your bully pulpit to wad up the president’s most recent document, and throw it in the trash in a dramatic video that you broadcast via social media? Can a U.S. senator be sent to the principal’s office?

Not really.

That’s why you get sent to the principal’s office when you’re 10 — to (hopefully) learn when to avoid doing things that would get you sent to the metaphorical principal’s office when you become a U.S. senator.

Still, this is exactly what Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas did last week. Instead of saying something like, “I disagree with the president on Guantanamo for the following reasons,” Roberts tossed the Guantanamo plan in the trash.

I grew up in Kansas, and still follow my home state’s politics. My children saw this video as I was reading the paper online. Try explaining the actions of a U.S. senator who is dramatically and disrespectfully throwing away a document from the president of the United States to your 10-year-old.

This, in a nutshell, is what we’re dealing with this year.

I think that as we look back on the current political rancor, we’ll come to see these surreal months as watershed moments: we’ll have to admit to our children that, developmentally, our politicians just can’t play nice in their sandboxes, even though we want our children to be able to play nice in theirs.

Civility within politics does not negate the heated rhetoric of politics. Civility is the cornerstone of our system, and is a far cry from the nasty, exclusionary and downright frightening behavior that we’re witnessing.

Believe me: Kids are picking up on the violent overtones to the current rancor. One child I know compared it to pro-wrestling. Another slightly older kid noted that his peers at school are refusing to talk to anyone who fails to be 100 percent like-minded.

Now that’s scary.

I heard a conversation today in which a father explained that he wasn’t going to back down within the current political climate because “a real man” and “a true father” shows his kids how to be strong, and how to stand up without compromise for what he believes in.

I strongly disagree.

A real parent, a strong parent, a principled parent realizes that you don’t and can’t get everything you want, and that you will, inevitably, have to compromise. You slow yourself down and teach your kids to slow themselves down. You cool down the rhetoric and the vitriol. You ponder and you construct a healthy debate. Why? Because healthy debates are healthy.

Hatred, on the other hand, is like a dirty bomb. There’s nasty and unpredictable collateral. It might feel good to the inner baboon within us to trash one another; but it’ll catch up with us.

We will reap what we sow.

Let’s protect our children from all that this new-found political barbarism engenders. Let’s play nice in the sandbox. After all, it’s what we ask our children to do. It’s the least we can do, too.


Dr. Steve Schlozman is associate director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Anxiety Treatments: Alternatives to Medication - Free Expert Panel Discussion in Natick Tuesday, March 22nd


March 5, 2016

Research indicates that youth today are contending with significantly higher rates of stress and anxiety that interfere with their academic, social, and emotional success.

This presentation will cover:
  • A brief overview of how anxiety functions and interacts with children’s attention and learning;
  • Treatments for anxiety which are alternatives to medication;
  • Cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based approaches to psychotherapy for anxiety and related disorders in children;
  • Mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation, and how they can alleviate anxiety;
  • The relationship between breathing and the central nervous system.

When:   7:00pm - 8:30pmTuesday, March 22, 2016

Where: Academy MetroWest
                 218 Speen Street, Natick, MA

Free and open to the public; limited seating.


Angela Currie, Ph.D.,
Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Dr. Currie specializes in the diagnosis and evaluation of psychiatric disorders in children, adolescents and young adults, and has a particular interest in the differential diagnosis of learning and self-regulation challenges and extensive expertise in the treatment of anxiety.

Christine Andre, M.A.,
Staff Clinician, NESCA
A highly-skilled cognitive-behavioral therapist specializing in anxiety, Ms. Andre is a Ph.D. candidate at Suffolk University, and has completed a practicum at the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Institute at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital. Ms. Andre is staff clinician in the AASC, NESCA's intensive Anxiety & Attention Skills Coaching Program.

Daniel Chase, M.A.C.,
Acupuncturist, NESCA
Mr. Chase received his training at the New England School of Acupuncture after years of study both here and in Japan, He earned his Master's Degree in Acupuncture (MAC). Chace is also a Diplomate of Acupuncture of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), and licensed in Massachusetts by the Board of Registration in Medicine.

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT,
Director of Adaptive and Therapeutic Yoga, NESCA
Ms. Gould received her M.Ed. in the education of children with special needs from Simmons College in 1999. She received her certification as a yoga teacher in 2005, and since 2007, she has offered private and small group therapeutic yoga sessions at NESCA.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Eight Evaluation Essentials

From Parents Have the Power
to Make Special Education Work

By Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves
March 3, 2016

This article is adapted from Chapter 4 of Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work.

Evaluations are a major part of the special education experience. The purpose of evaluations, aside from determining eligibility for special education, is to inform parents, teachers, and other specialists how a student’s disabilities may be affecting his or her ability to learn and interact socially with peers. This information is important in providing a road map for the student’s Team to develop an effective Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The evaluation process should be an ongoing and interactive experience with parents and professionals seeking the answers to questions that will benefit the student and provide guidance to the school personnel and specialists who work with the student.

Evaluation reports are not always easy to understand, however. When parents are exhausted and grasping for answers, they can read reports with complicated charts, vague statements, and confusing statistics, and still not fully understand their child’s needs.

Unless the report clearly describes the meaning of the testing data and includes recommendations that are practical and comprehensive, an evaluation can be unhelpful and possibly even damaging if it misleads parents and teachers as to the true nature of the problems a student faces.

Eight Essential Things to Look For

We have read many evaluation reports and seen our share of both good and bad ones. From our experience, we have compiled eight essential elements you should look for in all the reports you receive:

1.) Personal Data: Evaluations should begin with personal information about the student and why that student was referred for evaluation. Make sure this section describes your son or daughter accurately. Also be sure you agree with the reason for the referral.

2.) Test Goals: The purpose of the evaluation should be stated at the beginning of the report. This may seem obvious, but we have seen many reports that don’t describe the goals of the test being given. How can you know if a test has achieved its purpose if you don’t know why it was given?

3.) Review of Existing Data: IDEA requires that school examiners review any previous relevant evaluations, including those performed by independent evaluators and supplied by the parents. The report should acknowledge these evaluations and indicate whether the current testing confirms or contradicts the previous data and conclusions.

4.) Behavioral Observations: An important category of information is the examiner’s observations of the student both before and during the test. Is the student confident and willing to take risks in answering questions, or uninvolved, anxious, and hesitant? If the student is making a sincere effort, that increases the likelihood that the test results are a valid measure of the abilities being assessed.

5.) Explain All Test Scores: The evaluator should explain the importance of all the test data clearly and in terms that you can understand. One school report we read had this to say: “A statistically significant discrepancy is observed between student’s Verbal and Performance Indices, with the Performance Index falling thirty-five points below the Verbal Index.” The report made no further mention of this discrepancy or what it might mean.

In another report describing a similar discrepancy, a different examiner wrote: “There remains a statistically significant difference (36 points) between verbal cognitive ability and visual-spatial ability, consistent with the student’s diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning Disability.”

In addition to acknowledging and confirming previous testing data, the second evaluation clearly states the significance of the discrepancy while the first one essentially ignores it.

6.) Recommendations: Make sure that the report contains specific recommendations on how the school can help the student. We have read many reports that end with a summary but no recommendations. If you receive a report with no recommendations, ask the evaluator to add them.

We have also seen reports that say, “Specific recommendations will be discussed at the next Team meeting.” Do not accept this either. Team meeting discussions are not always written down, and it is almost guaranteed that any verbal recommendations will be forgotten and not acted upon.

7.) Examiner’s Signature and Credentials: If an examiner believes that the testing and conclusions in the report are valid, then you should expect that person to certify the validity by signing the report. We have seen many evaluations where the examiner’s signature was missing.

We have also seen reports that only list the examiner’s credentials as “teacher” with no further information. IDEA expects all evaluators to be qualified, so the credentials should be listed next to the name. You have the right to this information.

8.) Clear and Understandable Language: Make sure you understand the contents of the report. Sometimes evaluators use specialized terminology that lay people find hard to understand. If you receive a report like that, ask the evaluator to rewrite the parts that are not clear to you. We have seen reports that use phrases like “imbalance in functioning” or “processing impairment” without any further explanation of what these phrases meant.

What You Can Do

As a parent, you must make the effort to understand the evaluations you receive and question any parts that aren’t clear to you. Do not be afraid to ask for more clarification and rewriting if necessary. You should not accept a report that is lacking important information.

You may not have the advanced degrees of the examiner, but you are the one who knows your child best and you are the one who needs the information in the report to help your child get an appropriate education.


In an afterword to their book, Authors Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves cite NESCA's Dr. Jason McCormick as "the best neuropsychologist we have ever worked with."