Sunday, December 2, 2012

Upcoming Workshops in Reading, MA

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7:00 PM Reading Memorial High School Endslow Performing Arts Center.
 62 Oakland Rd, Reading, MA
 01857 Nationally recognized ADD expert, Dr. Ned Hallowell, will speak in Reading about Finding The Buried Treasure in ADD and Other Learning Disabilities.
Monday, DECEMBER 3
at 7:00 PM. 
Doors open at 6:30.
Dr. Hallowell's goal is to help people master the power of ADD while avoiding its pitfalls. 
 Admission is $10 pp/$15 per family, and includes a raffle ticket for a private 30-minute consult with Dr. Hallowell in his Sudbury office, a $450 value. 
 Hosted by Understanding Disabilities
This program is supported by grants from the Harpley Foundation, the Reading Education Foundation, and a private donor. *********************************************************************** Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM Walter S. Parker Middle School Auditorium 45 Temple St., Reading, MA 01857 Presenter: Sarah Ward MS, CCC/SLP Director of the Center of Executive Function Skill Development, Lincoln, MA Back by Popular Demand…This presentation was attended by over 200 people last May and received high reviews. This not to be missed workshop remains free to all parents thanks to the generosity of the Lynnfield and Reading Special Education Departments. • Does your child complete his/her homework and forget to turn it in? • Do you find yourself driving back to school to pick up a book or work your child forgot to bring home? • Do you find yourself saying, "If my child could be more organized, life would be so much easier for him/her?" Then come join an encore presentation of Practical Executive Function Strategies for Home and School Learn strategies to teach your child to efficiently manage his/her own tasks, time, space and materials (while keeping emotions in check!) Sarah Ward, an award winning, national expert on Executive Function Skills, will present a two-hour workshop for parents to teach children the skills of goal setting, carrying out organized steps and modifying a plan to complete a task successfully! Participants will learn how to help students of all ages to initiate, persist and pace themselves, even if the task is difficult or boring. She will provide everyday strategies to help students learn to estimate time for tasks, sense the passage of time and break down the steps for nightly homework and long term projects. Sarah Ward Please feel free to contact the Reading PAC via email at: for additional info.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Georgetown SEPAC Spring 2013 Meeting Schedule

Georgetown Special Education Parents Advisory Council 2013 Meeting Schedule First Tuesday of the month in the Penn Brook School Library (68 Elm Street) from 7 to 8:30pm February 5, 2013: Parent Night Resource Share – What has worked for you? March 5, 2013: Executive Functioning and Study Skills – Speaker TBS April 9, 2013: Behavioral Strategies and Social Skills – Speaker TBS * 2nd Tuesday due to scheduling conflict May 7, 2013: Post-Secondary Transition Guidance – Speaker TBS June 4, 2013: Year End Wrap-up and the Shining Star Awards

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aug 9th, 2012 WorkShop Kioko Center, based on work of Ross Greene

Kioko Center , Pediatric OT / Speech and Tutoring Services 820 Turnpike Street, Suite 104 North Andover, MA 01845 Drop in – No registration needed – FREE PARENT GROUP Thursday, August 9 , 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. THINK:KIDS (based on the work of Ross Greene) Leader : Beth Edelstein , OTL , M.ED. Outreach and Support – Mass. General Hospital See website for more info:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

College Success Workshop for Senior students

Information has come in regarding the following: (Georgetown SEPAC does not endorse this workshop, we are simply passing information along) College Success Boot Camp Coming to NESCA August 13 – 14th Co-Sponsored by Thinking Outside the Classroom and College Solutions, in Cooperation with NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents) Thinking Outside the Classroom offers in-home coaching for students with particular academic challenges, broader executive function issues or who simply want to reach their full potential both in the classroom and beyond. They are the group to which we and others on our staff have turned when our own children needed help with executive functioning. College Solutions assists students with their college searches, applications, essays, determination of eligibility for financial aid and preparation of all forms. Their objective is to make the experience as positive, stress-free and successful as possible. They have many years of experience in personally matching students to colleges that are perfect fits for them. Together, they are bringing their highly-regarded College Success Bootcamp to NESCA in a new, two-session format, on Monday and Tuesday evenings, August 13 -14th. When: 1st Session: 6:30 - 9:30pm Monday, August 13 2nd Session: 6:30 - 9:30pm Tuesday, August 14 Where: NESCA, 55 Chapel Street, 2nd Floor, Newton, MA Cost: $400 per person; enrollment limited to 12! This 6-hour, highly-interactive course is suitable for anyone eager to succeed at the college level, whether going for the first time or returning to campus in September. The program's principal instructor will be Michele Hearn, M.Ed., CAS, senior coach and director of adult and college coaching for Thinking Outside the Classroom. A veteran administrator at College of the Holy Cross, counselor and career consultant, she is also a guidance counselor licensed by the State of Massachusetts and participant in the New England Association for College Admission Counseling's Summer Institute. Her co-facilitator will be Stella Habib, a graduate of the program currently enrolled in McGill University in Montreal. A rising senior, she is majoring in General Management with a concentration in International Business and a minor in Communication Studies. Due to her passion for languages and intercultural communication, Stella chose to attend school in Montreal for its diverse culture and bilingual atmosphere. Stella's current languages are English, Greek, French, and Spanish. Her experience and academic skills fall across a broad spectrum. Questions? For additional information and to register, please call NESCA at 617-658-9800, or email

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shining Star Winners

The Georgetown SEPAC Congratulates Our Shining Star Award Winners June 11th, 2012 – The Georgetown Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) was pleased this year to offer the Shining Star Award for Georgetown School District employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in teaching, reaching out to, and inspiring our children with special needs over this last school year. In short, this award is for those who are making an outstanding difference. The 2012 Shining Star Award winners were announced at the Georgetown SEPAC’s last meeting for this school year, on Monday evening, June 11th, 2012. The award winners were selected by the special education parents of Georgetown, who were all invited to submit a description of how particular Georgetown School employees have helped their children. Nominations were then reviewed by SEPAC officers. With this award, parents had an opportunity to show their sincere appreciation of the Georgetown school staff’s excellence in teaching, hard work, and caring that helps build solid relationships with our children every day. How do our stellar teachers in Georgetown shine? How do they make such an impact in our children’s lives? These were some of the comments were made by grateful parents this year about different outstanding teachers in the Georgetown Schools. • She is my hero. I absolutely adore her, and will be forever grateful. She has been able to build a rapport with my son who has trust issues and gets him excited about school. Last year she got him an internship which led to a job, which he loves. This year he was struggling, not wanting to stay in school and she is the one that got him up, got him going, got him back. Now he has caught up to his peers academically. She is not just a teacher, she is an excellent mentor, confidant, friend, and champion to him. • Without his help and encouragement my son would have had another lost year. Now he is doing much better. • She has been extremely helpful this year with our family. She knows exactly how to phrase situations, her documentation is right on target, and as a family of an IEP child, I feel she really rallies for us. My son really loves to practice his math with her. She keeps me well informed about how my son is doing on a regular basis. • He goes above and beyond for the kids and he truly cares. • She has made a huge difference in my son’s education. Every day, my son looks forward to working with her; and I believe he works harder because of her. She is kind, considerate, understands my son while keeping him on track and taking no nonsense from him; and she keeps an open line of communication with me (and that makes me feel that she really does care so much about my son and our family - she is also proud of all of his accomplishments, whether they are big or small). • She has a wonderful way of inspiring creativity in all children and provides a wonderful outlet for my son. It is the part of his week he takes the most pride in and loves to talk about. She is an amazing teacher and we are blessed to have her teaching our children in Georgetown. • He takes a real interest, offers practical advice and help. • She has been extraordinary with my son, transitioning him to the general Ed class 100 percent of the time. She has a wonderful way with the kids- she is structured yet flexible. She has quite a few special ed kids this year, but you would never know it. The class is always under control yet the kids have fun. Current SEPAC Chairperson Pam Lundquist extended a sincere congratulations to this year's Shining Star Award recipients, who are: - Ms. Lisa Mosquera, Middle School Compass Teacher - Ms. Dawn Rezendes, Penn Brook Art Teacher “The efforts of Ms. Mosquera and Ms. Rezendes have stood out to special education parents as extraordinary and noteworthy. They have both been extremely helpful to many students this year.” Lundquist said. “We want to thank all of our teachers for understanding how important it is at school to reach out, notice children's strengths, build strong personal relationships with kids so that they can feel comfortable asking for help, sharing their thoughts, feeling valued for who they are, as well as for their hard work.” “We want to always remember to support, recognize and appreciate those special teachers who, seeing our precious diamonds in the rough, are able to help our children to realize their dignity, their strengths, their abilities, their gifts. Because every child has them.” “We hope that all of our dedicated teachers know that we appreciate everything that they do, and the Georgetown SEPAC looks forward to being able to offer Shining Star Awards to other deserving teachers in the future.” After the award ceremony, the Georgetown SEPAC parents present all approved a new parent to assume the Chairperson position beginning in the fall, Ms. Shelby Walker. Ms. Walker has four children in the Georgetown Public Schools, and she enthusiastically accepted the position. Superintendent Carol Jacobs was on hand to extend congratulations to the winners. She also addressed the parents on the state and direction of special education programs for the year. "We look forward to welcoming our new Director of Special Education, Donna Straight, who will be starting her new position on July 1st," Ms. Jacobs affirmed. The Georgetown SEPAC serves as a resource and advisor to parents of children with special needs in Georgetown. The group is dedicated to helping parents to take actions that will effectively benefit their children. It reaches that goal by holding regular educational meetings or workshops on a variety of topics and by helping parents network with each other. The SEPAC also works closely with the Georgetown School District to identify areas of need and advise on how to improve the special education programs and services that children with special needs rely on. It acts in an advisory role through the SEPAC Chairperson to the School Committee regarding Special Education issues. By Pam Lundquist, Georgetown SEPAC, Chairperson

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SEPAC Meeting-Shining Star Awards

June 11, 2012 The Shining Star Awards & Our Final Meeting, 7-8:30pm, Penn Brook Library – 68 Elm St. Georgetown 01833 We are fortunate to have so many talented and caring staff members in our schools working hard every day to help our children! The Shining Star Award is a special award for Georgetown School District employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in teaching, serving, supporting, helping, reaching out to, and inspiring our children with special needs over this last school year. The winners have been selected by the special education parents of Georgetown submitting a description of how these people have helped their children. We hope you will honor our winners by attending our evening award ceremony. Also, Superintendent Carol Jacobs will speak to us about the Georgetown Special Education Department and growth in program development over the course of this year. We would like to discuss, as a school, as a parent community, and with regards to the experience of our children, where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. We also would like to discuss any ideas parents may have about how the GeorgetownSEPAC could serve their needs in the year to come, and what areas they would be interested in learning more about. Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Best Practices Stress & Anxiety Meeting Notes

A Georgetown Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) & GeorgetownCARES Meeting (access from district website) Meeting Minutes & Notes, May 16, 2012 – 7:00 pm, PB Library May 16th, 2012 – Wednesday, 7-8:30pm - Penn Brook Library, 68 Elm St., Georgetown 01833 - A Joint Georgetown SEPAC & GeorgetownCARES Meeting: Best Practices to Help Children Manage School-Related Stress and Anxiety – Come join us for an interactive discussion led by Dr. Troy Carr, Georgetown School Psychologist – This workshop will follow up on themes of our post-film Race to Nowhere community discussion and highlight particular sources of stress for our youth in school along with helpful strategies to support our children and build their resiliency. The popular film RACE TO NOWHERE, shown in Georgetown in October 2011, was a call to families, educators, and policy makers to investigate how we support student learning in a culture prone to over-testing, performance pressure, and over-scheduling. This film clearly documented the suffering that many youth remain silent about, the educators stressed and worried about how to build resilience and a love of learning when curriculum itself is so overwhelming. Overly burdensome and meaningless homework, pressure to get into the “right” college, and pressure to achieve “A’s” all contribute to one of our students’ greatest sources of stress – school! How can we help our children turn “high expectations” from pressures driving them onto a convention path into the key to their very own journey to success? How is life for our children in school changing these days? Very fast, with technology leading the way. Social media sites evolve constantly, allowing for anonymous posts and put-downs that authors do not need to own up to. Texting draws students into social interactions that they are not sure how to get out of. Online grading, either Edline, PowerSchool or ParentConnect, is a new fact of life for millions of students in thousands of schools across the country. How do we speak to our children about using these potentially powerful technologies? How do we see them ourselves, and how do they alter parent-child interactions? Bullying, or the social triangles that develop between aggressors, targets, and bystanders are nothing new, but we are now realizing the long-term emotional damage and stress it causes. Can we teach our children and our students to take a more thoughtful, empathetic approach to these social interactions, both in cyberspace and the school hallways? Interpersonal and social media skills taught at a young age can provide a foundation for our children for the rest of their lives. This Georgetown SEPAC/GeorgetownCARES meeting is free and open to the public. Please RSVP or direct questions to Pam Lundquist at 978-352-5407 or ************************************************************************************ Anxiety and stress in school is on the rise for many of our students, as the documentary, Race to Nowhere clearly shows. Why is this? How can we help our kids? The basic structure and nature of public schools today is based largely on the needs of society in the 1800’s. At that time factories and businesses wanted a public school system that would train good workers for them. So schools created factory-like conditions from which students would easily transition to work. Schools instituted rigid schedules, bells to mark the end of periods, desks, indoor classes always in the same place, skills & drills. Now that our world has transitioned, our schools are in need of new ways. America, lagging behind other countries in math and science needs to develop a more experiential way of teaching. We need to use multimodal methods to allow all students to access the curriculum material in a practical, relevant and useful way. Because success in the global workplace now demands creativity, innovation, and a deeper level of comprehension than skills & drills can provide, our whole approach to education must fundamentally change. Amidst all of this change, homeschooling has understandably become a more popular alternative. Many of the curriculums we now rely on teach students vast amounts of material at a faster rate and earlier age than ever before. First and second grades today can be equated to the third and fourth grades of 30 years ago. Pressures to achieve are stronger than ever, creating stress and anxiety particularly when we push children prematurely beyond their cognitive skills. Every child develops at a different rate, thus occasionally this can happen. In Norway, where students consistently score highly on tests that demonstrate their ability to conceptualize, generalize and creatively use information, both in reading and in math, teachers are highly valued. Teacher pay is high, teacher development is extensive, teachers develop their own curriculum to meet the needs of the students. The emphasis is shifted from rote learning to focused classroom activities on problem solving. The KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) school model, used in over 100 KIPP schools around the country, focuses on an experiential teaching model. Kids go up to the board in groups and solve problems together. All students are expected to learn, expectations are specific, clear and high; all student effort is highly valued. The teachers give the students time to get concepts, and will teach in different modalities until all students have learned the curriculum. 200+ years ago, long before the public school models we have in place today, experiential learning by doing was common practice. Teaching styles were more interactive and followed the learning style of individual students more closely. Of course, class sizes were much smaller than they are today! Most teachers today feel strong pressure to get through lessons, and it’s easier when everyone sits. The normal adult attention span is 15 minutes. It’s much less for kids. One audience member suggested project-based learning as being highly motivational to her daughter. The in-depth, practical, multisensory learning that takes place can lead to real pride in achievement and newly acquired knowledge. Dr. Carr said that he finds that most teachers are highly motivated to help their students, they want everyone to achieve their goals. They usually embrace teacher development, instructional strategy training, and group problem-solving very well. Homework stress is very common. It helps when teachers integrate homework, both before students go home and when they return to school with it complete, into class discussions. Then homework can become an active learning experience that helps the teacher and student gage and build comprehension. Homework should not be overly burdensome, if it is, students, parents and teachers all need to discuss how and why as a team dedicated to helping the student. Students tend to feel the homework is meaningful when their efforts are recognized and rewarded. A student-directed element to homework, where the student has some choice in the nature of the assignment, also engages students. The expectations and particulars of a homework assignment needs to be clearly communicated to students in a multi-modal way to ensure no misunderstandings. Sometimes the physical set up of the school environment can be disabling. Classrooms with poor sound quality, so that the students cannot hear the teacher or each other create stress for students. Classrooms with no comfortable area or table space for different activities or group work create stress for students. Classrooms that are too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter are hard to focus in. Cheerful colors, orderly classrooms can calm anxious students. Online grading systems for students in middle and high schools are new technology to many across the country. Students, parents, and teachers all need to set consistent posting and checking policies. Naturally there will be misunderstandings that will cause stress for all of us “early adopters.” The information communicated about student achievements, assignments, expectations, calendars can be of enormous help to students, families and teachers. However, the dialog around what is posted needs to stay constructive and focused on how the information can be helpful. Today’s technology – video games, Facebook, texting – all promise instant, quick gratification. New versions are always faster and quicker. Social interactions via technology can be easily misinterpreted, they do not provide the whole experience that face to face interaction does, but people are reached quickly. The habitual use of technology that many tweens and teens fall into definitely creates stress and anxiety. Put it all off as long as you can, we want kids to learn how to be social person to person as much as possible. One parent said that studies show that playing video games creates pathways and ruts in children’s brains. “We’re training kids to expect that level of stimulation from everything that they do. The kind of passive response that works for them in video games won’t work for them in life.” Use of technology in the classroom does get the attention and engagement of many students. Classroom technology can be an opportunity for teachers to share with students constructive ways to learn about current events, do research, and explore topics in depth. It is vital that we teach students to use technology effectively, as it certainly is here to stay. Some video games are educational, and can be valuable tools to teach kids who love them, such as Fastmath to learn math facts. See Cyberbullying causes huge stress and anxiety. When it occurs, the damage is enormous because there is no escape from it, not at school, not at home for the targets. Impulsive aggressors with regrets can’t take back their actions, either. Ultimately, kids need to learn how to police themselves. We can help them with that. They need to understand that every electronic conversation they engage in is both public and permanent. That impulsive hurtful comments cause damage beyond what they can imagine. When emotions are running high, all people should stay away from electronic communications until they calm down. These are hard concepts for tweens and teens to get, but the message needs to be taught over and over. Texting can hijack our kids’ adolescence. Texting can be addictive; Dr. Carr knows a 23-year old who is about to lose their job because she can’t stop texting. 11 year olds can be totally addicted to texting. And the pressure to response to 500 texts a day can be enormous. The message kids get is that they are not cool if they don’t. It’s hard to do homework and keep up with texting at the same time. A good time to take away all ipods and phones is 7-8pm at night. Then the focus can be on finishing up homework and getting ready for bed. Children want to be able to tell their friends, “my parents won’t let me text any more tonight.” It takes the pressure off of them. With technology/screen time, put a structure around it, develop routines, use timers to minimize conflict and set limits. Talk about an end-time. Children appreciate boundaries, they want you to set limits. Consistent behavior plans help put everything into proper perspective. Kids will take between 1 day and 3 weeks to feel comfortable with new routines. They will protest at first, but the battle is important to win. Clear expectations, meaningful rewards and consequences may all be a part of the plan. When trying to minimize a behavior or replace it with a new one, the extinction curve will apply. That means that initially, the resistance will be high, kids will test you to see if you are serious. But eventually, they will fall into line. Most anxious children, particularly boys, are drawn to video games, and it can be argued that children drawn to video games become anxious because they isolate themselves in their video world. A parent said that she has disabled the photo function in her child’s cellphone. Inappropriate pictures have caused much angst in the cyberworld. Anxiety has gone through the roof with students in school, as reported by both teachers and administrators nationwide. Students most effected by anxiety often begin to show signs in 2nd and 3rd grades, when the pace of curriculum content taught begins to challenge them. What many people define as the “right college” is questionable. Expensive private colleges may have small classes, but students will graduate with substantial debt. Massachusetts State colleges are amazing, a true value. If you want to invest in education, graduate school may be the best time to do that. The name of your graduate school will trump your undergraduate college, and you want to be sure to get the best quality program. One parent said the pressure to apply to big name colleges is high, sometimes coming from the well meaning friends and family, sometimes from guidance counselors. Anxiety is based on a fight or flight response. When we experience chronic stress, your adrenaline levels and cortisol levels rise, which increases blood sugar. When you or your children experience anxiety often, you want to monitor it to determine triggers and learn how to stop the negative thoughts early. Once someone is in a full-blown panic attack, you cannot help them. Be conscious all day long, am I uncomfortable? Am I thinking positive thoughts, or not? Then when you do get a little anxious, you can start in with strategies to turn it around, such as distracting yourself or considering the facts you know, rather than scary possibilities. Distraction is an excellent technique for dealing with anxiety. We need to teach people who feel anxious a different way of thinking. Our emotional brains will always dominate our cognitive sides; your experience of life is primarily emotional. It is much easier to recall how you felt with someone rather than what exactly they said. So finding ways to feel safer, secure, valued with others is worth the effort. Most of the time, the worst thing you can do with an anxious, upset teenage boy is to keep talking with them. As parents, we need to learn to manage our own stress levels, so that we can figure out how to soothe our children and ourselves in a healthy, effective way. Break it down. Rageful behavior is often linked to and caused by underlying anxiety. Your job is to talk to kids about it, but find the right time for them, a time when they can hear you. A time when they will feel safe to speak. A time when you can listen. That will help them manage it. Get anxious kids up and moving every 15 minutes. Check out Find out more about Dr. Troy Carr, Georgetown School Psychologist, at

Friday, April 13, 2012

Upcoming Meetings: May 9th & May 16th, 2012 (Weds)

May 9th, 2012 - Wednesday, 7-9pm – An IEP For My Child - an Amesbury/Georgetown/Groveland SEPAC meeting at the Amesbury Middle School Library (2nd floor), at 220 Main St., Amesbury, MA 01913– The Georgetown SEPAC is pleased to co-sponsor this Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Workshop at the Amesbury Middle School, 2nd floor library, 220 Main Street, Amesbury 01913. An IEP for My Child – an FCSN Workshop: Every child with a disability who receives special education services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This workshop takes parents step-by-step through IEP development, including how to articulate a vision, using evaluations to write measurable goals, and measuring their child’s progress, will be presenting.

Wondering about how to write the best possible IEP for your child? This workshop takes parents step-by-step through the development of the IEP. Learn ways to write and express your vision for your child and what your concerns are. Be sure your IEP services will build on your child’s strengths and individual learning style, while also specifying the instructional modifications and accommodations your child needs to make academic progress. Clarify measurable goals, objectives, benchmarks, and assessments. Bring your child’s IEP and ask your specific questions! The agenda for the evening includes the IEP & the General Curriculum, Filling out each section of the IEP, Accountability for progress, Progress reporting.

For more information or to register for this workshop call Kara Keleher at (978) 388-9950. This event is free and open to the public.

May 16th, 2012
– Wednesday, 7-8:30pm - Penn Brook Library, 68 Elm St., Georgetown, MA 01833 - A Joint Georgetown SEPAC & GeorgetownCARES Meeting: Best Practices to Help Children Manage School-Related Stress and Anxiety – Come join us for an interactive discussion led by Dr. Troy Carr, Georgetown School Psychologist – This workshop will follow up on themes of our post-film Race to Nowhere community discussion and highlight particular sources of stress for our youth in school along with helpful strategies to support our children and build their resiliency.

The popular film RACE TO NOWHERE, shown in Georgetown in October 2011, was a call to families, educators, and policy makers to investigate how we support student learning in a culture prone to over-testing, performance pressure, and over-scheduling. This film clearly documented the suffering that many youth remain silent about, the educators stressed and worried about how to build resilience and a love of learning when curriculum itself is so overwhelming. Overly burdensome and meaningless homework, pressure to get into the “right” college, and pressure to achieve “A’s” all contribute to one of our students’ greatest sources of stress – school! How can we help our children turn “high expectations” from pressures driving them onto a convention path into the key to their very own journey to success?

How is life for our children in school changing these days? Very fast, with technology leading the way. Social media sites evolve constantly, allowing for anonymous posts and put-downs that authors do not need to own up to. Texting draws students into social interactions that they are not sure how to get out of. Online grading, either Edline, PowerSchool or ParentConnect, is a new fact of life for millions of students in thousands of schools across the country. How do we speak to our children about using these potentially powerful technologies? How do we see them ourselves, and how do they alter parent-child interactions?

Bullying, or the social triangles that develop between aggressors, targets, and bystanders are nothing new, but we are now realizing the long-term emotional damage and stress it causes. Can we teach our children and our students to take a more thoughtful, empathetic approach to these social interactions, both in cyberspace and the school hallways? Interpersonal and social media skills taught at a young age can provide a foundation for our children for the rest of their lives.

This Georgetown SEPAC/GeorgetownCARES meeting is free and open to the public. Please RSVP or direct questions to Pam Lundquist at

What The Silenced Say, an Evening with Jonathan Mooney

A summary – Georgetown SEPAC

Think about this big industry that we call special education. There are drug companies waiting to make profits, and academics waiting to build careers out of this process. But guess who has no voice here? The kids who live it day to day. So I want to be their voice. All those kids who are silenced by their education.

I am sick and tired of the horror stories about kids like me, kids with diagnoses like LD/ADHD. I'm sick of the fact that our prisons are 60% kids like me. I'm sick of the fact that our mental institutions are 80% filled with kids like me. I got sick of people telling me that I would be lucky to flip burgers. I spell at a 3rd grade level. I read in the 8th percentile, which means that I read at a 7th grade level. My digit span tells you that I have the attention span of a gnat. And yet, I graduated from Brown University with a 4.0 average, was a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship, have written books etc (permit me to brag…).

When I am forced to sit there at a desk, my attention wanders. But what happens when I am allowed to get up? What happens the moment that I can move around, the moment I decide what I want to study? The moment I am truly engaged? How disabled am I then? Not at all.

Can you imagine a kid rolling into class saying, yes, I'm ready to learn, and I'm defective. Deal with that.

I want to try to isolate how a kid who everybody thought would end up flipping burgers ends up at the top of his class. It has to do with surviving an institution that was obsessed with the idea that there is only one best way to learn. What we lose in the school of all kids is that we lose cognitive diversity, and the gifts that come out of that. Most schools tell you, you are broken. Fix yourself, or get out.

The place of common ground, the place that will revolutionize the way we do school, is the place that we all have been, and it starts in first grade. That is when kids' war stories start. That is when kids begin to think of themselves as stupid and crazy and lazy.

If you want to call for change, to call for reform, we need to talk about what is going wrong. So let's start with crazy. And crazy started for me with the desk. It ends self-directed learning. It starts, I'll tell you when you can get up. I'll tell you when you can go to the bathroom. I'll tell you when you can walk around. I'll tell you when you can tap your foot.

Do you know how many times I've been yelled at for disrupting class, for speaking out of turn? The school of all kids is hard to escape. The teacher would say, "Stop it, stop it, John. What is your problem, John?" And the logical conclusion of the child is that he has a problem, that he is defective. That is the pedagogy of shame. When I am shamed enough, eventually I am stopped.

ADHD is not a child who can’t focus, it is really that a person pays high attention to too many things, and that is a gift. We should burn the DSM, which is only concerned with what people cannot do. It doesn't talk about any of the good stuff, how gifted and special the kids with diagnoses are.

So the teacher says, "John, John, you have to focus!" The tidal wave of shame comes with this. Can I teach the kids what to say to that? Make eye contact with your teacher, and with a big smile, say, "Excuse me, that was a vapid euphemism." (euphemism is a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing).

Yelling at a kid to focus does no good. How about if we say, "How can I help you focus?" That changes things. How about, “what are three things we can come up with that would help you focus?

My top three favorite places that the behavioral problem kids are sent: 1) the hallway, 2) the in-house suspension room (loss of recess), 3) the Principal's office.

Look at the message about me and learning that is sent when I am placed in one of those places. We have to watch the way we talk, the way we segregate and humiliate the kids that don't fit our idea of normalcy. What kids learn is that either they need to stop being themselves or get out. You perform, or you get out. And state testing is making this dynamic even more entrenched. But that is not what education should be about.

We need to stop the tracks. The detention center is definitely one track. How about reading groups? Every kid knows what the smart and stupid kids read, Spot vs. War and Peace. Tell your child in a lower reading group that they are smart, that they will advance.
We might as well paint a target on a kid. Talk to your kids all the time about how bright they are, that they are destined to accomplish exciting things. Early reading is not an indicator of intelligence. Science now tells us that early readers are often surpassed in achievement by others later in life.

What brain science now tells us, is that the brains of kids with diagnoses of deficits keep developing later into life than those of "normal" kids. That the brain will grow to compensate for the deficit, around the deficit, to bring out greater gifts than normal learners will ever have.

Can you do me a favor? Please demand in yours schools that the word "retard" be treated like the moral equivalent of the racial slur.

No kid can learn with public humiliation every day. You have to pull kids out of this experience. And many kids, after facing it all day in school, come home to parents, who say, "What's wrong with you? What is your problem? Why don't you just do your homework?" That's when learned helplessness, the state of giving up, sets in. The shockers mice experience in science labs are on, and the kid just wants to die.

When a kid starts cursing, when they draw violent pictures, what do you think they are trying to tell you? Their pain is invisible. It's hard to understand how a spelling bee can make a kid want to disappear, but it can. If you don't want to talk about it, let's talk about drugs and alcohol problems instead. Kids like me get involved with drugs and alcohol all the time. Drugs will ruin kids like me. You have to intervene, But don't talk pathology. Help them out of their shame. Help them understand that the alcohol and drugs are all about shame.

Please take the word lazy out of your vocabulary as well. Depressed, right on. Anxiety and Learned helplessness, yes.

Let's talk about change and heroes now, because it's the heroes that matter. It's the heroes who can lift kids out of their place. Like my mom, who taught me and showed me every day that I wasn't defective. She was an advocate for me. Find out what your child loves to do, and do it with them. Teach them that they are not broken, rather that the system is broken, every day.

My dad looked at me, and said, "John, I love you regardless of how you do in school." Do you know how much that means to hear that from Dad? Kids kill themselves over their grades, not getting into the write colleges. You need to teach your children that they are good people, regardless of how they perform. That can change a kid's life.

There is a time to stop remediation. There is a time to talk about strengths and gifts. To say that what you can do is more important than what you cannot do. That is a paradigm shift to gifted thinking. So my best teacher, Mr. Rosenbaum, offered me project-based teaching, and asked me what I like doing. And when I told him soccer, he didn't accept that. He directed me towards using my mind. But of course, he got fired.

We can't continue to treat our teachers like cogs in a machine. We need to empower them. One important way to empower kids and teachers is with accommodations. Never let kids feel ashamed of accommodations. Accommodations are not cheating. LD kids scores improve 45-50% with accommodations, other kids' tests only improve 2-3%. People with 20/20 vision aren’t helped by glasses. People with near or farsightedness are.

High school was a tough go for me. Spanish class? I can't even conjugate an English verb! How can a kid have responsibility without choice? Responsibility is contingent upon choice. High school is a time of conformity. Shame creeps in. But shame does no good. It is not a catalyst to learning.

Please tell your kids that college is a great place! That things get better in college, your kids will rock college! Because what do kids tell you about how to make school better? No classes before noon. Untimed tests. When I get to choose what I study.

ADD/LD doesn't go away, and I don't want it to. I don't want to be cured. Through the idea out the window that normal is only way to be. That learning outside the lines can include skimming books. Take wild brainstorm notes with different colors. To become metacognitive is to learn how your learn. My success has to do with looking inward, not defining myself as defective, but with embracing my gifts. It's not about being a perfect kid, it's about understanding how your mind works. Let's stop fixing kids who do not have a problem.

Q: How do you organize your thoughts while speaking or writing?
A: The way I do it is to get away from the idea that tangents are bad. We are taught that daydreaming or getting off topic is bad. An inventor once said that his best inventions came from daydreaming. But I do try to do is be very rigid with a framework that includes topics. I try to think about how much time to spend on each topic. It's like a big brainstorm. So I connect the tangents. It comes with practice, of saying what is my broad category, and let my mind run. So I embrace tangents, know my broad categories and I connect them.

Q: What do you do when you've given up on school?
A: You ask yourself, why have I given up? You understand and try to think about what you love. What I discovered was if I give up on school, on the game - because it is a game and we can learn how to play it - I would close a door for myself. And I wasn't ready to do that. Think about the right route for you. If you want to learn more, find yourself in college. Learn how to play the game. Sit up front, make eye contact. Learn how to regurgitate things back to your teachers. Because teachers love that. Play that game because you love learning and want to continue to learn in the future.

Q: How can you help your disorganized child?
A: Tell you child that getting organized will get easier every day. Think about, what is worth your time. Pick you battles, is it more important if your child loses his books or his pencils. There is no one best way to be organized. Organized people have developed a system that is right for them. Help them understand what is right for them. Ask your child what works for them. 80% of the time, they will be wrong. Try it, and than ask them again. Over time, that child will learn how to organize for themselves.

Q: How did being a part of the “soccer jock” crowd help you, and what should kids do who can’t find an identity in the sports world?
A: The jock stuff, really, is a double-edged sword. As a kid who had trouble learning, I was forced into the soccer jock identity. And my parents went psycho over it, just like they did with the learning. It was, perform, or you are not valued. It restricted my social interactions, because there is a jock culture, and it is a hard-drinking culture often, and it's not good for a kids with addiction issues. One of the best thing that happened to me, and I went to college on a soccer scholarship, was when I got injured. But let's talk about kids who don't thrive athletically and need to find other means of success. What does a child's mind love to think about? It might be buried under shame, crap, I can't, but you need to dig it out, and reward them for what they are good at. You've got to tell kids that what they can do is all good. Project-based learning is learning by doing, to understand knowledge holistically. My earth science teacher took us surfing. Open up their environment with what they are passionate about.

Q: What do you make of the terms, learning disorders, learning disabilities?
A: Great question. I'm not saying that they don't exist. I'm not saying that they are socially constructed. But what we need is an action shift, a programming shift. What's behind the idea of trying to deconstruct the language we use to describe these kids? I want to look at how the medical model for describing kids like me is the language of pathology, about disease. And this language has suffocated the way we intervene, the way we do programming. So to replace it, what I am for is understanding cognitive diversity. What that means is that if we looked around the country, is that every mind is different, unique. In nueroscience, what we are discovering is that the brain is the most elastic organ we have. If I am born with a deficit in my brain, such as ADD, my brain grows around it, it gets larger in other places. But the language of disorders doesn't embrace that growth, or the fact that so many kids with ADD are often or will become gifted students.

Q: So how do we break down the barriers?
A: The most important step for parents or teachers is to pump the child full of the message, you are not defective. No child should feel that they are not good enough or broken. But the big challenge is systemic, the way we train teachers. If we don't give teachers the tools to individualize instruction, we are going to keep having the drop out rates. The last piece that that where we are going with standardized testing, one size fits all is the opposite of recognizing cognitive diversity, cultural diversity. The medical models are concerned with what people can't do, ignoring that some of our greatest people have had great weaknesses as well. It focuses on fixing problems.

Q: Are you suggesting that teachers not play by the rules?
A: Yes, let's just be honest. I believe that a child's sense of self, getting kids connected to learning should be our educational goals. If we don't connect a kid to their passion for learning, the rest is inconsequential. We have to approach academics in a balanced way, talking about strengths and gifts. Sometimes when we take the pressure off kids to perform academically, they perform academically. Connect the kids with what they care about. You can achieve academic goals and a kid's sense of passion at the same time. What matters is people over programs. Teachers have the ability to reach in and pull a kid out of their terrible place. The essential goal of education is to empower kids to be critical thinkers, to connect them to what they are passionate about. But the reason I am successful is because I conquered the reading, which I could do because of great teachers to taught me that I have gifts to offer.

Q: How can we raise kids' self esteem?
We need to reassociate success and self-esteem with doing something we care about, not in pleasing some institution, not with achievement. So what can people do? You have to model being a connected and caring individual for your child by getting to know them and insisting that they get any accommodations that would help them to learn, which are guaranteed by law. It is the responsibility of the parents to passionately advocate for their children. Kids pick up on that. They see that and feel it. You have to give them concrete strategies to be successful that work for them. And tell them that they are not a broken kid. We have to understand the paradox of disability, which is that our gifts are often directly the results of our deficits.

April 2001 - Towson University

Books by Jonathan Mooney:
Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal, pub. By Holt, Henry & Co, @2008

Learning Outside the Lines: Two Ivy League Students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD Give You the Tools for Academic Success and Educational Revolution, pub. By Touchstone, 2000

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Opportunity to interview Dir of Spec Ed Candidates

Hello Everyone,

Good News - The Georgetown School District's search for a new Director of Special Education has been successful in attracting highly qualified, experienced candidates for this important position! At this time the district's search has been narrowed to three finalists.

Next week, each candidate will come in for one day to meet with various administrators, school committee members and, of course, our special education parents! The district is looking for help from interested special education parents to speak with the candidates and offer their feedback and thoughts regarding them.

The candidates will be visiting on Monday (4/9), Wednesday (4/11), and Thursday (4/12); the scheduled time to meet with parents will be from 2:30pm-3:00pm. If you would like to help interview the candidates, please let me know by Friday, April 6th, at noon. The first five parents to contact me regarding their interest and confirming availability for a particular day will be selected. Upon your selection, I will forward specific information, as I receive it, to you regarding the candidate(s) that you will meet and the location of the interviews.

I thank you very much for considering this important way to help our school district select the very best candidate for Director of Special Education. The ability to dialog, speak with, listen to and relate to our special education parents is a critical qualification for the ideal candidate to have. The process of building positive relationships with special education parents is paramount to providing the best quality programs and services for our students. Experience building effective special education programs, creative problem solving skills, the ability to make and explain valid data/research-based decisions, are a few other valuable qualities for the candidates to have. In preparing for an interview, you may want to come up with your own ideas of important qualifications or qualities for a candidate to have. Please feel free to ask whatever questions you believe will help lead our schools to select the best candidate, rather than any question related to your own child's particular situation.

I look forward to hearing from any special education parent who would like to help conduct interviews and will be available at the aforementioned times.

All best regards, Pam Lundquist, Chairperson, Georgetown SEPAC at

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Kioko Center - An Amazing Place!

Georgetown SEPAC Recommendation: The Kioko Center is a pediatric occupational and speech therapy center located in North Andover (Rt. 114), offering summer programs and year-round services to children, primarily ages 3-13. Professional services are offered in a playful and functional atmosphere; summer groups are organized around social skills, sensory motor, handwriting, siblings and more. Children with a wide variety of diagnoses can benefit; 80% of clients qualify for insurance coverage through BC/BS or Harvard Pilgrim. For more info, see or call Beatrice Friedman, Family & Staff Coordinator at 978-681-6605 to see for yourself! Kioko is Japanese for Happy Child, and to that end highly trained specialists with years of experience can help your children become the best that they can be!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Join for a Basic Rights in Special Education Workshop!

April 4th, 2012 – Wednesday, 7-9pm – Basic Rights in Special Education – an Amesbury/Georgetown/Groveland SEPAC meeting – The Georgetown SEPAC is pleased to co-sponsor this Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Workshop at the Amesbury Middle School, 2nd floor library, 220 Main Street, Amesbury 01913. Theresa Seip, of the FCSN, will be presenting. The Basic Rights in Special Education Workshop provides families with an introduction to their rights and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Massachusetts Special Education Law and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It is designed to help parents learn how to be effective partners with their child’s school to decide the child’s eligibility for special education, and to plan, make decisions and monitor their child’s progress in school. Workshop materials are also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.
Federation staff suggest that you attend this workshop first in order to better understand our other workshops. Learn about the Special Education laws, the process of how Special Education laws play out in your school, understand your rights so that you can effectively collaborate with your professional partners and become a more effective advocate for your child. Topics presented will include laws such as IDEA 2004, No Child Left Behind, Massachusetts Special Education Law, Section 504 and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); General Education supports; and Steps in the IEP process. This workshop is free and open to the public. Please join us and RSVP/register if possible (to ensure materials) to Kara Keleher at 978-388-9950 or Pam Lundquist @!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Working Memory Presentation Notes from 3-13-12

Georgetown Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Meeting (access from district website)
Meeting Minutes, March 13, 2012 – 6:30 pm, Penn Brook Library

March 13, 2012 – Georgetown SEPAC Meeting, 6:30-8:30pm, Penn Brook Library, 68 Elm St., Georgetown: Working Memory: Strengthening the Weak Link in ADD/ADHD Keynote Speaker: Rebecca Shafir, of Did you know that Working Memory (WM) is the new IQ? Working Memory is the best indicator of academic success; better than IQ scores. Working Memory underlies several functions related to learning and is considered by researchers to be the weak link in persons with ADHD, a neurobiological condition that affects one' s ability to maintain attention. Working memory takes the information we focus on, processes, sorts, and evaluates it, and brings it together with our long-term memory to generate a response, a decision on how to act or think upon the new information. Our working memory is constantly processing new information from the environment, and the way that happens affects our recall of reading material, social interaction, names, and places. The good news is that working memory can be strengthened and improved. In this 90 minute talk, qualified Cogmed Working Memory Training coach Rebecca Shafir will describe working memory's impact on academics and social skills, plus the research behind working memory training. We will also discuss practical, specific strategies to improve and compensate for poor working memory, both at home and at school.
Speech/language Pathologist, communication consultant, and brain fitness expert Rebecca Shafir has been helping children and adults with ADHD and ADHD-like conditions communicate and think more clearly and powerfully at home, at work and in public for more than 25 years.
In the areas of cognitive health, wellness and rehabilitation, Ms. Shafir has served as Chief of the Communications Disorders Department at Choate-Symmes Health Services, Chief of Speech/Language Pathology at the Lahey Clinic Medical Center. For that past ten years she has worked as Clinician/Director of Business Development for the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, all in Massachusetts, also a practicing speech/language pathologist.
Rebecca Shafir’s award-winning book The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction from Quest Books, will help all who read it, from families to teachers to leaders in all walks of life!

Working Memory is the ability to hold onto pieces of information in your mind and apply them to achieve a goal. Poor working memory is a core deficit in ADHD, as well as for children with learning difficulties, anxiety disorders, or brain injury. Working memory is what helps us to stay focused on task, to block out distractions, to be aware of our environment, to reason through multifaceted choices, and to perform effectively.

ADHD can mask as at least 30 different diagnoses. ADHD’s three primary symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, occurring in more than one setting. The disorder significantly impairs a child’s ability to function in some of the activities of daily life, such as schoolwork and/or relationships with family and friends. Symptoms are usually apparent before the age of 7.

At the Hallowell Center, we commonly see kids who have been underdiagnosed, overdiagnosed, and misdiagnosed. The right medication can be extremely helpful for about 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD. However, it generally only increases working memory function by 10%. Medication helps with focus, but not necessarily with control over focus.

Executive function is a set of cognitive processes, including working memory, problem solving, multi-tasking and more. For people with ADHD, executive functioning is often impaired in areas such as:
- Focusing/high distractibility
- making transitions
- self-monitoring
- self-regulating/decreased inhibition/increased impulsivity
- organizing materials, not losing things
- effective time management
- planning and carrying out tasks
- storing and retrieving information
- recognition of key ideas
- noticing details
- requiring high interest tasks to stave off boredom

Our society today, as it is evolving, does not do a lot to develop executive function. One particular area, family dinnertime table talk, is in great peril. With modern time constraints, we tend to compress discussions that help us think through pros and cons, evaluate new ideas and share opinions on newsworthy items, consider consequences. Conversations that encourage children to reason and develop their critical judgment tend to be shorter than ever before, when they occur at all.

In schools, teaching the information-packed curriculums of today is so demanding that time for information processing and multi-modal understanding of the material is minimal to nonexistent. Time pressures lead teachers to more of a focus on memorization and repetition than on integration of information.

Direct one-on-one conversation time in general is often minimal. What has taken its place is time on the internet, social media, texting, tweeting, facebooking. While all of these do represent a form of communication, they allow both children and adults to participate more passively; immediate response are not necessarily called for; participants are not required to take in another’s presence in a truly active way.

According to a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation study on Daily Media Use Among Children and Teens,
- 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).
- Those who say their parents do set limits on media consume nearly 3 hours less media per day than those with no rules.
- (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals.
- Just under half (45%) say the TV is left on “most of the time” in their home.
- Seven in ten (71%) have a TV in their bedroom, and half (50%) have a console video game player in their room.
- “The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week,” said Drew Altman, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it’s affecting them – for good and bad.”

One thing we know about high media use, is that heavy users of media do report lower grades in school. Which is not surprising considering that they are missing out on discussions that call on them to think critically, evaluate what is happening, and think through cause and effect.

Working Memory calls primarily on two parts of the brain, the Frontal Lobe – your “brain’s conductor,” which controls attention, motivation, emotional/social judgement, problem solving, decision making, expressive language, motor integration and voluntary movement, and also the Parietal Lobe, which controls tactile perception (touch), awareness of spatial relationships, and most academic skills. The brains of children diagnosed with ADHD tend to show reduced parietal functioning and smaller/less developed/less active frontal lobes.

The children who “grow out” of ADHD are the ones whose brains grow in these two areas as they become adults. Working memory has been found to be one of the last areas/capabilities in the brain to develop. It has also been noted as one of the first capabilities to “go.” Working memory function often begins to decline in people in their 4o’s (sorry!).

The most popular theory of Working Memory used today is Alan Baddeley’s model, which is a three part model/schematic: the Central Executive function (controls/regulates cognitive processes) is comprised of
1) The Phonological Loop – Auditory/Language
2) Episodic Buffer – Short term episodic memory/links to long-term memory
3) Visuo-spatial sketchpad – Visual semantics/movement

Children in elementary school use working memory to build reading comprehension, do mental arithmetic, interact and respond appropriately in social situations.

Middle School presents a very great challenge to working memory, as the complexity and volume of information presented for learning increases drastically. Expectations for doing homework independently, solving multi-step math word problems, writing essays and reports all require an efficient working memory.

Tutors can help students with executive functioning disorders, but they need to teach the student key organizational skills and mnemonics, or strategies to remember important information at the same time they teach the academic skills. Otherwise, their value is only temporary.

Neuropsychological testing can be of great value to parents, children, and the schools. Working Memory tests are fairly good, but they also are conducted in controlled environments. So to fully evaluate a person’s Working Memory capability, it is important for me to assess other factors, such as
- hearing
- visual
- anxiety and depression (both can cause or be caused by Working Memory issues)
- diet – fish oil and vitamin D can both help
- real life descriptions of struggles at home and in the classroom

Because improved working memory function has been shown to improve behavior at home and at school, lessen anxiety, and decrease explosive episodes, it is important to find working memory training tools that are affordable, effective, and make long-range or permanent improvements.

Several ways to improve working memory for people of all ages have been found effective:
• Medication (generally helps around 70% of people formally diagnosed with ADHD)
• Diet & Exercise – Read SPARK: The Exercise Revolution, by John Ratey
o - Try asking the kids to do 25 pushups before school!
o John Ratey is also co-author with Dr. Edward Hallowell of Delivered from Distraction.
• Stress Management – biofeedback, neurofeedback, slow/deep breathing, visualization, meditation
• Positive Immersion-based learning – using high-interest, fun game-like situations, such as chess or martial arts to build cognitive skills and learning style awareness
• Socialization - Constructive conversation and dialog to build critical thinking
• Compensation Strategies – practicing note/study/test taking strategies and time management techniques, calendars, setting schedules/deadlines, clearly define goals, monitor progress.
• Executive Function Coaching – one on one consultative support, with or without assistive technologies/computerized brain training
• Computerized brain training (of frontal and parietal lobes)
o - Inspiration and Kidspiration software For visual mapping, outlining, writing and making presentations, etc.
o - Brain Training Software
o - a “strength-based” treatment for ADHD, dyslexia and other learning difficulties.

One of the most effective computer-based brain training programs, considered by many “a new breed of intervention,” is called Cogmed Working Memory Training (by Pearson). Improvements can be expected in reading comprehension, math skills, language development, on-task behavior, and more. Use of Cogmed must be supervised by a psychiatrist. Training is done at home on a PC. The program requires a commitment of 5 weeks, 30-40 minutes a day (15 for children ages 4-7). The program includes coach support for the 25 sessions, and 100 additional sessions after that.

Ideal candidate clients should basically like video games and not be too anxious. There are 3 different programs, one for 4-7 year olds, one for 7-17 year olds, and one for adults. Each has different graphics and reward systems, fishes for the younger ones, robots for the older ones, not a lot for adults.

Cogmed, supervised by a psychiatrist, runs around $1600, while Learning Breakthrough, generally much less or unsupervised, runs around $400. While LB has helped many people, its results are somewhat less evidence-based at this time than those of Cogmed.

A supervised program will be much more customized to the client. Targeted outcomes become our goals. We ask, if you could make your life easier in 3-5 ways, what would those be, and generally zoom in on making those ways happen in an engaging way, such as improving reading comprehension, writing skills, math skills, easily completing/keeping track of/not losing homework, confidence in taking on the challenge of a complex project, increased sense of self-control over appropriate social responses at home or at school.

Parents and teachers almost uniformly report improved social skills, taking initiative, remembering instructions and completing assignments more independently in students who have used the Cogmed program.

Cogmed can also be extremely helpful for concussion/head injury clients, as well as those diagnosed with LD NOS or certain students on the autism spectrum disorder.

Dr. Hallowell through The Hallowell Center in Sudbury, MA is working on a series for teachers, focusing on building executive function skills, supporting children with ADHD, clarifying the different approaches.

One more helpful approach to working memory deficits, especially those caused by anxiety, is a program called Heartmath. The emWave2 desktop system helps a child or adult learn to calm themselves down before trying to focus on a goal. Through simple to learn exercises and games, with a pulse sensor that attaches to the ear, the program collects and translates HRV (heart rate variability) data into user-friendly, fun graphics. Clients find that this program, which could be used by a student to begin their day, builds resistance to stress, increases energy, promotes focus, mental clarity and emotional balance. See The system costs $229 and needs to be supervised by a trained psychologist for maximum benefit.

(yellow) Handout: Working Memory Constraint Checklist
Do you or your child…..
- Get easily distracted when doing something not so interesting? Yes/No
- Have trouble waiting for a turn to talk? Yes/No
- Struggle with reading comprehension? Yes/No
- Struggle with doing mental math calculations? Yes/No
- Struggle with getting started? Yes/No
- Struggle with completing a task? Yes/No
- Have difficulty planning and organizing with multiple steps? Yes/No
- Often seem restless and on the go? Yes/No
- Lose belongings frequently? Yes/No

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, consider Cogmed Working Memory Training as an option for intervention. Call Rebecca Shafir M.A.CCC, a qualified Cogmed coach with the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, MA at 978-287-0810 x117 or her West Newbury, MA office 978-255-1817 for more information. Also see

Friday, January 27, 2012

Update: New Interim Director of Special Education for Georgetown

At the 1/26/12 School Committee meeting, Dr. Cathleen E. Estep was unanimously approved as our new Interim Special Education Director for Georgetown. The appointment required a joint approval by both Superintendent Carol Jacobs and the School Committee.

Dr. Estep has extensive experience in Special Education, and in fact, plans to retire after a 30+ year career at the end of this school year. Her last nine years were spent as Director of Pupil Services for the Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA. Dr. Estep will be working two days a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus one Wednesday a month for the Georgetown School District for the remainder of this school year.

The Georgetown SEPAC would like to congratulate and welcome Dr. Estep to our Special Education Community at our next SEPAC Meeting, which will be on FEBRUARY 14th, Tuesday night, 6:30-8:00pm, at the Penn Brook Library, 68 Elm St.

Please join us that evening to welcome, meet, greet, and speak with Dr. Estep. Bring any general questions you may have for her, along with ideas for what you see as important directions for our Special Education Department to develop in. New understanding, positive direction and fruitful progress for our overall special education programs depends on establishing an open, vital, mutually respectful, and continuing dialog between parents and our school administration. Come be part of the discussion!

We can also have fun wishing each other a Happy Valentine's Day! Light refreshments will be served, but any homemade Valentine's goodies will be welcome!

Monday, January 16, 2012

SEPAC 1-10-12 Meeting Minutes

Georgetown Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Meeting
Meeting Minutes, January 10, 2012 – 7:00pm, Penn Brook Library

January 10, 2012 – Georgetown SEPAC Meeting, 7-9pm, Penn Brook Library, 68 Elm St.: Bullying Prevention & Special Education
Did you know that while bullying is a problem for all students, special needs students suffer disproportionately? MA General Law 71 defines bullying as… defines bullying as “the repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim…” Richard Lavoie’s film, “Last One Picked…First One Picked On,” will help us better understand how students with special needs fare socially. “For most children, playing with friends is a daily ritual. But kids with learning disabilities are often isolated and rejected, lacking the social skills to make and keep friends. This 62 minute film will show how to help these kids succeed in everyday situations LAST ONE PICKED…FIRST ONE PICKED ON give parents and teachers greater understanding of social skills deficits and specific strategies for developing and fostering social competence.”
Before we show the film, Ms. Julie DeRoche, Director of Curriculum for the Georgetown School District, will speak for about 30 minutes on our district’s bullying prevention plan, professional development for teachers on bullying prevention, and how we as parents can support our children.

The Georgetown SEPAC thanks Georgetown District Curriculum Director Julie DeRoche very much for sharing with us her summary of the current Bully Prevention Curriculum our district has place. Ms. DeRoche noted that extensive teacher training in anti-bullying curriculum and classroom management techniques take place at regular faculty meetings as well as professional development programs. One focus has been on identifying “gateway behaviors,” such as eye-rolling, kids left to themselves, excessive giggling, and learning how best to respond to those in order to prevent bullying situations. Another concern of faculty has been how to teach children to advocate for themselves or others, how to speak up in dangerous situations to an adult for help. One parent questioned, “If we think our child is being bullied, who should we go to?” “That is a question many parents wonder about. I would advise first contacting your child’s teacher. If the problem continues, you should contact the school adjustment or guidance counselor, and then the school principal.” The handout Ms. DeRoche brought included the following information:

Georgetown Public Schools
2011-2012 Bullying Prevention Curricula
Perley & Penn Brook
• Bullying prevention curricula: Bully-proofing Your School – Thematic lessons include
o Friendship
o Making and Keeping Good Friends
o Caring Acts
o Kindness
o Concept of Bullying
o Rules of Bully-Proofing the Classroom
o Teaching Strategies for Victims
o Teaching Strategies for Helpers/Bystanders
o Creating and Maintaining the Caring Majority
o Collaboration with Parents, Family, and the Community
• Integrated lessons are taught in Physical Education classes (carry over to sports)
• Responsive Classroom Program, which teachers cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.
Georgetown Middle and High School
• Bullying prevention curricula: Bully-proofing Your School, taught in Wellness Classes, which are required at every grade level. Thematic lessons for the Middle School include:
o Adolescent Development
o Bullies, Victims, and Bystanders
o Teasing and Sexual Harrassment
o Avoiding Victimization
o Creating Caring Communities
Thematic lessons at the High School include:
o Legal and personal consequences of bullying
o Bystanders
o Emotional Impact of Bullying
o Bystanders: How to be part of the solution and not the problem
• 6 additional bullying prevention lessons for the high school were created and added to Bully-proofing Your School during district Professional Developments through collaboration between Guidance and Health teachers.
• Monthly staff meetings are held to assess and improve on the implementation of these lessons.
Resources and Training: - MARC: Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center-Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention - MARC: Parent Resources - What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied, and more….

Everyone was fascinated by Rick Lavoie’s movie! Here are a few notes from it:

“Last One Picked…First One Picked On”
The greatest pain parents have does not spring from their children’s academic deficits, it comes from their social deficits.

Academic deficits affect your child in certain situations. A math or reading problem is not an issue at soccer. But social deficits affect the child in every situation, so there is no getting away from them.

People with particularly good social skills often make the worst teachers of social skills, because they cannot break down the skills for kids in order to teach them. The skills come too automatically to people who are socially comfortable. We assume a child will understand something that we teach them, but unless we have the vocabulary to break the behavior down step-by-step for them, they don’t. We have a hard time teaching what we don’t have to think about doing.

Learning disabled (LD) kids must be taught everything step-by-step.

The way most adults get interactions and conversations going is by asking questions of each other, through interrogation. That is extremely difficult for LD kids. Conversations for LD kids usually consist of a few declarative sentences, no questions. This causes huge social problems for them.

One big misconception that people have about kids with ADHD is that they have short attention spans. Many ADHD kids will hyper-focus on some things, often highly visual stimuli. In fact, high distractibility much more often characterizes ADHD kids than a short attention span. A child with a short attention span pays attention to almost nothing, and often functions at a lower cognitive level. A child with high distractibility pays attention to everything, often at a high cognitive level. Everything interests the highly distractible child, which leads them to view the world with a wide-angle lens. This lens can produce great creativity and energy. But when the world is requiring the child to focus on one thing in particular for a long time, that creates a challenge. For instance, instead of hearing a whole lecture, the child’s mind will start out on the lecture, then move to someone’s watch, their clothes, the curtains, the clock, etc.

Many children with learning differences often have disinhibition, which means that their inhibitory responses are low. Whatever is on their mind, comes out their mouth. There is no “edit” button on their speech. This is a huge social deficit that creates problems.

The impulsivity that ADHD kids experience produces an attitude in school, “If I can’t do it right, I’ll do it fast.” Ready, fire, aim. Thoughts of consequences are minimal. This also causes social problems.

In order to help our children learn from social situations, we help them conduct a “social skills autopsy.” What is an autopsy? A postmortem examination to discover the cause of death or the extent of disease. What is a “social skills autopsy”? A post social situation examination to discover the cause of a social situation gone awry. What was the action that caused the problem? What social choices could have been made that might have resulted in a better situation?

Two researchers, Fox and Weaver, broke students down socially into four groups:
- the rejected
- the ignored
- the controversial
- the popular (a person who others say they like even if they don’t know him)
Then they studied the popular group to find out what do these kids are doing right. What positive behaviors do they exhibit that make others like them? The Seven Positive Behaviors were:
- smiling and laughing
- greeting others
- extending invitations
- conversing
- sharing
- giving compliments
- maintaining a good appearance
Teach these to your kids, and their social standing will improve.

In another study, they found teacher pleasing behaviors, which included:
- being punctual
- establishing eye contact
- participating in class
- using the teacher’s name
- submitting work on time
- using the required format
- not crossing a lot out
- requesting explanations
- thanking the teacher
Teachers see all of the above as common courtesy. Teach these behaviors to your child to help him get along better with his teachers.

General teachers at a certain school told special education teachers that the most important skills they wanted special education students to have in class were 1) listening, 2) following directions, 3) staying on task, and 4) knowing how/when to get help.

What is the “hidden curriculum of the school”? It is the unwritten, unspoken rules of the school which make up the culture of the school. Embarrassment is what adolescents fear most, and understanding the school’s hidden agenda is critical to avoiding that.

The key to raising adolescents is to realize that 1) you cannot win, and 2) adolescents are not to be embarrassed. Every day, your adolescent starts off their day with some form of the plea, “Please God, do not let me be humiliated today.”

Kids reject other kids that teachers reject. Teachers need to set the example in accepting special needs kids. It helps if a teacher rewards the whole class for one student’s accomplishments, for example, if a teacher might say, “Wow, John, you turned your homework in on time, in the right place. Terrific job. Now we’re all doing well at that, so let’s celebrate with a movie (or a game, or group work, etc).” Then the other kids feel that John helped them get a reward.

Kids think, “Wow, Mr. Jones likes John, he likes me, so maybe there is something to like about John.” A teacher’s acceptance of a child fosters mutual respect.

Parents need to prepare the child for the situation and the situation for the child. To do that, we need to see things from the child’s perspective.

Some relevant websites include: - article, Batteries NOT Included, “I can’t,” versus “He won’t.” - Jonathan Cohen on School Climate: Engaging the Whole Village, Teaching the Whole Child.

Recommended Books:
Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning on the Tuned-Out Child, by Richard Lavoie, 2008, 416pp
It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success, by Richard Lavoie, 2006, 448 pp
The 6 Success Factors for Children with Learning Disabilities, by the Frostig Center, Foreward by Richard Lavoie, 2009, 232pp
Educating Minds and Hearts: Social Emotional Learning and the Passage into Adolescence, by Jonathan Cohen

Bullying, Prevention & the Law - The Georgetown School District’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan - MA State Laws - Wrightslaw: Bullying & Harrassment - Bullying and the Child with Special Needs

Let’s Get Along – Use kind words. Be quick to forgive. Listen. Share. Encourage others. Take turns. Think before acting. Talk it over. ☺

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A 504b Plan: The Right Choice for Your Child?

Are you wondering if a 504 plan can really help your child? That will depend on both the nature of your child's disability and what you, possibly your child, and the school district choose to do with it.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the precursor to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) enacted in 1990, protects the rights of disabled students with the 504b Plan. Section 504 prohibits programs that receive federal dollars from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. It requires public schools to make accommodations for eligible handicapped children, whether or not they qualify for special education services under IDEA. A 504b plan could therefore provide accommodations for children with disabilities in regular classrooms, such as multi-modal instruction, extra time for tests, providing examples, study guides, use of graphic organizers, facilitating small group work, checking in for comprehension, and changes in assignments and testing procedures. Accommodations change how a student is taught or tested, but not what they are taught or expected to know.

What is a 504b Plan?
A 504 plan is a legal document that outlines a plan of instructional services for students in the general education setting. It is an agreement between a public school, a student, and a teacher. The document usually describes the types of accommodations and instructional strategies that will be made for a student in school. Not all children with disabilities are entitled to services under IDEA, only those who are "eligible" under the specified disability categories, or those whose disabilities adversely impact their ability to access the general education curriculum. Section 504 is less discriminatory: it protects all persons with a disability who
1. have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as learning
2. have a record of such an impairment; or
3. are regarded as having such an impairment.

The Section 504 regulations further define a "physical or mental impairment" as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin or endocrine: or any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities.

Federal law requires that students with disabilities be educated along with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the students with disabilities. This means that students with disabilities must be assigned to regular courses or classes if the students’ needs can be met there. Also, decisions on academic placement must be based on an individual student’s needs.

A 504b Plan, once in place, will be reviewed by the 504 Administrator and a student’s parents on an annual basis.

Who qualifies for a 504b Plan?
Student with disabilities that do not significantly impair, but may still adversely affect, their access to the general curriculum or impede their academic progress, may qualify for a 504b Plan. For these students, it is not the standards or contents of the curriculum that need to be altered, but rather the way instruction is delivered.

Following are examples of students who may be protected by Section 504, but who may not be eligible for (IEP) services under the IDEA:
• students with communicable diseases (i.e., hepatitis)
• students with ADHD but no co-occuring disability
• students with temporary disabilities arising from accidents who may need short term hospitalization or homebound recovery;
• students with allergies or asthma;
• students with environmental illnesses/allergies/exposure to environmental toxins
• students who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, as long as they are not currently using illegal drugs
• students with disabilities who are 22 or older depending on state law

What kind of schools do 504b Plans apply to?
Section 504 has a specific set of regulations that apply to preschool, elementary and secondary programs that receive or benefit from federal financial assistance. These are found at Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 104. Thus Section 504 applies only to organizations that receive federal funding, while the ADA applies to a much broader universe. Both statutes are administered by the Office for Civil Rights and considered essentially identical.

Identifying and providing services for disabled children.
Parents or teachers may both request student evaluation for a 504b Plan. Requests should be submitted to the school’s 504b Administrator, which is often the school principal. Placement decisions must be made by a team that includes people who know about the student and understand the meaning of the evaluation information. The placement team must consider a variety of documented information for each student. Identifying and providing services for eligible children with disabilities requires specialized knowledge in many areas. Evaluators should make sure that evaluation is free of racial, cultural, and gender bias.

Advantages of a 504b Plan vs. an IEP
For students who do not require curriculum content adjustments to make academic progress, but who do benefit from specialized instruction and support, several services are available that special education students cannot access. These include Title 1 math & reading programs, literacy programs, and math support programs. Occupational therapist, social adjustment, and guidance counseling services are available to students on either an IEP or a 504.

What are teachers responsible for?
To be able to provide an appropriate education to all disabled children, teachers must be able to recognize the symptoms of disabilities, and know school procedures for referral and evaluation. Once a 504 Plan has been filed, teachers are responsible for carrying out the accommodations required by it. In addition to classroom and teacher strategies, reporting requirements to parents or administrators may be a part of the plan to be adhered to. Teachers must also know school policies for administering the medications that are sometimes part of treatment, how to monitor the effects of medication, and how to report effects to supervisors, parents, and professionals. Finally, teachers must know a variety of academic and behavioral strategies to help children with disabilities succeed in the classroom. Lack of teacher training in intervention strategies is potentially tragic for students, who may fail because their teachers don't know how to help them learn.

Procedural Safeguards
Schools must establish procedures that allow the parents or guardians of students in elementary and secondary schools to challenge evaluations, placement procedures, and decisions. The law requires that parents or guardians be notified of any evaluation or placement action, and that they be allowed to examine their child’s records.
If they disagree with the school’s decisions, parents or guardians must be allowed to have an impartial hearing, with the opportunity to participate in the discussions. A review procedure must be made available to parents or guardians who disagree with the hearing decision.

Nonacademic Services and Activities
Students may not be excluded on the basis of disability from participating in extracurricular activities and nonacademic services. These may include counseling services, physical education and recreational athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the school, referrals to agencies that provide assistance to students with disabilities, and student employment.

Discrimination in counseling practices is prohibited. Counselors must not advise qualified students with disabilities to make educational choices that lead to more restrictive career objectives than would be suggested for nondisabled students with similar interests and abilities.

What happens at the college level to student disability rights?
A 504b Plan can be carried on to a public university, unlike an IEP. At private schools and colleges, only the ADA requirements apply. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities at work, at school, and in public accommodations, and is not limited (like Section 504) to those organizations and programs that receive federal funds. The ADA requires all schools, both public and private, to make reasonable accommodations for handicapped or disabled persons.

Section 504 Online Resources - Section 504 and IDEA - Finding Services and Supports Under the Law - Section 504 and ADA

Title 1 (reading & math) - US Dept. of Education, Title 1 description