Friday, September 19, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Keep Breathing

We often overlook the benefits of taking deep, mindful breaths. We have busy lives, little time, and rarely put ourselves first but this is one thing that we can make time for and the health benefits are extraordinary. Did you know that 30 seconds of deep breathing everyday actually improves your tissue function, increases your immune system, and acts as a detox for your blood cells? Not to mention the calming effect it has on your central nervous system.

Our kids often have a difficult time taking an effective deep breath. Try these tricks and let us know if you see an improvement:

  • Blow the biggest bubble contest. Encourage exhaling for as long as is comfortable and a deep inhale will follow.
  • Take a ping pong ball and draw a "goal" at the end of a table. See how many breathes it takes to blow the ball over the goal line. Try to improve their score everyday.
  • Have them blow a feather in the air and using only their breath, see how long they can keep it from touching the ground.
  • Set a timer and slowly extend the time each day until you get to 3 minutes.

It is important for kids and adults to practice deep breathing everyday but it is equally as important for their caregivers to reduce stress and increase energy.

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And they said my child would never...

Parents of children born with Prader Willi Syndrome were told their children would never function with normalcy. These parents prove not only the doctors wrong, but anyone else that said their children would never. Inspiring first hand testimonials from families that have gone through it all and have come out with incredible stories of hope and meaning.

Friday, September 12, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Executive Function Disorder-Revisited

I have received a number of questions over the past few weeks about executive function disorder so I have decided to re run a past blog with some additions.

We see common traits and behaviors in many of our kids with PWS and many of these are caused by an executive function disorder. Executive processes allow us to create and carry through with goals, to self-monitor and regulate our emotions, to plan, and to inhibit our responses (think before acting). People with PWS have a deficiency in these areas which leads to:
  •  Poor time management- this will look like avoiding a task and then rushing through at  the last minute.
  • An inability to form goals because the ability to create steps to achieve those goals is impaired.
  • Inflexibility in thinking. If something is true one day then it must be true the next day in order for it to make sense.
  • Relying on imitation rather than a thoughtful reaction. It is difficult to understand their environment and therefore people with PWS will often look to others to see how to react. This can be good or bad depending on who the other people are around them.
  •  Impaired capacity to think before acting.

What can we do about it?

  • Routine. This is where daily schedules and strict routines come into play. We manage their time for them until they can learn how to do it for themselves. We have seen children who had no capacity to manage their own time learn over the course of a few years through daily work on what 5 minutes looks like, what we mean when we say one hour etc. Children who have been working on creating goals for themselves and what steps they need to take to achieve those goals were once children who could not manage the sequence of dressing themselves. So we do see improvement with practice.

  • Social stories. This technique can help to make children see that they have a choice in every situation and do not need to rely on others to see what their response should be. Using social stories before each new experience can drastically reduce your child’s anxiety.
  • A neat, clean and predictable environment. The less clutter in a room the better. It is hard enough for our kids to concentrate and focus as it is and in a busy, loud or cluttered room it is nearly impossible. Less is always better.

  • Visual schedules for each part of the day. These can be vague in case specific activities need to be changed. Involving your child in creating these schedules will add to the likelihood of them being followed.

Undesired behaviors are often seen as being stubborn, manipulative or aggressive when in fact they are usually a result of feeling out of control in their environment as a result of the inability to process, manage time and space, and inhibit their responses to stress.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Monday, September 8, 2014


Latham Profiles: Meaghan Hengst
Children's Residential Counselor

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The things I enjoy most about my job is that I am able to go to work knowing that I will be amazed every day and that I’m making a difference in the lives of the residents here at Latham Centers. I also have an amazing group of coworkers who offer great support to help keep the students and Latham at its best.

Describe a few of your responsibilities and how you spend much of your time.

Some of the responsibilities that I have here at Latham are that I help to teach the students proper hygiene, eating etiquette, and social skills that they can use and apply when they leave Latham. I plan activities that bring the students into the community. I also help the students to identify something that is a challenge for them and figure out ways to handle this challenge appropriately. 

What skills are most important for professionals who work with individuals with PWS?

The skills that are most important for professionals who work with individuals with PWS are the qualities that one needs to possess even before starting to work with children with special needs which are patience, compassion and adaptability. Another huge skill to have is to be able to let go of power struggles. 

What are the most important lessons you attempt to teach new staff?

The students each have their own history and therefore come to Latham for various reasons. Get to know each student by what the student says and also by their individual behavior plan. These students come here for consistency and support so it is our job as a whole Latham community to provide that consistency. 

What do you love about working with individuals with PWS?

I admire their courage in dealing with this syndrome. To have the constant effects of this illness and yet be able to laugh, smile, form friendships, and have fun is amazing. 

Has this job taught you anything about yourself?

This job has taught me that I have far more patience than I ever believed I had!

How do you spend your time when you’re not working at Latham?

I enjoy going to the beach, reading, listening to live music, and spending time with friends and family.

What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career at Latham Centers?

The advice I would give someone who is considering a career at Latham is to be energetic, have an open mind, and be ready for many challenges that are, in the end, extremely rewarding. Also, one can review the website because it offers a great deal of information that will help you decide if Latham is the right fit for them.

Interested in joining our team? See our latest job postings HERE!

Friday, September 5, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: The Grieving Process in PWS

The grief process for the person with PWS may look different than it does for the typical person; but it is no less painful. Here are some tips to help the person with PWS with the loss of an important person in their life:

  • It is not unusual to not see any visible signs of grief right away. Following a loss, the person with PWS may appear as though he or she is unaffected at first.  I have seen people take several years before completely understanding that a loss occurred and that it is permanent. Alternatively, I have seen people begin the grieving process immediately following a loss but display feelings through behaviors rather than verbally expressing how he or she was feeling.

  • Don't try to protect the individual from the truth. Be honest if someone has died and avoid trying to spare feelings by leaving him or her out of the rituals that follow a death. Rituals are an integral part of processing loss and the person with PWS should be allowed this opportunity.

  • Make something tangible. A pillow or stuffed animal from the persons clothing, a memory book or box, a collage of favorite photos--anything one can hold and go to when  missing the deceased. Grieving may happen when the PWS person is alone so allow he or she to have something to hold and look at without feeling obligated to talk about how he or she is feeling. Verbally processing the loss may be overwhelming, if not impossible.

  • Keep routines the same. As much as possible allow for routines to be unchanged. This will promote feelings of safety and security during a difficult time.

  • Loss comes in many forms. A person does not need to die to be gone from your child's life. If a person who was important to your child will no longer be in his or her life,  it is important to honor this void and the uncertainty that can follow.

The most important thing to remember is that regardless of your child's behavior or their appeared indifference, grief is being experienced and should be honored and supported.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last Day of Summer Break!

Ending summer vacation the right way with a round of mini-golf at Pirate's Cove!

Submitted by:
Kristi Dolbec

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

10 Reasons Why I Teach at Latham Centers

1. Our unique population of students.

2. Creativity and freedom in lesson planning.

3. Opportunity to learn about many different intellectual, developmental, and behavioral disabilities.

4. Amazing co-workers!!!

5. Extremely supportive administrative team

6. Work closely with students' clinicians

7. Always something new to learn or discover about the students

8. Your thoughts/ideas/concerns are heard and taken seriously

9. Never a dull moment

10. There is no other organization like it!!!

Amie Gould
Teacher at Latham Centers

Interested in a career at Latham Centers? Click HERE to view our current job postings.

Friday, August 29, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Back To School Part 2

By this time, most of your kids have started their first week of school. You have either experienced a honeymoon period where everything went smoothly and according to plan or you have been thrown into the fire. Both are normal responses to new environments and experiences. Here are some ways to make it the best school year that you can.

1. Communicate. You should have some form of daily communication with your child's school. You may see patterns of behavior or triggers before the school staff does and your input is valuable. Always speak up if you see something that is not working but remember to point out what is going well also. Critical feedback is important and should be welcome but if that is the only time you speak to your child's teacher you will build a relationship based on tension and animosity.
2. Be active in the creation of your child's IEP. Your child's teacher is the expert in special education but you are the expert on your child. Both viewpoints are just as important as the other and joining together will create a document that allows for the most success for your child.

3. Be honest. It may be difficult to reveal some of the more embarrassing behaviors that you have seen your child do but withholding that information will set your child and the teacher up for failure. The more they know the better they can prepare. You will also hear about behaviors at school that you don't see at home. This is normal and is not necessarily an indication that they are doing anything wrong. The school will likely not see everything that you see at home and this also is not an indication that they are doing something better than you are. This is a normal reaction to different environments.

4. Follow the rules. Your child's classroom will have different rules than you have at home. That's life. Your child should be expected to follow those rules and will quickly figure out that different environments have different rules. Unless it is medically or clinically necessary to change the rules for your child- don't.

The key to a successful school year is careful and compassionate communication, holding both your child's school and your child accountable for their part in the education process and allowing everyone involved the chance to succeed.

Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services