Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Everyone Loves Dancing

Many of our kids look forward to the quarterly dances we attend. The Best Buddies Holiday Dance took place before Christmas and many students left campus to attend. There was plenty of loud music, lots of room for dancing and many new friends to meet. This year it was held at the Harwich High School and is open to all special needs young people in the local area.
"There is a bit of insanity in dancing 
that does everybody a great deal of good."
~Edwin Denby
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Annual Holiday Craft Fair Huge Success

The kids really outdid themselves this year in more than one way. For the previous month,  most groups have been hard at work creating crafts to sell at the Holiday Craft Fair, which is held on campus and is open to the Latham Community. Some of the crafts included decorated wreaths, Christmas tree ornaments, decorative pottery, holiday collages and other assorted holiday decorations.

The sales from the Fair have been tallied and $467.26 was raised this year. This amount represents a tremendous amount of hard work from our students. It also demonstrates how strong of a community Latham is since many staff stopped by and purchased something.

At their recommendation, all proceeds from the Craft Fair will be donated to the Christina Semple Education Fund in honor of Tim Semple, Latham’s longtime Maintenance Director who died unexpectedly this year. The students wanted this money to go to Tim’s daughter, Christina, as a symbol of how much Tim meant to them. 

"What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit." 
~John Updike
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Top Ten Strategies to Survive and Thrive During the Holidays

1. Remember how lucky you are. Ultimately, the holiday season is a time of reflection and a time to give thanks. Families touched by Prader -Willi Syndrome have much to be thankful for and the more you can stay in touch with the spirit of the holiday the easier it will be to get over the bumps in the road. Consciously stop and list the many reasons for gratitude. This simple mental shift can alter the entire experience.  

2. Choose your landing spots carefully.  Maybe Aunt Mary’s house is not a good place for you to go. Every year she disregards everything you have told her about PWS and you leave her house a frenzied mess. You can say no and you must say no to these “obligations”. During the holidays especially you must surround your family with people that make your life easier not more difficult and show a level of understanding that supports and nurtures your family rather than obstructs or hurts them. If the people aren’t right, the location is wrong or there are too many unknowns, opt out of those events. It is better to hurt some feelings than to be involved in a messy spectacle. The people who truly love you will understand your choices and will stick by you no matter what.

3. Maintain regular routines. As much as possible, you want to maintain the same consistent schedule you had pre-holidays. This consistency is relied upon by your child to create their own internal sense of security and when it is upset there is increased anxiety. With holiday parties and different people, this can be a difficult goal to achieve. Even if it is only maintaining the basic structure and important anchor points- like meal times, TV shows, nighttime routines- then do that, but the more you are able to keep things normal as usual the more success you will have in the holidays.

4. Plan ahead. During the holidays do “advanced scouting” and create a plan. These new experiences are exciting to many, but for individuals with PWS they can be overwhelming and debilitating. The more we can do to alleviate the unknown the better. Get menus of holiday meals, pictures of family members you will see, lists of activities and go over all of these items with your child well in advance of the outing. Create a specific game plan you will follow including, arrival/departure times, specific food plans, list of clear expectations.  Stick to it through the entire event.

5. If everyone is watching then no one is watching. - Make sure that someone is specifically assigned to be with your child at holiday parties especially around food or opportunities for food. When you assume that everyone is there and watching when at a crowded party then typically no one is and things can happen. Take turns providing individual support and oversight so that you also have time to relax and enjoy yourself.

6. Be realistic. Even though it doesn’t always feel this way, there are no obligations in the holidays that must be met. The truth is there are some events that may not be appropriate for your child. It is better to act from this forethought rather than crossing your fingers and jumping into something that ends badly. Even if you are scheduled to be somewhere and you realize that your child isn’t in the best space for handling this new situation, you can opt out. You know your child better than anyone and must act on your instincts. Don’t let other’s expectations determine your actions.

7. Have an escape plan. There is a good chance that not every party, outing and/or visit will go well. Be prepared for and understand that fully before going into each situation. Having a plan will allow you to react seamlessly if things arise during the event. Ask yourself what you will do if your child is overwhelmed or acts out at the event. For example, take two cars when you go out so that just one person must leave with your child rather than the entire family. Plan for the worst case scenario and that way you will be prepared in the event that it does. 

8. Create special moments for everyone. Although it takes extra planning, and often comes with more stress, the holidays can be navigated very successfully by any family touched by Prader- Willi Syndrome. In order to do this, you must be thoughtful in your plans for all family members. Create special family traditions that support and nurture all family members. Although you might have to do things differently, the holiday routines you create can be even more satisfying. 

9. Take care of yourself. Even though this is easier said than done, it must be a priority. Find ways to care for yourself and reduce your own internal stress. Even 15 minutes walking around the neighborhood can do wonders to your ability to handle stress. Whether it is exercise, hot baths, quiet reflection (outside of the house if necessary) or shopping, find little ways to stay balanced. If you don’t take quality care of yourself then you are unable to help anyone else.

10. Laugh. Keeping a sense of humor can save your sanity and your holiday spirit. Understand that when you are stressed, your child with PWS is very sensitive to that and often feels unsafe and insecure as a result. Attempting to stay “light” and “free” in the chaos can be just enough to change that message. This is very, very difficult to do during the holidays for everyone. Keeping things in perspective and changing your focus to what is going right can be very helpful.  


"I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party 
because it means
I have been surrounded by friends." 
~Nancie J. Carmody



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Performances Around Town

The Holiday season is always busy for students at Latham Centers. This year they have collected toys for disadvantaged children, made money at a Holiday craft fair for a memorial fund for a staff member who passed away this year, and enjoyed the holiday spirit out in the community. On December 5th a group of 6 students, members of the bell choir, accompanied by Latham’s music teacher and other staff, rang out Holiday tunes at Brewster’s annual Christmas Stroll, sponsored by Brewster’s Lemon Tree shops. When they had finished their performance, they were rewarded by a cookie and cider plus a hayride with Santa. All present agreed that the bell ringers “played beautifully!” Another group of students, Latham’s ballet class, attended a local performance of the Nutcracker. They all agreed that the performance was well done and that lots of cute children added to the charm. Students are now looking forward to Latham’s annual Holiday party where they will be treated by songs by Latham’s chorus and a visit from Santa himself.

“Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, 
make every day a holiday 
and celebrate just living!”
 ~Amanda Bradley quotes

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jolly Jaunt is Rousing Success. . . Thanks Everyone!


This year’s Jolly Jaunt was the most successful yet for the Latham Centers. Twelve people came to run/walk the race and many more donated to Latham’s Special Olympics program. Here is a picture of the team captured by the local radio station.

See you next year!
(Photo courtesy of WQRC)


"I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks."
~William Shakespeare

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mindfulness in the West Wing


The West Wing has been incorporating mindfulness exercises into their daily schedule with a wide range of activities.  Some of their favorites are sitting in a circle and saying something nice about the person that is sitting to their left. This has helped boost self-esteem and helps them practice giving and receiving compliments. 

Another preferred mindfulness activity is taking the 5 senses and telling the group what makes them happy for each sense…"The smell of fresh cut grass makes me happy. The taste of goldfish makes me happy. The feel of fuzzy pajamas makes me happy” A more hands on activity the group enjoys is doing yoga stretches or touching an item in a bag and describing it to the group so they can guess what it is.

Mindfulness has been helping the group to calm and center themselves after a hard day at school, as well as opening doors to get to know one another.  Having the students do these mindfulness activities before and after transitions assists with a smoother flow to everyone’s day.


"The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, 
never returns to its original size."  
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

5 Days to the Jolly Jaunt and It's Freezing Out


This coming Sunday a group of hearty Latham employees and friends will be participating in the Jolly Jaunt for Special Olympics. This is a three mile run/walk that will take place in Hyannis and all proceeds will benefit Latham’s Special Olympics program, which operates year round and is the backbone of our activity program. It is quite cold in New England right now and we ask that you find it in your heart to donate to this worthy cause. You can donate online by clicking HERE



"Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something." 
~Author Unknown


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