Thursday, March 31, 2011

6 years, 150 pounds, 1 word: ‘Amazing’

The Lowell Sun Newspaper printed an article about one family’s experience with Latham Centers.
Please Click HERE to read the article.

"People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fiber called courage." 
~Mignon McLaughlin

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Latham Equestrian Gears Up For World Special Olympic

Zander Pope (pictured on the bottom right) is heading to California with the rest of the United States Special Olympics team to practice for the World Games being held in Athens, Greece June 25-July 4.
Zander and the rest of the team will be in California from March 27 until April 1.

"The secret of success in life 
is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes."  
~Benjamin Disraeli

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Latham Visits Battleship Cove

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
~St. Augustine

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Latham Children Celebrate Spring With A Concert

Our Annual Spring Concert will take place this Friday, April 1st at 1:15 in the Main house. There will be Recorders, Bell Ringers, and, of course, Latham’s Chorus. Look for Fliers around campus for the program of songs.

 "Springtime is the land awakening.  
The March winds are the morning yawn." 
~Lewis Grizzard

Monday, March 28, 2011

“Emerging Innervisionaries” Art Show Opening This Week

Two Latham students, Leona Roberts and Jeanne Kealey,  will have their art displayed in a Cape Cod Art Show. “Emerging InnerVISIONaries” will hold an Opening Reception on Saturday April 2 from 5-7 at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. The show will run until April 18 and will display the works of 11 artists and 2 poets with Special Needs.

"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home." 
~Twyla Tharp

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

News From the Peer Advisory Committee

The Peer Advisory Committee is made up of individuals who reside in our adult homes. The Committee provides individuals with a chance to provide regular input on issues that affect them. The Peer Advisory Committee meets at least monthly, but recently has been meeting bi-monthly.

The Committee has been hard at work putting together a Pet Ownership Protocol which will help individuals be competent pet owners.  The latest project they have been focused on is deciding which flavor of gum will be used in the homes for the next two months. This follows the recent rollout of the Gum Chewing Protocols and how this program is managed in each home.  Following the most recent meeting it was decided that “Polar Ice” would be the flavor for the next two months.

Also, the members were responsible for educating their housemates, with staff’s assistance on the new layout of the menu. The new layout made it easier for the individuals as well as staff to understand. Although initially it created some anxiety, the new layout has been well received by the individuals and staff.

"The difference between friends and pets is that friends 

we allow into our company, 
pets we allow into our solitude." 
~Robert Brault

Friday, March 18, 2011

Latham Honored at Recognition Breakfast

The 2011 Cape and Islands DDS Citizen Advisory Board Recognition Breakfast honored two of Latham’s own— adult resident Michelle Cote and adult case manager Jessica Grantham. The widely-attended annual breakfast held on March 18 recognized some 30 professionals, volunteers and DDS individuals at Our Lady of Victory Church Hall in Centerville. State Representatives Sarah Peake and Cleon Turner were on hand to share their pride and support of Michelle and Jessica who live in their respective districts.

Michelle was nominated by Habilitation Assistance Corporation (HAC) of Hyannis for her day program progress and related volunteerism at the Barnstable Senior Center where she has come to be the “go to girl.” The HAC program is designed to support folks like Michelle pursue new interests and achieve greater independence and opportunities in the community. Over the past year, Michelle has grown into a mature and responsible woman who understands what it means to put others first.  According to Habilitation Assistance staff, Michelle is always ready, willing and able to help anyone who needs it.
Her compassion and kindness is inspiring to all, including Kelly Peckham―a HAC staff member also honored at DDS’s breakfast.

Jessica, a native of MontrĂ©al, Canada, is a case manager in Latham’s Gilbough program where she assists individuals with money management and accompanies them in the community to conduct banking and other personal errands. “During her three years of employment at Latham, Jessica has developed tremendous rapport and trusting relationships with her individuals who look forward to meeting with her each week to discuss their goals,” offers Michael Marchese, Latham’s Director of Adult Services.  “She continually goes above and beyond her job description to deliver quality care to ensure that the individuals are the true focus of her attention.” Marchese adds that Jessica always has a positive outlook and finds time to assist other staff while also volunteering to accompany Latham individuals on special activities.

"Not what we give, But what we share, 
For the gift without the giver 
Is bare."
~James Russell Lowell

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Useful Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety affect all of us. Whether it’s a professional deadline, technology issue, personal relationship, economic hardship or parenting challenge we are all at risk for reaching the point of emotional over-load. In my mind I imagine a temperature gauge on an old fashioned steam engine heading towards the danger zone (those of you living in the digital age will have to trust me on this one).

What I do know is that finding the ability to make a good intervention or decision is almost impossible when you want to scream at the person or object you are currently frustrated with.  It’s easy at work to remind staff of the value of therapeutic crisis intervention, specifically, the Stress Model of Crisis. What we sometimes lose sight of is the value of applying this wisdom to our “other” non-work related lives. So, take a moment or two and remind yourself that you have “triggers” that can agitate you. Your agitation is trying to tell you something is not right. Consider the advice you would give a student or individual you provide support for: 
  • Slow down
  • Take a deep breath
  • Find a quiet place
  • Speak with an “inside” voice
  • Ask for help
  • Take a break
No one choice will be the answer for all that life throws your way but odds are you won’t be totally overwhelmed by irritating, yet manageable challenges. Why this reflection? Why now? I’ll get back to you after I figure out the Apps on my iphone….

"Give your stress wings and let it fly away." 
~Terri Guillemets

Friday, March 11, 2011

Join Our Cause: Help Special Needs Kids Learn and Laugh This Summer

If you are a member of Facebook, or are willing to be a member, we ask you to join our Cause “Help Special Needs Kids Learn and Laugh This Summer”. Latham’s Summertide program is critical to our mission of helping our students to achieve their potential as responsible members of their community. As many parents can attest to, it is common for academic progress to be lost in the summer months and this can be very damaging to our students who work incredibly hard the rest of the year to learn and grow.

To combat this erosion of knowledge, we created the Summertide program which is a mixture of traditional academics, hands on learning, field trips in the community and experiential education. The students love it. The Summertide Program leads to less anxiety, behavioral outbursts and more engagement for our students.

Whether you join or donate, please get in involved and demonstrate your support for what we are doing with children. You can join by clicking HERE or go to the Latham Centers main Facebook page to find the link. We appreciate all of your support!

"He who gives when he is asked has waited too long." 
~Sunshine Magazine

Learn more about our Summertide
program by clicking the links below:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top Ten Strategies for Emotional Meltdowns in Public

Behavioral meltdowns are difficult enough when they happen in the safe confines of our homes, but when they occur in public they can be scary, overwhelming and embarrassing. These incidents are more common than you may think for children diagnosed with PWS. If this happens to you, understand that you are not alone and many, many parents have suffered through the same experiences. Here is what to do if it happens.

10. This is “normal." Those diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome are more susceptible to increased anxiety, emotional dysregulation and the inability to manage all stress in effective ways. It is important to remember that this is not your individual child acting out because they are bad, but rather may be more symptomatic of the syndrome. They are doing the best they can.  Also, much of this behavior can be fairly typical for all children. Pre-teens and adolescents are not known for their charm and easy dispositions so don’t forget to account for this. When a child has maturational stress- think of how stressful your adolescence was- combined with some common symptoms of PWS the chances of a meltdown is increased.

9.  Don’t be embarrassed. It is easy for us to write that and much more difficult for you to remain composed when you have strangers stopping to stare at you when your child is screaming bloody murder in the middle of the mall. Do your best to focus on moving through the meltdown and try not to let other people add to your level of stress. All parents feel like they sometimes don’t have what it takes to parent and when your child has special needs this feeling is amplified even more. YOU ARE THE BEST PARENT FOR YOUR CHILD. There is no one better than you and don’t give in to the judgment of others.

8. Perform a risk assessment. There are too many possibilities to advise on, but in general, anything that occurs in the community is risky. It is important that you quickly evaluate what is happening and evaluate the potential risks to you and your child. If you see a risk that seems large you must ask yourself if you can handle the situation on your own. There are many unknowns when you are in public and you need to ensure that you are supported.

7. Take a breath and step back.  You must literally do this because it accomplishes two very important things. One, taking a breath will help you to stay at baseline so you can effectively act in this situation. Crisis can cause you to react, but you must act against that and remain thoughtful. Stepping back provides space and gives room for everyone to breath. Your child will need you to ground them and it is imperative that you are actively focused on what needs to be done in the moment. Breath, collect your thoughts and then act. You want to de-escalate the situation not make it worse.

6. Stay calm, look neutral and stay present. In times of crisis, a significantly large percentage- over 90%- of communication is non-verbal. How you look and how you sound is far more important than what you say. Think of when you are personally really angry or upset, do you hear specific words someone says? Your instinct may be to raise your voice, give a command or get angry. What you must do is relax your face, even your tone and appear unaffected. You do not want to add to the stress of the situation because this will only make it worse. You must be the grounding force for your child at this time.

5. Avoid “no” and “can’t." Redirect when possible. In times of crisis, you must be focused on reducing stress and stimulation. Have you ever been in an argument with someone and in the midst you are just hoping that they give you a reason to argue more? What happens when you are in an argument with someone and they suddenly grow calm and begin to appease what you are saying? This is an example of reducing stimulation. It is very difficult to stay in an argument by yourself. We are not recommending that you encourage bad behavior to continue, but you need to be thoughtful in how you respond to a person in crisis. Being direct and oppositional fuels the crisis and is not the most effective way to handle the situation. For example:
Child: (screaming) I want to ride the carousel.
Parent: (calmly) Once you are calm then you can focus on what we are doing next.
Child: (screaming) Let me ride it.
Parent: (calmly) I see you are still upset. Once you can take some deep breaths we are going to discuss what we will do next. Take a breath with me. . .

4. Give a simple direction and then time and space. Although it isn’t always easy, often the only thing parents/caregivers can do in situations like this is ride it out. What we want to stop from doing is adding extra stress into an incident. Especially if your child has cognitive and/or language processing delays, time for things to sink in sometimes takes longer than we want to wait. This is even truer in times of crisis when rational thought is not at the forefront. What you can do is come up with a simple direction- sit on the bench, take a deep breath, walk with me- and say this in a neutral, calming, yet assertive tone. Then try to just be quiet. The less you say in times of crisis the better. There are times this might be difficult to do in public depending on the crisis and your surroundings, but it is the ideal to shoot for.

3. Let it go. Once the episode is over it is over. Typically, it is not effective to bring the incident back up and discuss it. You may change your future plans or where you go with your child, but that doesn’t have to be told to your child. Chances are what you were involved in was a result of emotional over flooding. This is a skills deficit that your child needs help in building up. Discussing how bad they behaved typically is not useful to lessening the future possibility of a similar even occurring and only serves to create more stress and anxiety.

2. Debrief. Talk to someone who understands the trials and tribulations that PWS brings and who can ground you ASAP. If you do not already have this person then find them by involving yourself in the PWS community either through your local chapter or on-line. It is crucial that you talk to someone who really, truly understands your experience because most do not. If you do not debrief, then it is easy to build walls up against your own child and blame them. When you talk to others and involve yourself in the community you will feel much better.

1. Take care of yourself. If your tank is not recharged you will be of absolutely no use to anyone else. You must take time to laugh, cry and be quiet. If you are saying you don’t have the time, you must make the time and it must be your first priority. This can be down in small bits and does not require a huge commitment of time. Even a 15 minute walk by yourself at night or a regular bath routine can do wonders. Carve out time for self-care and guard it ferociously.

For more information about PWS and/or Latham Centers, Inc. please go to: . If you have ideas for future Top Ten lists that you would like to see, please email Tim Vaughan at Any reproduction of this list must contain the following:

Latham Centers
1646 Route 6A
Brewster, MA 02631
Tel: 508-896-5776

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." 

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Latham Profile for: John Bonanni
Residential Counselor

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

John: "I find patience is the most important skill, followed by a sense of humor, compassion, neutrality, and finally, firm limits. Education and training about PWS is also vital to the work we do, but equally important is to remember that the syndrome is simply a part of the person, not wholly what defines him or her. Treating the individual like a person, rather than “a disabled person,” is absolutely essential."

What do you love about working with individuals with PWS?

John: "I love that what's therapeutic for them is often therapeutic for me. I love sharing in their experiences, like the first time they see a Monet up close or hiking a monument to watch a Cape Cod sunset. I love seeing them help and comfort each other. And I love that the kids I work with have a profound ability to constantly surprise me with the progress they make--whether that means learning to do a load of laundry on their own or exercise deep breathing as a new coping skill. I love the freedom involved in activity-planning and I love that the team I work with offers their support in every way possible."

What is most helpful to individuals with PWS?

John: "Most helpful to individuals with PWS is a nurturing, but structured environment that combines predictability with a sense adventure. Sometimes it's important to "forget" about the syndrome and take risks. They are teenagers. They want to laugh and joke and dance and listen music adults don't like. Reflecting this feeling, I also find that allowing the kids to expand their comfort zones through wider community integration is essential to their growth (and mine)." 

What do you do when you are not working at Latham?

John: "When I'm not at Latham, I substitute teach English at local high schools. For recreation and sanity, I run long distance, read, write, and paint."

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." 
~Henry Adams

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Brewster Campus Improvements



The Facilities staff at Latham has been very busy this past fall clearing some overgrowth of briars and brush from various parts of the campus. The first picture shows an area on the west side of the schoolhouse where the overgrowth was actually reaching up into the trees. Some of the students worked with the staff, and now this area is completely cleared and ready for planting of new shrubs and flowers this spring.

The second picture shows the front entrance to the campus. The students helped to plant over 600 flower bulbs along both sides of the driveway, and then spread mulch to protect the bulbs through the winter. The students have learned about the different types and varieties of flower bulbs, how to properly plant them, and how to care for them as they begin to grow.

We have plans to plant many new areas of the campus with more flowers, shrubs, and plants. All of the students will be encouraged to participate at whatever level they feel interested and comfortable doing so. Please visit our website later this spring and summer to see how the students have helped to transform the look of their campus.

David King
Director of Facilities

"Cooperation is the thorough conviction 
that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there."  
~Virginia Burden

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pleasant Bay Class Celebrates Black History Month

Recently, the Pleasant Bay class, led by Special Education teacher Lindsay Strimaitis completed a great learning project for Black History month. The group started off by discussing what we already knew about Black History Month and why we celebrate it.  We read a packet and discovered who created Black History Month, when it began, what the purpose is and learned some information about some influential African American people.

Next we began reading "Wanted Dead or Alive", The True Story of Harriet Tubman by Ann McGovern.  Lindsay read each chapter aloud and the class discussed and contributed important ideas to write on the chapter summary.  The chapters were divided up and each student wrote about 2 or 3 summaries. After writing about each chapter students took turns finding pictures to go along with what they wrote.

Then we made a bulletin board. For the border--Throughout the month of February we traced our hands and colored them in different skin tones.  We wrote words on them that show respect, equality and other values related to Black History month. We added our chapter summaries of the story about Harriet Tubman and the pictures we found. The unit’s ending activity was a quiz on Harriet Tubman’s life. The students were really proud of their work on this project!

"The African-American experience is one of the most important 
threads in the American tapestry." 
~Bill Frist

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Companion Animal Program (CAP) 2010 Holiday Party

Cairre Bailey and I attended the CAP Holiday Party in December.  Two years ago, when she was still a Latham student, we also were there.  Now she is an adult, residing at Headwaters.

This year at the party there were 50 dogs and their families and friends. Everyone got along amazingly well – the four legged and the two legged attendees. There was great food, a White Elephant Table (where Cairre found a digital camera), and a gift basket for the pups.  Cairre picked out a beautiful water bowl for Holly  - it was the biggest package.

CAP celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2011.  Latham celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2010.  CAP and Latham have been connected for 20 years. Pretty amazing!

I am Cairre’s Visiting Resource (Friend). Many CAP people do this volunteer activity.  Become a Latham volunteer today!

"The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers." 
~Terri Guillemets

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