Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Activites

When you ask a person to describe life on Cape Cod, you usually hear about abundant beaches, buzzing little shops and throngs of people visiting the region during their vacations. You hear stories about hikes and kayaking, almost always set against the backdrop of the eternal summer day. Those of us at Latham Centers can tell you two things about this image. The first is that winter makes quick work of that eternal summer day, as our recent 20 degree weather can attest. The second is that winter on the Cape is no less charming for the folks at Latham than summer is!

When the weather starts to get frightful, we at Latham strive to enjoy the cosier side of life! With the bustle of the holidays behind us, we have time to sit with each other and line up what we want from the new year. Staff and students recollect fond memories of the past while gearing up to make new memories in the months to come, and while we may not be swimming or kayaking the way we were in the summer, we count down the days until we can build our first Latham snow man of the season.

The baseball games of summer may have given way to the hockey games of winter, but Latham is heading into the new year with open arms, ready to enjoy all of the friendship and fun that makes Latham my favorite winter destination!

Contributed by:
Hal Johnson,
Residential Supervisor

"When snow falls, nature listens." 
~Antoinette van Kleeff

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Connections to Community

For a person with PWS, it is incredibly difficult to find a place in the community where you can make a difference and fulfill your dreams without coming into conflict with their world’s biggest temptation and fear at the same time – food. Most people naturally have multiple roles in our community – peers, parents, employees, bosses, volunteers, students, instructors, consumers…. Some of these roles do not come so naturally for many of those we serve. The ladies and gentlemen in our program have, too, the basic need of belonging somewhere and being a part of something. They want to belong to a circle of people and make difference in the world.

After their transition into the adult program from school, young people are going through a major transition in their life. They need to create new social networks around themselves. They face different supports. They suddenly are supposed to become adults. Just like in the children’s program, a majority of them are longing for structure and want to stay busy during their days. An important part of their lives becomes their day program. Local day habilitation programs provide services for many of our adults. This is where they get to create new friendships, where they find constructive stimulation, where they go to work.

Some of our folks search for their opportunities beyond day habilitation programs. They are, just like many of their peers without PWS, looking for further growth – for further education, and for jobs or other opportunities in the community. This part is difficult. We are looking for environments with limited or no access to food and where the new part time employees could be accompanied by staff for vocational as well as emotional supports. Some of our folks are helping out with administrative tasks at Latham Centers. Others have paid cleaning jobs or part time jobs at stores. Our vocational staff is diligently and creatively researching any and all opportunities in the area. Volunteering is also a way to stay connected to the community. Some help out at local libraries or clear walking trails. Our folks are especially fond of work around animals. They love helping out at local farms and animal shelters. They can help out at many different levels and they do the job right.

We are looking for more opportunities for them to succeed in their adult life and bring them closer to their sense of accomplishment. The goal is for all those who are interested in working or volunteering to find an opportunity in the community. Some might be more skilled and some might require more assistance. That should not matter, though. The reward of being a part of community appears to be priceless. Everyone should obtain a chance to contribute to the world. With or without disability, each one of us can do it in our special way. Everyone should get the opportunity to feel important and needed.

Thank you, vocational staff, for making a difference in so many people from Gilbough Program, who want to make a difference.

Submitted by:
Magda Moran

"Never worry about numbers.  
Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you."  
~Mother Teresa

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Going to the Dogs…..

The clinical department is “going to the dogs”.  Much research has been done regarding the use of animals, and dogs in particular, in therapy.  Latham has long had a therapy dog on campus and other therapy dogs who would visit briefly. We have expanded the program with two additional dogs who have completed the required training. Students are often better able to talk with their clinicians when one of the dogs is present, diffusing the attention from the conversation. One student is working with her clinician to teach her dog new skills and tricks. This provides the student with the opportunity to experience a sense of mastery, as well as helping her with her articulation challenges, as she needs to be able to make commands which the dog can understand. 

Contact with animals has a calming effect. Often an upset student will be able to return to baseline when given the opportunity to pet or walk a dog.  As we work with students to develop their coping and de-escalation skills, the dogs will play an active role.

Chris Coffin,
Clinical Services Director

"Dogs are miracles with paws." 
~Attributed to Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Road to the Beach….

Traveling to other countries sometimes presents difficulties to those of us who never mastered a foreign language. I admit to feeling helpless while trying to make the simplest request understood or to try and ask a question without resorting to pantomime. I truly appreciate how patient and helpful people can be when you are “lost in translation”. 

Recently, I saw what needed no translation; a beloved child with special needs in a small community in Costa Rica. As I was waiting outside a small store for supplies, an entire family was walking up the road from the beach. Calling the packed earth a road is a stretch; for in truth it is a rough, dusty, sandy and difficult place to navigate. You can be sharing this road with buses, cattle, cars, horses, bikes and iguanas. As they approached I saw seniors, children, dogs, parents and the oldest, most antiquated wheel chair I have seen in a very long time. Pushing this chair up the road was tough but I watched the interactions of those pushing, those walking alongside the chair and the child who was being transported and I thought, “I don’t understand a word they are saying but I do understand that here is a kid whose family loves her.”

One of the great things about Costa Rica is the friendliness of its people. The party was laughing as they made their way past me, smiling and waving, continuing on their journey back to town. It could have been 5 minutes or 5 miles away; they were on a holiday outing, inclusive of everyone, no matter how difficult it was to bring this child along. The joy on her face as she passed will stick with me for a long time and continues to make me smile back at the office. Pura Vida!

Contributed by:
Chris Gallant
Director of Training

"Everyone smiles in the same language."
~Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Asinotherapy Program at Great Hill

Individuals in Latham Asinotherapy program have been working diligently to complete their training in the care of donkeys. On December 14th, 2011 another class completed the six weeks of training required to receive their certificate of level one care of donkeys. While caring for donkeys is not an easy task, a donkeys gentle and affectionate nature brings a calming effect over all who they come into contact with. Donkeys especially enjoy human interactions and this helps to lift the spirits of the individuals we support. Their nature acts as a type of magnet drawing all people to them.

Donkeys have the ability to balance and calm anxious, agitated emotions through gentle interaction. The visible lifting of a person’s spirit during donkey petting is typically immediate and significant. Some individuals have indicated their interaction with our donkeys has been one of their life’s highlights. Feedback from staff about donkey therapy has always been extremely positive and leads to making arrangements for the next visit.

Contributed by:
Elton Cutler
Residential Supervisor

"Lots of people talk to animals.... Not very many listen, though.... That's the problem."  
~Benjamin Hoff

Friday, January 13, 2012

Latham School Holiday Craft Fair

Latham school students hosted their annual Holiday Craft Fair on Dec 14th from 3p-4p. In keeping with tradition, students had been making crafts to sell in both school and their residential groups for several weeks prior to the sale. It is also our tradition that the students choose a charity towards which the proceeds will be donated. Student council presented three suggestions; St. Jude’s Children’s hospital, Susan G. Komen for the Cure (breast cancer research) and Operation Gratitude (packages for the soldiers). Classrooms voted for St. Jude’s Hospital.

Our annual Holiday Craft Fair is looked forward to by both students and staff alike. It is a wonderful time to purchase handmade, one of a kind items, made with love by the students. For many of us, our loved ones wait to see what beautiful Latham made gifts will be theirs. This year we had the beautiful addition of the homemade soaps. I am certain those who received soaps will be looking for more once their current supply dwindles. Each year we also run a bake sale at the same time with fabulous baked goods made by talented Simpkins staff, Bibi Charran.

The room was packed during the sale and there was often a line at the check-out. Music was played. Smiles were everywhere, with students both selling and purchasing their own and each other’s homemade treasures. Generosity filled the air. The final tally for St. Jude’s is $519.23! This is a record amount made by the craft fair! Our package to St. Jude’s includes the check but it also includes some crafts, some photos of the fair, a handmade card signed by students and staff, and some information about who we are and what we do at Latham. Above all, it includes some love and generosity from one group of kids to another! Many thanks to all who participated!

Contributed by:
Shauna Kelly
Transitional Supervisor

"Each day comes bearing its own gifts.  Untie the ribbons."  
~Ruth Ann Schabacker

Monday, January 9, 2012

Greetings from Facilities!

The winter season is upon us and in our endeavor to keep everyone safe and secure during the upcoming winter snow season we have provided each home with buckets of ice melt, scoops and shovels.  Those of you who require addition items please let us know so we can facilitate your needs.  We will be taking care of the plowing and shoveling, however, in the unlikely event that we are not able to get to you exactly when you need us we have provided the shovels, ice melt and scoops.  

As always we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year for any emergencies that may occur.  Call on call at 774-487-9501. If no response at that number call David King, Director of Facilities on 508-221-7880. 

Have a safe and Happy New Year from all your friends in Facilities/Maintenance.

Barbara Hill
Maintenance Office Assistant

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."
~William Blake

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Latham Centers Receives Two-Year Training Grant from The Peter & Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

Latham Centers, Inc. announced today that it has been a awarded a two-year grant from The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation in the amount of $60,750 for 2012 and 2013. The grant, awarded via the foundation’s Intellectual Disabilities grants track, will be used for staff training and implementation of the Circle of Courage Response Ability Pathway curriculum.  The model focuses on interventions, communication skills and team building for the treatment of at-risk children.  Ultimately, the grant will help Latham staff to more deftly identify triggers, strengths and abilities in each of its students with intellectual disabilities.

As a residential school for children with serious emotional, behavioral and intellectual challenges, Latham has been committed to continually evolving its methods of caring for its students, many of whom have experienced trauma in their lives.  The Circle of Courage model will better prepare and empower Latham School children to de-escalate certain behaviors with staff assistance and guidance.  Founded in 1970, Latham Centers received full accreditation by the international Council on Accreditation earlier in 2011.  This is the first major grant Latham Centers has received from the Tower Foundation.

“This significant commitment from the Tower Foundation allows us to fully implement and train all of Latham’s Children’s Services staff in this innovative intervention model,” according to Anne McManus, Executive Director.  “As we focus on defining each child as an individual, and developing treatments responsive to their needs, these trainings will assist staff in refining existing skills to most adeptly respond to our students. In turn, our students will also possess more learned coping skills as they work to lead responsible, fulfilling lives into adulthood. This cutting-edge training and approach will only help to further differentiate Latham from other treatment programs of its kind.”

Contributed by:
Gerry Desautels
Director of Development

"The ones that matter the most are the children."
~Lakota Proverb

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Latham University

Children’s services will be introducing a weekly training series called “Latham University”.  It is an extension of the orientation training that we now try and pack into two weeks.  Frankly, it takes more than 2 weeks to acquire the skills and knowledge to work with our complex populations.  Beginning Wednesday, January 4th, and every Wednesday thereafter from 12 to 1 pm in the old training room in the basement of the school house, we will be reviewing 12 weeks of topics including:
  • How to use Therap, an introduction of trauma informed care
  • How our behavior support system works 
  • How to make healthy relationships with our students.  
Each week will be a new topic.  These are trainings which are beneficial to all Latham staff including adult services staff.  We have designed the series to repeat and be refreshed every quarter.  They will be led by school administrators, supervisors, and clinicians but contributions from participants are always welcomed.  Participants will be paid for their attendance and will earn credits towards their annual 24 hours of training.  All new hires to the children’s program will be expected to attend until they complete the 12 modules.

Contributed by:
Jonathan J. Smith, LICSW
Director of Children's Services

"You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way." 
~Marvin Minsky