Friday, April 26, 2013

TIP of the WEEK: Imaginative Incentives

We often use incentives to help our kids through their day, to help them stay on track and to encourage them to keep trying. But with so many incentives. the clutter builds up quickly and we want to be careful not to promote collecting and hoarding at a young age. I prefer to use incentives and prizes that are not tangible goods but rather things that can be earned that promote social interaction, independence and increased self-esteem. Tristan Reilly, one of our special education teachers has some great ideas for this kind of incentive:

Use the “teacher chair” for the day
Use the rocking chair for the day
Ten minutes after school with:
  • A magazine  
  • Computer time 
  • Coloring 
  • A book of choice to read
Coupon for:
  • Ten extra minutes in the sensory room 
  • Ten extra minutes with the mp3 player 
  • 5 minutes walking loops on the track 
  • 10 minutes on the swings
Other ideas:
  • Adding 30 minutes to their bedtime on a Friday or Saturday night for a week of good behavior in school.
  • Allowing them to pick a new app that's fun and geared towards learning. 
  • An agreed upon independent walk, even if it's small like getting the mail alone. 
  • Extra time on the computer or game console for a day without shutdowns, tantrums, aggression etc...
Kids want time with us, time to do their favorite activities and a way to gain some level of freedom more than they want “stuff." Find ways of using incentives to give them ways to feel good about themselves. We use external motivators because they work but we want to be careful not to use incentives that build up in closets or under beds only to clutter their environment. Spending special time with your child for a job well done will go much farther than anything you could buy from a store. 

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Road Trip!

Latham Centers is looking forward to meeting folks at the 23rd Annual New York Prader-Willi Alliance (PWANY)  Conference in Syracuse NY on Friday & Saturday, April 26th & 27th.  Patrice Carroll, Manager of Prader-Willi Services and Pam Nolan, Director of Children’s Services will be speaking on the topic of Sensory Integration. It looks to be a great couple of days filled with topics of interest for families, care-givers and professionals. If you are at the conference, please be sure to stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Out and About!

It seems to finally be true! Spring has arrived at Latham School! Kids are playing in the sun. Shouts are reaching my windows from the playground and daffodils are blooming all around us. Physical activity is especially important to our students and nothing beats an afternoon out and about. So, I plan to emulate them when I get home today. No iPhone, iPad or TV. I am hooking my dog to a leash and taking a walk. We may not get far, but the journey will be worth it. Sometimes, you just need to follow the lead of the children…..

"There is no season such delight can bring
As summer, autumn, winter and the spring."
~William Browne

Friday, April 19, 2013

Vacation Week!!

Vacation week is in full effect here at the Latham Campus.  Students have been out enjoying the beautiful weather and riding bikes all over Cape Cod!  We have had the opportunity to take some of the bike paths in Harwich and Brewster and spend some afternoons riding bikes and stopping for picnic lunches!   Today we are going to see a shark exhibit at the Massachusetts Maritime Museum.  The students are going to learn all about sharks, and also going to get an opportunity to make their very own buoys. Some of our students are going to a class at the Brewster National History Museum this week to learn how to make their own wind chimes.

Also on campus we have a Tie-Dye party coming up on Friday where students will be able to design and tie-dye their own t-shirt.  And to celebrate such an exciting week, on Friday we will have a big cookout for lunch!  There will be dancing and music for all to enjoy! 

Submitted by:
Patricia Morgan
Day Supervisor

"Fun is about as good a habit as there is." 
~Jimmy Buffet

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

TIP of the WEEK: Be There for Me

We don't always know what's behind a meltdown or behavioral crisis but we do know that their feelings are real. Their reactions to certain circumstances can seem over the top or unnecessarily dramatic but underneath are real feelings of frustration, sensory overload, rage, and plenty more. To effectively deescalate a meltdown you don't need to necessarily know why the behavior is occurring, only that whatever happened is causing this child or adult to feel out of control and validate that. Compassion and empathy, validation and a calming presence can go a long way in helping someone who is feeling out of control to calm down and come back to their baseline.

  • "I don't know what's made you upset but I care about you and I want to hear about it."
  • "I know how much you love your sister and you must have been really mad to say those things to her. Tell me what got you so mad."
  • "You're my friend and it hurts my feelings to see you this upset. Will you tell me what I can do to make you feel better?"
Make sure you have the time to listen after this question!

Commands, threats, or bribes don't work and often make the situation much worse. Being present and caring goes a long way and is a more respectful way of allowing a person to come back from an outburst. After, let them rest and allow them time to talk about what happened and what lead up to it, talk about other ways of handling strong feelings and over time these alternative approaches to feelings of hurt or anger may sink in. I have seen amazing transformations happen simply by letting a child know that you are on their side and allowing them to have at least one person who really believes that they can do this, that they can be in control of their feelings. It takes time but it does happen. And doesn't everyone need someone in their lives who keeps coming back even when we show them our worst?

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

"We have two ears and one mouth so that we can 
listen twice as much as we speak."  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Tragedy

Words can’t begin to describe the sense of extreme sadness and yes, fear too that came over me as I rode the bus home from Boston to Cape Cod yesterday. Now, it’s anger and frustration that once again, we have an as yet unknown, callous and cowardly act of terrorism here in Boston. I won’t give in to fear. I want to focus instead on the heroes among the crowds; the people who ran towards the danger, the strangers who stopped to help, the medical workers who saved more lives than were lost, the people of the world who came to see a race and ended up seeing how courage and compassion make us who we are. Thank you.  Carry on.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

TIP of the WEEK: A Life Lesson

As we prepare to say goodbye to a long term and beloved student today as she graduates, I have had requests to re-post this tip. I have to admit that seeing kids leave is one part of children's services that I have not and probably never will get used to.
April, we love you and will miss you dearly. Congratulations on your graduation and we will never forget the joy and energy that you brought to all of us.

A life lesson:

We typically have only a few short years with the students at Latham until they graduate and move on to adult living. If the students take anything away from the years they spend with us I hope it is this:

Try. Keep trying and don't give up. Your potential is limitless if you put everything you have into achieving the goals you have set for yourself.

Trust. Trust yourself and the people around you. People are more good than bad and most of the people you meet will be on your side. Don't let a few bad experiences keep you from enjoying the many good experiences and relationships to come.

You are smart. You have skills and talents that contribute to your jobs, relationships and your homes. Your minds don't always work the same as everyone else's but you see things and feel things that others miss. There is no test that measures your intelligence because your intelligence is different, not less. Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.

You are loved. Your family, friends and care givers want you to succeed because we love you. If we push you too hard it is because we know that you can do it, we have faith in you even when you doubt yourself.

You are worth it. We are in your lives by choice. We are in your lives because we want to be, we like being with you and want to see you grow even though is it so sad to see you leave.

Speak up. If you want something, go for it! We don't always know best and learning to advocate for yourself is the greatest skill you will ever learn.

Teach us. Tell us what you need, what works and especially what doesn't. Doctors aren't always right, science only explains so much. We need you to teach us about PWS, everyday.

Your time here will be filled with academics, learning coping skills and making great friends and in between all of the work and fun I hope you take away the really important stuff- trusting in yourself, advocating for what you want and believing that you are everything that you were meant to be.

Patrice Carroll

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Latham's Spring Appeal: Dalton's Story

“Imagine a place where dreams are inspired, where traumas are healed and where transitions into adulthood are compassionately guided. Imagine the comfort, after many years of struggles and confusion, of knowing someone you love so dearly is now living at such a transformational place. That place is Latham Centers.”

Dear Friend:

With Mother's Day and graduation season around the corner, I find myself wanting to share the story of my only child, who will soon be an official high school graduate. As a grade school teacher, education is so important to me, as is parenthood. Our story is about both.

My son, Dalton, age 22, was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) - a Chromosomal disorder with no known cure that manifests itself in many cruel ways including an insatiable appetite and behavioral and developmental challenges. In spite of the syndrome, Dalton remains a positive, caring and very determined young man. So much so that his goal is to be President of the United States! We told him that in order to hold this office, one should have a high school diploma.

And that is exactly what he will be receiving this June thanks to the life-transforming help of Latham School and, now, Latham Adult Services. With incredible gratitude, I decided the greatest gift I can give back is to reach out to others and ask you to join me today in making a tax-deductible gift to Latham Centers.

Dalton's father and I have always tried our best to care for Dalton, support his needs and encourage him to focus on his abilities more than his disability. Dalton attended public schools until he was 18  years old. Each year we would try to educate his new teachers about Prader-Willi Syndrome and Dalton's specific needs. While the school system acknowledged Dalton's disability, they were puzzled by the inherent drive to seek food and the persistent distraction and torment this caused him. Bake sales, vending machines, cafeteria meals and other students' unlimited snacking were all overwhelming for him.

Through all the years of academic and social challenges, he did not waiver in his deep desire and determination to accomplish his goal. In high school, the tension and frustration mounted. there were many nights he would stay up to work on assignments, finally breaking down. Sobbing in despair, he confided in me that "My teacher's talk too fast. I can't understand them." But he would not give up trying.

Dalton was a teenager yearning for independence, despite his inability to keep up with his classmates. This led to many escalated conflicts at home around time schedules, getting ready for school in the morning, food preparation and bedtimes. We all collectively reached a point of exasperation; and Dalton began to think he would never achieve his goal of earning his high school diploma and being able to live independently. The challenges became too daunting for all of us. Each day was a struggle and the stakes were getting higher.

Years earlier, we had heard of Latham School at a conference, but we weren't ready to let Dalton go at the time. Now, we were in crisis! We called Latham and scheduled an appointment to visit Latham School. After we toured the small but intimate campus, we had no idea how Dalton would react to changing schools and living away from us at least until the age of 22, when Latham School students graduate and transition out. On the way back home, Dalton told us that he felt like Latham was his new home! He loved it!

At Latham, everyone knew about Prader-Willi Syndrome and other kids with complex special needs. For the first time ever, we did not have to educate his teachers about PWS. The supports he needed were already incorporated into the Latham educational, residential, clinical and vocational systems. With all the supports in place, Dalton was able to focus on his personal, academic, and social goals. He was among a whole group of people who understood him. He could be himself and be helped with developing more effective coping skills.

After an adjustment period, Dalton began to blossom.  He set realisitc goals for himself and actually became President-not of the United States but of the Student Council and of his homeroom class. He also began to volunteer as the first-ever math tutor to the other Latham students, and immersed himself in writing and sports activities. Special Olymics provided him social and physical outlets. Our son was now actually a leader among his peers instead of a stressed out and ostracized high school student.

Latham and its caring, creative and compassionate staff have afforded Dalton many opportunities for healthy activities in the community. As all this good unfolded, Dalton's Dad suffered a debilitating stroke. Thankfully, Latham staff were still there to work tirelessly on finding opportunities that mattered and appealed to Dalton as a valued individual. First he secured work experience in the campus greenhouse, and with assistance from Latham's vocational staff, he then applied for and landed a job at a local nursery.

Latham Centers has been a gift from heaven for our family. We have peace of mind, knowing our son is being well-cared for, happy, safe and enjoying quality life experiences. Because of the support Latham provided, Dalton reached him goal of earning his high school diploma and is now prepared to pursue new goals as an adult living in one of Latham's adult group homes for individuals 22 years of age and over.

Today Dalton attends a weekday enrichment program for adults with similar interests and aspirations, and is training to be certified in Latham's innovative Donkey Therapy Care program. Later this summer, Dalton will run in the Falmouth Road Race for Latham Centers. All of these activities build confidence, self esteem, empathy for others, and a deeper connection to Dalton's new home away from home. He is officially a Cape Codder and tells us he is "doing stupendous."

Won't you please make a gift today so every individual at Latham Centers continues to receive a fair shot at attaining a brightter future, and a productive life in the community: We all deserve that chance. One individual at a time.

Diane Adams
Dalton's Grateful Mom

Monday, April 8, 2013

You Live Where??

Sweden, Mongolia, Turkey, Singapore and India. Oh, and let’s not forget Plano, Texas! I love maps. There is something intriguing to me about all of the far away destinations. One of the first things I do when I settle in for a flight is to pull the airline magazine out and find the flight routes in the back pages.  I think about where I have been and where I still want to go. Let’s get back though to Sweden, Mongolia, Turkey, Singapore, India and Plano, Texas…what do these diverse locations have in common? Apparently it is Latham Centers.

It is 11:30am, the second of April on the East Coast, here at “home base” (to me anyway) at Latham School, our Children’s Program of Latham Centers, Inc. That tight little group of countries, in the last few hours, one right after another, visited our blog. Now that is pretty interesting. I think this is the first time I have ever whispered out loud Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Isn’t it amazing that all of these far-flung places can reach out and at the touch of a button, read about a pretty terrific program. I hope we have been able to offer assistance, knowledge and/or support in their quest for information about Prader-Willi Syndrome.

We are dedicated to learning all we can about PWS and sharing what we have learned.  I am happy to remind our readers that there is a “translate” button on our site so that we can communicate with each other. Whether you are looking for advice, support or services, please feel free to contact us. We may not be the right service for you, but if we know who is or where you can find it, we are happy to share.

And speaking of sharing, Latham Centers, along with our partners Advocates, Inc. and PWSANE are planning an awesome conference in September, 2013 here on Cape Cod. Keep checking our website, or our blog for updates. I wonder where else our blog will be read today?

Contributed by:
Chris Gallant

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Friday, April 5, 2013

TIP of the WEEK: Raising Awareness


In April we celebrate Autism Awareness month. With the statistics rising each year (in 2007 the autism rate was 1:160 and today it is 1:50), we use this month to educate the community and try to raise money for further research.

Although autism and PWS are very different disorders there are some similarities in their presentation and we are seeing more and more kids diagnosed with both PWS and autism. Many of the successful interventions work for both:
  • The need for sameness and routine
  • Sensory sensitivity ( particularly tactile and auditory)

That there is an overwhelming misunderstanding of what these kids are trying to communicate is prevalent in both autism and PWS. I challenge you to take this month to step back from trying to change the behaviors that we view as socially unacceptable and instead watch how these kids respond to stress and learn from them. We try to stop behaviors such as hand flapping, foot stomping, spinning and expressing how they are feeling without a filter for volume or content wherever they may be at the moment.  Instead of trying to extinguish these mannerisms let's work on trying to figure out what they are communicating. I do not subscribe to the common belief that people with autism do not know how to communicate. I believe that we do not understand what they are communicating. Repetitive behaviors are a form of communicating and self soothing and I believe that asking kids to stop these behaviors could have adverse effects. The behaviors that we need to focus on are behaviors that can cause these kids direct harm- i.e.: severe skin picking due to the high likelihood of infection; head banging and aggressive behaviors which can lead to so many problems.

So this month when we are spreading awareness let us also look at ourselves and ask what we can learn from watching some of the bravest children that I have ever met. Children who knowingly take on new challenges, eagerly meet new people all the while knowing that they will likely be misunderstood. There is a lot to be learned if we just take the time to observe and get to know these children and adults.

Submitted  by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

"If a child can not learn in the way we teach, we must teach in a way that the child can learn."
~Author unknown

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Latham School Clubs Starting Soon!

Once again the school staff has come up with a great line up of clubs for the students. Starting in April 2013 the selection of activity clubs has covered the bases from sports to performing to exploring to crafting. This is going to be fun!

Are you an actor? Have fun acting out plays that are about things that happened a long time ago!!!

In the Nature Appreciation Club, we will experience beautiful Cape Cod. You will have the opportunity to go off campus and enjoy all of what nature has to offer. We will be using our senses to draw, write and explore the beaches, nature trails and conservation lands all over the Cape.

Tired of walking loops for exercise? Join the Biking Club and explore the Cape Cod Rail Trail! Get your exercise and enjoy the outdoors during school! If you own a bike, that’s great! If you don’t, we will find one for you! Come have fun with us!

Join us in working with clay and making all sorts of things. You will love seeing what you have made when it is finally finished, even give some of your work as presents!

Learn the choreography to a show-stopping number from the musical “Newsies”. If you practice each week with the rest of the troupe, you can perform with them on stage in the dance recital! We will also be creating scenery!

Help create beautiful keepsakes worthy of your favorite photos or mementos. We will also be making stationery by using recycled paper.

We will be working on baseball to the start of the spring season. Members will draft a team of 5 players from the Major League teams, then learn how to calculate a batting average, add up weekly and YTD stats, and rank teams based on 5 baseball stat categories.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

To Those That Came Before...

Last Friday I was saying goodbye to a dear man. A quiet and humble man whose 90 years on earth included several spent in the skies over Europe in a P51 bomber at the tender age of 19. Through the interest of my son, his stories and memories of WWII came to light. Photos and mementos, long stored in boxes were brought out and shared.

As we moved forward in the stories of the last century, I mentally drifted to the subject of Prader-Willi Syndrome. Before growth hormone, before physical and speech therapy, before food security, even before diagnosis, there were people, pioneers if you wish, researching, treating, parenting and educating those with Prader-Willi Syndrome. For many, the diagnosis was long in arriving. They struggled to find anyone who could help them understand what their child had, understand the symptoms and challenges they faced. Pioneers, they were without Google, Facebook, support groups, specialists. Because of their determination, their dedication to their children, progress was made and continues on.  Today we see children growing well into adulthood. We have learned and discovered much in the care and treatment of PWS. There is still work to be done; needs that are unmet and bureaucracy to battle but research continues, advocacy is taught, empathy and support offered. The pioneers, giving their knowledge and sharing their experiences to those coming along next.

Thank you.

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."
~Galileo Galilei