Friday, January 31, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: The School Day

Keeping children with PWS engaged and interested during the school day can be extremely challenging. Here are some easy modifications that we have found to be effective:

1. Adjustable desks that allow children to stand instead of sit allows for kids who cannot tolerate sitting still a little more room to move freely. Standing allows kids who struggle with small spaces the sense of feeling less confined and often find it easier to concentrate.

2. For children who need to constantly fidget we use Thera bands stretched across the bottom of their desks. This allows them to bounce their legs quietly without disrupting the rest of the class. Having small and accessible stress balls and Thera putty is also helpful for fidgeters.

3. Take frequent sensory breaks. Every 30 minutes or so allow the kids to get out of their seats and do something physical. Physical activity improves concentration and reduces undesirable behaviors that often are the result of boredom or pent up energy.

4. Avoid lecture style lessons as much as possible. Many of our kids struggle with auditory processing and spoken lessons are almost always overwhelming for kids with PWS because they simply cannot keep up. They are still processing the first few sentences and the teacher is half way through the lesson. It is not a compatible teaching style for children with PWS.

5. So many of our kids struggle with day time somnolence and sometimes need to nap. This is ok. You are better off allowing a child who is clearly fatigued a planned and short nap rather than insisting that a sleepy child stay alert and participate.

We are always interested in hearing your ideas. How does your school help your child to be a better learner?

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Related Posts:
Coping Strategies
Strategies for the Classroom
Creating a Behavior Plan

“An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” ~Scott Belsky

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Creativity Group News

Here at Latham Centers we have a Creativity Group that meets monthly. Our individuals are given the opportunity to create something with their own hands. Working with people with complex special needs can be challenging because they cannot always verbally express their feelings. The Creativity Group gives them a way to express themselves through art. Art has always been a beneficial way for people to express themselves and in our group they can do it in a variety of different mediums.  Not only is it therapeutic for our individuals, it also gives them the freedom to create something from scratch they can be proud of when finished.

Submitted by:
Erik Tibbetts
Residential Manager,
Adult Services

“You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” 
 ~Maya Angelou

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Opportunity to Show your Support: Guerlain Beauty Products Exclusive Gift Raffle

During the month of February and March Latham Centers is teaming up with NEIMAN MARCUS Natick and Guerlain Beauty Products in support of our children and adults. Tickets for the Guerlain Beauty Products Exclusive Gift Raffle are 1 for $20 and 3 for $50, and all proceeds enrich our programs at Latham Centers. The Grand Prize, valued at $1500, includes beauty products ranging from men and women’s fragrances, facial creams, make-up products, Latham soaps, and more. 

Five runner-up prizes include other fine fragrances and make-up products by the prestigious French company.

View the full prize list and buy your tickets online HERE

Tickets will be sold online through March 21st. Winning tickets will be drawn March 22nd. You need not be present to win.

Contact Katrina Fryklund in the Development Office at 774.353.9126 or with any questions.
Good luck, or “Bonne Chance” as they say in France!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weather Alert


Enough Already. I. Am. Not. Going. To. Post. About. The. Weather.

So, Latham friends, what the heck else is going on in the universe? Apparently, if I think hard, other topics may be able to rise to the surface of my brain. Isn’t it interesting how we can get ourselves stuck on a topic? I pledged to myself this morning that I would not “go there” (you know where). So, I have spent much of the morning trying my hardest to talk about something, anything else besides the weather. Communication however, is a two-way street and I am apparently on a one-way that is also a dead end.

Where to go, where to go after the “Good Mornings” are exchanged? I know. I could ask about the State of the Union address happening later today. Politics is always a conversation starter! Well, that didn’t work. The response back was, "Will it get cancelled due to the impending snow storm?" Ok. Then I tried, "Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?" "The Broncos, but if it is frigging freezing out, then Manning will stumble." Ugh. This is harder than I thought. Keep trying, I tell myself.

I deftly move another conversation along to TV. "Hey, have you seen that new series on HBO? True Detective? It is intense!" Oh yes, and here it comes, "Is that the one in Louisiana? Did you know they are getting snow down there and it is so cold they are closing schools?"

Music! Always a good topic! "So, did you watch the Grammys Sunday night? I loved, loved, loved Pink!" "Not much of it, no. Can you imagine wearing one of those dresses on a red carpet here in the East? You’d be an icicle before you closed the limo door."

Food. When you work at Latham, food is a topic we discuss professionally. It should be a great topic to chat about. I say: "I brought a salad in for lunch today." "Salad? What are you, crazy? It is so cold out; you should have soup, something to warm you up. Whip up something in the slow cooker like a stew and it will get you through this artic vortex (that is never leaving us)."

As I bang my head slowly on my desk it has sparked concern in the voice of my friend.
"Are you OK she asked?" "No, no I’m not." "Well, says she, it’s better than slipping on the ice and breaking your hip."

I. Give. Up.

Submitted by:
Chris Gallant

“If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” 
 ~Mark Twain

Friday, January 24, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Beating the Winter Blues

The winter months, especially post holiday, can be a difficult time for all of us but for a child or adult with PWS the boredom and isolation of winter can be grueling. Less sunlight, cold weather and the lack of special events such as holidays and get togethers keeps us inside and less social and this can lead to boredom at best and seasonal depression at worst. Here are some ways to beat the winter blahs:

  • Plan at least one social event between February and March. This can be anything from an extended family dinner, a basement dance party for the kids or any get together that requires some planning and a change in the day to day routine. Let your child help in the planning and use a calendar to count down the days. This gives them and you something to focus on and look forward to.
  • Make a winter reading list. If your child can read encourage them to do so often and make this a part of their daily routine. If your child can't read, use audio books. These can be downloaded free through your local public library. Reading to your child is also an option but audio books will allow your child to independently spend their downtime. Avoid activities that require you to be directly involved all of the time because doing so teaches your child to depend on others for their entertainment and this is unrealistic especially as they get older. If your child is careful with books then your public library is a great option. If they are not then online stores such as Amazon have very inexpensive used books to purchase.

  • Winter is a great time to do indoor projects like redecorating. Get your child involved in redesigning their bedroom or play area. Go online, pick themes and plan. The idea is to get them invested and interested in making their room their own and the project itself gives you and them something to break the monotony.
  • Winter is a great time to plan your spring activities such as gardening. Use this time to plan, order seeds, start seedlings and design your spring garden. Kids and adults with PWS are typically very good at this kind of a project because it requires a concrete and spatial thought process, something they are most often quite good at.

The bottom line is to create light and hope during a time of the year that many struggle through. Plan activities. Use books instead of tv as much as you can as this will allow for greater use of their imagination and less time to zone out. Plan fun indoor activities that everyone can look forward to. And when the temperature isn't too unbearably cold, go outside! Winter is a beautiful time to explore nature and participate in outdoor activities.

We would love to hear some of your ideas for beating the winter blues...

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Related Posts:
Any Given February Morning 
Getting Back into a Routine
Musings of a Child Care Supervisor

"When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting."
~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Latham Centers Students and Adult Residents “Unite” to Wage February Art Show at Wellfleet Public Library

Latham Centers is hosting an agency-wide art show entitled “United” open to the public for the entire month of February at the Wellfleet Public Library. The colorful show features some 40 works by students of Latham School in Brewster and adult residents of Latham who live throughout Cape Cod.  The exhibiting student artists attend school year-round at Latham's residential campus while Latham adults reside in Cape homes close to work sites, day habilitation programs and other activities. Latham specializes in the treatment of complex developmental, emotional and physical special needs, including Prader-Willi Syndrome. “United” marks the first time that Latham students and adult residents have collaborated on a joint art show.

“Working with people with complex special needs can be challenging in that they cannot always easily express their feelings,” according to Erik Tibbetts, Latham Adult Services Manager+ and organizer of the program’s monthly Creativity Group. “Art gives our individuals a way to express themselves…in a variety of different mediums.  The group is therapeutic and a great winter social outlet, giving our residents the freedom to create something from scratch that they can be proud of and feel a sense of accomplishment.” 

The faculty and staff at Latham School for students ages 8 to 22 took the opportunity to create art for the Wellfleet show centered upon the themes of Black History Month, Presidents’ Day and Valentine’s Day.  “We have seen so much creativity and learning come about from our art classes on campus. It is always heartening to see the world through the eyes of a child, especially children who have experienced struggles who come to us to heal and grow,” adds Gerry Pouliot, Latham School Director of Education.

The Wellfleet Public Library is located at 55 West Main Street in Wellfleet. Hours of operation, including viewing access to the Latham “United” art show in the library meeting room are: 

Monday 2–8p 
Tuesday 10a–8p 
Wednesday and Thursday 2–8p 
Friday and Saturday 10a-5p
Sunday 2-5p. 

The Library will be closed Monday, Feb. 17 for Presidents’ Day.
To learn more about the library, log on to or call 508-349-0310.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Blizzard

What an adventure it was getting into work today. Ultimately, I needed a ride as my Prius, while great on gas, is not so good plowing through the untouched snow. Blizzard conditions were expected (and delivered) throughout the night and into the morning. News crews from the Boston stations were deployed around the Cape and reported on the weather event as we seemed to be in the bull’s eye of the storm. Again.

As we pulled into the parking area my husband commented that there were a lot of cars already here. And that is important. It means that our staff, determined and dedicated, came in at all hours of the night and morning. Public schools are closed. Government offices are closed. Stores and restaurants are closed. But Latham Centers never closes. Like hospitals and other public safety and emergency jobs, we are always open to provide support and service to a remarkable group of people, by a remarkable group of people.

As I made my way through the residences and school, I saw staff engaged with our students, beginning the day with activities for a “snow day”. No one needed my assistance. No one was under-staffed. My offers to help somewhere were graciously refused because the fact of the matter is …I am just not needed. They have this under control. As an administrator, I am walking away thinking--they got this down pat and I am unnecessary and probably in the way. As a parent, I only hope my kids experienced this quality of care from their professional care-givers over the years. I guess it is time to huddle down in my office and get through some long-delayed paperwork! Stay warm everyone!

Submitted by:
Chris Gallant

“Commitment is an act, not a word” 
~Jean-Paul Sartre

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Latham Front Line

We are about to get nailed with another storm. I love how Mother Nature can screw around with my plans. Receiving the “blizzard warning” update from the state is a sign to me to cancel a training day tomorrow. Planning trainings in January and February (and December, March & sometimes even in April) is always a challenge.

We say here on Cape Cod that the seasons are: Fall, Winter, Winter & Summer. Spring is a non-existent time of year between freezing rain, wind, snow, cold and slush. Then thankfully, on comes glorious Summer. Spring, not so much.

So, I’d like to give thanks today to an awesome group of people. Our facilities staff rock! They keep Latham operating and are the first ones on the front line of a weather emergency. Our students, individuals and staff depend on them to keep our residences and buildings warm and clean, the driveways and parking lots plowed, the walk-ways clear and de-iced and they do it before 6am. All through today and tomorrow, these men and women will go about their jobs with their sense of humor intact as they battle the elements. This morning, as they headed out the door, Kevin turned to me and said with a twinkle in his eye “Shoveling snow would be so much easier if it was warm out.”

So thank you to Barbara, Paul, John, Bob, Kevin, Carol, Susan & Jeanne. Thanks for always taking such good care of us. Without you we couldn’t focus on our priority, the students and individuals we support.

Submitted by:
Chris Gallant

“Winter is not a season, it's an occupation.” 
 ~Sinclair Lewis

Friday, January 17, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Getting Back into a Routine

Getting back into a routine after the holidays is the best way to move your family away from the chaos of the last two months and get back to some semblance of normalcy. Here are some ways to help you get back on track.

Be realistic. It doesn't matter if all of the other families that you know have the next three years mapped out in 15 minute increments (trust me, they don't). You know your family and what makes sense for them. If your routine is written down and includes what every family member is doing every day, great. If your schedule only includes what your child with PWS is doing roughly everyday, that's fine too. It is what works for you, not what other people tell you works.

Make a "to do" list. Write down what really needs to happen that day or that week and prioritize it. Having a mental list is overwhelming and you will only feel defeated when you ultimately forget half of the list. You need food for meals, bills need to be paid and it is always good to have an idea of where every family member is at any given time. After that most things can move to a lesser priority. Check off when you complete each task on your list so you can see what you have accomplished. We spend so much time running from one thing to the next we often don't stop and acknowledge what we have done.

Don't over estimate your energy level. You have a lot to do every single day. If you over-stretch you will not be your best self and that isn't good for anyone.

If your routine fails, don't give up. Tweak your routine until you get it right. This may take a number of tries but you will find something that works.

Most importantly, take time for yourself. This is so very important and the benefits are long lasting.
Create a routine that works for you and your family and change it as needed. A well organized and pre-planned schedule will help the whole family stay on track. Don't forget to delegate tasks to older kids to give yourself a break. You've done a lot for your family, let them start to help you.
Take deep breathes and try to find the humor in every day. There's plenty of it!

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Related Posts:
Daily Schedules
Getting Out of My Own Way
Useful Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety

"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out." 
~Robert Collier

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Righting My Ship

Apparently I managed to beat it out of Dodge before the snow and freezing temps landed on my home shores. I had never heard the term “artic vortex” before and to be perfectly honest, I was happy to be in the tropics and not here when it arrived.  Back at work now, in my office, listening to the noise and hustle & bustle of Latham School isn’t exactly what I would call relaxing, but it is time to come back in from the warmth…

We have all heard the phrase “home is where the heart is.” I am fortunate to say work is where my heart is too. Pulling into the parking lot this morning felt good; greetings to and from other early birds made it almost okay to be up and about before 7am. The sun, stingy through December with her illumination, is coming up earlier and hanging around longer. Latham is waking up and I can only imagine what it was like here last week with the cold and the snow. 

I like this time of day. I get glimpses of kids in pj’s, some slow to start their engines, and others already in the dining room helping prepare for breakfast.  I really appreciate the morning routine here. It helps me focus on what I need to be doing. I think that January is an interesting time for all of us. Getting past the holidays, the vacation break, the gift-giving, the schedule changes, and yes, even the additional challenges around holidays and FOOD, takes some re-calibrating on my part. I think we all struggle with what I call “righting the ship”. There’s a reason January is a time for making resolutions. So, if you hit a bump in your goals as I did; if you relaxed your exercise routine, if you ate more than you should have and celebrated too many times then don’t despair. Just take a deep breath and begin to do what you know is right. Once you get back on track, trust me, you will feel better! Pura Vida!

Submitted by:
Chris Gallant

"January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow."
-  Sara Coleridge

Monday, January 13, 2014

Latham Gives and Receives: The Magic of Generosity and Belonging

“For it is in giving that we receive.” 
~St. Francis of Assisi

It can be easy to miss the good when we spend so much time focusing on how to fix what we perceive as the problems with individuals with PWS. The truth is, there is more amazing, breathtaking and to put it simply, good than bad. We see this everyday in every child but often dismiss it or don't acknowledge it because we get caught up in wanting to change the other stuff, the unmentionable and sometimes embarrassing things that our kids do. To see the whole child, the beauty in the child, we must start to focus and highlight the positives because frankly the positives far outweigh the negatives. A true holistic approach requires us to know every aspect of the child's personality, strengths and challenges.

An example of the kindness and generosity that our kids have brought to light was last week when one of our students opted to not receive presents on his birthday but instead asked for his family and friends to donate to a local charity in his name. This charity gives children without resources the opportunity to experience Cape Cod and all of the amazing opportunities that we have here. Children who would not be able to attend therapeutic horse back riding, go on fishing trips, experience whale watches or ride their own bike for the first time. When Ben first heard that there were children who could not do these things he asked me what he could do to change that. That question was from his heart with no ulterior motive, no agenda other than him feeling a deep compassion and a call to help. This is who our kids are. They are not problematic and dysfunctional but they do require a different environment, a different style in order to blossom and grow to be caring and productive members of our community.

Submitted by Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services
Latham Centers

Friday, January 10, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Learning ADL Skills

Being able to perform activities of daily living without support is a crucial part of growing up and working towards independence. Even if your child will always require some degree of support it is important for their self esteem and long term placement options to be able to care for themselves as much as possible. Showering, dressing, brushing teeth, cleaning their room, laundry, and toileting hygiene are skills that can and should be taught at an early age. The more dependent your child is on someone else for these tasks the harder it will be to teach them later in life when resources will likely be fewer.

The OT and/or PT at your child's school will be able to give you individualized assistance in how to best create a program that will suit you and your child. Picture boards, assistance rods or wands and slow speed videos are examples of tangible tools that can help. Using these tools is a great start and often very effective but the most important thing to remember is to encourage your child to do as much as possible for themselves without your help. This will take time and lots of patience but the pay off will be a stronger and more independent child.

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services

Related Posts:
What Independent Living Means to Me
Chatham House: Preparing Students to Live in the World
Transition From School to Adult Life

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” 
 ~Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Latham News

At the community meeting today (left), clinicians handed out awards to students for demonstrating the needs of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity in their lives. Great work kids!!!

Congratulations to Maeve Murray (right), who earned the staff award at this months children's community meeting. Thanks, Maeve for your commitment and passion for the kids and our community as a whole. Latham is a better place because of you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Latham Students and Staff Brave the Blizzard!

Students everywhere feel excited when they hear "No School!" Latham students are certainly no exception.

Well-bundled up, our students and staff are enjoying a fun day off from school. While we are enjoying playing in the snow, we are making sure to take a lot of breaks to go inside and warm up, because it is COLD!

Many thanks to our wonderful staff who braved the snow and the roads to make sure our students are well cared for, as always.

Pam Nolan
Director of Children's Services

Friday, January 3, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Hypothermia and PWS

Hypothermia is a serious medical emergency that occurs when your body cannot produce heat as quickly as it loses heat. Your nervous system and all internal organs are effected when hypothermia sets in. Hypothermia in PWS can set in sooner and be more difficult to diagnose and because of this it is imperative that winter time precautions are in place. The following are the symptoms of hypothermia in the typical population as well as in the person with PWS:

•lack of coordination
•drowsiness and or low energy
•slow breathing or shallow breathing
•very weak pulse
•body temperature below 95 degrees

In the person with PWS, lack of coordination, weak pulse, shallow breathing and low energy may be baseline so it is important to tell any medical professional what the person's typical presentation looks like. It may also be difficult for a person with PWS to accurately describe the pain they are feeling.

Here are some precautions that you may want to take:

•Keep an emergency box in your car including blankets and hand and feet warmers. Many people experience hypothermia and frost bite when their car breaks down in frigid temperatures.

•If your child runs away often, consider a GPS location bracelet or anklet so they can be found easily. This device has saved lives.

•Plan ahead for storms and inclement weather so you are able to stay indoors. If you need to leave home consider having someone come to your home to watch your child instead of having them leave the house. It only takes a few minutes of exposure to cause serious damage.

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from hypothermia call for emergency medical help immediately.

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services

Related Posts:
Preparing for Winter
Winter Activities 
Transitioning to Winter