Friday, August 29, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Back To School Part 2

By this time, most of your kids have started their first week of school. You have either experienced a honeymoon period where everything went smoothly and according to plan or you have been thrown into the fire. Both are normal responses to new environments and experiences. Here are some ways to make it the best school year that you can.

1. Communicate. You should have some form of daily communication with your child's school. You may see patterns of behavior or triggers before the school staff does and your input is valuable. Always speak up if you see something that is not working but remember to point out what is going well also. Critical feedback is important and should be welcome but if that is the only time you speak to your child's teacher you will build a relationship based on tension and animosity.
2. Be active in the creation of your child's IEP. Your child's teacher is the expert in special education but you are the expert on your child. Both viewpoints are just as important as the other and joining together will create a document that allows for the most success for your child.

3. Be honest. It may be difficult to reveal some of the more embarrassing behaviors that you have seen your child do but withholding that information will set your child and the teacher up for failure. The more they know the better they can prepare. You will also hear about behaviors at school that you don't see at home. This is normal and is not necessarily an indication that they are doing anything wrong. The school will likely not see everything that you see at home and this also is not an indication that they are doing something better than you are. This is a normal reaction to different environments.

4. Follow the rules. Your child's classroom will have different rules than you have at home. That's life. Your child should be expected to follow those rules and will quickly figure out that different environments have different rules. Unless it is medically or clinically necessary to change the rules for your child- don't.

The key to a successful school year is careful and compassionate communication, holding both your child's school and your child accountable for their part in the education process and allowing everyone involved the chance to succeed.

Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I Work at Latham Centers

The ability to create special, personal memories with the students is why being a teacher at Latham beats anywhere else. Being able to create a mural in my sensory room with all of my students AND being able to attend community outings with all of my students are memories I will never forget.
And the administration team is pretty awesome, too.

Kara McDowell

Interested in joining our team? Click HERE to view our latest employment opportunities.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Latham Lessons

Someone asked me today how many years have I worked at Latham. Thirty. 3 – Zero. Thirty years at this wonderful place. Some of the staff I am now training aren’t even that old.  I have witnessed enormous change in that time. I think I can recall every nook and cranny in the main house--parts of which no longer exist. I remember sitting in the upstairs porch (gone) sorting socks in the 1980’s. I remember going down the back stairs (gone) into the art classroom (gone) and out to the side porch (gone) to collect milk from a milkman (gone, too) to bring to the kitchen (remodeled).  This was before we had a school building. Before a clinical building.  Before moving the administration off-campus. Before we had a beautiful dorm. Before the idea of a “Museum Campus” was even thought about. Before we had cell phones, computers, smart boards, and yes, even before we had boys. Even before donkeys.

Sometimes I think about the kids, now adults, whose lives have touched mine. I try and remember them all and many stand out for their courage and frankly, their feistiness. Those pesky HIPAA regs prevent me from sharing details but know that Brenda, Charmaine, Anna, Debbie, Donna, Wits, Stephanie, Kathy, Donese, Lisa, Crystal, Julie, Maria, Cheryl, Allison, Sarah, Misty and so many more made their presence known and I have never forgotten them. I think they taught me much more than I taught them. I believe I became a better parent through my apprenticeship journey and still say that it was easier to get 32 Latham students up and ready for school than it was to get my own three kids out the door.

I have had the honor of working with truly wonderful staff. Staff whose dedication, generosity, guidance and professionalism helped me chart my own career course in this field.  More than a few times I have had new hires who looked somewhat familiar to me—and of course they did…I have their class photos from 2nd or 3rd grade when they were in school with my kids.  I’ve worked with their parents, occasionally even their grandparents. It is important, meaningful work and I am preparing to leave it in good hands as I finally make good on my plan to retire. Leaving Latham is really hard. And I’m not sure that Latham will really ever truly leave me. It has worked its way into my heart and soul and I am forever grateful for the opportunities and life lessons it has taught me. As I finish up this October, I hope I can tell you how much you meant to me without choking up. If my experience writing this is any indication, I will fail miserably….

Submitted by:
Chris Gallant

"You have been my friends. That in itself is a tremendous thing." 
~E.B. White - 

Friday, August 22, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Teaching Boundary Skills

Learning and respecting appropriate boundaries is the cornerstone to making and maintaining friendships and becoming a functioning member of society. Unfortunately this is an area where many of our kids struggle immensely. Here are some ways to help your child learn how to improve their boundary skills.
1. Role play. Act out with your child both good and bad interactions. It may also be useful to video tape your role play so your child can see first hand what is acceptable and what is not. As is the case with so many unwanted behaviors, they simply may not know how they are coming across to others.

2. Be consistent. If they are close talkers then teach arms length personal space and redirect them every time they step too close. This behavior will only keep presenting itself unless it is corrected every time it happens.

3. Don't be tolerant of any sexualized behavior. We know that undressing during moments of high anxiety is a behavior that is not uncommon and we also know that the intention is not to be sexually threatening however, this behavior will cause enormous problems later in life. A 5 year old stripping in public is manageable, a 25 year old is not and will likely bring legal action. This behavior should be met with zero tolerance for their own sake. This is also true for masturbating anywhere other than their own room or bathroom.

4. Learning empathy. The majority of our kids have great empathy for others. Their level of empathy can be compromised if there is personal gain involved. The best way to teach empathy is by showing it yourself. It is crucial that your child never hears or feels that you are excusing their behavior because of the syndrome. Likewise do not allow your child to hear you blame someone else for their misbehavior. Their actions are their responsibility and we teach the necessary skills from there.

Even though our kids struggle with standing too close, repetitive question asking, over attaching to certain people, and sometimes disrobing it does not mean that these are life long behaviors. They are often a result of either heightened anxiety or simply not knowing that it is not appropriate. These skills can be learned and should be taught from a very early age.

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vacation Week at Latham!

What types of activities do the students excitedly wait for during this week? Here is one that we truly enjoy. It is  educational but mostly…it’s fun. What a great resource in our own back (or maybe it is the front) yard!

Canal Kids, Sandwich
Drop in and join the Canal Park Rangers for fun & educational programs exploring different aspects of the canal w/ hands-on activities & games, learn what Park Rangers do, about marine life, and more.
Presenting on 8/26:  Birds of a Feather

Submitted by:
Kristi Dolbec

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Clinical Department at Latham Centers Meets the Ice Bucket Challenge!

This week’s science outing: Seal Tours at Monomoy Island Seal Tours!

Now this is the way to learn science! Latham heads out to sea to explore the habitat of the seal. Monomoy Island here we come!

Top 10 Reasons Why I Teach at Latham Centers

1. Being part of a multi-faceted approach to the entirety a student’s care and growth.

2. Being part of that approach with a large group of people who are not ego driven, but focused on the kids.

3. Getting to know the students to the level where you can’t imagine life without them.

4. Feeling like I’m part of something that’s of great value to society.

5. Flexibility to try new ideas and develop the ones that work.

6. Being around co-workers who seem to be enjoying what they are doing.

7. Casual dress code.

8. Flexible days off (we won’t mention the year roundedness!)

9. It’s 10 minutes from home (for me anyhow)

10. A sincere feeling of belief in the organization’s stated mission.

Andy Needel
Vocational Teacher

Interested in a career at Latham Centers? Click HERE for our latest job openings.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pondering the Future

Sunset at Rock Harbor, Orleans
Sometimes we are so caught up in what comes next that we miss out on what comes now. We look forward to those big events. Occasionally that future vacation is what gets you through a rough patch at work or at home. More often than not, I think we all fall victim to the perils of living for the next great thing. I have come to the realization that I probably missed a lot of wonderful moments in life waiting for the “big” happening  to come about. I am trying hard to train myself to be more present and aware of the small things unfolding all around me. 

Last night I was planning for the high tide hours over the weekend. Hunting for a tide chart, wondering if I needed to go food shopping had me scurrying around my house. My husband decided it was time for a drive, no destination planned—just getting in the car and heading out. As the sun was setting, we went to the harbor and caught the end of an incredible sunset. We sat there silently and watched the sky turn dark. It was one of the best experiences of my summer and almost missed entirely while planning out the weekend. So Latham blog readers, enjoy the small things in life. Your child’s delight in bugs, their giggling and silliness, the warmth of the sun, the smell of sunscreen lotion. It is all great stuff and totally worth paying attention to.

Submitted by:
Chris Gallant

Monday, August 18, 2014

Team Latham: 18 Victors in 2014 New Balance Falmouth Road Race

A big congratulations to all eighteen runners in this year’s Falmouth Road Race and to all twenty fundraisers! Amidst nearly 13,000 race participants, our 18 charity runners successfully ran through the finish line on a beautiful, mildly breezy day Sunday, August 17.

To date, Team Latham has raised more than $23,000 from almost 300 generous supporters towards vocational and educational programs at Latham Centers. Proceeds will help our students and adults to attend events such as Special Olympics and partake in physical enrichment activities and assistive educational technology. With Team Latham donors stepping up to the plate even today, some runners are going to continue fundraising throughout the week in an effort for some to still meet their individual $1,000 goals, and for others to exceed goal!

To make a general team donation click here, and all the runners will benefit from your kindness. To see a list of all 18 runners and help a specific runner meet or exceed his or her goal, please click here. We truly appreciate all the hard work of our runners, as well as the generosity of our runners’ sponsors who have supported the very dedicated Team Latham!

“If someone can make it from where I was to where I am now, anyone can do it.” –Latham Student and Runner Ryan M.

Thank you to the 2014 Team Latham Runners/Fundraisers:

Steve Bebrin 
Andrew Cramer
Jo-Ellen Erickson
Scott Esselman

 Ryan M.

John Bonanni
Melinda Brennan
Kalyn Mika
Gerry Pouliot
Meghan Pouliot
Travis Tebbetts
Mary Ware
Nancy Warner

Chris Bonelli
Magda Moran
Evan Wilson

Katrina Fryklund
Anne Haglof
Gracie Stark


What do you enjoy most about your job?

The flexibility in the opportunities to implement personalized curriculum here that creates memorable experiences, cannot be found in many schools. Each teacher here at Latham is allowed to be creative in their approach which makes our school extremely complex and unique. I am a part of an amazing educational team that is supportive and dynamic. It makes this job enjoyable and exciting. 

Describe a few of your responsibilities and how you spend much of your time.

As a classroom teacher I am responsible for creating engaging lesson plans, drafting Individualized Education Programs for each of my students, and creating an environment that is safe, social, and stimulating. I spend much of my time teaching my class basic school subjects, as well as providing support in social scenarios, implementing anti-bullying curriculum, and supporting each student’s individual needs. 

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

Flexibility, resiliency, and patience are all important for working with individuals with PWS. The ability to “think on your feet” and change your plans as necessary, is extremely important. Our students need people who will do anything they can to help them achieve their goals. 

What are the most important lessons you attempt to teach new staff?

The most important lesson I attempt to teach new staff is to listen. Listen to the students’ stories, comments, concerns, etc., and you will learn more about them as individuals. Listen to veteran staff’s advice, helpful hints, stories, etc., and you will learn more about how to be successful with our population. 

What do you love about working with individuals with PWS?

Their perseverance and ingenuity is incredible! All of the students at Latham are capable of surprising themselves, peers, and staff everyday! 

Has this job taught you anything about yourself?

As a recent college graduate embarking on my first teaching career, I did not realize that I was accepting a position that would teach me so much about myself. This job has taught me that I have incredible patience, tenacity to help others achieve, and an amazing sense of creativity and imagination.  

How do you spend your time when you’re not working at Latham?

As a new resident of Cape Cod, I spend most of my time exploring all this area has to offer and enjoying the beach. I also enjoy relaxing in my apartment by reading and painting in my free time. 

What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career at Latham Centers?

Learn about what we do here at Latham! Take a look at our website and blog to see what we do and what we are all about. Learning about the individuals we serve and their complex needs is also essential to any one’s success here at Latham. And if you want to be a part of a wonderful team.. apply! We are an amazing group of professionals and we work with an even more amazing group of young individuals!

Friday, August 15, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Back to School PWS Style

Preparing for back to school brings the hope for new beginnings, the chance for new opportunities, and for those who have children diagnosed with PWS, a lot of anxiety. Back to school doesn't have to be stressful. A little pre-planning can ease the stress for both you and your child.

1. Back to school clothes. There is no way around buying new fall clothes but due to sensory processing issues new clothes can be intolerable for kids with PWS. Tags and stiff material can cause such discomfort that learning and following the rules can become a near impossible task. Used clothing or hand me downs can take some of the discomfort away because the material is softer. If you need to buy new clothes,  send them through the washer with fabric softener many, many times before introducing them to your child. They are not being picky or difficult- new clothes can feel like needles on the skin to a child with sensory challenges. Some children with PWS can only tolerate sweat pants or running pants. Unfortunately many schools have dress codes banning sweat pants. If your school has a policy against clothing that your child needs to wear in order to feel comfortable be sure to include this in their IEP. Exceptions will almost always be made in the interest of academic achievement.

2. Settling into a new environment. Ask if you can take your child to their new classroom before school opens to give them a chance to become familiar with their new environment. Ask for pictures of their new teacher and if possible, of their classmates. Anything that you can do to avoid surprises will help your child to adjust more easily. Start waking them up at the time they will need to wake up when school begins at least 2 weeks prior to school starting. The same goes for bedtimes. When possible always ease your child in to a new routine rather than change it suddenly.

3. Paperwork. Ask to review the paperwork that your new teacher will be reading about your child. This will give you an opportunity to dispute any information that may have been written out of ignorance of the syndrome.

4. Training videos. Request that everyone working with your child watch one of the training videos for educators working with PWS. Supply them if necessary. The training videos that are available are thorough and extremely helpful and will give your new team more confidence when working with your child.

5. Communicate. Use communication journals or ask for a daily email regarding your child's day. Never solely rely on your child's account of how their day went. It will also ease your child's anxiety if he or she knows that everyone is on the same page and are communicating daily.

Although the start of a new year can be stressful it is also a time of promise and excitement because the truth is, we don't know just how far your child will go, what he or she will learn or accomplish and there is no greater feeling than that.

Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services

Related Posts:
Lunch Box Snack Ideas
Back to School

Back to School Tips for Older Students

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Latham Centers was a participant in the Cape Cod Collaborative Arts Network (CapeCodCAN!) organization this past spring. Students in Latham’s sensory art club made a variety of different artwork to be displayed and sold in the small art shanties near Hyannis harbor. The collaboration with CapeCodCAN was a success and Latham was recently approached by them again to participate in their Fall Art Program.

This organization promotes and allows the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to come together and share their artistic talents with others around the Cape. Their hard work is displayed for public viewing and they even have the opportunity to sell their work as well. I met with a few representatives from other groups that will participate in the Fall Art Program. The group discussed the overall theme for the Fall Artwork, as each group will follow the same theme, “My Cape Cod”. Artwork will include what Cape Cod means to each student and items that represent Cape Cod. Art mediums were discussed which include painting, sculpture, and others. The students are encouraged to use their imagination and to use many different materials for their art pieces. Art groups will meet once a week from September until November. Once the artwork is collected, it will be displayed to the public beginning in November.

CapeCodCAN group representatives all believe in a common goal, the importance of integrating art programs for individuals with special needs, and finding a way to connect schools and groups alike on the Cape. Art allows individuals to express their thoughts and feelings which can be quite challenging for them at times. It can be used as therapy for these individuals and is a great way for them to express themselves, show off their talent, while also helping them to develop important skills for their future. 

Submitted by:
Amie Gould

Top Ten Reasons Why I Teach at Latham Centers

10. My own schooling: In order to maintain my educators’ liscensure here at Latham, I went back to school to pursue an M. Ed., which has forced me to test my limits academically while working full-time. In doing so, I have honed my research skills while learning the tools to effectively initiate a robust learning environment. Furthering one’s education is one of the single best ways to experience success and teaching at Latham has pushed me to do it!

9. The Nursing Staff: Coordinating with the nurses in a Special Education School is essential, and these coworkers have given me a great deal of knowledge surrounding medical issues related to the many diagnoses we deal with here at Latham. Aside from offering their own health advice for staff, they constantly support my own work when medications have to be packed, a scrape needs to be tended to, or I need my own health checked out.

8. The Clinical Staff: Since working at Latham, I often utilize our Clinical staff for my own debriefing. This team has worked wonders with my students, most of whom attend therapy twice weekly. Their perspectives often add a great deal of insight as to what’s happening in the classroom, and help assess the entire ecology of each student. They tend to be a gentle, creative bunch, and their attitudes are contagious!

7. The trainings and professional development: Since working at Latham, I’ve had opportunities to educate myself on complex issues such as working effectively with Youth-At-Risk, Bullying Prevention, Suicide Prevention, PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder, to name a few. The ability to educate myself continually here has helped me enhance my scope of knowledge surrounding the students I work with while growing professionally because of it.

6. The location: The Brewster campus where I work is constantly beautified by the Maintenance department here. My own classroom sits in a historic captain’s house, which for many, embodies the quintessential Cape Cod home. Did I mention I work on Cape Cod? The setting here lends itself to a plethora of educational field trips and recreation for our students while offering easy access to the single best healer in the world: the ocean.

5. My administrators: My administrators have provided me with great support and understanding. I’ve heard of administrative battles in other schools that simply don’t exist here. Most of the people that supervise me have once taken on the responsibilities that I currently hold. Because of this, they show great empathy for problems that arise and have also become great cheerleaders for their staff.

4. Education Staff: My coworkers on the education team have provided me with great role models who have mentored me into teaching today. They not only know how to express themselves professionally in everyday interactions and meeting, but they also make time to meet outside of work, debrief, and connect.

3. Freedom within the Frameworks: As a great deal of our students complete the Alternative Assessment, and as others come from different states, Latham, like many other private schools, offers much flexibility within the MA frameworks. Because of this, I’m not subjected to the judgments and anxieties involved in high-stakes testing that many other school systems are prone to. I can tailor my classroom to theme-based units around respect and diversity, while still allowing students access to the general curriculum provided by the state.

2. The curriculum: The curriculum within my classroom centers on fostering independence needed for effective transition into adulthood, including necessary life skills and community integration. It offers me the flexibility to be creative in my planning while holding students to a higher level of expectations and trust. The transitional curriculum at Latham gives me an opportunity to not only teach but also be a resource for our students during these often anxious times of impending transition.

1. The students: While the obvious answer, the truth is this: These guys have more courage than most people realize. Some come from broken homes; others are dealing with a lifelong genetic disability that affects their ability to self-regulate. Watching them exercise their “mind muscles” in the classroom and within the community brings me the most joy working here because they are able to overcome these intense issues, press on every day, and do it with a smile. They’re the real heroes!

Submitted by:
John Bonanni, teacher

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Friday's Woodworking Extravaganza

We had a really productive day today.  The kids were following directions and totally into it. 
Thanks to the delivery team too.

Andy Needel
Vocational Teacher

Monday, August 11, 2014

Latham Centers Introduces the Fantastic Floor Team!

Here’s a great clip of a vocational activity that you might be surprised to learn fills many needs for our students. Consults with the OT and PT specialists, and of course our very own educational staff-- Andy, Fred & Mike, lead to the development of…The Fantastic Floor Team! Promoting vocational, social, movement, and creative skill sets is part of the learning process and helps to build and enhance life skills. Watch this fantastic  team at work!

Friday, August 8, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Enuresis

Enuresis is the inability to control urination and a common problem in children and adults diagnosed with PWS. More often than not enuresis is the result of a delay in the signal that a typical person feels letting us know that our bladder is full. This signal is not functioning properly in the person with PWS therefore when they feel the need to go, it is often too late. This is seen very often in nighttime enuresis, they simply don’t feel the signal strong enough to wake. Here are some things that can help:

  • Determine if the issue is medical or behavioral. You can easily get this information if you use reinforcers for staying dry. If they are able to stay dry with the promise of a reward then you know that it is within their control.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor about medication that may help to decrease the amount of urine that their kidneys make. There are a number of options that you can discuss with your child’s pediatrician.
  • Limit fluid intake in the evening.
  • Document when your child drinks and when he/she has accidents and be sure your child’s school is doing the same. This will give you vital information regarding how long your child can wait after ingesting fluids.
  • It is possible that you will need to wake your child overnight to urinate.
  • Refrain from using negative consequences after an accident. If it is medical then it is out of their control. If it is behavioral then they are attempting to communicate something to you. Either way showing that you are upset will only add to the problem.

Above all else expect that accidents will happen at the most inopportune times and plan accordingly. Have a change of clothes everywhere!

Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Staff Recognition

This month Laura Haskew was recognized for her exceptional work in the Children’s program. As a substitute staff, Laura is comfortable working in all situations and in all locations. Laura was specifically recognized for her positive attitude, adaptability, and consistent willingness to help out the staff around her. 

Thanks Laura for everything you do here for both the students and the Agency.

Tim Vaughan, MAT
Director of Leadership and Growth

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Latham Centers and Latham Lifelong Pet Care Featured on Latest “Profile” Segment of Cape Cod Community Media Center

Paula Hersey with Mr. Dog and Gerry Desautels with Shasta on the Cape Cod Community Media Center set

Monday, August 4th, Latham Development staff Gerry Desautels and Katrina Fryklund were on set with Paula Hersey from the Cape Cod Community Media Center to inform cable subscribers of the mid-Cape region about Latham Centers and Latham Lifelong Pet Care on Cable Access Channel 99.

The 22-minute chat flew by resulting in the latest Profile” show produced by the media center.  Viewers are also treated to two four-legged guests: Latham Mascot Shasta and Cape Cod Community Media Center Set Dog, Mr. Dog along with Hersey, host of “ Profile” along with Gerry and Katrina.

While the canines couldn’t get a word in edge wise, we managed to cover a broad range of topics including:  the specialized care at Latham Centers and the vocational and education/treatment needs of our individuals, Team Latham Falmouth Road Race runners fundraising for Latham, our burgeoning Donkey Therapy program and Latham Lifelong Pet Care program offerings.

Watch the Profile show with Ms. Hersey as host on YouTube HERE.
To learn more about Lifelong Pet Care please visit

Monday, August 4, 2014

In case you missed it!

This Place Matters - Latham Centers from Lower Cape TV Channel 99 on Vimeo.

Latham Development staff Katrina Fryklund and Gerry Desautels met with Susan Lindquist at Lower Cape TV to record for Cable TV and WOMR radio “This Place Matters" which aired July 23rd on WOMR and WFMR.
Susan, Gerry, and Katrina reminisced about Latham’s past and celebrated Latham’s future and of the dramatic changes in Latham’s training processes and the progress Latham Centers’ residential clinicians and staff have made over its 44 year history, specifically in regards to PWS programming.

The show also touches upon Latham's newest vocational initiative--Latham Lifelong Pet CareLatham Lifelong Pet Care sees individuals with PWS not only as hirable, but essential to the new program's success and vitality. Moreover, Latham Lifelong Pet Care meets the pet care needs of the Cape Community through dog walking and short and long-term care options.

To listen to this podcast click HERE and to view the video click HERE.
To learn more about Lifelong Pet Care please visit

Friday, August 1, 2014

TIP of the WEEK: Tips for Deescalation

The first few minutes of agitation or frustration are crucial in determining how or if an incident is going to play out. Your response in those few minutes can prevent or fuel a potential incident.

  • Use anything positive that you can think of and praise, praise, praise. If historically he or she has hit or broken objects then praise them for not using their hands and refraining from violence. If they tell you why they are upset then tell them what a great job they did expressing their feelings. Use any positive feedback that you can think of. 

  • Distract. I have seen a situation deescalated when a staff started singing the students favorite song. It was brilliant and changed the mood from angry to happy in seconds. Bring up good things that are coming up but bring them up as a reminder of good things to come not as a threat.

  • Ignore. Be cautious with this technique. There are kids who will stop once they see that they are not getting attention but others may raise the stakes until you attend to them. Try this but pay close attention to their response and be prepared to act accordingly.

  • Stay calm. Use soft voice tones and calm facial expressions regardless of how escalated your child gets.

Most importantly, allow your child a face saving way out. Avoid an audience when possible and once the situation is over- it's over. Reliving the episode will only add anxiety and can lead to further unwanted behaviors.

Submitted by:
Patrice Carroll