Friday, January 30, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to paid support people is an inevitable reality of our children's lives. There will be teachers, aides, direct care personnel, therapists, and doctors that will touch you and your child's life in spectacular ways and saying goodbye to them will be devastating. Take comfort in knowing that right around the corner there are more wonderful people who will fight for, love, and support your child just as hard as the last person.

Here are some ways to help your child transition from the person who left and help them openly receive the new professional coming into their life:
  • Have closure. This can be anything from a one-to-one meeting, a short visit in the community (going to a coffee shop or favorite bookstore) or having a group goodbye.
  • Make something special. A card or a short story will allow your child to put down in words what that person meant to him or her. Often times there is regret on the child's part for not expressing to the person who left how much they meant. Writing allows an expression of feelings when verbalizing them may be too difficult.
  • Assure your child that the person leaving was not because of anything they did or didn't do.
  • Be careful not to make comparisons with the person who left to the new person in your child's life. Most likely, your child will be looking to you for permission to like the new person. Be sure to give that permission openly.

And finally, it may not always be possible for the staff who left to keep in touch so you should avoid making that promise. Saying goodbye is never easy, but your child will come to learn that, when properly handled, it can open the door to more relationships and new friendships.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What My School Means to Me

What My School Means to Me
by: Patrick

What school means to me is having a good education, good grades, friends, safety, being organized, respectful, responsible, friendly, polite, good manners, and just to have fun. I like Latham because most of the people here are more sincere and more understanding towards your feelings as opposed to a public school. Have you ever felt like fitting in a group to be accepted or trying to impress your peers in order for them to like you? I have because at my other school, everybody seemed to be more focused on themselves because they wanted other people to like them. What I think is people should be who they are for people to like them and if just one person doesn't like you there are so many other people that you can be friends with. It is important to make friends and keep them instead of trying to make yourself look popular. If people went too far with it, nobody would want to be friends because they don't like show-offs. So make the right choice and what you think is the best decision. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Principal’s Corner!

We are winding down here at the school house with all our Alternative Testing Portfolios! Teachers have been doing a fabulous job over the last few months creating invigorating curriculum to mirror the standards contained in the Alternative Testing. While the administration and teachers could consider ourselves well-rounded in the Massachusetts Alt. Assessment, this year we had the opportunity to better educate ourselves in other states’ alternative assessments! Our teachers attended training in Long Island, New York in October of 2014 to prepare for the NY Alt. Two teachers and I became experts on the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program by reviewing materials sent to use by the school district.
Aidan is currently working on finishing his New York Alt. In science, his classroom has been busy learning about the states of matter and cause/effect relationships in weather. In math he is mastering how to solve for a variable at the end of a linear equation!

Brennan is currently working on finishing his Virginia Alternate Assessment Program! In reading, Brennan is focusing on demonstrating comprehension of both fictional and nonfictional texts. In math, Brennan is demonstrating his knowledge of expressions and operations, as well as equations and inequalities.

Teachers and students have been working very hard and will be submitting their student’s work in the next few months for review. Our students are proud of the work they have completed and look forward to showing off their portfolio!

Great job to our students Aidan and Brennan, and kudos to our amazing teachers, Jeff, Suzanne, Heather, and Alanna!

Kara McDowell
Assistant Principal

Friday, January 23, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Sensory Tools

Many of my weekly column readers write in asking what sensory tools work best with PWS individuals. There is no easy answer because it is specific to each individual's preference. It also depends on what behavior one is trying to decrease. That being said, here are some ideas for sensory tools and activities that have had great results for different needs:

For the person who picks―all tactile tools including stress balls, sand and water tables, silly putty, bubble wrap, chewlery (these are bracelets and necklaces that are designed to be chewed on), strips of material to shred and therabands. All of these also work well for decreasing agitation and increasing focus.

For daytime fatigue―therabands used under feet so the individuals can bounce; scents that are strong such as citrus or patchouli; and all activities that involve bouncing, jumping or climbing.

Reducing agitation―all activities that require using muscles in a positive way such as lifting objects (not too heavy), sucking thick liquid through a straw, stretching, blowing bubbles or jumping.

Preparing for transitions―counting, coloring, tapping or clapping to a rhythm or rocking.

Winding down―calming scents such as lavender or sandalwood, deep breathing, a warm bath or hand soaks.

It is always recommended to consult an occupational therapist before starting a sensory program. After a consult, you can experiment on what works best for your child. A rich array of sensory techniques can ease many of the typical behaviors seen in PWS as you and your child master long-term coping skills.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lower Cape TV Visits "New Year/New Works" Art Show

Latham Art Show from Lower Cape TV on Vimeo.

Lower Cape TV speaks with John Bonanni about the art show, "New Year/New Works" on display now at Brewster Ladies' Library, and a reminder that the art show reception takes place TONIGHT from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m at the Brewster Ladies' Library. 

Please show your support and check it out!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Living and Thriving with PWS

Latham Centers is proud and grateful to announce a new monthly blog column by Derek M., a 24 year-old Latham adult resident with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). Derek has resided on Cape Cod for over three years in a home managed by Latham Adult Services with fellow residents also diagnosed with PWS.  Read his first column “Living and Thriving with PWS” here:

January, 2015

My life at Latham Centers’ Adult Program

Coming from Rhode Island, I never would have imagined that I would one day have the opportunity to participate in a residential program specifically designed for individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome on Cape Cod. After graduating from high school with a diploma and 3.25 GPA, many people speculated on what my future would hold. I tried college like a “normal” graduate would but found out that it was not the proper environment for me. 

I then moved back home to live with my parents while attending a community college. This started out really well, and I completed three college-level classes, but as the year went on, my temptation around food began to spiral out of control.

I began taking money out of the ATM with my own debit card which resulted in buying extra food at the cafeteria.  Eventually that led to me becoming severely depressed and feeling like an outcast. I ended up going to the hospital quite a few times to handle my behavior. I was then placed in a residential facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities when the hospital visits became too numerous. The problem was that this facility was not qualified to work with individuals with PWS.

Over a span of 2 years of continuous hospital admissions and a near death emergency room visit, I was up for immediate placement into the Latham Centers’ Gilbough program for adults with Prader-Willi Syndrome on Cape Cod. Immediately I began to fit it and in the short span of one year and a half I lost a total of 142 whopping pounds!!  I went from a high of 280lb to settling in at a comfortable 168-lb weight. This was an amazing transformation. 

Today, I now enjoy many activities, such as bowling in Special Olympics, acting and singing with the Latham Players, learning to care for animals and exercising.

So how did I do it, you ask?

It was possible because of my own commitment but also that of a compassionate and caring team of support staff and community inclusion at a job I love!  I hope that you can see that living with Prader-Willi Syndrome is quite the journey…. but more about that in my next post.  

Derek M., 
Adult resident at Latham Centers 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Latham School "New Year/New Works" Art Show Reception Thursday, Jan. 22nd at Brewster Ladies' Library

On behalf of Latham School, we cordially invite you to a student art show reception on Thursday, January 22nd from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m at the Brewster Ladies' Library. The show entitled New Year/New Works highlights an eclectic assortment of mixed media art including paintings and hand-painted, decorated furniture from the Latham Works vocational program.

The show continues through the end of the month in the Library's Exhibition Room located at 1822 Main Street/Route 6A in Brewster. Library hours are Tuesdays & Thursdays 10a.m. - 8p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays 10a.m. - 5p.m.  and Sundays 1-  4p.m.

Please note, the library exhibition room is sometimes in use for a program and not open for viewing, so please call the library at (508) 896-3913 before coming. For more information on the Brewster Ladies' Library visit:

Friday, January 16, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Harnessing the Power of Social Stories (a guest post)

Our view of the world is a combination of early experiences: successes and failures, memories of trial and error as well as a compilation of how the outside world responds to us and how that makes us feel. For some of us, navigating society is just that: dodging, responding, and then the always tough lessons of “I WON’T DO THAT AGAIN!”.

Many individuals with PWS struggle with cognitive rigidity and cognitive inflexibly, or understanding situations as black and white. For example, I know all the rules, or I do not know any rules, or this situation is really good or this situation is really bad. This kind of thinking can lead to an individual having set ideas about what should happen in a given social situation. Additionally, it can create challenges for an individual to take in and then practice what is learned about how to react during social situations. In all situations we are given tasks or demands to complete to attain a goal. When a task or demand is given and there is a “cognitive mismatch” due to a lagging skill area (such as cognitive flexibility), the result is a behavior.

When an individual with cognitive rigidity has a set idea about a social situation and expectations are not met, it can lead to a socially unacceptable behavior.  Social Stories are useful in avoiding this cognitive mismatch and instrumental in teaching the child what they need to understand in order to attain the goal. Social Stories are effective tools used to help students with PWS understand multistep situations (such as daily schedule, getting on a plane, or morning routines), social situations/social norms and perspectives of others (such as expressing a feeling, saying hello to friends, navigating a triggering event) using a story format. Effective social stories use text and visuals. They are individualized to meet the needs of specific students and situations written from the perspective of the person using them.

Here are tips on using Social Stories effectively:
  • Use Social Stories any time your child will be experiencing a new event/routine or situation outside of his or her typical schedule.
  • Make the Social Story short and concise.
  • Use positive language and refrain from referring to consequences for not following the plan.
Social Stories are used to prepare your child for the unknown or anxiety causing situation. The more they are used the more effective they are.

An example of a social story:

Given their visual nature, Social Stories are a concrete tool that can be used to lower anxiety about any given situation. It is important to always involve the student in the creation of the story by reading and repeating the story and asking the student clarifying questions to ensure they understand.  The active involvement of the student through creation and repetition is instrumental in reinforcing the specific lesson and increasing the individual’s ability to retain and apply knowledge.

 “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
~Benjamin Franklin

Submitted by guest authors and Latham clinicians
Gina Sheehan and Lauren Titus

Friday, January 9, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Hypothermia

Hypothermia and Warning Signs

As many of us face record cold this January, I would like to share about hypothermia and its warning signs:   

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 affected when hypothermia sets in. Hypothermia in those with PWS can set in sooner and be more difficult to diagnose. Because of this, it is imperative that winter time precautions are in place.

The following are symptoms of mild hypothermia for all populations:
  • shivering 
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • slight confusion
  • lack of coordination/stumbling
  • confusion
  • faster breathing
  • increased heart rate
  • body temperature below 95 degrees
As one’s body temperature drops, signs and symptoms of moderate to severe hypothermia include:
  • Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens, shivering stops
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Confusion and poor decision-making, such as trying to remove warm clothes
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Lack of concern about one's condition
  • Progressive loss of consciousness
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Someone with hypothermia usually isn't aware of his or her condition because the symptoms often begin gradually. Also, the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness. The confused thinking can also lead to risk-taking behavior.

 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, especially when caring for an individual with PWS:

  • Keep an emergency box in your car including blankets and hand and feet warmers. Many people experience hypothermia and frost bite when cars break 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 your home, consider having someone come to your home to watch your child instead of having them leave the house with you. 
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 and if possible, take the person inside, moving them carefully and slowly. Jarring movements can trigger dangerous irregular heartbeats. Carefully remove wet clothing, and cover him or her in layers of blankets while you wait for emergency help to arrive.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Finding meaningful work to match the abilities and goals of our students is an exciting part of Latham Works, the campus-based vocational program of Latham School. Fortunately, Latham resides in a very supportive community. Having strong ties to the community brings opportunities that might not be available otherwise. 

This past Monday, Latham student Nick started his first off-campus job working at the Orleans Bowling Center. Working off-campus has been a long-term goal for him. Nick currently holds three part-time jobs on campus which are dining room cleaning, recycling, and floor cleaning with the Fantastic Floor team. Nick says, “I’m proud of myself. I’m working toward independence. This is my last year with Latham and I want to be ready for when I move on.”

With Nick’s progress to an off-campus assignment, we know he will achieve great things on the transitional road to adulthood.

Fred Walters
Latham Works Staff

Monday, January 5, 2015


Latham Profiles: Meghan Pouliot
Teacher at Latham Centers

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The best part of my job is when I see the students working together. It makes my day when I see one of my students help another student during a difficult time. All they may offer them are coping skills or just an open ear, and you will see the other student instantly feel better. It’s the best.

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

Some of my responsibilities include creating interactive lessons, managing the classroom, and implementing each students IEP. Most of my time is spent in the classroom working with my students.

What skills are most important for professionals who work with individuals with PWS or other complex special needs?

It is a toss-up between a good sense of humor and patience. When a student is going through a challenging time, it is important to be patient and listen to their needs or concerns. I also find that humor works well in assisting a student back to baseline.   

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

Take in everyone’s perspective. This goes for both my colleagues and students. When working with anyone, it is important to understand the reasoning behind their actions and not to just jump to conclusions. 

What do you love about working with individuals with PWS or other complex special needs?

The compassion and dedication they have is amazing. I am constantly in awe of my students. When I think I have seen the height of their compassion, they do something that leaves me speechless.

Has this job taught you anything about yourself?

I have a voice. Prior to Latham, I mostly kept to myself and was somewhat shy. Latham has forced me to come out of my shell both personally and professionally. While working at Latham you can’t help but to advocate for your students’ needs. Not only have my students brought me out of my shell, but my colleagues are the best support system I could ask for.

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

While not at Latham, I spend a lot of my time trying not to think about Latham! When you love what you do, it’s hard to not think about it. But when I am relaxing, going to the beach with a good book is the best. Now that’s its colder, I enjoy surrounding myself with family and friends.

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

Do it! You will not meet a more dedicated and helpful staff. When I first started at Latham, I was petrified with starting my career. That quickly ended when I realized how united the staff are. They made me feel at home, and when I had a question, they were supportive and ready to help. Not only are the staff great, but the students are out of this world. They are creative, funny, and eager to learn. I could not ask for a better working environment. I’m lucky!

Interested in joining our team? Check out our latest job postings HERE.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hopes and Happiness for the New Year

I spent much of last week talking to our students and adult residents about the new year. We discussed their hopes and dreams for the coming year, and their regrets and achievements of the past year and what they would like to do differently over the next 12 months. I wanted to share some of their comments with you.

"I want to be healthy and happy and all of that but what I really want is a girlfriend." - 16 year old male

"Last year wasn't so great but it was better than the year before that so that's something, right?" - 23 year old female

"I want next year to be just like this year because I'm happy." - 19 year old male

"I want to keep my job and my girlfriend. That's all I want." - 45 year old male

It struck me as I was doing these informal interviews that not one person said that they wanted to move or make any major change in their lives. I heard an overriding theme of happiness and contentment that I am certain I would not have heard if I had interviewed a typical population. Maybe that is their lesson to us: that it's okay to want but in the end be happy with what you have and where you are.

With that I will leave you with perhaps my favorite quote of the year:
"2015 is going to be awesome because I'm awesome so how could it be anything else?"- 15 year old male

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services