Friday, February 27, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: We Are Rare

This weekend we celebrate International Rare Disease Day. One day of the year that the spotlight is on those that live with diseases so rare that, in some cases, very little is known about them. But what about the other 364 days of the year? Who is watching, learning, studying, worrying and loving those living with rare diseases? We are. The families, staff, and educators who commit and dedicate our lives to the rare and beautiful people in our lives.

So this Saturday don’t simply celebrate the people in your life living with a rare disease, celebrate yourselves and those equally rare people who support you and your child. Reach out to families who have less support or who are currently in crisis. Educate everyone every chance you get. Look back on the past year and rejoice in the successes, no matter how small, because every step forward is a huge achievement. The world celebrates rare diseases on Saturday 2/28 but for us every day is rare disease day and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learning Life Skills at Latham

On February 12th, 2015 I attended a luncheon with Latham Centers’ Rock Harbor classroom students. The class wrote me an invitation which was sent in advance, greeted me when I arrived at the restaurant, and prepared many questions to ask me in order to carry conversation throughout lunch. They were all exceptionally well-mannered! You can read their great invitation below! 

January 21, 2015

Kara McDowell
1646 Main Street
Brewster, MA 02631

Dear Kara,
How is your new position going? We are very proud of you and are happy that you are our new Assistant Principal.
As you know, once a month we go on a restaurant outing where we practice our table manners. We would like you to be our guest. We will be going on the fifth of February at 11:30, and would like to know if this is feasible for you. Please let us know at your earliest convenience if this works for you. If it does not work for you, is there another Tuesday or Thursday that does?
The Rock Harbor Class

Thank you for the invite, Rock Harbor Class!

By Kara McDowell
Assistant Principal

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Circle of Courage at Latham Centers: Mastery

I believe that every member of the Latham community has a powerful contribution to make. Being good at what we do- having “Mastery” in our life- is a basic human need. When you consciously align with “Mastery”, when you step forward to make a contribution, and when you consciously strive to improve your skills, you obtain a high level of satisfaction with your life. 

Latham success increases when all members of the community are engaged and contributing. The specifics of these contributions are not as important as the need to be engaged and to feel responsible for the welfare of this community. For our employees, “Mastery” may focus on honing their professional skills while community supporters may contribute by spreading the message of what we are doing to other people. Students and adult residents can lead by example and be accountable for positive peer to peer interactions. Fostering this skill in your personal life leads to marvelous outcomes.

The world needs more people who feel fulfilled and competent in life.  “Mastery” is important in our individual lives as well as our collective future.

CHALLENGE: Pick one of the activities below and commit to your own personal Mastery.

1. Think of something that you are naturally good at. Find one simple and new way to contribute those skills in an easily achievable project. Spending more time doing things that come easy to you and that you enjoy results in more fulfillment and joy. It’s a double bonus if your project benefits another person.

2. Look to either side of you. Find a way to make the life of the people around you better in a small way without looking for anything in return. 

3. Do something for Latham today that contributes to our Mission. Whether big or small, how can you contribute your spirit to our important work? Whether it is volunteering time, telling a friend about our organization or providing a donation of your skills- get involved with the community by giving of yourself. It will benefit all of us and will leave you feeling you fulfilled.

By Tim Vaughan
Director of Leadership & Growth

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Life with PWS from a Student's Perspective

The below autobiography was composed by a student at Latham Centers as the first to a series about her life. Her positive take on Prader-Willi Syndrome and her willingness to discuss her journey are truly admirable.

“Hi, my name is Bess. I live with a wonderful disability. I am not your average 19-year-old girl. I have PWS which stands for Prader-Willi Syndrome. It affects the 15th chromosome at birth . But because I have PWS, it affects some minor delays when you are growing and old[er]. [People with PWS have] a low body tone, and small hands and feet, and [problems with certain] behaviors.

But I am a strong young girl who lives with PWS. I couldn’t have done it without [first] going to Pittsburg and then getting the help I need[ed]. I weighed 213 pounds, and that was when I was borderline diabetic. That scared me. Then I took the weight off after I was there 2 months. I worked really hard in the setting to take the weight off. Using the Red, Yellow, Green Diet helped me stay healthy and the 60 minutes of exercises was hard, but it was fun to see myself lose weight.”

Bess now resides at Latham Centers and is a leader amongst her peers. She has carried over lessons learned in her previous placement to Latham Centers, where she accepts challenges and flourishes with PWS.

Katrina Fryklund, MSPC
Development Coordinator

Monday, February 23, 2015

Restaurant Night Success!

As students shuffle into the Campus Dining Room eagerly anticipating Restaurant Night 2015 the excitement in the air is palpable. Annually students are invited by kitchen staff, school staff and residential staff to attend this favorite night. Senior administrators, clinicians, and supervisors act as the wait staff and a healthy, three course meal is delivered to the students in two separate sittings. This is an opportunity for students to be pampered so close to Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate positive relationships, mutual support and tasty food! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Keeping your Cool

It is crucial that we keep our cool during an incident- remain calm, keep distractions down, use a calming tone of voice. It is equally as important, however, to remember these tips after an incident has occurred:

1. Don't judge. Even if the trigger seems trivial to you, something caused your child to become extremely upset. Whether or not you think it warranted a strong reaction is not important. 

2. Remain calm. Your adrenaline is high, you are upset and if the incident was in public you are embarrassed and angry. Don't let those emotions get in the way of the final goal of keeping your child calm and teaching the appropriate tools for preventing this in the future. 

3. Teach. After the incident and recovery time, talk about what happened gently and calmly. What was he or she upset by? What can be done differently in the future?

4. Take time for yourself. You need some recovery time as much as your child does. Take it.

No one wants to see their child melt down but this will inevitably happen. Do what you can to prevent it but know that sometimes even the best plans are not going to prevent a loss of control caused by any number of possible triggers. Allow yourself the time that both you and your child need post incident to regroup and learn from the experience.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Latham Players Present: A New Community Center in Brewster

On February 7th, the Latham Players, the Latham Centers Adult Theater Troupe, gathered at the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennis. The Players, their family members, staff, directors, and videographers gathered together on Saturday morning to film this lighthearted and inspirational video entitled “Latham Players Present: A new Community Center in Brewster.” The video emphasizes the need for a new rehearsal space for the Latham Players at the highly anticipated future Latham Community Center. Click HERE to watch video.

In the video adult residents are interviewed and share their love for singing, dancing, and acting. They were hopeful and enthusiastic about the prospect for a new center where they could rehearse and stage productions. Latham staff were also interviewed and shared their perspectives about their work “[Latham is] a wonderful mixture of professionalism and family. We love our job,” and “the players enjoy performing so much, and look forward to the [Latham Players] rehearsals and appearances.”

Finally, parents were interviewed who explained how critical Latham Centers has been to their son’s success. They continued to explain that the Community Center will be, “great for Latham students, Latham adults and the community. It’s a win-win.

The new rehearsal space will be located at 1439 Rt. 6a in Brewster, just a quarter mile from the Latham School Campus. The auditorium will be housed in the new Latham Community Center, which will provide opportunities for the general community, but most importantly serve as a learning and training space for Latham Centers’ students, adult residents, and staff. Highlights of this new property include technology, art, woodworking, vocational training and physical education spaces, as well at the auditorium and stage for the Latham Players.

To help fund the Latham Community Center, please click HERE.

Submitted by: 
Katrina Fryklund

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What My School Means to Me

What My School Means to Me
By: Alyssa

I love school. I think it's fun. I also like to read. My favorite book is Charlotte's Web. I also love Math. I think it's awesome. My teacher is awesome too. They are always supporting me. I am thankful that I have awesome staff that cares for me. I also thank Amie for helping me and to help me achieve. When I get out of Latham I am going to college to be a teacher just like Amie. I also have good staff and friends to be there for me in hard times. I want to thank everybody for all their help and kindness.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Living and Thriving with PWS

 February 2015

How change affects an individual with PWS

When someone is affected by change in their daily life, they can be either happy or disappointed.  When living with Prader-Willi Syndrome and facing change, it is even more difficult. It always hits us the hardest and we can react in so many ways. Over the past couple of years I’ve had to deal with a whole lot of change. Some of those changes have had a deep effect on me. Below is an example of my journey and change I’ve faced.

When staff at your home changes it can be either good or bad. For this example I’m using Jack and Jill. 

Jack had been a staff at the house for quite some time and got to know each client pretty well.  After making a tough decision to enhance his career, Jack decided to take a teaching position elsewhere.  The residents were disappointed by the news, but they were happy about the new journey Jack was about to take. Jill also worked at our home at the time.

Jill was a fairly new staff at the house and she treated the residents as if she was their mother. Jill helped dry their tears when they were upset and helped them overcome personal challenges.  Jill had built a strong bond with a lot of the residents, so strong in fact that Jill provided them with confidence and raised self-esteem. Jill found out that a different position had opened up at another house, and this was an opportunity that Jill had been hoping for.

Everyone thought “NO, NOT JILL!!!”  We were sad to see her leave but thrilled that she would get to pursue her dreams. I was at first disappointed that both Jack and Jill left the residence. It wasn’t until they were actually gone that I realized what they have already given me. In their own, unique ways, both Jack and Jill taught me skills and information I will use for the rest of my life.

When the house residents were nervous about the future, other staff came to our aid. After the other residents left I had a brief conversation with two staffers and they helped me realize how I’ve grown into an adult over my time at Latham! Change can be hard, but in my life I’ve begun to understand what new opportunities and positive change can bring.  I am going to continue living with PWS and THRIVING WITH A PASSION!!

Derek M.,
Adult Resident at Latham Centers

Monday, February 16, 2015

Making the Best of the Winter at Latham Centers

Between snowy cabin fever, pending vacation home visits, ‘goody bag anxiety’ and other stressful situations, it’s been a challenging couple of weeks for students and staff alike. It's times like these when I see students and staff making the extra effort that I appreciate teaching at Latham Centers the most.

With the rest of my Vocational class on outings or with clinicians, I was left with two dedicated students for our Chapter Four quiz last week.  Their enthusiasm and rapport were totally infectious.  We finished the quiz, and students came up with good examples of information an employer would need to know about prospective employees. All three of us were having fun, but getting our work done at the same time!

It was one of those priceless moments that can only be built from the unique relationships we have with our students.

Submitted by: 
Andy Needel
Vocational Teacher

Friday, February 13, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Caregiver Fatigue

Whether you are a parent, staff person, or teacher there are days that are simply exhausting! Giving everything you have to another person, especially if that person is having a very bad day can take its toll. Here are some things that you can do to survive on the not so good days:

1. Speak up.
Let people know how you are feeling. Fatigue, over reacting to small things, frustration and constant worry are all signs that you have had too much. Talk about your feelings openly.

2. Let people help you. If help is offered, accept it. You don't need to do it alone. This will mean that you cannot control every situation and that is ok. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness.

3. Take a break. If you see the signs of burn out seek respite care if you are caring for a family member or schedule a vacation if you are a staff person. A much needed break can make all the difference.

4. Put yourself first. Ok, maybe this is unrealistic all of the time but do put yourself first for at least a few minutes per day. Give yourself small rewards at the end of the day- a hot bath, well hidden chocolate when everyone is in bed, your favorite tv show or anything that takes your mind off of the day.

You are an integral person in the life of our children and in order to give your best you need to be your best.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Successful New Year/New Works Art Show

Latham Center Art Show Reception from Lower Cape TV.

The students, residents, staff and Board of Directors of Latham Centers would like to thank the Brewster Ladies’ Library for hosting our New Year/New Works Art Show and the Brewster Community for attending the event. Many great moments took place at the Art Opening, which can be seen in the above video highlighting Latham teachers, staff and visitors.

Throughout the month of February, this mixed-media show exhibited work from some forty artists from Latham Centers. Thirty-one of the artists were students ages 11-22 who reside on the Latham School campus, and nine were adults from the residential program. Artists shared which paintings were their favorites, and the messages behind each of their paintings. One student explained, “The heart [in my painting] represents love, the wind means relax, and the water means peace.”

Mediums ranged from acrylic, markers and pencil, to mixed media (including puzzle pieces and Mancala Beads), as well as a display of wood furniture products. Art classes and creativity groups are essential to the success of Latham Centers’ population as they allow for creative expression of emotion, hardships and happiness, while emphasizing independence and growth.

Submitted by 
Katrina Fryklund

What My School Means to Me

What My School Means to Me
By: Ryan

Lots of laughing and funny jokes. Acquiring different students and staff. Teachers are great for teaching all of my classes. Having lots of fun and a really great place to live. An amazing place where students and staff care about each other. Magic is every where here at Latham.

Friday, February 6, 2015

TIP of the WEEK: Surviving Meltdowns

Despite all of your efforts and planning there may come a time when an escalated situation becomes out of control. Here are some things to consider if a meltdown goes too far:

1. Don't try to reason with your child about why they shouldn't be upset. It may seem trivial and slight to you but whatever has gotten them upset is very important to them. Invalidating their feelings will only make the situation worse.

2. Avoid eye contact and unless absolutely necessary, don't talk. The difference between a meltdown and a tantrum is that a tantrum is typically an attention seeking tool, a meltdown is a complete loss of control that has to run its course before it ends and will escalate further with additional external stimulis. No amount of talking or reasoning will stop a full blown meltdown and will almost always make it worse.

3. If you are in public then expect a scene. People will stop and stare and judge and there is nothing that you can do about it so as embarrassed as you may be, ignore the audience. They don't know your child and likely have no idea of the syndrome. Some parents have told me that they tell bystanders that their child is autistic because most people are aware of autism and that their presence is making the situation worse. Don't let an audience alter your actions. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is a bad situation that will have an end to it.

4. This is their meltdown, not yours. You need to stay calm and strong, joining in the heightened state of anxiety and frustration will most certainly add to your child's already upset state.

If your child is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or someone else you may have to hold them. Depending on many factors, including your own or their physical strength, this may not be possible and you may need to call 911. Their safety is your number one concern. There are a number of programs nationwide that teach physical holds. If you are interested or feel that this may be necessary for you I recommend contacting one of these programs and taking a course.

6. A bystander may call the police. It is always helpful to have the police involvement cards available through PWSAUSA handy as these explain PWS succinctly.

7.  After your child calms down they will likely fall asleep. Let them. Their bodies and minds have gone through a lot and this is a necessary crash.

After the incident refrain from judgement or punitive actions. It was a lack of skill that caused the problem, not a conscious decision to misbehave. Think through the events that led up to the incident and determine which skills were lacking and focus in teaching those rather than spending too much time rehashing the event with your child. They will probably not be able to verbalize what caused the disregulation in their emotions and will already feel shamed by acting out. Most importantly try to remember that no matter how bad the situation gets it will end and it is not something that they would have chosen to do if they were thinking clearly.

No one wants to see their child suffer but staying steady and in charge will help move the situation to an end and allow everyone to get back to the good stuff. And there's so much good stuff!

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What My School Means to Me

What My School Means To Me
By: Alexandra

Latham School means a lot to me. The staff and peers and Circle of Courage are helpful in so many ways using Generosity, Mastery, Belonging, and Independence. The environment is a good and safe place. The peers and staff use Generosity, Mastery, Belonging, and Independence because it makes Latham better and safe and with no bullying. Latham School is safe and caring. At Latham School we should write to a friend and a staff to say something kind and nice. Brittni, Kristi, and Anthony are the best #1 staff ever.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Ron Sume
Activities for Daily Living Teacher

Ron has worked at Latham Centers in the Children's Program since July 8th, 2001. Throughout this interview Ron was smiling from ear to ear. This emphasizes how much he loves the work and being a part of our students' lives.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

The work is enjoyable. Everybody is different. There is a lot of fun to have. To witness the changes in the students and to think I might have had something to do with it. Appreciate the small changes. Assisting students with how to act in the community and increasing their manners in the community.

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

Planning for everyday activities. Planning and running community trips. Food shopping and meal prep. Running activities. The big ones are always a lot of fun. In the house, keeping everyone respecting each other. Much of my time is spent problem solving with students. These guys have individual problems and behaviors they are working on every day. For me the most important part of the work is to: talk and laugh with them, share ideas, get through tough times and have fun.

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

Patience and understanding with what they are going through. Teaching takes time to help them get to where they need to be with life. Understand where they are coming from. Care for them.

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

Patience, understanding, don't jump to conclusions, take time for you and students to get to know each other, learn--do not act like you know more than they do, have a thick skin--it is not always a good day, sometimes there will be hurt moments. This job is not for everyone.

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

Through daily routine they can be successful. This routine can alleviate anxiety. They love to have fun! Talking with my students before and at the end of the day. Making sure to spend time with them before leaving shift. I love the conversations with the students. Sometimes there are tear jerking moments. I love when they are really thinking something through and ask: "What should I do?" You talk with them and get from them what they think and feel. I also love being able to use humor throughout the work!

Has this job taught you anything about yourself?

It has increased my patience. Now that I have a family of my own I want to carry on with this patience.

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

Fishing, time with family, friends, and my boy.

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

Wow--come and check it out! Get to know these students. Give it a chance, even if your career is in something else. When something is new to us we need to try and take our time.

Come join our team! Latham Centers offers a dynamic and supportive work community where your skills, experience, and passion are valued and put to great use. Check our job listings HERE

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lights, Camera, Action!

The “Lights Camera Action Club” on campus is a favorite by many students. Led by staffers Meghan Pouliot and Monique Williams, this club offers students the ability to learn how to perform in front of the camera and how to lead behind the camera. Students acquire social and presentation skills and truly excel in this program.

Using a video camera, the students and their instructors film the morning announcements which include the Pledge of Allegiance, a weather report, and upcoming events. Also included are staff or student highlights to engage the entire School Campus. 

Lights, camera, ACTION!