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Your Child with

2016 Edition


Mission Possible How to Help Your Child Succeed


Can Diet Changes Help Neurocognitive Disorders?

Super Parenting for Kids with ADD & ADHD

Boston Parent’s Paper published by Parenting, LLC., a division of

©2016 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.

Plus: Parents’ Perspectives ✼ Support Groups & Organizations Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors ✼ Airports, Airplanes & Autism

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639 Granite St., Suite 25 Braintree, MA 02184 Tel: 617-522-1515 / Fax: 617-522-7121 Visit us online at PUBLISHER Jean Greco EDITORIAL Senior Editor: Cheryl Crosby Associate Editor: Kelly Bryant Calendar Editor: Jennifer Sammons Proofreader: Jeanne Washington Intern: Rebecca Schwartz ADVERTISING SALES Senior Account Executive: Lisa Braun Account Executive: Susan Hamilton NATIONAL SALES DIRECTOR Cate Sanderson 866-398-1825 ext. 1 PRODUCTION Senior Graphic Designer: Angela Rosa Graphic Designer: Staci Stedman-Morris



Your C h i l d ’s L e a r n i n g

DOMINION PARENTING MEDIA A Division of Dominion Enterprises

6 8 Tips for School Success 10 “Where Do I Start?”

Tol era n c e & U n d e r s t a n d in g 12 Super Parenting for Kids with AD/HD 16 Airports, Airplanes and Autism 18 Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors

Par en t s ’ P e r s p e c t i v e s 20 My Inspiration 22 Tandem 24 Just Waiting for His Daddy

Heal th & We l l n e s s

resources 32 Special Needs Businesses & Services 34 Special Needs Support Groups and Organizations


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016


26 Eating Clean 30 Yoga for Children with Special Needs

Boston Parents Paper (ISSN 1059-1710) is published monthly by Parenting, LLC., a division of Dominion Enterprises. Please note that the advertisements in this magazine are paid for by the advertisers, which allows this magazine to be free to the consumer. Limit of one free copy per reader. Additional copies may be purchased for $5.00 per issue. Call 617-522-1515 to request additional copies. Unless specifically noted, no advertisers, products or services are endorsed by the publisher. All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation, or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. All persons are hereby informed that all dwellings advertising are available on an equal opportunity basis. Editorial submissions are welcome. Boston Parents Paper copyright 2016 by Dominion Enterprises. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited.

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Your Child’s Learning


Tips for School





By Barbara Dianis

STUDENTS DIAGNOSED WITH DYSLEXIA, ADD, ADHD OR A LEARNING DISABILITY may wonder whether they will be able to graduate from high school and/or collegiate studies. I worried over the same issue myself because I was diagnosed with dyslexia in a time period when there were very few strategies to help strengthen my learning disabilities. Education was very important to me, and I wanted to graduate from high school and college despite my scholastic challenges. Therefore, I set out to teach myself ways to overcome my learning obstacles and graduate. Through the implementation of systematic step-by-step educational solutions, I, like my students with learning issues, began to master how to overcome learning challenges.


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016


Plan homework schedule and study times to begin the school year. The planned work and review times will help your child or teen to help meet the scholastic increase of the new grade level. The plan should include additional study time even if the child or teen has study halls during their school day. The times can be adjusted on a successful academic achievement basis. Children and teens entering a higher grade level typically need to upgrade their study skills to help them keep pace with their current curriculum. Children and teens benefit from reviewing the notes they take in each of their classes for at least five minutes a day. Reviewing the class notes taken will help children and teens retain more core learning concepts. Consistent review will also assist their ability to access the information on tests. Younger students can benefit from a few minutes of reviewing concepts such as grammar and phonetic rules.


A parent and their child benefit from checking the student’s grades online together several times a week. Parents who check grades online with their son or daughter show them they care about education. Additionally, if there are downturns in their grades or missing assignments, then educational solutions can be applied before their difficulty becomes a scholastic issue. The extra accountability generally helps students of all grade levels stay on track throughout the school year. Students of all ages often respond positively to their parents’ praise when they see good grades.

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Tests and quizzes become an important part of the academic experience. Children and teens should add more study and preparation time to the system they used in the previous grade level. Students of all ages benefit from studying for tests and quizzes several days before they are given. Parents can help their student understand that their brains may need time to absorb and readily access the educational concepts they will be tested over. Waiting until the day before a test may not be the best option for students because of the increase in information, which is associated with each new scholastic level.


As soon as a student begins to slide, academically educational solutions should be applied to help the child or teen overcome their academic obstacles. All too often scholastic slides are not addressed early enough because the parent may feel it is a problem that will correct itself. It is generally better to address the academic difficulty early on before the child’s or teen’s grades begin to spiral downward. One way to address scholastic slides is to help your child correct mistakes on graded assignments that have multiple mistakes on them.


Your Child’s Learning

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Parents can help make learning fun during homework and study time. Children and teens can make review and drill time into a game show format using flash cards. They can make these from their study material. When review time is presented in a game show format, students generally are more engaged throughout the learning process. Parents may wish to host a study review time for their child with several students in their son’s or daughter’s classes. Students of all grade levels generally enjoy the review process when it is made into a game they are playing with their friends. Parents can help their child or teen develop an interest in learning by asking their teen to tell them three concepts they learned in their classes each day. Asking your child or teen to report several core concepts learned in class can also help improve his or her ability to focus in class. In addition, the student typically will report the class to be more interesting and fun.

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If a child or teen is struggling in the area of math, then prelearning the mathematical formulas can really help increase the student’s understanding of new concepts. Previewing the key concepts from the upcoming lesson can help the student absorb and glean more information from the instructional teaching lesson. Students can pre-learn new math concepts by reading the following day’s lesson in their online text or textbook. Next, the student should make a notation of concepts that are not understood. The child or teen should ask the teacher for further instruction on the more difficult mathematical concepts. In addition, students benefit from reviewing key terms to increase their mathematical vocabulary to improve their understanding during the lectures. Students of all grade levels and ages who implement educational solutions to help them overcome areas of academic weakness can improve in their educational skills. Generally, children and teenagers will discover over time they are accurately able to spend less time learning new scholastic concepts as their organizational skills and study habits improve. Students may find learning to be fun as they become capable to meet scholastic challenges and overcome their learning weaknesses. Another added benefit from implementing educational solutions into their daily study time is they may have a renewed sense of academic selfesteem, dignity and a restored positive attitude toward their studies. By igniting students’ interests and understanding, improved grades can be the result of their increased scholastic skills. ■

461 River Road, Andover, MA 01810-4213 Phone: 978.654.4300, Fax: 978.654.4315


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

Barbara Dianis overcame dyslexia in her own life using self-taught strategies and techniques. She is the author of Grade Transformer for the Modern Student (LuLu Publishing Services, 2014) and has counseled parents of children with special needs for 21 years.

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Your Child’s Learning

“Where Do I Start?” Understanding your child’s needs is the best place to begin when choosing educational services. By Perkins School for the Blind Staff


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

Your Child’s Learning




within your power to help your son or daughter fulfill his or her potential. You become an expert on the diagnosis. You turn into an advocate for the best education and services.

But what does your child really need? And how can you find out? For kids with sensory disabilities such as blindness, low vision and deafblindness, there’s a resource that – paired with good communication between you and your child’s service providers – can help. The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) is a foundational, essential curriculum that educators have relied upon for decades. It complements common core academics and addresses learning that children with blindness may otherwise miss out on. Just what could your child be missing? Imagine a typical classroom. Most feature a mix of laptops, textbooks, white boards, pencils and paper. But kids with sensory disabilities can’t easily access information in visual formats. Materials must be adapted into braille, audio or large print, depending on your child’s needs. You’ll also want to consider assistive technology like braille notetakers or audio screen readers. But adapting classroom materials is only half the challenge. Kids with blindness, low vision and deafblindness can’t observe nonverbal cues and social interaction between teachers and fellow students. This incidental learning is a critical part of every child’s development. So how can you ensure your child’s education addresses this lack of incidental learning? Enter the ECC, which is made up of nine components that target critical life skills every child needs: ✼ Compensatory Access – Learning how to acquire, share and process information without sight or with severely limited vision. ✼ Sensory Efficiency – Using all senses to access information and communication in an efficient manner. ✼ Assistive Technology – Leveraging technology, such as screen-reading software and refreshable braille keyboards, to support outgoing and incoming communication. ✼ Orientation and Mobility – Navigating independently and safely by understanding orientation (knowing one’s position relative to

other people, objects and places) and mobility (getting from place to place safely and efficiently). ✼ Social Interaction – Learning how to behave in social situations without the benefit of nonverbal cues. ✼ Recreation and Leisure – Participating in physical activity and learning how to plan for and incorporate social and leisure time in one’s schedule. ✼ Independent Living – Taking care of oneself as independently as possible, including a broad range of activities such as eating and dressing to money management and household operation. ✼ Self-Determination – Learning how to advocate for one’s own needs. ✼ Career Education – Developing the skills and knowledge needed for success in employment. Now think about those categories as a checklist. If your child has an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), does it address all nine areas? If there are gaps, those may be areas you want to address with your child’s educator or district. It could be time to reevaluate the services your child receives, or consider filling those gaps with supplemental courses or services. If you’re trying to decide between public school or private school, use your checklist to ask your district official or admissions officer how each of the ECC elements are integrated into that school’s education. Schools or districts that are new to teaching students with sensory disabilities can also use the ECC to evaluate the completeness of the education offered to such students. Ultimately, the ECC should be embraced as a resource for the full team of family members, educators and administration, for as effective a partnership as possible. ■ Perkins School for the Blind offers a continuum of specialized education programs on its campus and in public schools for children with blindness, low vision and deafblindness, including those with additional disabilities. As the first school for the blind in the U.S., Perkins has been teaching the ECC concepts since its founding in 1829, and is today a national and international leader in the field. For more information, visit


Tolerence & Understanding

Super Parenting for Kids with AD/HD How to See Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as a Gift – Not a Disability By Deirdre Wilson


ADD AND ADHD HAVE A LONG RAP SHEET. THE PARENTS OF CHILDREN with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder know the list of negatives intimately. “Your son cannot sit still; he’s always disrupting my class.” “Your daughter needs to learn to focus. When she came over to do homework with my child, she kept leaving the kitchen table before the work was done.” “These kids are all on Ritalin or some other kind of medication. What they really need is more discipline and better parenting!” Raising a child with AD/HD, the term now used to encompass both ADD and ADHD, means fending off criticism from teachers, relatives and well-meaning friends about your child’s behavior while coping with that same behavior yourself every single day.


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

AD/HD affects almost 7 million children nationwide, and while research has shown it has a neurological basis, the exact cause is still unknown. Kids and adults with ADD are more prone to difficulties focusing, organizing and staying on task while those with ADHD are also prone to fidgeting, incessant talking and impulsive behavior that others may find inappropriate and rude. The tough part for parents lies in trying to remain patient, positive and nurturing when your child’s behavior is driving you, and others, absolutely nuts. Enter Edward Hallowell, M.D., a renowned pediatric psychiatric clinician best known for his

n y

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landmark ADD book Driven to Distraction (Anchor, 2011), and the father of two kids with AD/HD who also has the condition himself. Hallowell, director of the Hallowell Centers for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury and New York City, argues that AD/HD should not be treated as a disability, but rather a gift – a group of admirable character traits that parents need to find and encourage. Nurturing these gifts, he says, can guide a child to better behavior, higher self-esteem and, ultimately, success. For parents wracked with worry about a child with AD/HD, that kind of thinking is a big gulp of fresh air. “It’s really a passion I have to change how people look at this condition,” Hallowell says. “I have been treating it for over 30 years in children and adults. It just drives me crazy how it is pathologized. The medical model says you’re a sick person; the moral model says you’re a bad person. “If you approach [AD/HD] with positive energy, as if this is something like a gift that’s hard to unwrap as opposed to a disability that needs to be treated, you get such great results.” Hallowell, of Arlington, details AD/HD’s gifts in his book, Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child (Ballantine Books, 2008), which he coauthored with renowned child psychiatrist and AD/HD researcher Peter Jensen, M.D. Rather than a belabored explanation of AD/HD symptoms, treatment and research, the book offers parents a double dose of reassurance and easy-to-follow advice.

easy to raise. Then I stoke them with the fire that if you keep loving them, they’re going to succeed.” Accept your child for who he is, not some perfected version, the authors recommend. Spend as much time together as you can; have fun; notice and praise your child for her unique interests and accomplishments; be there for comfort and understanding when he’s feeling ostracized. To parents fraught with guilt over losing it with a child out of sheer frustration and impatience, Hallowell is reassuring. “Don’t feel bad,” he tells them. “We all do it and you’re only human. Feeling guilty only makes things worse.” He and Jensen also advise parents to never worry alone. Get professional help for your child and for yourself; find support from therapists, teachers and other parents of AD/HD kids. “Explosions happen because you’re pent up and you’re doing too much alone,” Hallowell says.

Accentuate the Positive He also urges parents to understand and accept that their child can’t always help how he acts. A boy with AD/HD who has angered his buddies by loudly intruding on a game they were playing, will likely tell his mother he doesn’t know why he acted that way. And what Hallowell and Jensen want you to understand is that he really doesn’t know. He’s not being flip. He cannot understand why he acts the way he does. He’s frustrated, beaten down and hurt by the harsh reactions of his peers, teachers and family. Thus, a key ingredient in the “superparenting” strategy is to build that child back up by nurturing the silver lining Love Conquers All in every negative behavior of AD/HD: A hyperactive Intimate and empathetic (there’s even a soliloquy or restless child is also a child with boundless energy; a about having ADD, from an adolescent boy’s point of child who deviates from the topic at hand is one who sees view), the book quickly tugs at parents’ heartstrings by connections or angles that others don’t. A moody child is acknowledging the importance and healing power of also sensitive and compassionate. unconditional love. Point out the positive traits your child has; praise her “We’re so preoccupied with the short-term things interests and actions, Hallowell says. like therapy and tutoring, those are Then teach her to silently count to great, yes – but we forget that the To change the way you view 10 before bursting out with a slew of most important force that changes your AD/HD child, Hallowell facts about space travel during a class a life is love,” Hallowell says. “These recommends finding the positives lecture on planets in the solar system. kids don’t always get that because in negative behaviors and they’re not always easy to love. nurturing these as special gifts: ✼ Can’t stay on point / Sees They’re failing in school, they’re Tap Into Tendencies connections others don’t misbehaving, they’re achieving Among other strategies for ✼ Hyperactive, restless / Energetic inconsistently. helping a child with AD/HD, ✼ Intrusive / Eager They often get punished instead Superparenting for ADD introduces ✼ Disorganized / Spontaneous of appreciated.” But love, he says, the Kolbe Index, a personality ✼ Stubborn / Persistent, won’t will ultimately help a child succeed. test that identifies a person’s give up In his book and in his practice, instinctive way of problem solving ✼ Inconsistent / Shows flashes of Hallowell acknowledges for parents and decision-making. For example, brilliance that kids with AD/HD “aren’t Hallowell says people will react


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Parenting an AD/HD Child differently when given a pile of junk and asked to create something from it. Some might ask a lot of questions before beginning; others will dive right in; and others might first separate objects from the pile into different categories. Those behaviors and others are defined in the Kolbe Index – not as right or wrong but as individual problem-solving tendencies. Once parents and teachers know how a child with AD/HD will approach a problem, they can tap into that method to help the child succeed, Hallowell says. If an AD/HD child tends to dive into a project, he’ll have a tough time with teachers who are more prone to explore and ask questions first. Knowing this, a parent can suggest to the child that if he wants to dive in, he should first raise his hand, wait to be called on, and then say, “I’ve thought about this and I have a plan.� “Chances are the plan won’t be particularly good,� Hallowell says. “But teachers love to help children and, at that point, they can jump in and help the child make the plan better.� That’s a winwin for both the child and the teacher.

You have to have enormous patience, but it doesn’t always work. You have to know that intelligence comes in many forms. You have to advocate like crazy. You have to educate yourself. You have to forgive yourself over and over and over again for all the times you’re not patient. – Morgan, mother of a girl with ADHD Love your child for who he or she is, and try hard to keep that in mind when the times get rough. Sometimes you are all they have. – Sally, mother of a boy with ADD When I tell people (including my mother-in-law) that my son has ADD, they will roll their eyes and say that all children are active and that I just have to control him better. – Sarah, mother of a boy with ADD Get educated. Don’t listen to only one person. – Allison, mother of a child with ADD Source: Local parents, including some excerpted from Superparenting for ADD, by Edward Hallowell, M.D., and Peter Jensen, M.D.

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The Cycle of Excellence Hallowell has always been open-minded about treatments for AD/HD, including medication, which has had its share of controversy over the years. “When people ask me if I believe in Ritalin, my answer is that it’s not a religious principle,” he says, asserting that medicine can help and shouldn’t be discounted. But he acknowledges that in psychiatry, medication has been “overemphasized,” mainly because drug companies are the only organizations that can pay for research needed to test a drug’s effectiveness. “All the other alternative approaches to ADD – there’s no funding to research it,” he says. “As a result, doctors tend to treat ADD with medication only, and I agree that’s a big mistake.” Beyond medicine, a more powerful, long-term treatment is what he and Jensen call the “cycle of excellence” – in which parents and caring adults connect with a child, give him opportunities for creative play, allow him to practice and master a task and then reward him with recognition – a pat on the back, a nod or simple gesture – for a job well done.

That cycle, Hallowell insists, is the single most important treatment for AD/HD in any child at any age. That, and the power of unconditional love and positive, nurturing parenting. “You bring into the process enthusiasm, energy and hope,” Hallowell says of this positive way of dealing with AD/HD. “Instead of creating a disability, you’re unwrapping a gift, creating a talent. These parents know their child has something special.” ■ Deirdre Wilson is the former senior editor of the Boston Parents Paper.

Resources ✼ The Hallowell Center – – Learn more about Edward Hallowell, M.D., his books and recommended resources on AD/HD. ✼ Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) – 800233-4050; – Tips, resources and information on AD/HD, as well as lists of treatment professionals and support groups.


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By Michelle Hirschfield

I’VE BEEN A MOM FOR 11 YEARS AND TAKEN HUNDREDS OF TRIPS WITH my kids. I didn’t say vacation, since anyone who has traveled with children knows the difference between a trip and a vacation. There is nothing relaxing about traveling with children. Traveling with a child who has autism adds an entirely new layer of difficulty.


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016


Map it out. About a week before we

leave we talk about the trip and mark each day off the calendar as it gets closer. Each day we put something else in his suitcase, and then the night before we leave we pack a bag of his favorite things to take with us. 2 Plan for the worst. Separate from the bag I pack for Will, I pack a bag for myself. In that bag I have a few new cars (his favorite toy), his favorite snack, a reusable water bottle, a change of clothes and lollipops should his ears start bothering him. I also pack wipes and baggies in case he gets a nosebleed. I pack the iPad (the holy grail of travel toys) and a charger that can be used on the airplane. 3 Speak up. In advance of flying, call the airline. Many have policies to help flyers with disabilities and all are willing to accommodate special needs. When I get to the gate, I always tell the gate agent that my son has autism and explain how he likes to board first. Most of the time, he gets his wish and boards before anyone else. If he has to wait, then it’s not usually very long – typically after the first class flyers. Getting settled into our seats first makes the whole flight easier. 4 Pay for what matters. If your child likes a certain seat, pay the extra fee to get it. That’s money well spent. When you travel with kids, you are only as happy as your most unhappy child. The window seat has saved many of our trips. 5 Communicate. I make eye contact with the person who sits in front of my son and explain

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My son is 8 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he was 3. After years of therapies, we don’t notice his quirks very often … until we travel. Then everyone around us notices. He needs to be the first one to board. He needs to have the window seat. He needs the cabin pressure to stay consistent or his ears hurt. He needs the compassion of the person in the seat in front of him, who will get kicked no matter how hard I work to prevent it from happening. Success in traveling with a child with autism is possible, but it does require planning. Here are some travel tips so it’s a smooth trip for the entire family:

he has autism and we will do everything we can to keep him content during the flight, but please understand it’s hard for him. Every single time, we’ve been met with nothing but compassion. 6 Offer rewards. I don’t love the idea of bribing children, but this isn’t regular life. Traveling is hard. When Will has gone a half hour or longer without kicking the seat or getting upset, I give him one of the cars from my bag. He knows I carry goodies and that he will get them when he’s “done a great job.” Never underestimate the power of small treats.

Jose Levy, a board certified behavior analyst, offers additional insight on traveling with a loved one with autism. Levy recommends that when you can, take someone with you for support. “You will want, and need, some time for yourself. This person can help you with that. Even a five-minute breather can be a physical and emotional boost. Build in time for yourself so you can recharge.” Levy also recommends being flexible. “Now that you are at the beach, at a relative’s home or at the amusement park, things may have begun to unravel. Now is the time for your backup plan. Are you able to adjust the plan, take an extra break, change the order or the day’s agenda? Do you have distractors, extra snacks or can you find a quieter space to let the meltdown run its course? Give your loved one, and yourself, time to regroup, adjust and move forward. Have an exit strategy. It stinks, but sometimes it is better to throw in the towel. Be willing to do that if the time comes.” Also, build on successes. Levy says once you are back home and back in your routine, take some time to reflect on the trip. What worked? What didn’t? Thinking about this can help you plan your next trip. Repeat things that were successful and think about how to adjust to help things that were not successful become more so for the next trip. Traveling with a child with autism takes more work than traveling with neurotypical kids. Other children may not get your attention in-flight. But what they get, what you all get, is the chance to build family memories that include everyone when you can travel together and take family vacations. ■ Michelle Hirschfield is a mom of a son with autism.


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My child is pulling out her hair. What is going on? Recognizing and understanding body-focused repetitive behaviors. By Lindsey M. Muller


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

Tolerence & Understanding


YOUNGER AND OLDER HUMANS, LIKE ANIMALS, ENGAGE IN HABITS, also known as repetitive behaviors. Some human habits include tapping your fingers on a flat surface when thinking, thumb sucking, tapping a pencil on a desk during a test, shaking your foot when your ankles are crossed or twirling your hair. There isn’t anything wrong with regularly demonstrating these actions. In most cases, minimal attention is given to these habits or “quirks.” Yet, some of the same behaviors, when repetitive and excessive, can cause interference with everyday functioning and cross over from being just a behavior to being a diagnosable mental health disorder – a pattern of behavioral or psychological symptoms that impact multiple life areas and/or create distress for the person experiencing the symptoms. Because children are less aware of others’ perceptions and societal norms, parents are likely to be the ones experiencing distress or negative impact as a result of a child’s behavior. Children and adolescents who are seen regularly engaging in skin picking, nail biting, hair pulling, lip biting or cheek biting, whereby there are physical and visual ramifications, are technically demonstrating a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). BFRB is a catch-all category for impulse-control behaviors causing damage. Research and public awareness of mental health disorders in children tends to be focused on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety disorders; therefore it’s helpful to compare and contrast with these disorders when discussing BFRBs. BFRBs may cause difficulties with focus and concentration because the behavior can be distracting. While this mirrors one symptom of AD/HD, a BFRB is not AD/HD. A BFRB is expressed through compulsive behavior. Yet it is not the same as OCD because OCD is diagnosed as a result of engaging in behaviors to get away from anxiety; one struggling with a BFRB may not report feelings of anxiety. This is what also differentiates a BFRB from an anxiety disorder. So, while some disorders can have overlapping symptoms, being diagnosed with the right disorder has important implications for treatment for your child. Here are some things parents can look for to know if a child is expressing a BFRB: ✼ Look for constant hair stroking, touching or twirling because this may (but not always) be a warning that hair pulling is on the horizon. Scan your child’s body and scalp (bath time is a great opportunity) for scabs, pick marks or bald patches.

✼ Red, peeling or bleeding lips can be an indication of

lip biting. ✼ Does your child seem to be holding things in,

burdened or appear to have mood swings? If yes, encourage your child to express her emotions. In discussing emotions, pay attention to how well your child is able to name and share her emotions based on what is developmentally appropriate. Make sure your child knows what different emotions are and what they may feel like. Pictures, stories and movies can serve as a clear example of how to demonstrate those emotions. Encourage expression, which can be done verbally or through art and play. BFRBs can develop to regulate emotion or self-soothe. ✼ Does your child seem to be overly annoyed, reactive or distracted by lots of visual stimulation or sound in the environment? In many cases, there is a sensory component to skin picking, nail biting or hair pulling, for example. When seeking a diagnosis, while pediatricians are familiar with these behaviors, it may be best to find a BFRB specialist. Do not seek medication as the first line of defense. In most cases, an antidepressant/ antianxiety medication seems to strengthen or magnify the behavior instead of help. Some children and teens grow out of the behavior, while others do not. Typically, the younger the child at the time the behavior started, the more he is likely to grow out of the behavior. It is important to take the issue seriously and find someone who can offer effective treatment. Proper treatment approaches include behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. For younger children, behavioral therapy, art therapy and play therapy are great places to start. Most children and teens do not understand why this behavior is happening, when it started or how to stop. By remaining patient, loving and supportive, your child will be able to work on addressing the BFRB in an encouraging and hopefully stress-free environment. ■ Lindsey M. Muller, M.S., LPCCI, is a mental health therapist and BFRB coach. A former skin picker, nail biter, and hair puller, Lindsey works with parents of children, adult clients and adolescent clients who struggle with a BFRB, OCD and other anxiety disorders, and disordered eating. She is the author of a psychology memoir about BFRBs titled Life is Trichy (Mindful Publishing Co., 2014).



IF I COULD TELL YOU ONE THING THAT WILL STICK WITH YOU FOREVER ABOUT raising a child with special needs, I would tell you this: It’s a true honor and privilege. It is by far the most inspirational journey I have experienced. Raising Savannah Mae has enriched my life and opened my heart. She is my littlest inspiration. By Lacey Smith

By Lacey Smith

Lacey Smith and her daughter, Savannah.


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016


Parents’ Perspectives

My Inspiration

Lacey Smith lives on the North Shore with her family and was inspired by her daughter to pursue a career as a teacher of the visually impaired. She works for Perkins School for the Blind as an itinerant teacher with the infants and toddlers.

Parents’ Perspectives

Inspiring, yes. Easy, not a chance. Savannah has the absolute best demeanor. She is truly beautiful, sweet, happy and feisty enough to be a little warrior. She has been through a lot in her five years on earth, more than I could ever imagine. Yet, she wakes up each day with a beautiful smile. She is my sunshine on a cloudy day, a diamond in the rough with the most amazing sparkle. She is my hero! Her list of medical terminology is quite lengthy, but to sum up her major medical complexities, she has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, cortical visual impairment and Ogden syndrome, just one of 14 females in the world with this syndrome. She faces a lot of challenges with her severe global delays. Every day, she smiles. Every single day, she makes me smile and my love for her is indescribable. Often, others pity families raising children with disabilities, but why? We all have our challenges as parents. Yes, raising a child with special needs comes with more obstacles, appointments, therapies, equipment, advocacy, pure exhaustion and emotions, but we learn to overcome these obstacles and our children inspire us to be the best we can be. We start to realize our strengths and push through each obstacle more determined than the one before. My Savannah Mae has enriched my life through many life lessons. I have learned what truly matters in life from a tiny and sweet 5-year-old girl. The most important lessons, life and love. Never before has my heart been this open, and never have I loved anything the way I love my daughter. She gets me through any obstacle we face as a family. As a parent raising a child with disabilities, I want nothing more for her than her acceptance in life. I want people to see the beauty in her differences, in all our differences. I want her to be included. I want more accessibility and more fun activities that are accessible to our children, and I want media to use our children so the public eye will be more accepting and less afraid. Like any mom, I worry and have concerns. As a mom to a little girl with special needs, my worries and concerns are heightened to a different level. Every gain that may seem minute to a family raising a child with typical development is a huge accomplishment in our home. Every inch forward is a triumph in our life. We celebrate our amazing daughter daily. She has truly made me a better human. So please, take the time to truly know someone living with a disability. It will inspire you. You won’t regret it. ■


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Parents’ Perspectives

Tandem By Deborah Leigh Norman


I SAW A COUPLE RIDING a tandem bike today. For me, seeing a tandem is a good reminder that I need to stop only looking at what is yet to be accomplished and that I should occasionally look at how far we have come. Deborah Leigh Norman’s son with his bike. COURTESY PHOTO

My older son learned to ride a bike when he was 4 years old and by then my younger son who has Down syndrome had just turned 1 and could sit in a carrier on the back of my bike. Day trips, vacations or just around town we would ride our bikes often and enjoy family time exploring new areas from a perspective different than a car and covering more ground than we could by walking. Back then when I saw a tandem, I would think, “Well, if he never learns to ride a bike, a tandem is another way we could still enjoy riding as a family.” When my son outgrew the carrier, we moved him to an attachment behind my bike. Continuing the progression, I bought a balance bike and a bike with training wheels. Then I attached a handle to his bike and took off the training wheels. This handle was the best tool toward him learning to ride. After a long time, I was able to let go for a few seconds. Eventually the length of time grew and he reached 8 seconds, 17, 30, a minute, two minutes until he learned to ride independently. The progression didn’t stop there, however. He had to learn steering and braking. He had to learn how to get started by himself and ride up and down the driveway. Next was learning how to ride a bike with gears. 22

Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

This long process is similar to many things my son with Down syndrome has achieved such as walking, potty training, putting on and zipping his coat, and much more. He did it, but it took a long time and it made us break down into small steps how to “ride a bike.” This is hard work that requires much patience, but each step completed is a celebration and it makes the effort worth it. My son loves riding his bike and when the kids see him riding to school in the morning, they see him as just another kid on a bike. Some are impressed that he can do something that they can’t yet. Now when I see a tandem I smile and think of our long process. I am reminded of how my son with Down syndrome helps me to appreciate the many steps that go into learning something new and to savor the accomplishment in a whole new way with a whole new joy. If we ever get a tandem it may be my husband and me riding it, like that couple I saw today. Or maybe I can ride with my son sitting up front and he can show me new things to enjoy along the way, like he always does. ■ This story appears in the new book Reasons to Smile: Celebrating People Living with Down Syndrome (Schiffer Publishing, 2016). Learn more at

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Dr. Moldover & Associates provide complete psychological, neuropsychological and educational evaluations as well as ongoing consultative services for families and schools. We emphasize: • A high level of responsiveness to our clients • Timely completion of comprehensive evaluation reports (with reports completed immediately following the evaluation) • Commitment to ongoing support for each child and family • Attention to the individual and unique circumstances of each of our clients • Strong participation in multi-disciplinary teams to best coordinate the response to each child’s needs Dr. Moldover is board certified in clinical neuropsychology through the American Board of Professional Psychology. He is dedicated to providing the highest level of care to each family and offers the most current assessment tools and resources. Visit us online for more information and a free download of “Your Child’s Assessment and Diagnosis: a Guide for Parents” by Dr. Moldover.

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Rob Snow and his son, Henry.


Parents’ Perspectives

Just Waiting for H Hi


By Rob Snow

I’VE SPENT THE BETTER PART OF THE PAST SIX YEARS HEARING BIRTH stories – sad, happy, funny, shocking and all points in between. It seems the membership into our “club” requires a story, and never, in my opinion, is it a dull one. Most stories seem to have two parts whether the teller realizes it or not, and they are drastically different but equally important.


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

Parents’ Perspectives

His Daddy

We Open Up New Worlds to Students on the

Part 1: Diagnosis


Our little guy, Henry, was born in March of 2009 and came out beautiful. I’m not one to always think that of children fresh from the womb. No, I need a hose and a towel. My wife does not need such things and sees beauty despite any gook. But Henry just had this undeniably pure face. It was so innocent, sweet, perfect. The medical staff immediately began poking and prodding. Hours passed before our pediatrician walked into our lives. We had never met her and had chosen her randomly. She offered a few pleasantries and then asked to see Henry. She examined him and handed him back. “Well,” she said, unemotionally. “I’m 80 percent sure your son has Down syndrome.” As our hearts descended into our stomachs, she added, “But let me show you something.” She opened her laptop to show us pictures of her daughter, who also had Down syndrome. We sat there with this new and seemingly terrible information looking at a very adorable little girl in pigtails playing soccer and laughing with her family and friends. For the next three hours, this initially stoic, unemotional doctor walked us through Down syndrome 101 with as much patience, understanding and practicality as was possible.


Part 2: Acceptance Our doctor made us understand Down syndrome. She gave us advice and conveyed the joys a child with special needs can bring. She held back appropriately though, knowing that selling Down syndrome hours after the birth is difficult. She left and we were silent, hesitant to talk about things we weren’t ready to discuss. My wife asked me to go to the grocery store for snacks. The countless visitors we were so happily expecting prior to his birth, now seemed just short of a funeral procession we were about to endure. In my car, I realized I was alone for the first time since hearing the news. I thought it would be only right to have a chat with God. I wasn’t incredibly religious at the time, and didn’t often talk to God. It was a pretty onesided conversation. “Why us, God?” and “What did we do?” For some reason, though, my anger felt ostensible. The more I thought about my son and his perfect little face, the more my anger seemed wrong, like I was just going through the motions. Then I realized that this little boy, who had done nothing wrong, was just waiting for his daddy. With that last thought, tears welling up, I looked up and asked God, “Why not us?” His response has come every day since then. ■ This story appears in the new book Reasons to Smile: Celebrating People Living with Down Syndrome (Schiffer Publishing, 2016). Learn more at

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Eating Clean How nutritional therapy and the avoidance of certain foods could help your child’s behavior, mood swings and more. By Malia Jacobson


JODI COHEN’S SECOND SON WAS AN ENERGETIC, HAPPY PRESCHOOLER most of the time. But the mom of two worried about his erratic behavior, shaky focus and “Jekyll and Hyde” mood swings. “I have an older son who is free from any issues with impulse control and focus, so I felt something wasn’t right,” she says. Cohen tried parenting classes without results. Then a friend mentioned changing his diet. Out of options, she took the suggestion, nixing corn, soy and dairy – so-called inflammatory foods believed to contribute to learning and behavior problems in children – from the family menu. Her “eat clean” efforts paid off. “Right away, he was a calm, sweet kid.” Cohen never looked back. She was so impressed with the changes to her son’s learning and behavior that she permanently changed her family’s diet and went on to earn a degree in nutritional therapy.


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

This type of elimination diet (removing foods that may be problematic for a child) and intensive nutritional therapy are wildly popular with parents of children dealing with issues that range from mild problems with focusing to serious neurological disorders. According to the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, at least one-third of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have used complementary treatments, including dietary supplements and elimination diets. Proponents of this type of therapy point to

Treatment or Cure? Despite the wide use of special diets for kids with neurocognitive disorders, doctors, dieticians, researchers and parents are split on the issue. Sandra Kimmet, a mom of four, is a doubter. She wanted to find a “miracle cure” for 7-year-old Jasper’s sensory processing disorder and 5-year-old Tabitha’s childhood apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder. But a gluten-free, sugar-free diet didn’t yield results. She credits her children’s progress to intensive therapy rather than dietary changes. “I so wish there was a miracle diet,” she says. “I’d be all over it!” “What I tell parents is that we just don’t have enough information to support recommendations for nutritional therapy and/or food avoidance in children with autism,” Sakai says. “Families may be tempted to search the internet, and may find that certain diets are ‘based on research,’ however, it is important to recognize the limitations of these research studies. Specifically, many of them have very small sample sizes, therefore, we cannot generalize well to all children with autism. Currently the best that we can say is that for a certain subgroup of children with autism, diet elimination therapies can improve certain symptoms of autism. Not as a cure, but may reduce autistic mannerisms and increase communication. This subgroup of children generally have known or highly-suspected food intolerance and GI complaints.” Daniela Ferdico, Psy.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist who treats children with autism,

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life-changing results. “I won’t say I can cure every child [with a neurological disorder],” says Deborah Z. Bain, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician who uses a holistic approach in treating children. But parents report that diet changes are game changers, she says. “They tell me, ‘He’s making eye contact, he’s speaking, he’s a new person.’” Christina Sakai, M.D., developmental-behavioral pediatrician and pediatric hospitalist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, has heard of some of her patients having success, but warns that there is much more research needed to determine whether elimination diets are beneficial. “Certainly, some families report that their child’s symptoms improved dramatically when they tried certain supplements. The one I consistently hear is omega-3 fatty acids; however, it is important to note that there is also very limited high-quality research that demonstrates that this is effective for improving core and associated symptoms of autism.”

AD/HD and other pervasive developmental diagnoses, agrees. “Parents shouldn’t think of food as a cure, but rather as one tool they can use to help their child.” Cogwheel offers psychology and therapies along with nutritional counseling, something Ferdico sees as an essential piece of the puzzle for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. She makes a distinction between treatment and cure: A cure is a one-time solution, whereas treatments are ongoing. Like speech, occupational and behavioral therapies, nutritional therapy is usually ongoing and works best when it’s just one component of a more comprehensive plan, she says. Nutritional therapy won’t cure autism, Ferdico notes. But it can form the foundation for an effective treatment plan by reducing a child’s level of gastrointestinal pain and distress, enabling him to be more receptive to other therapies. Nutritional therapy does this by stabilizing blood sugar to ward off mood swings and meltdowns that make day-to-day life difficult, and supplying the body with the protein and nutrients required for cognition, she says.

Pinpoint the Plate Nutritional therapy sometimes involves an elimination diet wherein certain foods are eliminated and then gradually reintroduced to help pinpoint food sensitivities. Researchers have long theorized that foods containing gluten, soy and casein, a protein in milk, may irritate the intestines of sensitive children with autism, contributing to a “leaky gut” that leaches inflammatory proteins throughout the body, impacting behavior, mood and learning. A small Danish study found that inattention and hyperactivity abated for children ages 4 to 10 after 12 months on a gluten-free, casein-free diet, but the gains seemed to plateau when the same kids were tested after 24 months on the diet. Gluten and casein are potentially problematic because when sensitive individuals can’t properly digest the foods that contain these substances, a buildup of internal inflammation results. This contributes to mental fog, inattentiveness, unresponsive behavior and continued carbohydrate cravings, says Bain. “It’s a feed-forward cycle, where the child eats more and more unhealthful foods and less and less of the nutrients he needs to grow and thrive.” But aside from the Danish study, evidence on the impact of gluten-free diets is limited. Evidence on the negative impact of food dyes, a common food additive thought to be especially harmful to children with


Health & Wellness

learning disorders, is more robust (artificial food dyes have been linked to behavior problems in children for decades), and new studies are currently under way. Because elimination diets can get complicated quickly, parents who want to try one should seek out the help of a nutrition expert. Parents shouldn’t simply yank nutrientdense foods such as grains and cheese from a child’s plate without consulting their pediatrician and a dietician, says registered dietician Kathleen Putnam, M.S., owner of NutritionWorks counseling service. One problem: Removing potentially problematic foods is only part of the picture; those calories need to be replaced with something else, and that something may not be any better than the foods that were eliminated. Popular elimination diets such as Gut and Psychology Syndrome are gaining ground as a means to treat learning and neurodevelopmental disorders, but the protocol – sticking to a simple diet of mostly meat, fish, eggs, meat stock and fermented foods – can seem daunting to the average busy parent and difficult to maintain over the long term. Plus, eliminating entire food groups can introduce nutrient deficiencies, complicating an already complex

situation, Putnam says. “Nutrition that’s limited can contribute to problematic development, both cognitive and behavioral. Children with AD/HD are often treated with medications that significantly lower the appetite, which is a major concern for growing children.” Though gluten-free and casein-free diets are still under scientific study, they can be worth trying, with professional guidance, Putnam says. And removing most junky refined carbs, like bread made from highly refined flour, most crackers and cookies, is probably a safe, healthy step for most children. Replacing refined sugar with fruit-sweetened foods is another change that some parents find worthwhile, says Katie Hurley, author of The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World (TarcherPerigee, 2015). Although a Korean study found no relationship between sugar intake and the development of AD/HD in children, some parents report that removing sweets calms kids down. Whether you’re a believer in elimination diets or a skeptic, eating less junk food never hurt anyone, right?

Nutrition Addition

Once you’ve removed potential problems from your

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Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

one-step-back dance for many families, and is why vitamin supplements are sometimes needed, at least at first. Nutritional therapy for spectrum disorders doesn’t have to complicate families’ lives or promote expensive fad diets, says Ferdico. It’s simply one facet of a comprehensive, whole-child care plan. “If a child has stomach pain and isn’t digesting food properly or is so picky that they’re not getting what they need, it’s going to affect cognition and behavior,” Ferdico says. “If you try other therapies without also looking at nutrition, you’re not using all the tools you can use. And we owe it to these kids to use every tool we have.”

Where to Start

A pediatrician or naturopathic physician can order a simple blood test to check for nutritional deficiencies such as low iron, zinc or magnesium. Parents who suspect food sensitivity in their child can ask a pediatric nutritionist or naturopathic physician about immunoglobulin G (IgG) food allergy testing. This blood test can identify food sensitivities to pinpoint the best dietary candidates for elimination from your child’s plate. ■

Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer.


Health & Wellness

child’s diet, you’re not done: Now, under the guidance of your child’s health care provider, you may need to add or supplement nutrients to replace those you’ve removed, or ones your child was missing before you started. Supplementation can benefit some kids on the autism spectrum; a 2005 study found sleep and digestion improved in autistic children taking a multivitamin supplement. Magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics are often used and recommended, but parents shouldn’t supplement without consulting a nutritionist or dietician, Bain says, because taking too much of one nutrient can impact others. (For example, excess magnesium can lead to diarrhea, which could reduce absorption of other vital nutrients.) “Nutrients don’t work in isolation,” she notes, and each child’s nutritional blueprint is unique. Another wrinkle: Children with neurological disorders often have sensitive stomachs – those with autism can be prone to gastrointestinal distress and constipation – and they can be intensely picky eaters, Hurley says. In other words, you can’t simply tell a child to eat a banana or a plate of spinach and expect it to happen. That makes solving nutritional challenges a two-steps-forward,

Health & Wellness

Yoga Spec Speci W

By Teresa Mills-Faraudo

WHENEVER 4-YEAR-OLD DYLAN, WHO HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH autism, starts having an anxiety attack, he stands on his head. Suddenly, this stressed-out preschooler is calmer. His mother Jennifer, who prefers to keep her last name private, was willing to try anything to help her son. Dylan can’t speak or understand what others are saying. When someone suggested yoga, she brought him to Vanessa Kahlon, M.A., executive director and founder of Yoga Education for Autism Spectrum. “It was amazing to see that within an hour of working with her, he was relaxed,” Jennifer says. “She taught him how to self-regulate.” More and more parents who have children with special needs are turning to yoga. Some research connects the practice to improvements in children with ADHD, autism, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome. Studies show it can be helpful for conditions that are worsened by stress and anxiety. Dylan goes to yoga classes once or twice a week


Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

and also uses what he learns regularly at home. When he feels anxiety coming on, he knows to go into a yoga pose to ease his stress. “He can’t communicate his wants and needs, so he has high anxiety when things can’t go his way,” she says. “It’s like being in a foreign country and not knowing the language for him.” Kahlon, who primarily works with autistic and visually impaired children, says she focuses on teaching kids breath work, social skills, language skills and learning how to focus. “It helps a lot with confidence and body awareness,” she says. “It comes down to trusting their own body.” There are certain poses, Kahlon says, that can be especially beneficial for her students. The “Tree” pose, for example, helps with balance since the child stands on one leg. The “Downward Dog” pose can be good

for body awareness because it requires specific feet and hand placement. “Warrior” pose can benefit kids craving movement and sensory/motor stimulus. For Raj Sidharthan’s 9-year-old daughter, Olivia, who has high-functioning autism, yoga helps with self-regulation when she’s upset. As someone who has practiced yoga since his childhood in India, Sidharthan was not surprised that it helped his daughter. “It’s been challenging to get her to do it every day, but now she’s more focused,” he says. “She finds a lot of enjoyment in doing yoga. We can put on the music and she can do it on her own.”

What the Studies Say

According to studies, yoga may help reduce stress by balancing the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. It has also been shown to improve oxygen levels and increase lung capacity because of the deep breathing techniques. It may be why yoga can help children with attention problems control their impulsivity and hyperactivity. Yoga can also be beneficial for children with lung disorders like asthma, cystic fibrosis or any chronic airway inflammation, says John Mark, M.D., a pediatric pulmonary physician. Mark, who has an interest in nonconventional therapies for children with chronic disorders, recommends yoga for many of his patients. “Any time you can get children to stretch and use their posture it can help with their health and anxiety,” Mark says. “It’s a way to learn how to relax and focus.” He says that studies have shown that yoga is helpful for kids with behavioral issues and has improved focus in kids with ADHD. But Mark believes yoga can help children with any disorder.

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a for Children with ecial Needs

“Most doctors don’t recommend exercise to their patients. I think physicians turn to medications first because that is how they are trained,” Mark says. “It is a lifestyle change that can really help. It can really lower the severity of an illness.” However, parents should bring their kids to yoga instructors who are trained to deal with children who have special needs, he says. Some hospitals have instructors on site or there are teachers like Kahlon who work regularly with children. Caron Bush, a physical therapist and boardcertified clinical specialist in sports physical therapy, teaches yoga and pilates classes for children, including kids with autism, ADHD, Asperger syndrome and physical injuries. While most yoga classes for adults involve little if any conversation, Bush says she likes to talk with her students because it makes them feel like they’re in a safe place. Once the kids start talking to her, they usually feel more relaxed and able to do the poses. Students’ self-confidence, focus and flexibility seem to improve for those who take the classes regularly, Bush says. “I think yoga is an easy thing to do because there are a lot of stretches that are very basic,” she says. Jennifer hopes other parents consider signing up their kids for yoga. “It allows them to use their brains differently. You hear ‘yoga’ and think, how can this help my kid? But parents need to just think of it as therapy through movement.” ■ Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent, the sister publication of Boston Parents Paper.

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220 Reservoir St., Suite 6, Needham 781-444-5193 130 Sylvan St., Danvers 978-774-0094 Commonwealth Learning Center is an independent nonprofit that has served the community for more than 25 years. We provide customized one-to-one instruction to students of all ages, in all subject areas. Our certified educators have special expertise in learning differences, including dyslexia, ADHD and nonverbal learning disabilities. We also provide educational and psychological assessments.

The Arc of Massachusetts Waltham 781-891-6270 Founded in 1954, The Arc of Massachusetts works to enhance the lives of the 200,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our state and their families. With our 18 regional chapters, we accomplish this through advocacy of community-based supports and services, including family support, employment, recreation and residential.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee 617-912-9153 Founded in 1867, Boston Conservatory is a fully accredited institution that offers degrees in dance, music and theater, and summer and year-round programs for youth, teens and students on the autism spectrum.

Brookline Music School 25 Kennard Road, Brookline 617-277-4593 Brookline Music School offers music therapy to people of all ages and abilities. Music therapy is the clinical and evidencebased use of music interventions to accomplish physical, emotional, cognitive and social goals. A range of people can benefit, including children with language and motor delays, people with autism spectrum disorders, those with mental health needs, adults with dementia and people who have experienced strokes and traumatic brain injuries. 32

Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

Community Music Center of Boston 34 Warren Ave., Boston 617-482-7494 With over 40 years of direct service, the Music Center serves as the longest provider of music therapy in Greater Boston. Our team of board certified music therapists provide assessments and customized treatment plans tailored to meet the needs of children with special needs. Sessions address a number of goal areas including speech and language development, cognitive processing, motor coordination, academic development, building self-esteem and social skills. We at the Music Center believe that building long-term relationships with children and families is the basis for success in serving the music lives of children. Financial aid available.

The Darnell School 15 South St., Hudson 508-298-1639 The Darnell School is singularly focused on helping our students from ages 9-22 with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and behavioral challenges to lead independent and active lives. Comprehensive assessments, individualized curriculums, ABA therapies and collaborative relationships with families help our students reach their fullest potential.

ds Melmark New England 461 River Road, Andover 978-654-4300 Melmark New England serves children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders, acquired brain injuries, neurological diseases and disorders, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and severe challenging behaviors. We provide clinical, educational, residential, vocational, adult day and allied health services. Consultation services and support are available in the home, community or public school setting.

Our Space Our Place The Tobin Community Center 1481 Tremont St., Roxbury 627-459-4084 Our Space Our Place is an after school and career exploration program offering a respectful, accessible and fun environment for middle and high school students who are legally blind to participate in sports, the arts, coding, tutoring and community service. Our service area is Boston and its surrounding communities. Transportation is provided.

Perkins School for the Blind 175 N. Beacon St., Watertown 617-972-3434 Our vision experts provide a continuum of school services customized to your child’s needs whether he or she is blind, deafblind or has low vision. We also offer short courses during vacation and weekends, and professional development for educators. Call our admissions office today at 617-972-7862, ext. 29.

The Wolf School 215 Ferris Ave., East Providence, R.I. 401-432-9940 Special education school servicing students in kindergarten through 8th grade experiencing challenges in language processing, sensory integration and social communication. Expert professional teams integrate therapeutic support into the curriculum for successful learning. We offer small classroom sizes, low student to teacher ratios, movement programs and a strong home and school partnership.

Realizing Children’s Strengths (RCS) Behavioral & Educational Consulting, an affiliate of RCS Learning Center, provides a variety of direct, consultative and training services to schools, agencies, families and individuals with developmental disabilities from infancy to adult. RCS Behavioral and Educational Consulting services include, but are not limited to: • Home-Based Services (funded through insurance and school districts) • Integrated Preschool Program • Early Intervention Services • Parent and Professional Trainings • School Consultation • Functional Behavior Assessments • Verbal Behavioral Approach • PhD level consultation as well as Licensed BCBA’s • Independent Educational Evaluations • School-wide/Classroom Assessment and Design • Inclusion Program Design • Partnership Classrooms (RCS-staffed programs within public school) • Services throughout New England • Offices in Natick, Framingham and Woburn

We provide services within homes, community settings & public, private, charter, Montessori schools and daycares. RCS, a leading educational resource and center, prides itself on providing the highest quality of behavioral and educational services. Contact Tiffany Jones, Assistant Director of Consulting, to get the process started today!

508-879-0737 Email: Please visit our website at



Special Needs Support Groups and Organizations


THESE MASSACHUSETTS ORGANIZATIONS OFFER SUPPORT, INFORMATION and/or advocacy for individuals with special needs, their parents and their caregivers. Many of these groups also offer referrals or links to related services.


✼ Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts –

✼ Massachusetts Commission for the Blind –

781-891-6270; – Public advocacy organization offering resources regarding autism spectrum disorder. Click “links” for support centers in your area. ✼ Autism Coalition of Massachusetts – 781-891-6270, ext. 102; – A network of local organizations that support individuals and their families by sharing resources and working as a collective voice on policy change. ✼ Autism Society, Massachusetts – 781-237-0272, ext. 17; – The local chapter of this national organization is a “pointof-entry” for people newly diagnosed with autism or new to the area and in need of referrals and resources. ✼ Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism – – Provides family and technology grants through its programs, along with grants to nonprofit organizations that provide services to individuals with autism. ✼ Federation for Children with Special Needs – 617-236-7210; 800-331-0688 (in Mass.); – Advocacy, resources and information for parents and professionals. ✼ Home Modification Loan Program – – Facilitated by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, this program helps individuals with disabilities to fund access and safety modifications to their homes. ✼ Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston – 617-558-6507; – Offer a full array of special needs programs for children and adults. ✼ Learning Disabilities Worldwide – 978-897-5399; – This professional organization (for researchers, educators, clinicians and others) has a “parents” section on its website with current articles. ✼ Massachusetts Branch of The International Dyslexia Association – 617-650-0011; – Information and links to resources, such as recommended reading for parents and kids, as well as professional development workshops.

617-727-5550; – Provider of services that promote independence and community participation. ✼ Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing – 617-573-1600; – Services for deaf and hard of hearing, including interpreting, case management and technology. ✼ Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education – 781-338-3000; – The State’s education website offers information on special education, standardized testing, public schools and related topics. ✼ Massachusetts Office on Disability – 617-727-7440; 800-322-2020 (in Mass.); – Information and support concerning community, government and individual services for those with disabilities. Its primary mission is to ensure access. ✼ Massachusetts Special Olympics – 508-485-0986; – Sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for individuals with disabilities. ✼ Parental Stress Line – 800-632-8188; – This 24-hour call line is staffed by Parents Helping Parents of Massachusetts and provides a supportive ear for parents. Parents support groups are also offered by staff and volunteers. ✼ Partners for Youth with Disabilities – 617-556-4075; 617-314-2989 (TT Y); – Provides adult mentors, one on one and in groups, to kids ages 6 through 22 with disabilities. ✼ Special Needs Advocacy Network – 508-655-7999; – Supports professional advocates for people with special needs, offers referrals to Massachusetts special needs advocates, and provides special education workshops and training. ✼ The Arc of Massachusetts – 781-891-6270; – Statewide organization advocating on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Your Child with Special Needs | 2016

2016 Annual Boston Special Needs Guide  
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