The LABBB Collaborative
  February 2016
In This Issue
Message from the Executive Director
Patric Barbieri
For me, LABBB's mission is personal.
The reason it is personal is that not only do we practice it every day in LABBB, but I also continue to live it with my sister with special needs. To begin, let me just remind you of our mission:
We design and deliver special education services that promote academic, social,  and career independence.
The development of children's academic, career, and social skills is the mission of every parent even after graduation. More importantly, independence will be at the center of everything that is discussed. Believe me, these three components are constantly brought up during Individual Support Plan (ISP) meetings, and they will be your focus at 22, 32, and beyond.
Of course, "academics" will look much different. Think of it this way: "What is it that my son or daughter needs right now to be more independent?" It could be learning how to manage a bank account, learning how to get along with others, travel training, doing their own laundry, shopping, or any other life skill. When the time comes for you to consider a group home for your son or daughter, these issues will be at the forefront of your mind. You will be asked, "How much support does your son or daughter need?" and "How independent is he or she?" 
Ultimately, it comes down to the most important skill  independence.
At LABBB, we believe that every student should have a vision for his or her academic, career, and social (recreation) development at each stage of their life journey. For our students who graduate, skill development in these three areas will lead them to a more successful, meaningful, and independent life.
Think about academics, career, and social skills for a minute. Which one is most important? More specifically, which one will be most important when your child graduates? I strongly   believe they are equally important; they are interdependent. Imagine not having social connections, or a job to go to every day, or not having the opportunity to continue to build your skills. Each student will need all three to move towards independence. Furthermore, when looking for a group home, it is essential to consider these three areas. I can't emphasize this enough.
Our mission is not something we write and tuck away, only to be talked about when someone asks, "What is your mission," or when we do a presentation, or to make us look like we are organized. Many mission statements just get written because someone says you need one. An organization should not write such a statement if it doesn't know what it is or if it is not practiced every day.  
We are passionate about our mission. It is what we do. We constantly talk about it. We engage our students and parents to talk about it while at LABBB, and you will still be talking about it  after your son or daughter graduates. It will never leave you because it's a lifelong mission.
The best way I can communicate this to you is to give the example of my sister's journey. She lived with my parents until she was in her early 30s. However, she didn't move towards becoming an independent adult until she transitioned into a group home about eight years ago. She still isn't totally independent, but she is significantly more independent than she was eight years ago. It took about three or four years of living in her group home for her to acknowledge that this was her home now and that she needed to be a responsible adult to function in the house.
The skills that she needed to learn and continue to develop are as follows:

1.    How to live with others and get along. (Oh, how I wish I could communicate this to parents more emphatically, it was extremely stressful for my sister during her second and third years in the group home. The home was perfect, but if you can't get along, follow the rules, and be part of the community, you can't live there.)


2.    How to manage her money. (We are still working on this skill every week.)


3.    How to prepare meals and stay healthy. (More importantly, how to monitor her diet and nutrition, which we still need to watch closely. Health management and self-care is essential, and we need to stay on top of this all the time.)


4.    How to access transportation. (She has improved significantly with this skill.)


5.    How to be safe. (I could tell you stories about monitoring her social media and her phone that you could never imagine! Well, maybe you could, but it wasn't an issue until she was moving towards independence. Teaching her how to be safe in her community is paramount to being independent.)


6.    How to do her job. (Did she get fired today? Why aren't they giving her more hours? She came late to work! She will only do the job her way! My sister has had around seven different jobs since graduating. She finally has a steady job, which she has held for about 8 years, and her work ethic skills have finally started to sink in. We still struggle with getting her more hours.)

Although work hours are up and down, which is frustrating, her work ethic really has improved. She works at T.J. Maxx, and she understands what they expect of her. This took a long time. Please do not underestimate work ethic skills. They don't just click in when they start working; they click in when maturity and a sense of responsibility develop with constant coaching. For my sister, this happened in her mid-30s. We went through many, many jobs with her along this journey. Many good people supported her, but sometimes it just wasn't going to work out. As she became more independent, she became more responsible.
Imagine how your son or daughter can connect to their community. Our students need social connections and to be part of a community, just like they need food and water. To maintain a positive state of mind, they need be around people.
Fortunately, being part of this group home and being part of a supportive community has exceeded our expectations. My sister's social life is rich, and she is active, and, therefore, her state of mind is very positive. The community she lives in is familiar with her group home. The residents use their community often, and the community helps them if needed.
Please and I can't emphasize this enough do not undervalue the need for social connections and a sense of belonging. For our students to continue to build social interactions after they graduate, they need to be participating   now. I will continue to write about building community over and over. A supportive community just doesn't get built on its own,   but it will be a significant support network for your son or daughter in the future.
My sister should have been living in a group home at a much earlier age, then she would be that much more independent today. However, it was a struggle for my parents to let her go; they felt that they could keep her safe. They would tell you now that if they had to do it all over again, they would have done this much, much earlier! Furthermore, they didn't realize how long it would take her to learn the skills necessary to be independent. Traditional academic skills do not lead to independence; learning the right "academics" does.
I am not saying that LABBB's mission is something you should believe in. I am stating, however, that having a mission will be essential for the future of your son or daughter. For me, the LABBB mission is something I strongly believe in because I experience it every day, both in and out of work. I have thought about posting this article in our newsletter permanently because it is that important.

Clinical Corner - The 3 C's - Communication, Collaboration & Connection
By: Lisa Gurdin
LABBB's mission is to support our students on their journey to becoming as independent as possible across school, home, work, and community settings. Integral to this mission is the three C's: communication, collaboration and connection. Here is a brief look into how our LABBB clinicians utilize the three C's as we work towards the LABBB mission.

Communication: At LABBB, communication is paramount. Our clinicians spend much of their week talking with teachers, assistants, specialists, outside providers, administrators, district personnel, and parents. They continuously reach out to share information about our students' challenges so that we all can work together to help our students learn the skills they need to be successful across our many settings. Communication, though, is reciprocal. Our clinicians are in constant contact with our teachers and assistants to further talk about how an intervention plan is being implemented and how the student is responding to the plan. Furthermore, it helps us significantly when parents, outside providers, and district personnel also call us with vital information about our students. Communication allows the team process to work efficiently and effectively.

Collaboration: With communication comes collaboration. At LABBB, our clinicians engage in a continuous loop of collaboration to share ideas and provide feedback about strategies that work and those that don't. Our social workers, counselors, and behavior analysts work closely to develop intervention plans that focus on prevention and skill development and that address our students' behavioral and mental health needs.  Collaboration at LABBB is also exemplified by the teamwork that is done by our clinicians and specialists. Our intervention plans reflect input from our speech therapists and occupational therapists as sensory activities and communication approaches are critical components of our plans.

Connection: With communication and collaboration comes connection. The connections our clinicians make with our students, families, LABBB staff, and outside professionals makes LABBB a special place. Connections foster mutual respect and openness that ultimately helps our students reach their goals. These connections are maintained at LABBB and oftentimes continue after a student graduates.

As we all continue our efforts to communicate, collaborate, and connect, we will fully support our students as they work towards reaching their fullest potential.  
"The Days are Long but the Years are Short"
By: Stephen Goodwin
I can't recall who first uttered the following phrase to me when I became a parent years ago, but it is one of the rare maxims that has stuck with me over the years - "The days are long, but the years are short."  (This quote is often attributed to author Gretchen Rubin.)  At the end of a long day, when my patience has been worn a little thinner for my own children, I try to recall this phrase and double down on my own efforts to remain in the moment with them.  I need to constantly remind myself to slow down ( slow down ) and enjoy what I have right in front of me.  As a parent, it is enjoying both any nominal successes as well as the challenges inherent in watching two daughters navigate their tween/teen years.  As an educator, it is venturing to the wonderful LABBB classrooms at Chenery Middle School and observing the excellent instruction and care that is provided by the teachers, specialists, teaching assistants and nurses.  Parents, as always, thanks for your support of your children as well as the staff of LABBB Chenery.  Finally, accompanying this article is a picture that a former parent painted for me after writing about the aforementioned adage.  
LABBB Legends set to Plunge Again!
By: Caroline Brown
The Polar Plunge is an annual event organized by Special Olympics of Massachusetts.  This year, the plunge will take place on Saturday, March 5 at Revere Beach, and the LABBB Legends are gearing up for this icy cold dip! During the past six Polar Plunges, our LABBB team has raised significantly over $26,000 - 70% of which has come directly to LABBB for our Special Olympics track and field event each spring.  Team members recruit pledges to donate to this worthy cause, and could certainly use your support!  If you cannot make the plunge with us, please consider contributing to the team financially or offering moral support from the shore.
Rob McDonough is captaining the team, and he has been plunging with the LABBB Legends since 2013. Rob has singlehandedly raised over $4,000 in three plunges!
To join or sponsor our team, go to the link below:
Select Revere Beach as the location of your plunge, then click on "Register/Information." In the top left, select "Register Here." After agreeing to the terms, click "Join a Team" and select the LABBB Legends from the drop menu of existing teams. Or, if you prefer to stay warm and dry, select "Sponsor Participant" and you can donate to an individual on our team, or to the team as a whole. 
Special Olympics is a wonderful organization which helps individuals with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, and fosters joy, confidence, and fulfillment amongst the athletes. While it is free for the athletes to participate in Special Olympics events, it is certainly not free to host an event, which is why the fundraising efforts of the LABBB Legends are so important. Please consider joining us for the plunge or making a financial contribution to support this wonderful cause!
If you have any questions about the event, feel free to contact Caroline Brown ( ) or Rob McDonough ( ). 

#EdCampAccess 2016

The explosion of edcamps around the world has been an amazing shift in professional development. This year, #EdcampBoston was sold out in 1 hour. The ability to connect with other educators in a less formal environment is refreshing and promotes more interactions and connections. This is appealing to many educators. 

Four years ago, LABBB partnered with edcamp coordinators, Karen Janowski, Sean Sweeney and Beth Lloyd, to create #EdCampAccessA day devoted to educators helping struggling learners.
Since our first EdCampAccess in 2013, there have been three more EdCampAccess events created outside of Massachusetts. EdCampAccess events have been held in Morristown, New Jersey; Swartz Creek, Michigan, and Orlando Florida. 

EdCampAccess 2016 will be held on Saturday, April 30, in Burlington at the Marshall Simonds School.  

For more information and to sign up click here:  #EdCampAccess 2016.
The ICEI Program: A Parent Perspective
By: Audrey DeSisto
Attached is a picture of Devan that was taken at Middlesex Community College on  Monday . Devan had a great first day, and really enjoyed her Piano class and her teacher. She is making a lot of friends, and really likes her peers and support staff.   

As a parent, this truly is a day that you look forward to and then reflect back on.  As a mother of four, it was always my hope that Devan would attend college just like her other three siblings.  She saw her sisters and brother all move out and go off to college, and she wanted to go to college as well. Her entire family is so very happy for her.

I cannot thank you enough for helping her with this transition, and I could not imagine a better program that suits her needs.  I am very impressed, and look forward to seeing Devan learn and grow at Middlesex.

Thank you again for all that you do,

Audrey DeSisto            

"Greetings" from LABBB Arlington High School
By: Janet Sullivan
  Over the past few months the students at LABBB-AHS  have been practicing their social skills in a variety of community settings and with lots of different people.  We have learned that greeting people with a friendly smile and a wave is a great way to start an interaction.   Everyone loves to receive a smile and a "Hi"!  One of our goals is to be the first to say "Hi" to people with whom we need to have an interaction.  Some of the people we have greeted recently are waitresses, waiters, sales clerks, cashiers, deli workers, MBTA bus drivers and, of course, our Best Buddies when we see them in the hall.  Be on the look-out for the LABBB-AHS greeters!

A Virtual Field Trip
By: Rebecca Dickson
Mrs. Dickson & Mrs. Cronin's class went on our first virtual field trip in January.   When we announced that we would be going on a virtual field trip there was much cheering, many were hoping to go somewhere "cool", the students were quite surprised to learn that we would not being leaving our classroom.   To go on the field trip we FaceTimed a friend of Mrs. Dickson's, Greg, who happens to work for a Professional Sports TV Network as a director of several shows.  The students were excited and came up with many questions to ask during our time with him.   Greg was a great host, he brought us to three studios, one of which was in use for a live show!   He also was honest with us and told us that it took a lot of different types of skills to work in television.   Many of these skills we've been talking about in our occupational education class, such as: collaboration, team-work, patience, understanding that mistakes happen, having good time management and being able to communicate, sometimes very quickly, with others.    If you want to read more about our "trip" please visit our blog:
Science Class at BHS
By: Michael Romanella

My name is Michael Romanella and I recently started working as a one-to-one at the Burlington High School program of LABBB. In my short time there I've seen what an amazing job Ms. Niman and Ms.  Chaisson have done directing both classrooms at BHS. Ms. Niman was directing our science class the other day and made a perfect correlation between plant/animal cells to a shopping mall. Above is the picture she drew for the class. I just wanted to share this work with you and show how much of an impact teachers are making in our program on a daily basis. 
Power Cafe
" Power Cafe" is NOW OPEN! It is a coffee shop staffed and run entirely by people with physical and/or developmental disabilities. I am very excited about creating a venue which not only creates real opportunities for people with disabilities, but does so in a context where they can interact in a powerful, autonomous way with the mainstream community. I see this as building bridges and forming personal connections to overcome prejudice and stereotypes.
Open Monday-Friday 7am to 2pm at 45 Lexington Street in Watertown, MA 
Starting in December, we will also open for Sunday Brunch 9am to 3pm. 
Please help us grow!

Recreation News and Events
By: Paula Rizzo, Integration and Recreation Coordinator
Dear LABBB Community: 

Please check your mailboxes for Spring Bowling and Wednesday Recreation Programs. We also want to make sure you are mindful of the due dates of each of the activities.   

We encourage parents and guardians to make sure that you register your son or daughter by the due date on our flyers. For most of our programs, we get many students signing up and sometimes the number of students that sign up is close to 50 or 60 for some events. In most cases tickets have to be ordered or space has to be scheduled three weeks prior to the event. In addition, transportation and staffing needs to be secured based on the number of students we have attending.  

For LABBB recreation trips, safety is paramount. The parents and staff are notified of the students that will be attending the event/trip and all procedures are put into place. We need to have all registration information in a timely manner so students get to where they need to be and we can notify teachers.   We also want make sure our students are prepared and have all the items and money they may need for the trip. 

We want all students to access our recreational events, we are excited to offer them. Adding a student last minute can really detract from the process and has people making last minute adjustments that may or may not get caught during a busy teaching schedule. 

We want the students to have the best experience possible, and preparation and communication is the key.  Please email Paula Rizzo ( that your son or daughter is sending in a sign up form for an event. This will be the first step in helping the process and the trip go as smoothly as possible. We appreciate your attention and cooperation.

Lastly, I am sharing three sources for recreational opportunities for our students.

click on each of the images for more information.




If you have new ideas to offer, please email them to We are always looking for new ideas and opportunities our students will enjoy!
Parent Resources and Events
School Cancellation:  All LABBB programs follow the school cancellations in their respective towns.


The next LABBB PAC meeting is:

When:   Thursday, February 11, 2016 
Where:  The Lexington Community Center, 39 Marrett Road
Time:     6:45 pm to 8:30 pm

Topic:  The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI)

Patric Barbieri, LABBB Executive Director, will talk about LABBB's Partnership with Middlesex Community College in developing the ICEI program. This grant gives our students the opportunity to participate in and experience college life. 
Communication and Contacts Links
About Us
LABBB Collaborative Central Office
36 Middlesex Turnpike
Bedford, Massachusetts 01730
(339) 222-5615