Sharing best practices and promoting inclusive opportunities for students with special needs    
Executive Director's Message

Special needs planning for the future during a stressful pandemic is not easy. Our minds are focused on just trying to get by each day and be safe.

We all know how important special needs planning is and we need to be moving forward the best we can. LABBB has brought you both personal stories of planning and experts who have guided parents for many years. Each family dynamic is different, but the recent parent night presentations by Michael Weiner, Leo Rotman, and Karen Mariscal provided information that comes from people who not only do this for a living, but also have an adult with special needs they are caring for. They are bringing the very best information to the LABBB Community to make everyone's lives easier in the future. They have the blueprint, but we all need to take the next actions. As Michael said last week, "If you do this now, it will bring you and your family great dividends when you approach 22 and into the future."

I write many personal stories about my experience with my sister and being her legal guardian. For me, it is helpful to talk about this constantly and continue to learn, as it never stops. I am also part of a community and this is incredibly helpful and necessary for support.

All this information is to help our community plan and plan early so you are aware of what you will be facing in the future. All of us are looking forward to a better year in 2021 and that is a reasonable mind-set. Whether your student is graduating this year or in 10 years, find time to spend on special needs planning even if it is just one thing. Organize your student's information into an excel spreadsheet, pick up the phone to talk to a financial advisor about the future of your student, talk about guardianship, a special needs trust, living options, or social recreational opportunities.

We will also be bringing you our Transition Fair one way or another in 2021 and this will be another opportunity to learn and take the next step.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Clinical Corner - What is a Growth Mindset?
By: Kelly Sexton

Our mindset is what we believe about ourselves, beliefs, and abilities. Mindset shapes our everyday lives, helping us interpret our experiences and future possibilities. A growth mindset happens when we believe our intelligence and abilities can be improved with effort and the right strategies. In contrast, a fixed mindset happens when we believe our intelligence and abilities cannot be changed. With a fixed mindset, mistakes are often seen as failures rather than opportunities to grow and learn. When students have a growth mindset, they feel their brain is capable of overcoming challenges and can learn new information, even when it feels hard.

How can you support your child in developing a growth mindset?

●  Teach your child it is okay to be wrong! This will allow them to take risks when trying new things and will build confidence.

●   Use phrases such as, “Mistakes help my brain grow.” When we make a mistake, we have to put in extra work and energy to get the right answer, allowing us to learn and grow!

●   Normalize failures and mistakes. Identify times at home that grown-ups make mistakes and model ways to work through those times and overcome the challenge.

If you would like more information about growth mindset, please click on this link to visit Mindsetworks
Back to work during a pandemic!
By: Karen Scopetski, Transition Instructor

It takes a village to open a worksite safely during a pandemic. After careful planning, Omar’s World of Comics and Hobbies in Lexington Center gave us the green light to bring students back. To prepare, we had to decide how to do this safely: Two students would be allowed to come into the store for one hour prior to the store opening so that there would be no customers in the store. A protocol would need to be in place to follow guidelines: disinfecting workspaces, strict hand hygiene, and allowance for distancing while working. Mask wearing would be mandatory. And we needed to select students that would be able to work within these restrictions. 
I’m happy to report that we are now bringing students back to Omar’s weekly. It feels great to walk to Omar’s from LHS in the fresh air. It is a partnership between LABBB and Omar’s, with a spirit of working together. Each week, the manager saves the shipment from the day before to teach our students and engage with them in the work that needs to be done for the store. He disinfects and sets up the tables for the students and is ready for us upon our arrival. After washing their hands or using sanitizer, the students sit at their designated workspaces and begin. If the work is a shipment, this involves unboxing the products, comparing items to the invoice, figuring out the price, pricing the items, and putting them out on the floor if space is available. In addition to shipment processing, students are able to learn a lot, even during a pandemic. Some of the other opportunities to develop skills include: folding clothing, doing inventory, light cleaning, as well as learning about customer service and using the cash register. Sometimes we get a visit from Omar himself, a LABBB graduate and President of the store. And we get to hear first hand about the expansion plans for the store coming in the spring! The manager at Omar’s is always happy to include LABBB in their plans. 

To View more pictures of students at work, please click on this link Pictures 

Special thanks to the students, Conor Byrnes and Vienna Mathews, for being part of opening one of the first worksites during a pandemic! 

Congratulations to Vienna, who graduated in November.   We wish her the very best!  
LABBB Transition Department’s First Friday Food Drive Initiative
By: Amanda O'Leary

As we continue with this school year, the Transition Department is introducing a new initiative for our high school classrooms - First Friday Food Drives. Our goal is to give back to our Collaborative communities while continuing to work on some of the transition and work-related skills our students need to focus on as they move closer to adulthood.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely shed a light on the food insecurity that affects many of our communities. Food pantries are considered essential, with most remaining open, but with different protocols in place than before the pandemic, such as welcoming donations but limiting the volunteers that are able to work in the daily operations.

The week before Thanksgiving break, LABBB students from several classrooms at Lexington High and Bedford High collected Thanksgiving dinner items, such as gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and canned vegetables, which were dropped off by staff at the Lexington Stop & Shop. Starting this month, we will begin our monthly First Friday Food Drives. Each month, we will ask students and staff to bring in donations, ideally by the first Friday of that month. Transition and classroom staff will then support students with sorting and categorizing the items, checking for expired goods, and organizing them for drop off during the last week of the month. We will also discuss the reasons why we have chosen to do this philanthropic activity.

Most of the food banks/pantries are in need of non-perishable protein items, such as canned tuna, peanut butter, and beans, as well as personal hygiene items, including soaps, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Each Collaborative community’s food bank/pantry has a wish list of what their most needed and wanted items are, which can be found here: Collaborative Towns Food Bank/Pantry Wish Lists

We are looking forward to developing these partnerships within our Collaborative communities!
Bringing Beauty to Bedford High’s Courtyard
By: Alicia Dessanti

It’s a crisp fall morning where your breath is visible in the air as you breathe. But the warm energy is contagious among Bedford LABBB students and staff members, dressed from head to toe in their landscaping clothing. As they leave their classroom and step into the Bedford High School outdoor courtyard, students and staff quickly gather their work gloves, and gardening and landscaping tools, and begin working. Students diligently rake the leaves to unveil the courtyard’s ground, pull weeds, and work directly with staff to prune and trim overgrown trees and bushes. After an hour and a half of work, these workers put away their tools and gloves and take a seat in the courtyard to enjoy their snack. Their classroom peers and fellow staff members filter into the courtyard to join them and are taken aback by the metamorphosis of this outdoor space.

The beautification crew can’t help but smile as they soak up the sun and pride in their labor. The skills and experience gained from this project have been transforming for the students: illuminating new interests, fueling newfound confidence to take on greater responsibility for home maintenance, providing a welcome energy release in mother nature, and developing skills for future employment and volunteer endeavors. As the weather permits, students and staff at Bedford LABBB plan to continue working on this valuable service project. 
Advocating for our needs during a pandemic
By: Crystal Kaloostian

In times of stress and worry, many have had to step up to take on a challenging year. This is especially true this year. We have had administrators, teachers, specialists, students, and parents all step up and work extra hard to meet and conquer challenges and still try to achieve their goals and learn.

It is good to reflect on the positive that comes out of challenging times. The biggest positive outcome of our current challenges has been the increase in everyone’s ability to advocate for their own needs during this time. Everyone has had to be able to express their worries and needs.

This year especially, we have been more reflective of what we need and have expressed it. Advocating for others has also been shown as students express that someone who is trying to share on Zoom is on mute, or when they can’t see what is being presented, or when someone has their video off during remote learning. It has been shown with everyone advocating for mask breaks or to repeat a phrase due to it being muffled with the mask. It has been shown in the joy on everyone’s faces when we see each other in person after time away, or in the way we have all come together as a community and are all trying to follow the social distancing guidelines to protect each other.

This year has been hard on everyone. It is a challenge, but it is so great to see our community come together and see how we can make each other stronger and support each other in our times of need. 
Community Instructors Classroom Perspective at Burlington High
By: Paul Quinn & Tom DiPaola

With 2020 finally coming to an end, the students and teachers have worked diligently to follow the necessary protocols to continue amazing in-person learning. As community instructors, we are able to see students in their academic environment, which has been great, even though we all miss the vocational experiences with our Community Partners. Although we have limited in-person worksites during these uncertain times, LABBB has set up a few work activities at Burlington High in addition to their weekly occupational education classes.

Harvard Recycling (community partner): Students sort and pack hangers for contribution to Habitat for Humanity.

Burlington Science Center: Here students enjoy seeing the animals as we check off the clipboard tasks required daily.

LABBB Central Office: Students are benefiting from the office jobs available while continuing to develop important worker traits that focus on:
*Fine motor skills
*Attention to detail

We are all anxious and waiting patiently to return to working in the community again, however are also excited to have these vocational opportunities in the meantime. 

LABBB Recreation and Social Opportunities
By: Paula Rizzo

The LABBB Recreation Department continues to run via Zoom to get our students connecting as much as we possibly can.

We just ended our 1st Boxing session and look forward to starting up another session in January. Teachers will be sending an email at the end of December/early January with information on sign-ups for session 2 as well as some additional new classes.  

Our Arts and Crafts classes have been fun. We have made sand bottles, sand plaques, paper turkeys, and more.

We have been able to hold 3-4 Bingo games each week. Along with Bingo, there have been lots of laughs, stretching, snacks, and socializing.

Our December dance zoom link information has gone home to parents via email from your respective teachers.

Happy Holidays to all and stay safe over the break.
Executive Director, Patric Barbieri, Hosts a Podcast talking about special needs planning and resources related to our community

In Episode #21 We have our first guest of the year and joining us is Brendan Aylward. Brendan has a degree in special education from Lesley University and owns Unified Health and Performance in Lancaster MA. Many LABBB students work out at his gym and he has created a unique culture in his gym integrating students with special needs with all gym members. Brendan's mission aligns with our mission in LABBB and he has the vision to continue to expand his business and offering more services and inclusive opportunities for students with special needs. He also created AdaptX which is a training program to become a coach for adapted fitness programs for athletes with disabilities and he talks all about it in this podcast. Click here to view Episode #21


LABBB Contacts
LABBB Collaborative
123 Cambridge Street, Burlington MA. 01803|