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

As our days grow slightly longer, so does our hope for the future. We are all awaiting plans for the COVID vaccine roll-out as K-12 educators are in the second phase. There has also been pool/surveillance testing that some of our districts have implemented or are considering implementing and LABBB will be part of this if they do. We have had hope all along, but now we can feel it, we can sense it, we are starting to believe it.

Even when we receive the vaccine and we can return to a more normal school day, there is so much more healing and work that needs to be done from the past year; we must be mindful in how we proceed. We can't emphasize enough the importance of working together. We see the consequences when this doesn't happen, and as a community, we can make a difference. These are not just words, they must be actions. If you look at the picture above on the top right, the wall says, "Together WE are Better!" WE are the actions that define what community is; WE are the LABBB community!

Lastly, LABBB is planning to hold our annual Transition Fair this year as this information is essential for our graduates and their families. We will be sending out a date for the fair soon. As part of the opening presentation of this fair, we will have a discussion about the current status of adult agencies and options for our students when they turn 22. We will also continue to bring you all of the special needs planning topics we have offered in the past. We encourage everyone to attend this fair to begin learning about the transition to adulthood, as you will be going through at some point in your student's life.

It’s Time to Dig "DEEP"
By: Sara Carver
As LABBB continues our journey into anti-racism work, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team quickly realized the herculean task we were taking on. Looking to address systemic racism as it affects our staff, students, and community is no small feat, and as something we’re looking to incorporate into our core values, we quickly realized the benefit of looking to learn from outside of ourselves. We were so happy to begin our journey with Johnny Cole (referenced in our previous newsletter), and after overwhelmingly positive feedback from our staff, we knew our next step was to find someone to work with long term.

Enter The Disruptive Equity Education Project, (DEEP). After weeks of combing through organizations, zoom interviews, and team discussions, we are excited to announce we’ll be partnering with this seasoned team. Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson, DEEP’s President and Co-Founder, made an immediate impact on our team, as she spoke to us about creating an environment that not only promotes diversity, but a sense of belonging and safety for those who have been under-represented or experienced oppression. Having worked with both the Arlington and Lexington School Districts in the past, we feel as though we are in trusted hands that understand our communities and most importantly, our students.

DEEP’s mission “to bridge stronger connections to humanity and embrace challenges of inequity with love and care, while offering key insights and strategic interventions that sustain diversity, belonging, inclusion and equity over time,” will continue with us at LABBB through customized and sustainable work. Beginning with some of our key stakeholders, including the DEI team and administration, we will work to develop a long term consultation plan to help develop impactful and implementable action items that continue to address our efforts to develop more inclusive workplace practices, curriculum, and supports for our students.

Now is a great time to dig a little DEEPer! Check out their website or social media sites listed below. This journey of anti-racism is just that, a journey. Thank you for your commitment throughout this complex, uncomfortable, and crucial process. 

Twitter: @digdeep4equity
Instagram: @digdeepforequity
Clinical Corner: Helping Kids and Teens Navigate Big Emotions
By: Trish Costa, LMHC

Some children act out because they have a hard time regulating their own emotions. This is common for kids who haven’t yet developed the ability to cope with big emotions in a constructive way. This is because children are much more emotional while their frontal lobe and cortex are still developing.

Sometimes we say that “anger is a mask” because often other complicated emotions lie underneath the anger. Open-positive communication and investigation for both teachers and parents is the key to moving forward. The thing to remember is that strong emotions such as anger are easier to express than deeper, more vulnerable emotions. This gives us the illusion of power and control in a moment where, in fact, we are likely feeling very weak, fearful, and emotionally fragile.

The good news is that self-regulation is a skill that can be taught like any other. Here are some techniques for helping kids and teens calm down instead of acting out:
  • Take time and label emotions. Use a visual picture at home if that helps and be sure to encourage kids to focus on how they feel.

  • Acknowledge negative feelings to make the emotions seem less powerful and help to navigate what to do next with these feelings.

  • Model breathing when dealing with emotions such as: “I am feeling frustrated, so I am going to breathe.”

  • Use ranking scales of 1-4 to measure how strong the emotion is (using a thermometer visual aide can be helpful as well).

  • Normalize all emotions including anger.

  • Be proactive, not reactive (don’t talk in the heat of the moment)

  • Make a plan for how to calm down BEFORE anger strikes.

  • Stay calm

Most kids and teens need active support with strategies to help regulate and support them through their emotional storm. 
What is Sensory Processing?
By: Rayne Pratt

Sensory processing is the brain’s ability to receive and organize sensory information in order to produce an appropriate motor, social, emotional and behavioral response.

There are five well known “outer” senses (taste, touch, sight, smell and sound) and three hidden or “inner” senses (proprioceptive, vestibular and interoceptive senses). Proprioception is processed through receptors in muscles, joints and ligaments and gives the brain information about the quality of movement required to perform a task. The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and processes rotational and linear movement as well as the pull of gravity on the body. Together the proprioceptive and vestibular systems provide information about where the body is in space and how it is moving through space. Interoception refers to the brain’s ability to interpret sensations occuring in the internal organs such as the speed and quality of our breath, our heart rate and how full or empty the stomach or bladder is. These internal sensations are body signals that are sent to the brain to let us know when we are experiencing symptoms of stress or relaxation, whether we are hungry, thirsty or full or whether or not we need to excrete.

A person is considered to have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) when their brain is not properly receiving or responding to the sensory information that is being signaled from the body or sent from the environment. There are three sub-types of Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Modulation Disorder, Sensory- Based Motor Disorder, and Sensory Discrimination Disorder. These disorders can affect one’s ability to attend to tasks, regulate their activity level, move in a coordinated manner, motor plan, socialize, regulate their emotional and behavioral responses as well as participate in many daily living tasks.

Once a person is diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, they are often treated by an Occupational Therapist. The approach that the therapist uses may vary depending on the age of the person and the setting that the individual is being treated in. In some cases, the therapist will use a sensory integration approach in which the individual will participate in challenging but stimulating activities that are provided in a sensory-rich environment. The goal of sensory integration therapy is to improve the brain’s ability to respond to sensory information in a functional way so the individual can thoroughly participate in daily life. An occupational therapist may also recommend making adaptations to an environment to ensure the individual’s success in that specific setting. Education around specific sensory strategies will also be provided to optimize attention and participation. The overall goal for an individual with sensory processing disorder is to promote an active and meaningful life by empowering them to fully engage with the environment and the people surrounding them. If you have more questions about Sensory Processing please contact the Occupational Therapist working in your child or student’s classroom.

For more information about Sensory Processing Disorder:

2020 Student Secret Santa
By: Susan Good

There are a lot of things that we can not do because of COVID, but we have all learned how to be flexible and adjust to the changes with what we can and cannot do given the restrictions.

Our LABBB program has always participated in Waltham High School’s Student Secret Santa, an annual gift drive to benefit children in need. This year it seemed it was in jeopardy of happening because of COVID. Fortunately for us, we were able to continue our commitment to helping children during the holiday season!

Each of our classrooms at Bedford High School was provided information about a child for whom they would purchase and donate gifts to for the assembly. We incorporated our in-class and community math trips to select and purchase fun and unique gifts the kids would enjoy.  We accessed money previously raised and donated to our two Bedford classrooms from our Bedford High DECA fundraising project. The DECA students were so gracious to donate the funds raised, so we decided it was a perfect opportunity to give back during the holiday season.

We first began by giving the students a budget to calculate how much we could spend; then, we started our gift selection by browsing online to generate ideas for a 1-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. The students are always super excited about this part!

The students’ task was to browse different stores, compare prices on gifts, and round up to estimate costs. They browsed at Target, Walmart, and Marshall's. The most popular item that the students wanted to purchase for our 1-year-old boy was an Elmo doll!! The second most popular gift was a stuffed monkey.

The students picked out many gifts, made a list, and voted on which ones to purchase. The younger classroom picked out a play phone, Sesame Street Building blocks, a soft blanket, a musical train, and some baby books, (including Baby Shark!) for the 1-year-old boy. It was great fun for the staff to listen to the students talk about the memories of their favorite gifts as children! Elmo was a hit!

Students set out to shop at Marshall's and CVS in Bedford to purchase the gifts. They were so excited when they found a hugging Elmo because initially, Marshall's did not show one online! Another burst of excitement came when they found a stuffed monkey and a Baby Shark book. 

Our older classroom was tasked with choosing items for an 11-year-old girl. They thoughtfully picked out a necklace and a jewelry box, a hat, scarf, and gloves set, craft kits, and a nail polish set. Both classrooms were so proud to show their teachers and classmates what they had purchased for each of these children. It was a great lesson in putting aside our students’ own shopping preferences to focus on what gifts would bring younger children joy.

Another favorite for the students is wrapping the presents and labeling them with each student's assigned code. They take great pride in performing this task.

One of the greatly anticipated activities of this yearly tradition that happens after all the shopping and wrapping is attending the Student Secret Santa assembly in Waltham. Unfortunately, this event to give gifts as a community group was not able to take place.  However, the students found much value and pleasure in providing two children with some extra love and care during this holiday season!  
Transition Department: Students helping others
By: Skip Avery

At Lexington High School, Whitson’s, the vendor for the Lexington Public Schools cafeterias, provides free meals twice a week for families in need.  Our students help support this federally funded program.

Students work in small groups supported by a Transition Department Community Instructor to complete a variety of tasks including: numbering bags, setting up bags, filling bags and boxes with a variety of food items, making sure the correct number of items are in each bag, recycling boxes, and cleaning.  Students and staff are required to follow COVID protocols, which include wearing gloves and a mask, hand washing, and observing the 6-foot physical distance guidelines.

Students are also learning and practicing other, more global vocational skills, such as dressing appropriately, asking questions, advocating, problem-solving, working as a team, using communication and organizational skills, following directions, and managing their time. In addition, they feel a sense of community and accomplishment by helping others in these challenging times.

Thank you to all who are supporting this important program; your help is greatly appreciated.
LABBB Adapted Physical Education, Recreation and Social Opportunities

APE Update

Since March 2020 the LABBB APE Department has been running 18 Physical Education classes on zoom each week. The APE staff has been excited to see the students actively participate in each class. At the same time, they are definitely looking forward to getting back to in-person classes in the future. We'd like to thank all the parents, siblings, and guardians for their assistance during APE Zoom classes.

Recreation Update

This past fall, LABBB continued to offer boxing and arts and crafts/bingo (all via zoom) for after-school recreation activities. They all went well and participants seemed to enjoy themselves. Zoom boxing and zoom bingo will continue through the winter.
LABBB Dances via zoom have been well attended and will continue via zoom at least for the near future.  

Look for any correspondence for after school recreational activities to come via email from your student’s classroom teacher. 

Ideas to do on your own for recreation:  
  • Turn on some music and dance or tap your foot, even for 15 minutes.
  • Take a walk. 
  • Do 4 to 5 exercises for 30 seconds. Repeat each exercise 5 times. Suggestions: jumping jacks, running in place, skipping in place, hoping in place, invisible jump roping in place.  

Good luck and make it fun, whatever you choose to do. If it is not fun, you won’t want to continue doing it.  

Save the Date for upcoming events:
  • January 27, 2021, Start date for LABBB Zoom Bingo
  • February 27, 2021, LABBB Valentine Dance via Zoom
SESSpecial Artists and Crafts over Zoom
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|