July Newsletter

Sharing best practices for promoting inclusive opportunities         for   students with special needs 
Unified Basketball Summer Parade 2020
In This Issue
Message from the Executive Director
Patric Barbieri
       Return to School Updates 

Our Return to School Team continues to work through the DESE guidance in preparation for returning to school. LABBB is located in 16 buildings and is planning for all our programs in each host district, as well as for our new Post-22 program, Greater Opportunities (GO). LABBB also has many business partners where our students go every day and we are in contact with them about our possible return to their respective sites based on their policies for safety. We are making progress every week and we are still working towards offering some summer services in-person in some capacity.  

You may have heard that DESE is asking all districts and collaboratives to create three plans for returning in the fall. You can click here to see the initial Fall Guidelines from DESE. We are required to submit a full student return plan, a hybrid plan, and a remote plan. LABBB is in touch with each of our member districts and working collaboratively with the host districts to coordinate with their plans for reopening. Each member district has been very supportive of LABBB's programs and is keeping us informed as they move forward with their district plans for the summer and fall. LABBB has also been working diligently to ensure that our transportation services are ready to move forward with all necessary precautions for our students' safety. There is a lot to be done with planning, training, and preparing our spaces for students to return, but we are excited to get students back in school and are moving forward in every aspect necessary.

Sasha Reed, LABBB Nurse Leader, states that, "Our LABBB nursing department has been working closely with our school physician, local Boards of Health, and collaborative program nurses across the state to integrate the collective expertise of the school health community as we plan for re-opening our programs. Under the guidance of DESE, CDC, and DPH, we have been revising our LABBB health and safety protocols using evidence-based, best practice models. We are also in the process of designing comprehensive training programs to ensure our dedicated staff are prepared to implement these protocols upon our return. During these pivotal next few weeks, we will continue to carefully monitor the recommendations of the medical community and adapt our practices as needed."

The return to school team consists of Sasha Reed (Lead Nurse) Paula Rizzo, Melissa Allen, Kiley Malloch, Jim Kelly, Janet Sainte (LABBB Transportation), Donna Goodell, Myrto Flessas (LABBB Parent) Amanda Scheriff and Naomi Stongberg (LABBB Counsel). We are adding team members as the need arises. 

Clinical Corner: Making Mask Wearing Easier
By: Kaitlin Taylor
A lot has changed about our environment in the past few months and one of the most visible and noticeable changes is mask wearing when in the community. Mask wearing is now an essential part of going into our communities to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Like with any other change in life, wearing a mask may present as a challenging skill for your student or other members of your family. Below are some tips to help get used to wearing a mask.
  • Inform- Make sure you and your family members know why you need to wear a mask. Here is a social story that can be shown to students at a variety of developmental and age levels. Check out this website also for more social story resources.
  • Make it comfortable- There are many different types of face masks out there. If you are able, buy or create one of a few varieties to see which is the most comfortable for you! Here are a few links to mask different types of masks.
    • Tie back
    • Over the ear
    • Gator
    • Make it fashionable-Let your student have a say in the color and design of the face mask they choose to wear.
    • Practice-Practice wearing your face masks during less stressful times. You can practice while playing a game, doing a craft, playing with a favorite toy, or watching a video. Make these practice times finite in in length and start with short durations. Build up to longer durations as your child becomes more comfortable/tolerant of the mask.
    • Reinforce-Also reinforce mask wearing with a verbal praise and access to a preferred item or activity. This might be access to tickles, hugs, or high fives or access to a video, Legos, crafting, or any other thing your child may enjoy. 
LABBB Summer Talent Show Video 2020 (Zoom)
  • LABBB Talent Show 2020
    LABBB Talent Show 2020
Recreation News & Events
By: Paula Rizzo, Integration and Recreation Coordinator
A lot has happened in just a few months in the Adapted Physical Education and Recreation Departments. We have gone from getting into swimming pools, bowling on alleys, and being in weight rooms & gymnasiums to having exercise classes in our homes on Zoom. We have seen students and staff exercising in their bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, basements, and outside in yards & on decks. Wherever it is, it doesn't matter, they are exercising and getting in a good workout. We have students (and staff) feeling more flexible, more energetic, and excited to get in on a zoom APE class.
To have Adapted Physical Education and dances on zoom was not even a thought in our minds before the Coronavirus, so we took it slow. We got the concept started, then added more and more. Now we are having so much fun doing adapted physical education and dances on zoom. It may not take the place of being together in person, but somehow we have more students participating and staff who want to join as well.

Change can often be difficult for many, but in this case, I think the changes we have gone through have helped us all be more knowledgeable and flexible. 
Please stay tuned for the LABBB Recreation booklet to come in your mailboxes in August.
Fox Hill Team Celebrates Students That Are Moving On!
By: Laurie Harrington
On Monday, June 15th, The LABBB Fox Hill Team (Admin, Teachers, TA's and Specialists) joined together in a safe and socially distant manner to celebrate the students from Fox Hill that are moving on to middle school.  Staff met in Belmont, wearing masks, to reconnect, decorate their cars and form a rolling parade to celebrate those students who are transitioning.  Cars were festooned with colorful balloons, signs and even stuffed animals!  There were approximately 20 cars winding through Belmont and Cambridge, with music blaring and horns honking to let the community know of our immense pride in our students!  What a joy it was to see our smiling students with their families, watching joyfully as the parade rolled by!  Good Luck to all of the LABBB students who are moving on in their academic journeys!

LABBB Post 22 Program Update: Here we GO again!
Many years ago, LABBB started a program called the GO (Greater Opportunities) Program. One of LABBB's founders, Ray Bohn, started the program and it was located in a town outside of the five members. Ray had relationships with many districts and an opportunity was presented to him to create a new program for the district because of the quality and reputation of LABBB. It was one of the many programs that Ray had developed since LABBB's inception in the early 70's. 

That program ended years ago, but when we were considering a name for our new post 22 adult program, we decided to name it GO to bring some of our history back. It just made sense because there are so many greater opportunities after our students graduate. Transitioning out of school aged services is the most difficult transition of all, but it can be meaningful, purposeful, and our students can continue to learn, grow, and build relationships into adulthood.
Our adult program started in the early spring and shortly thereafter we were in a quarantine, so we were not able to move forward as quickly as we planned. We believe we can create an adult program that will thrive for many years and help our graduates stay connected with the LABBB community. As many of you know, we have already started offering post 22 social events. Along with our school age Zoom dances, we also hosted a Zoom Reunion Dance in the spring and it was a huge hit! Many LABBB Graduates are asking for more. We have received many referrals for our new program, and we look forward to accepting new adults as we continue on our mission. 
Transition Department Weekly Interviews
By: Skip Avery
Transition Counselor, Ms. Theresa LeBlanc, conducted weekly interviews via Zoom with a wide group of professionals to help her students learn about different career opportunities and the skills employers look for in their workers.  There was a focus on the fact that all of those interviewed had many different jobs before settling into their respective careers.  Each interviewee talked about the different entry level jobs they had over their careers and how the skills they learned and developed in those jobs help them in their current positions. 

Ms. LeBlanc would network to find each week's special guest which included the following: Mr. Jim Kelley - LABBB, Mr. Tom Brincklow - LABBB, Mr. Brian Sullivan - Director of Green Communities for the State of Massachusetts and former Mayor of Westfield MA, Mr. Doug Lucente - Lexington Selectman and CEO of ProMedical, Mr. Chris Souza - CEO of PixelRiverPR, Ms. Donna Rizzo - Volunteer for HELPIS,  Ms. Emily Patel & Ms. Sarah Short - Owners of the Roasted Granola, and Mr. Ron Hauff - Owner of Kimstead Farm.   One week, Ms. LeBlanc modeled how to be flexible when one of her guests was unavailable at the last minute and she became the interviewee.  
Thank you to all the interviewees for taking the time to talk with our students.
As you can see from the distinguished list of interviewees, they came from all walks of life, allowing our students to have a rich experience.  The students were empowered by being part of the process and collaborating together to come up with questions for the guest speakers. Before each week's interview, the students would brainstorm questions with Ms. LeBlanc.  Ms. LeBlanc would organize the questions and assign them to individual students to ask during the interview.  During each interview, the students would introduce themselves and ask their question.  The students did an amazing job!  They were polite, respectful, and asked great questions.  Each of the interviewees commented on the wonderful job the students did and were appreciative of the thoughtful questions, often commenting, "that's an excellent question"..  Well done students! 

These weekly interviews gave our students the opportunity to socialize with each other, staff, and the interviewee, as well as learn about career development and the skills needed to get a job.  It was a wonderful opportunity for our students to practice their social skills in a fun environment and learn about different professions. 

Thank you Ms. LeBlanc for organizing such a successful, fun and educational weekly event! 
Covid-19 is Spelled L-O-V-E
By: Kathy Eggers
   Since our virtual journey began in March, the most outstanding aspect of it all has been the relationships in our classroom. We had spent 7 hours a day with these kids in person every week, helping them to learn, organize, self regulate, and socialize. Through all of this,  I can't help but think of the sentiment, "You never know what you're missing, until it's no longer there." This rings so true to this virtual learning experience we have been catapulted into. I am lucky to say that the kids I work with are very social with one another and their teachers. My amazement, however, comes from the pure joy they find seeing each other on Zoom. It is evident in how they make conversation with each other and find relatable topics between themselves and the staff. They are attentive, empathetic, and overall grateful while on Zoom; no one is fighting. It is nothing but smiles and love. We work so hard to teach these things in person, but when the unexpected happens, everyone has to learn to adjust. "The new normal" as they say, has brought out an amazing side to this amazing group of kids.

  Although you can't say enough about the power of in-person education being necessary or important, maybe looking at it through rose colored glasses is the best course of action. "Separation makes the heart grow fonder", right? Hearing the kids say to each other, "I miss you!" and talking about making plans to see each other for a socially distant visit to get coffee or an ice cream shows one way this rings true. Through it all, they are learning the true value of friendship, empathy, and connection. These are not easy to teach, but have to be learned from experience. Covid-19 seems to me, a blessing in disguise. For one thing, it has helped not only all of us to prioritize and reflect, it also has given us a greater gift than anything possible. That is hope. Hope to be with one another again, to share a high five, a hug, a conversation. In simple terms to just be. We don't know what is ahead but we do know Covid -19 is spelled L-O-V-E.
ICEI Showcase Celebration, Online!
By:  ICEI Ed Coaches
There is no doubt that the transition to online learning brought challenges to every student as they were suddenly told to stay home and continue learning. ICEI program students quickly adapted to attending classes via Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom, and meeting virtually outside of class to check in with their Ed Coach. They showed a huge amount of independence in their work through the end of the semester and virtually attending J-Club in June.

Students and staff also transitioned the Showcase Celebration to be online. Instead of a big celebration where families, LABBB teachers, students and MCC professors come to MCC, everyone was invited to a Zoom celebration. Each student presented a Slideshow Presentation with highlights from their semester on campus and online. ICEI students should all be very proud! 

"Fun and Functional Learning Videos with Wellington Staff and Students" 
By:  Caitlin McDonough (SLP) and Sarah Ervin (OT)
Students in our LABBB Wellington program have explored creative ways to engage in remote learning these past few months!  In addition to live Zoom sessions with teachers, specialists, and with the support of amazing and dedicated families, students have accessed pre-recorded videos focused on participation and communication in daily living skills and fun activities at home. Individualized visual supports were embedded in the videos to support students' language skills, as well as provide modeling strategies for parents at home for our students who are AAC users. Thus far, videos have included recipes, self-care activities such as tooth brushing and dressing, as well as content related to health and safety, including wearing masks and hand-washing.


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