Life Skills Interns Connect With Kids

Interns in the Life Skills Programs at two New Hampshire high schools are enriching the lives of residents at the Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabilities.

For two summers now, the pediatric facility in Keene, NH has hosted a community-based vocational training program for five student interns from Monadnock Regional and Hinsdale high schools. The teens have various developmental disabilities.

For part of each day, Cedarcrest Center staff members mentored the interns in job-shadow rotations – in housekeeping, lawn care, environmental services, facility maintenance, food services and administrative services. Then the interns honed basic academic and workplace skills with tutors from their respective schools. For the remainder of each day, the interns interacted directly with children at Cedarcrest Center, reading to them individually or engaging them in a game or activity.

Karen Thompson, Vocational Coordinator for the participating schools, said the Cedarcrest Center “is a perfect match for the six-week program because our missions are aligned. “We help each individual – regardless of ability or disability – to develop and integrate academic preparation, socialization and functional life skills, ” she said.

Sherri Vaillancourt, a Team Leader at Cedarcrest Center, coordinated the work experiences for each intern. She also facilitated the educational and recreational activities that provide a platform for interaction between interns and Cedarcrest students.

“The program is a “win-win” situation for everyone, especially the children who live at Cedarcrest Center,” Sherri says. Teens at Cedarcrest Center enjoy interacting with other adolescents, and the younger children respond warmly to the special attention they receive from interns.

Interns from the Life Skills Program benefit from acceptance as valued colleagues by Cedarcrest Center staff, and gain confidence as they practice important leadership skills.

Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabilities offers long and short term care for children with complex medical and developmental needs. For more information visit www.cedarcrest4kids.org or call (603) 358-3384.

H.A.L.O. Initiative Answers Families Legal Questions

This summer H.A.L.O. established the Children’s Advisory Network (CAN) to help families deal with Massachusetts’ complicated maze of regulations governing care of children with neurological impairment and complex disabilities.

Attorney Arthur Sneider, one of several volunteers, has already aided one family that was in imminent danger of losing much-needed services for their child. With just one day remaining for an appeal, Arthur wrote a letter of advocacy that made the Medical Review Team aware of important information and resulted in restored eligibility.

The goal of H.A.L.O. CAN is to assist families with limited resources to obtain legal assistance in matters affecting their child’s care, and to provide emergency legal action when necessary, according to Rebecca Dalpe, of Foster & Eldridge, LLP.

Rebecca and Arthur, an attorney at Mulvey & Sneider, P.C. of Chestnut Hill, MA, are part of a group that will respond to legal questions as needed.

Disability law and advocacy is very specialized. The H.A.L.O. CAN team received an extensive orientation and resource materials from partners at the law firm of Clark, Hunt, Ahern & Embry, which represents many New England facilities that care for children with neurological impairment. CHA&E also supplied a list of law firms that can help when legal needs might exceed H.A.L.O. CAN volunteer capabilities.

It is very important that families understand that parents are not automatically considered to be the guardian of their severely disabled child once they have reached adulthood, said Joshua Krell, CHA&E partner. A legal guardian must be formally designated before reaching the age of majority in order to avoid interruption of necessary benefits and services such as medications, he said.

Families can contact H.A.L.O. CAN through the administrator of their child’s pediatric facility or by clicking HERE. Legal advice is currently offered only in Massachusetts.

School Embraces Child, Family

Since 1974 children the Community Therapeutic Day School has embraced children with complex emotional and neurological difficulties and worked with their families to enhance their abilities. Located on the former homestead of John Parker, captain of the Lexington (MA) Minutemen
during the Revolutionary War, CTDS is small special education school for children 3-12 years old.

“Our kids have multiple diagnoses that interfere with their learning and prevent them from attending regular school programs,” says Nancy Fuller, co-founder and executive director. “They need complex medical, educational and therapeutic interventions, including occupational, speech and language therapies and psychotherapy.”

At CTDS the teacher, the parent and doctor collaborate in a “holding environment” to help children make positive changes and grow and develop their potential as individuals. Classes are small; five classrooms can house six to seven children each. Graduate interns from Boston University, Lesley, Tufts and other Boston area colleges assist the professional staff and provide individualized support.

“People who work here have a deep love of children and care about them,” said Nancy.

Daniel Reinstein, Ph.D, neuropsychologist at the school, notes that CTDS focuses on diagnostics evaluations, integration and treatment.

“It is not just the psychotherapist or the speech therapist treating the child. Every person who comes in contact with the student is acutely aware of his special needs,” he said. The school embraces the whole family and offers support groups for parents, siblings and grandparents to help families feel less isolated and more involved with their family member.

CTDS also provides integrated services to more than 200 students in other school systems and teaches families how to advocate for their child. The goal at CTDS is to transition children back into traditional schools whenever possible. Many students also move on to secondary special needs schools.

This story is part of H.A.L.O.’s ongoing effort to highlight services for children with varying degrees of neurological impairment. For more information about CTDS call (781) 861-7081 or visit www.communitytherapeuticdayschool.org

“Doyle Classic” supports H.A.L.O.

About 15 years ago Jack and Patricia Doyle invited a few friends to play golf at a challenging executive course they discovered in Plymouth, MA.

They had such a great time they decided to make it an annual event. So many friends and associates wanted to join in the fun, the Doyles and daughters Shannon and Allyson designated the “Doyle Classic” a fundraiser for the Help A Little One Foundation. One hundred percent of the tournament profits and raffle proceeds from go to H.A.L.O. The player with the tee shot closest to the pin splits the 50/50 pot with H.A.L.O. too.

“This year was our biggest tournament ever, with 90 golfers,” says Jack, who learned of H.A.L.O. through professional relationships before he retired from the insurance industry.

“You can give to the big guys, the Jimmy Fund and such, but it’s also nice to know where your donation is going,” says Jack.

Jack, who was also a high school basketball referee for many years, collects gifts and prizes year ‘round for the tournament. Participants receive mugs, golf vests or golf umbrellas donated for the cause, plus a sleeve of golf balls marked with the “Doyle” shamrock and a Grandma’s Coffee Cake.

“People duck when they see me coming,” Jack jokes about collecting prizes for the tournament. “Seriously, people are very generous. They donate Red Sox tickets, restaurant gift certificates and other great prizes.”

Each year the tournament ends with a steak dinner and hilarious awards ceremony emceed by Jack.

The Doyle Classic has raised thousands of dollars for H.A.L.O. over the past decade, and garnered plenty of good will. “Everyone always asks about Sarah and H.A.L.O, ” Jack said.