Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cindy Erbe's Retirement

This week, we are wishing Cindy Erbe best wishes in her retirement. Cindy has been with us for over 30 years and at a party yesterday, there were many hugs and some tears. Several of our students spoke with great warmth of her devotion and committment to them and how much she will be missed.  You will be, Cindy!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter and Passover Greetings

For the sake if this entry lets assume that Spring usually brings with it flowers, sunshine and warmer weather. It also brings two important religious holidays: Easter and Passover. While Passover commemorates the Israelites freedom from slavery, Easter commemorates Jesus' resurrection and ascension.

Embedded within the tale of Jesus' life and death and the tale of the Israelite's fight for freedom lies the common theme of faith and courage.

As we begin to celebrate these important holidays, let us be blessed with faith and courage and I wish you all who celebrate these holidays a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our Adult Services Department Receives Highest Recognition

I am very proud to share with you that our Adult Services department received, from the Department of Developmental Services, in their review of our programs, a Two Year Certification with Distinction. This is the highest level of licensure and agency can receive and it is only awarded to 20% of agencies in the state. Congratulations to each staff person in our residential and day programs for providing the highest level of services and supports and to Jean Rogers, Tara Jordan and Leslie Kelly for their leadership.

I thought you might be interested in some of the comments of the reviewers:

“Since the last review the agency had expanded various options within their residential and day network of supports. In addition to homes providing twenty four hour staff support and home placement services the agency now offered supports of less than twenty four hours. Currently two people were receiving this type of support; each had their own apartment and at least fifteen hours of staff support available. Day supports had been expanded with the opening of a Day Habilitation Center (Life Opportunities Unlimited). The Center emphasized a healthy lifestyle, community engagement, and choice. Staff at the Center included a Registered Nurse, Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, and Behavioral Therapist.

This Licensure Review focused on the Cardinal Cushing Adult Services Program which consists of residential and vocational services for adults with disabilities over the age of twenty-two throughout Southeastern Massachusetts.

South Shore Industries is the vocational component of the agency, which offers employment options such as competitive employment, community based work crews, an onsite work center and volunteer opportunities to fifty-five people. The mission of the agency’s vocational services program is “committed to the exploration, development, and implementation of employment plans that reflect each individual’s preferences, skills, and needs.”

The agency provided strong support for people to take pride in their homes. A continued focus of the agency was to provide homes that reflect a valued presence within their neighborhood and reflect individual’s personal tastes and preferences. This was particularly evident in people’s bedrooms. Pictures of family members, special events and awards won were proudly displayed. Wall colors and themes reflected people’s interests. These continued efforts by the agency fostered homes that were personally meaningful and valued.

Cardinal Cushing Centers had maintained a strong and effective Human Rights Committee (HRC). The HRC met on a quarterly basis and regular attendance by all members with the required expertise was noted. Meeting minutes indicated a review of incident reports, behavioral interventions, investigations, and review of annual site visits by members. Individuals and staff were trained in human rights with weekly meetings being held within each home to discuss different human rights issues in more depth.

The agency had continued to strengthen its safeguard systems in the areas of financial management. In addition to the assurance that funds were accurately tracked an increased emphasis was placed on the development of skills to increase people’s independence with their finances.

Support in the area of nutrition had also received increased attention. Staff and those receiving support received training on healthy food choices and the availability of healthy food within the homes was routinely monitored by supervisory staff. Several people who participated in the review had made significant progress in achieving goals related to optimal weight.”

Please join me in congratulating our Adult Services Team.

Monday, March 22, 2010

South Shore Religious Educators

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to religious educators representing various South Shore parishes, churches and the Archdiocese at a meeting at St. Mary's in Hanover. I talked about inclusion in religious life for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This has been an area of special interest for me since the 1980's.  In a touch of irony, as I look out at the Kennedy building, one of the first times I spoke to a similar group was by the invitation of Eunice Kennedy Shriver when she assembled a group of clergy and lay people from various faiths to address the issue in 1988.  We have made such progress in this area and to be among so many dedicated educators who provide inclusive opportunities for students made for an inspiring morning.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thanks to Hill Holiday Employees

Volunteers from Hill Holliday recently helped renovate a classroom at Cardinal Cushing School. They used all these amazing products that Rustoleum makes.  Here are some of the Hill Holiday team.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bass Cafe Opens for Dinner and Birthday Parties at Cushing

The Bass Cafe, where students operate a bakery, open to the public six days a week, launched a new initiative Friday night.  On this night, it became a private resturant. Students were able to make reservations and come to dinner with friends or even a date. As with everything we do, it was a teaching experience for our students from inviting someone to dinner and saving money to pay for dinner to grooming skills and resturant manners. Other students were able to be wait staff and practice employment skills. While nothing takes the place of a resturant in the community, most of our students have never had the opportunity to be completely independent in community resturants. Even at fast food places, family members or staff are usually around.  The Bass Cafe provides an important bridge to independence and something new for residential students-a fun and inexpensive place for dinner. We hope to continue to operate the Bass Cafe dining experiences. Thanks to Anne Matheson and Terri Keenan of our Recreation Department for this new initiative. Enjoy the picture of two of our diners.
There is even more to share today-our Recreation Department is at it again. This time, Director, Tom McElman, is offering Birthday Parties at the Hanover school. Let us help you plan and design the perfect party for your child using our outdoor pool, inside gym, our climbing walls and adventure course. We provide the qualified trained staff, paper good and refeshments.  Call Tom at 781-829-1295 or email him at to start building the perfect birthday party where children of all ages and all abilities have fun.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Transition Handbook

I have spent more than a decade interested in the transition from school to adult life for individuals with intellectual disabilities. What began as a quest to make sure that my son had a meaningful life when he finished school developed into a professional interest.  I began working with families to help them in transition, developed innovative programs and solutions and began presenting workshops throughout the country and even in Ireland and Japan!  At one of my workshops, four years ago, Dennis McGuire, PhD and Co-Director of the Adult Down Syndrome Clinic at the Lutheran General Hopsital in Illinois, told me that my workshop ought to become a book. Since, I have great respect for his work and opinion and  his own book had recently been published, I decided to give it a try. It has been a long process, but my book was accepted to be published by Woodbine House and is actually being printed this week. While the book will benefit any family with a child with an intelelctual disability, the publisher decided that it belonged in their Down syndrome series. They have determined that more books are sold when specific diagnosis are used in the title; like Down syndrome or autism. Even if your child does not have Down syndrome, I am sure the book will be of great value to you and the only items which may not be relevant are the references to the connection between Down syndrome and Alzheimers, obesity and heart defects. The information on funding, legal issues, housing, employment, family issues, testing, eligibility and everything else in the book will help any family with a child over the age of 13.  Check it out:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Taking the Plunge

In spite of last weekends unseasonable warm temperatures, taking a plunge into the cold Atlantic Ocean in the winter seems crazy. Unless, you are talking about The Passion Plunge, which raises money for Special Olympics Massachustts.  It's a wild idea-teams are formed, people pledge money and committed (and slightly crazy) people jump into Nantasket and Revere Beach. Our Adult Services Special Olympics Program had a team of plungers under the direction of Team Captain and Volunteer Coordinator Margaret Lelakes (who by the way won for "best costume"-she's the duck in yellow). They raised over $1500 in the plunge for our team and together with other donations, have ensured that our spring and summer teams are set for their upcoming seasons. Thank you to our Cardinal Cushing Plungers and those who sat in the "chicken coop" instead of jumping into the sea.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Important Article in Yesterday's Boston Globe


Hold up on cuts to special needs

By Thomas Hehir and Steven Rothstein
March 3, 2010

THE LEGISLATURE and Governor Patrick are engaged in the budget process, an arduous task even in good economic times. Education has always been a primary function of state government, and the governor recognizes this with a proposed 5 percent increase in the general education fund.

But for students with complex needs, the proposed budget cuts services almost in half, possibly denying them the quality education to maximize their chance to take part fully in society. The budget would shrink reimbursements to school districts that send students with complex educational needs to specialized private schools. Out of $230 million in this fund called the “circuit breaker,’’ the fiscal year 2010 budget cuts $90 million, or 39 percent. The governor’s 2011 budget cuts another $5 million, or a total of 41 percent. Not only are cuts of such magnitude unequal, they penalize children who have some of the most pressing educational needs.

Most children in Massachusetts should be fully educated in neighborhood schools, but cutting circuit breaker funds puts tremendous pressure on communities unable to accommodate them. It is unreasonable to expect every district to have a full array of special services for every student who is blind, deaf, deafblind, physically disabled, has medical problems, or cognitive disabilities.

On the other hand, limiting services to children with complex needs unfairly deprives them of adequate preparation for adulthood. Private specialized schools complement public schools by serving those who need intensive training from highly skilled professionals. They offer different services, but are united in the overarching goal of communities to educate their children. That is why the state created the circuit breaker in the first place.

With special services at their public school, most children with disabilities thrive in the mainstream. A few with severe or multiple disabilities find it impossible to fit in. Some public schools may not be able to fund specialized teachers, adaptive technology and other special accommodations. Students may be isolated, marginalized. In such circumstances, the district recommends a specialized school setting in which these students can participate fully in academics and social activities, where their own abilities - not traits beyond their control - drive learning.

Specialized schools have unique expertise, making them incubators of innovation. They positively impact the entire system through an array of cutting-edge student programs and teacher training that, in turn, strengthen their community-based services. Without such centers of innovation and training, 6,000 children with complex medical, learning, and sensory needs across Massachusetts would be undereducated. Thousands more in mainstream classrooms would miss out on the optimal education they could receive from outreach programs, or from teachers who are trained through these schools.

There are economic, social and academic arguments for funding the circuit breaker that pays for specialized school tuitions. There is an inescapable moral imperative, too. If it is true that the worth of any society is measured by how well it treats its citizens that need assistance to fully engage in life’s opportunities, then the Commonwealth will be judged by how well it educates and cares for the most vulnerable children. Children who are blind, deaf, physically disabled, cognitively impaired, or emotionally ill need to have the full spectrum of educational options.

As citizens we must all speak for these students. We want to ensure they are taught all that they can learn, and give them an equal chance to become productive members of society. Providing the best education possible for every child is not a choice, it is our obligation to the future.

Thomas Hehir is professor of practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, a member of the Perkins School for the Blind Board of Trustees, and former director of the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education. Steven Rothstein is president of Perkins School for the Blind.

My Visit to the Marion Center

Last week, I was invited to visit the Marion Center, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph B. Cottolengo of Italy, who came to  Miami, at the request of Bishop Coleman Carroll in 1963 to develop a school and support services for children with intellectual disabilities.  With growth, they have developed in a similar way to us and I met with several of their Sisters. Under the vibrant leadership of Sister Lucia, who at age 89, inspires everyone around her with her wisdom, intellect and great sense of humor. Some of our veteran staff may even remember her visit to Hanover a few years ago-she recalled the trip with fondness and even her trip through our tunnels.