Director's Update

What's Going On In Special Education In Bedford

Autism Acceptance Month

By: Tina O'Donnell, Special Educator, SAIL Program at BHS

Sara McCarthy, Adjustment Counselor, SAIL Program at BHS


April is World Autism Awareness Month. Bringing awareness to Autism means hearing from the perspectives of individuals on the spectrum and their thoughts on this annual event. Unlike some other awareness campaigns, Autism Awareness month is not universally liked by the Autistic community. The Autism Society of America, and many other advocacy groups, continue to campaign to change the name to Autism Acceptance Month. Another recent shift has been with the puzzle piece symbol, which many in the community feel is too closely related to the idea of people with Autism “not fitting in” to societal expectations. The infinity symbol is now being widely embraced.


Here are some quotes from individuals on the Autism Spectrum that represent this sentiment:

“For us, ‘acceptance’ signifies acknowledgement of our differences, while ‘awareness’ suggests that they’re merely tolerated. When autistic people say we want acceptance over awareness, what we’re essentially saying is society needs to change, not us.”


“Autism is a major part of a person’s identity and treating it like a problem to be solved is demeaning. Awareness is not enough and acceptance is the conversation we need to be having”


“The most radical act you can perform as an ally to Autistic people is to accept them exactly as they are and beyond that to celebrate them and their neurotype.”


In 2023, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. are diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many members of our BPS community are touched by Autism, including students, staff, and community members. This month, we celebrate neurodiversity and inclusivity for all, especially those with Autism.


In an effort to highlight Autism Acceptance Month, the BHS Library will post a series of Instagram pieces that include direct words from our SAIL program students. Please follow @BedfordHSLIB and stop by the library in April, to see our Autism Awareness display.

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Tero's Art

Tero Humble is a student in our SAIL program at JGMS. Tero always has a smile on his face and can often be found doing what he loves most, drawing. Over the years, Tero has developed into quite the artist. His mother, Sheila, celebrates Tero's artistic abilities on a website she began, terosart.com. According to the website, Tero began drawing when he was 15 months old! Sheila has turned Tero's art into hoodies, stickers and t-shirts that can all be purchased on the website.

In the picture below, Tero's teachers are all wearing shirts designed by Tero! Tero is shown displaying his newest piece of artwork.


Check out Tero's art website: https://www.terosart.com/

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March 17th Professional Development (PD) Day

On March 17, 2023, staff across the district participated in various professional development opportunities. We were very privileged to have had to Alex Hirshberg, Psy.D provide professional development for the Bridge staff across the district and the STEP staff from BHS. Alex's specialty is program development for in-district social-emotional programs. He has a keen understanding of how these programs work in schools and the interventions that should be provided in these programs. He is an engaging speaker and just a really nice person who cares greatly for children. Alex will continue working with our Bridge and STEP programs during the rest of this school year.


The day was focused on three main topics:

  • Understanding the Student with an SLD in Emotion Regulation
  • In-District Social Emotional Programs: Skill Building and Role Definitions
  • Inclusion Planning: Social-Emotional Program Development Best Practices


Feedback from staff:

  • "Thanks, Marianne! Alex is wonderful - such a great use of a PD day :)"
  • "This was the best PD I've had since I've been in the district!"


While this was a great opportunity for the Bridge and STEP staff, the rest of our special education staff were also busy and engaged in equally great learning opportunities.

The counselors attended Resiliency Building Training.

The preschool team engaged in PD on Fundations.

The special educators participated in PD with their peers:

Davis: The Science of Reading

Lane: Writing

JGMS: Keys to Literacy

BHS: Curriculum reviews

NEW IEP Form

On Friday, March 24, I met with area Special Education Directors to learn about the DESE's Special Education Planning and Policy team's announcement of a newly updated IEP form for schools and district which is a key part of DESE’s comprehensive Individualized Education Program (IEP) Improvement Project. The form has not been updated comprehensively since 2001, and the updated form reflects input from various stakeholders over the past several years to make it more current and more responsive to the strengths and needs of students with disabilities.


Bedford's special education staff will take part in trainings during the 2023-2024 schools year before we begin using of the new form in the 2024-2025 school year. We'll be sure to keep you updated along the way.

Shout out!

Congratulations and thank you to Erica Colbath, Coreen Garith and Sheila Mehta Green for your advocacy and facilitation of the sensory friendly production of Frozen Jr. I also want to recognize and thank the many staff, parents and student volunteers who helped this dream become a reality. There was so much work and effort that went into making sure it all ran smoothly. It couldn't have been done without each and every one of you stepping in to help. THANK YOU! It was a huge success! This is what inclusion looks like in Bedford!

The Science of Well-Being for Teens

* From Marshall Memo 978 March 20, 2023


A Free Online Course for Teens on Happiness

In this Washington Post article, Lindsey Bever reports on how the most popular course

at Yale – Psychology and the Good Life – has been retooled into a free, online, six-week course for teenagers. It uses TikTok-length videos to highlight common misconceptions about happiness and teach about the behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that produce mental well-being.


There’s an urgent need for this kind of intervention, say mental health professionals,

because U.S. adolescents are in a mental health crisis. It was in full swing before the pandemic; in 2019, 44 percent of high-school students reported persistent sadness or hopelessness, with nearly 20 percent saying they had considered suicide, and 9 percent attempting to end their lives. Covid-19 made things worse, with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-injury, and suicidal ideation. “The rites of passage for teenage-hood were disrupted,” says psychologist/author Mary Alvord. Young people missed out on parties, homecoming dances, graduation ceremonies, and everyday interactions with their peers.


“We’re not taking care of our young people today if we’re not giving them strategies to

navigate all the complex societal pressures that they face,” says Laurie Santos, the Yale

psychology professor who taught the original happiness course. “We need to know the

appropriate ways to listen to them and to react to them, so that we can understand the message that things like sadness or anxiety or anger might be sending and then channel them in an appropriate direction.”


https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2023/01/23/yale-happiness-course-teens/


https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being-for-teens

Endicott College's FREE VIRTUAL Annual Parent Autism Confernece

Endicott College's Institute for Applied Behavioral Science is hosting our annual FREE virtual Parent Autism Conference on Sat., April 29


Register: https://t.e2ma.net/click/7sjuoe/n57hmxkb/fr3a8m


About: Please join us on Saturday, April 29 2023 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. EST for our FREE virtual Annual Parent Autism Conference for families/caregivers of individuals with Autism, as well as for BCBAs/professionals*.

Workshop topics include parent training, identifying quality ABA intervention, helping picky eaters, toilet training, demystifying IEPS, and so much more.

Our keynote panel speakers are Brielle Williams, Audrey Vogel, and Kaelynn Partlow, and is entitled: Powerful Autistics Coming Together: Sharing Perspectives of Three Autistic Women.

W e hope to see you there!

We will send out all links for the conference via email to all registered attendees one week prior to the event

* there are no CEUS being offered for this event

P LEASE CONTACT kjohnson@endicott.edu WITH ANY QUESTIONS

Behavioral Health Resouces

Massachusetts recently launched the new Behavioral Health Help Line and established 25 Community Behavioral Health Centers as part of the Roadmap for Behavioral Health Reform. These programs are designed to increase access to mental health and substance treatment and offer insurance-blind behavioral health crisis services to anyone in the state.

The state Department of Mental Health also has a Behavioral Health Roadmap Toolkit at mass.gov/BHtoolkit with public awareness and informational materials to spread the word about the help line and Community Behavioral Health Centers. School and district leaders are asked to please share this toolkit with their communications staff, community engagement team, and anyone else who may benefit from these materials.

Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC)