Chris Walsh Center

Monthly Newsletter: March/April

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A center at Framingham State University dedicated to helping families and educators of children with unmet needs.

Welcome from the Center Coordinator:

We are pleased to welcome many new subscribers to our second newsletter! If you are interested in getting more involved with the center, as a member of our advisory board, please contact us and we will include you in an upcoming invitation for our Spring 2021 meeting. This month was a wonderful opportunity to welcome Dan Habib back to Framingham State University for two film screening events. We are also making steady progress on the development of our new website, and making plans for the 2021-22 academic year.

Today I wanted to share with you an important blog post from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), entitled “Acceptance is an Action”, including these powerful words:

“Autism Acceptance Month was created by and for the autistic community to change the conversation around autism, shifting it away from stigmatizing “autism awareness” language that presents autism as a threat to be countered with vigilance. Ten years ago, when Autism Acceptance Month started, advocacy organizations run by non-autistic people spoke openly about working towards a future in which “autism is a word for the history books.” In contrast, autism acceptance emphasizes that autistic people belong — that we deserve welcoming communities, inclusive schools and workplaces, and equal opportunities. In the last ten years, we have seen real progress. Many autism organizations run by non-autistic people initially resisted “acceptance” language; over time, some of them have come to adopt it. We welcome this change.”

I encourage you to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month with us today and throughout the month of April! Educate yourself about the #actuallyautistic community on Twitter and learn about how neurotypical (non-autistic) people can be allies to those within the autistic community.


James Cressey, Ph.D., NCSP

Chris Walsh Center Coordinator

Associate Professor and Chair, Education department


Check Out Our Recent Events:

Both events: "Opening Doors to College" and "Intelligent Lives" were produced by award winning filmmaker, Dan Habib, and include a Q&A.

Learn more about Dan and his work here!

"Opening Doors to College"

The event was held March 25, and featured a screening of Dan Habib’s documentary “Opening Doors to College.” The film follows the increasing inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities into higher education with a focus on how these students immerse themselves into the full college experience at Millersville and Temple Universities. The screening was followed by a panel discussion led by Habib that comprised of students, alumni, parents, and educators. Almost 100 participants were in attendance.

Adam Benincaso and Amir Benincaso both shared about their experiences as Framingham State University students. They have really enjoyed attending college together, especially getting the chance to know other students and taking classes. One favorite memory they both shared was taking Cultural Anthropology with Professor Alberti. Amir explained that he thought "Professor Alberti was a role model professor for the Diverse Scholars Program. He made sure [Adam] was involved and contributed."

A Film By: Dan Habib

Film Website

Screen Shot of the panelists at the opening doors to college event

About the Panelists:

Amy Benincaso: Imrana "Amy" Benincaso is a pharmacist and graduate of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Boston. She has practiced community pharmacy for over 30 years and takes pride in helping others, especially those who need assistance navigating the various aspects of raising a child with special needs. She currently practices for an independent community pharmacy in Wellesley, MA. Amy wants to advance community pharmacy by engaging pharmacy leaders into developing programs that allow this diverse population access to work-life development.

Adam Benincaso: Adam Benincaso attended Framingham State's Diverse Scholars Program in 2018 and 2019. He is currently enrolled in Hopkinton's 18-22 Transition Program for young adults. He enjoys movies, walks, and socializing with friends and family. He loves comics and his favorite trip is to Boston's Comicon convention held every August.

Aamir Benincaso​: Aamir Benincaso is a senior at Framingham State University majoring in liberal studies with a concentration in sociology and psychology. He worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Framingham supporting young learners overcome academic obstacles. He hopes to advocate for people with disabilities, especially those with autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy. He enjoys tennis, fishing, and taking his brother on hikes in nature.

Holly Pearson​: Holly Pearson is a faculty here in the Sociology and Education Department. She identifies as deaf/disabled queer transracial/transnational adoptee. She does not have preferred pronouns. Much of her scholarship is influenced by their experiences growing up navigating the spectrum (such as Spoken English culture to Deaf culture with a capital D, Spoken English to ASL (American Sign Language), Asian, Asian American, Adoptee Community, and Western culture and community norms) very early on. Growing up, she felt like an oddball, which she now embraces and takes delight within.

April Yuen: April Yuen is an AmeriCorps member at City Year Boston. She is currently working with 9th grade students in Math 1 at the English High School. She is a Framingham State University alumni, graduating in 2020. She worked as a peer mentor in the Diverse Scholars Program during her senior year, where her interest in working with students and the field of education has grown.

"Intelligent Lives"

The event was held Feb. 25, and featured a screening of Dan Habib’s documentary “Intelligent Lives.” The film highlights how three adults with intellectual disabilities go about their high school, college, and work lives while challenging held perceptions of intelligence. The screening was followed by a discussion with Habib. 25 participants were in attendance.

A Film By: Dan Habib

Film Website

Archived Webinar Video

A New Website:

That's Right -- a New Website: Coming Soon!

Hi Everyone! My name is Chandler Farley, I am a senior at Framingham State University studying in the Commonwealth Honors Program while earning my Bachelor of Science in Business and Information Technology with dual minors in Computer Science and Marketing. When I started at the Chris Walsh Center this past January as the center’s social media, marketing, and website intern, I grew passionate about building the center a website that was not only user friendly but acted as a place to provide resources for those with unmet needs.

Thus began the first steps in actively working to implement a new website which has been designed with accessibility features in mind. The site will provide information about the center, upcoming events, and a designated space for center evaluated resources. The resources section of the site will be organized to include a variety of topics, including those categorized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Each individual topic will include an introduction, any resources the Chris Walsh Center has surrounding the topic, any affiliated foundations, and a list of ten evaluated resources which themselves will include a link, introduction, and summary of the information. In addition, the “Search By Topic” feature will be implemented in order to provide convenience when searching for a specific category on the website.

The center has already met with two of our Advisory Board members (Nancy Duggan and Gail Palmer) to gain feedback on the layout and initial template of the site. There are plans to meet with the full Advisory Board later this semester when we plan to gather more feedback on the site. The Chris Wash Center team is excited for what is to come and appreciates your continuous support for the center!

Ongoing Drop-In Hours:

Infographic advertising the drop in hours.
We successfully launched our drop-in hours on March 1. Ellen Rose, a graduate student in the Masters of Counseling Program at FSU, has enjoyed meeting with parents this past month. It has been a great opportunity to get to know the parents and educators that use the Chris Walsh Center. Ellen has been able to answer questions, provide resources and offer support.

You can call us at 508-215-5630 or set up a zoom appointment at this link.

Someone is available every:

- Monday at 3:30 - 5:30pm

- Wednesday at 7:30 - 8:30pm

- Friday at 11:00am - 1:00pm

Meet Ellen Rose:

Ellen serves as the the Chris Walsh Center’s first Graduate Assistant for the 2020-21 academic year. This year is completing her first year of the Masters of Arts Program in Counseling Psychology at Framingham State University. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from Stonehill College, and worked as an Admissions Recruiter at Mass Bay Community College for 8 years. She lives in Ashland with her husband and her two children, who she had been homeschooling for the last 8 years. This year both of her children are enrolled in college. She is a member of the Ashland coalition, Decisions At Every Turn, working with parents and families to prevent, reduce, and solve the problems that can lead to youth substance abuse. She also volunteers as a call taker at Call2Talk, a mental health, emotional support, and suicide prevention program run by Mass211. At the Chris Walsh Center, Ellen enjoys working with other parents as they help their children to be happy, healthy, successful learners. In her free time, Ellen spends her days with family on a lake in New Hampshire, swimming, kayaking and taking her dog for walks.

Parent/Caregiver Support Groups

Last fall, from Nov. 16 to Dec. 14, a support group was held for parents/caregivers of students with disabilities or unmet needs regarding how to manage the challenges of remote learning.

The group was held for free every Monday via Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The group offered opportunities for participants to share successes and challenges as well as resources and posts throughout the week in an online group.

The center is looking for feedback while in the process of planning future support groups. Feel free to share your thoughts on what you would like to see in our quick survey.

Click Here to Take Our Parent/Caregiver Survey

Click the blue box above to take our survey about forming a parent/caregiver support group!

Contact us:

About Us:

Mission: To provide information for families and educators about the continuum of educational support available to students with disabilities, students who are gifted, and students with unmet needs. The center will offer support, workshops and other programming for families, educators, student support professionals, administrators, and advocates in the MetroWest area. The center also will engage in scholarly research, educator preparation, and professional development.

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