Chris Walsh Center
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A center at Framingham State University dedicated to helping families and educators of children with unmet needs.
"Autism Goes to College" Film Screening Recap
"It was amazing. I am a director of a small school (18 students grade 6-12) of students who are neurodiverse. We had our first graduate of 1 and this year will have 3. We are working on college and career readiness. This film made it more real and helped to show us what we need to do better and how we can help support students and families moving forward."
"It was a great film and wonderful that you could show it live in person and online."
"It was a fantastic look into life of college students with special needs. It gives me hope for our son."
"I loved it. I'm glad it was put together. Thank you to the ones who made it happen!"
"Very educational and inspiring. This film deepened my understanding and my appreciation for the challenges and the potential of neurodiverse students."
"I am a director of a small non-profit school that serves autistic students in grade 6-12. This would be perfect for them to see as we are preparing them for work and/or college. It would also be valuable for their parents."
"I have had a number of students with autism in my classroom over the years and I am absolutely one of those faculty members who wishes more training were readily available so I can do an even better job of meeting the needs of all the students in my classroom. This was an excellent film and I am appreciative that the Chris Walsh Center put on this event."
"This program exceeded my expectations. I did not realize that the Q&A was hosted by the [executive producer] and Autism scholar. Thank you for opening this program to colleagues outside of your institution. The film was beautiful."
Thank you to everyone who attended!
Support for Caregivers: Navigating the MA Special Education System Recap
Throughout the month of March, Courtney Edman, an MS, PT, and CEIS, and Carol Cohen, a M.Ed. and CAGS, hosted a caregiver support group. The focus of the group was on navigating the special education system in Massachusetts. Each week focused on a different aspect of the system:
Week One: Laws, Identification, and Referral
Week Two: Eligibility and Accommodations
Week Three: All About Developing The IEP
Week Four: Proposed 504s and IEPs, What’s Next?
Week Five: Transition Planning
The group was a great success. Each participant filled out a survey at the conclusion of the five weeks and all said they would recommend the Chris Walsh’s support group to other parents and educators. Here is what participants said about the group:
“All the topics were helpful. I don't have any additional questions that I can think of ~ the facilitators were really good about taking time to answer everyone's questions during the meetings.”
“It was very helpful. I didn't know about ways to challenge IEP without an advocate.”
“I found the discussions and packet very helpful.”
“It was wonderful!”
Resources shared during the group are available now through the Chris Walsh website.
Outgoing Chris Walsh Staff Reflect on Time at the Center
Ellen Rose, Graduate Assistant
I will be graduating with my master’s in Counseling Psychology this May and I have been working for the Chris Walsh Center for three years. I have really enjoyed the opportunity the Chris Walsh Center has given me to use my education and my life experience to help parents understand the special education process and get the help their children need. I have learned a great deal as I planned and participated in events like book discussions on parenting, autism and education, a panel presentation on the transition process, and planning on-campus events like the workshop by Dr. Liza Talusan, author of “The Identity Conscious Educator,” and the film screening of “Autism Goes to College. I loved having the opportunity to connect with parents by running a support group and offering consultation appointments. I also enjoyed working closely with several amazing undergraduate students as I supervised them during their internships. In addition to all of this, I learned so much from working with and being guided by Dr. Cressey and Dr. Therese Ajtum-Roberts.
Amanda Bedard, Intern
Throughout this year I have been fortunate enough to work as an intern at the Chris Walsh Center here at FSU! What first started as a search for an on-campus job with flexible hours to accommodate pre-practicums and education courses, ended up being an incredible experience that I won’t forget! I first heard about this opportunity from Dr. Cressey, who sent the internship information to education students. I was immediately interested because I was looking for a job that I could learn a lot from for my future career as a teacher. This position checked off all of the boxes.
Throughout my time here at the center I have learned so much that I wasn’t expecting! One of the biggest things I was able to accomplish was adding to the “Ask the Expert” series that we post on Youtube! The goal of this series is to bring in experts to talk about commonly asked questions or topics that would benefit the local community. My favorite thing about this experience was that my boss Therese allowed me to be involved in the entire process! From meeting with the experts, to filming and editing their videos, and creating PowerPoints to
be posted, I felt so accomplished that I was able to see the entire project from start to finish. I had so much help along the way and I never felt scared to ask questions, the whole staff was so supportive and encouraging and they celebrated every win (from mastering iMovie editing!) and helping me through every challenge (the process of mastering iMovie editing!) Having that level of feedback and support available really gave me the confidence to continue working to expand skills that were very new to me. I felt encouraged to go outside of my comfort zone and take risks, as well as connect with people across multiple fields and pick their brain about these topics.
As an education major this was so eye opening because I got to learn more about things that could impact my future students - topics such as Dyslexia, the IEP process, Neurodivergence, and Executive Functioning skills just to name a few! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to not only learn about these topics, but also be a small part of making this information more widely available for the public. Therese played a huge role in helping me understand why it is so important to create these resources for people who need them. Seeing her enthusiasm and passion for this work also made me invested, and this quickly became more than just an on-campus job, but something I am proud to be a part of and will be sad to leave behind!
Leighah Beausoleil, Center Communications Assistant
The Chris Walsh Center has served as a foundational portion of my education here at Framingham State. I initially became a part of the Center’s staff in January 2020 right before its grand opening. As a brand-new center with an aim at serving the MetroWest community, the Center was in desperate need of strong communication platforms to spread the word of all it has to offer. I was able to manage the Center’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, website, and even the newsletters - like the one you’re reading right now - over the course of the past three and a half years. As a student studying journalism, this work was exactly what I needed to grow my skillset and portfolio! From vetting resources to making design choices, I was able to learn so much from this Center and its wonderful staff. In addition to the communication skills I gained, I also learned more about the special education system and neurodiversity. I was even inspired by the work I do at the Center to write a 10,700-word feature story focused on the transition to college for a student who is both non-binary and neurodivergent, which was published in our University’s student newspaper, The Gatepost. I want to thank James and Therese for all they do for this Center. It would not be what it is today without the two of you and all the student staff members we’ve had throughout the years. I have learned so much from you all!
We want to hear from you!
Click the blue box above to take our survey about how we can best serve the needs of parents and caregivers!
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Resource of the Month
The Asperger/Autism Network
The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) helps people on the Autism Spectrum and those with neurodiverse profiles build meaningful, connected lives. They provide individuals, families, and professionals with information, education, community, support, and advocacy - all in an inclusive atmosphere of validation and respect. AANE was founded in 1996 by a small group of concerned parents and professionals and is one of the first Asperger-focused organizations in the United States. The staff of AANE are professional social workers and educators with expertise in Asperger profiles. Many of their staff have children, siblings, or other relatives or friends with Asperger profiles, and the work performed at AANE affects them at a very personal level. Employees with Asperger profiles are also an integral part of the AANE staff. AANE is a nonprofit organization that provides both free and fee-based services. Some of the services provided include support groups, social groups, education, coaching and scholarships. For more information on the Asperger/Autism Network go to their website at https://www.aane.org/.
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