Early Connections Conference

A young female student in the middle of an exercise with her mother sorting tactile objects in containers.
April 30, 2016 - 8:15am to 3:15pm
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Lower School
United States
175 North Beacon Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Image of a student laughing and playing on a tactile playground with his older sister smiling and looking on.
Families make the best teachers

Your child's first and most important teachers are her family members. Discover why the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) is a critical part of your child's education, and learn how to incorporate ECC concepts into everyday activities at this year's Early Connections Conference, which has been bringing parents and professionals together for more than 30 years to share, network and learn.

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Free childcare available • Lunch provided

8:15am – 9:00am
Registration and coffee

Welcome and introductions

9:15am – 10:30am
Morning concurrent sessions (choose from sessions below)

10:30am – 11:30am
Parent to Parent Group
Professional to Professional Group with Millie Smith

Parents pick up kids for lunch

11:45am – 12:30pm

12:45pm – 2:00pm
Afternoon concurrent sessions (choose from sessions below)

2:00pm – 3:15pm
Keynote Address: One Parent's Perspective and Tips for Your Journey
Emily Coleman, Director of Outreach, Washington State School for the Blind

Breakout Sessions

The Visually Accessible Environment: Modifying Your Home for Your Child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) with Gail Feld, M.Ed.
Gail will present a short summary of the 10 characteristics of CVI and how to modify your home for children with CVI, emphasizing children who are just beginning to use their vision.

Speech/Language Concerns that Arise When Blindness/Vision Impairment and the Autism Spectrum Overlap with Elizabeth Field, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Elizabeth will share an overview of communication concerns and intervention suggestions for young blind or visually impaired children who also have characteristics of autism. A 45 minute presentation focused on four levels of language development common to the autism spectrum (nonverbal; emerging language; echolalia; highly verbal with social communication issues) followed by 30 minutes of questions, discussion and/or more specifics about one or more of the four language levels.

The CVI Literacy Matrix: Understanding How to Connect Literacy Across All Three Phases of CVI with Yvonne Locke, M.Ed.
Yvonne will provide an introduction to The CVI Matrix, a tool to assist families and teachers in understanding how to connect literacy and CVI. The Matrix connects literacy principles to accommodations and instructional strategies for each of the three Phases of CVI with consideration to the CVI characteristics of complexity of object, complexity of array and novelty.

Orientation and Mobility for the Playground with Eric Shaw, TVI, COMS
Eric will provide an overview of activities that integrate orientation and mobility skills into an everyday playground visit.

Growing Good Communicators with Millie Smith, Consultant, developer of the APH Sensory Learning Kit and Symbols and Meaning Kit
Millie will share a guide to teaching effective communication skills to children with sensory impairments. Without effective intervention, these children may have very little to talk about because their access to sensory information about people, objects, actions, and places is limited. This session will explain how parents and teams must teach communication skills in mutually enjoyable social interactions designed to overcome sensory barriers to understanding.

Early Intervention to Pre-School Transition for Children who are Deafblind with Marguerite Tibaudo, M.Ed.
Marguerite will discuss and provide examples of pre-school program components (communication philosophies, curriculum, strategies, accommodations and learning environments) that are designed to meet the educational needs of young children who are deafblind.

Strategies for Developing Feeding Skills in Young Children with Elizabeth Torrey, MS, CCC-SLP
Elizabeth will provide an overview of the developmental progression of typical feeding skills and then will discuss problems that some children experience with eating. Strategies will be provided for parents to help develop feeding skills in children where this is a challenge.

Image of Keynote Speaker, Emily Coleman, smiling outside on a fall day.
Keynote Speaker

Emily Coleman, Director of Outreach, Washington State School for the Blind
Based on her experiences while raising a child who is blind, Emily will share personal anecdotes and quotes from her blog on familyconnect.org while also highlighting resources she found helpful along the way. By sharing her story, Emily hopes parents feel validated and understood, and most importantly not alone. Raising a child with special needs is unique, and connecting with others is the key to survival. Hearing another say "Me, too!" or "I know what you mean!" is rare for us, and Emily seeks to make those connections for parents like her, as well as for herself.

General Information

Activities and childcare will be provided for children by counselors who will be assigned according to each child's age, disability, and special considerations.

Please call Sharon Stelzer at 617-972-7696 or email Sharon.Stelzer@Perkins.org and leave a message if there is a last minute change of plans regarding your child's attendance, or if you would prefer to bring your own sitter.

Questions? Please call your state contact or Pam Sanderson at (617) 972-7432, Perkins School for the Blind, or email Pam.Sanderson@Perkins.org.

For assistance in arranging overnight accommodations or questions regarding registration, please contact Pam Sanderson at (617) 972-7432 or email Pam.Sanderson@Perkins.org no later than April 22, 2016. A limited number of rooms are available on campus on a first-come, first-served basis.

Parent Responsibilities
  • A written schedule for your child's medications, meals, naps, and any other special instructions.

  • Administration of all your child's medications and management of G-tube feedings.

  • Labeling your child's clothes, toys, and/or special equipment.

  • Any special equipment (stroller, porta-crib, highchair, wheelchair, etc.) and food or feeding equipment which may help your child feel more comfortable.

Early Connections Conference logo of three figures holding hands.
Taking Care of Our Children…Taking Care of Ourselves

Each spring for over 30 years, professionals and parents of children with visual impairments have come together for the Early Connections Conference to share, network and learn about the latest strategies and resources to develop the best education for their child. This year, come see how families make the best teachers and learn how to teach the Expanded Core Curriculum at home.


Event Date: 
April 30, 2016 - 8:15am to 3:15pm
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