Join us at the 37th annual Early Connections Conference on Saturday, May 2, 2020 to learn, build relationships and grow your community of support. You'll meet other families with children who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired from birth to age 7 and hear from professionals in the field. This year's conference will feature a variety of expert-led sessions including:
- ECC Starts Early: Expanded Core for Infants and Toddlers - Learn how to empower your child before they enter preschool.
- Active Learning: Make and Take your Own Piece of Equipment - Create and take home a piece of educational equipment that promotes child participation.
- Social Skill Development for Early Learners - Through a combination of group discussion and instructive videos, learn how to promote social skill development in children who are deafblind or have multi-sensory impairments.
Now through February 29, you can save $10 while securing your spot to this year’s event.
Join us at the Early Connections Conference, Saturday, May 2, 2020! We invite parents and professionals throughout New England to share ideas, learn new strategies and expand your community.
Activities and childcare will be provided by counselors who will be assigned according to each child’s age, ability and special considerations.To ensure the health and safety of all children present at the conference and enrolled at Perkins School for the Blind, please note the following:
- Perkins School for the Blind is a nut-free campus. While you’re welcome to bring your child’s preferred snacks, please leave anything with peanut butter or nuts of any kind at home. If in doubt, please err on the side of safety for all and leave them at home. Perkins will provide meals, snacks and beverages as part of the registration fee.
- Additionally, Perkins’ Lower School building is a fish-free area. This includes tuna, fish oil, and products with fish-based ingredients. Again, when in doubt, please err on the side of caution and leave them at home.
If there is a last-minute change of plans regarding your child’s attendance please call Sharon Stelzer at 617-972-7696 or email Sharon.Stelzer@Perkins.org to leave a detailed message.
Questions? Please call Elizabeth Torrey at 617-972-7475 or email at Elizabeth.Torrey@Perkins.org
Families wishing for assistance in arranging overnight accommodations should contact Jessica Brown at 617-972-7777 or email Jessica.Brown@Perkins.org no later than April 27, 2020. A limited number of rooms are available on campus on a first-come, first-served basis.
One family registration includes up to six adults, four children, lunch, and free childcare with Perkins counselors during all sessions
|Early bird||January 30 - February 29||$35|
|Regular registration||February 29 - April 27||$45|
Doors open - vendors open all day
8:15AM - 9:00AM
Registration and coffee/networking
9:15AM - 10:30AM
10:30AM - 11:30AM
Childcare pick-up for lunch
11:45AM - 12:30PM
12:45PM - 2:00PM
2:00PM - 3:15PM
End of day
Advocacy: Building an Effective Team
Tom Miller, M.S. Masters in Special Education, Educational Consultant
Effective advocacy is based on building a cohesive team that shares common goals for your child and belief in their potential. The goal of advocacy is to ensure your child receives the appropriate supports in order to learn and be part of his or her classroom and school environment. This interactive session will offer perspectives on how to effectively advocate by using your child’s individual family service plan (IFSP) and individual education plan (IEP) and building a team of providers.
ECC Starts Early: Expanded Core for Infants and Toddlers
Brenda Allair M.Ed., Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI), Coordinator of the Infant Toddler Program, Community Programs, Perkins School for the Blind
Amy Pybus, M.Ed., Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI), Community Programs, Perkins School for the Blind
It’s critical for young children with visual impairments to learn as much as possible about their world before they enter preschool. This session will focus on the ways families, caregivers and providers can incorporate skills taught in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) into everyday routines and activities. We will share ideas for play both at home and in the community, as well as specific strategies to help build your child’s skills in all the areas of the ECC.
Financial Planning for Two Generations
Cynthia Haddad, Certified Financial Planner, Special Needs Financial Planner, Affinia Financial Group, co-author of The Special Needs Planning Guide and sibling to a person with special needs
Special needs financial planning means planning for two generations. Many children with a disability must be supported their entire lives, including long after their parents have passed. Our approach reaches beyond the limited boundaries of wills and trusts to provide you with a road map to address your own family's special needs.
Planning for two generations centers upon our Special Needs Planning Timeline™. The timeline highlights the various planning pressure points where parents should be aware of changes relating to their child's benefits, legal and financial issues. The primary focus is to help parents avoid common mistakes and pitfalls in their own planning. We will also discuss the ABLE account and its potential role in planning for your child.
Let’s Get Moving: Orientation and Mobility in a Child’s First Seven Years—and Beyond!
Alana Berg, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), Community Programs, Perkins School for the Blind
Marcy Kammer, M. Ed., Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), Teacher of Students with Visual impairments (TVI), Newton Public Schools
In this session we will discuss techniques for teaching infants and toddlers a variety of orientation and mobility skills. There will be a particular focus on the importance of teaching sensory and body awareness, spatial concepts and the use of anticipators.
Preschool Literacy for Learners with Multiple Sensory Needs
Megan Connaughton, M.Ed., Teacher, Deafblind Program, Perkins School for the Blind
Amanda Lambert, Preschool Teacher, Deafblind Program, Perkins School for the Blind
During this session, we will explore literacy within the preschool curriculum and how lessons can be adapted for learners with multi-sensory needs. We will describe how we assess and determine the best learning media for each individual learner and how to adapt materials and incorporate literacy throughout the school day. This session will include a make-and-take activity for adapting books.
Social Skill Development for Early Learners
Megan Schmittel, M.S., School Psychologist, Deafblind Program, Perkins School for the Blind
An important area of the Expanded Core Curriculum for young children with visual impairment is the development of social skills. This presentation will focus on a variety of ways to promote these skills in children who are deafblind or have multi-sensory impairments. Information will be presented using powerpoint, videos and pictures.
Active Learning: Make and Take Your Own Piece of Equipment
Theresa A. Johnson, Occupational Therapy Board Certified and State Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L), Deafblind Program, Perkins School for the Blind
This session will include a brief summary of the fundamental principles of active learning, an educational approach based on the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen. This approach incorporates the child as an active participant in the learning process. This workshop will include making a piece of equipment designed to facilitate active learning. There will also be a discussion regarding characteristics of materials used and the decision-making process in creating equipment.
Expanding Your Child’s Potential for Visual Improvement
Ellen Cadigan Mazel, M.Ed., CTVI, Director of CVI Project, Perkins School for the Blind
CVI is the leading cause of visual impairment in children in the United States. Due to visual neuroplasticity, there is a possibility of improvement for children in the areas of visual attention and visual recognition, the key issues of CVI. This presentation will discuss diagnosis and assessment methods and appropriate strategies matched to assessment to foster this improvement. We will discuss the essential need for collaboration between medical professionals, parents, early intervention and school-based team members as it relates to diagnosis, assessment and interventions for optimal improvement.
Positioning and Posture: Learn Why Good Habits are so Important
Mindy Benson, Physical Therapist, Thom Charles River Early Intervention Program
When children are not able to sit well on their own or have general strength issues, good seating with supportive positioning is critical to help them develop their vision, fine motor and cognitive skills. Explore why this is so important and learn a few ways to achieve optimal support and positioning using a variety of equipment and seating options. Additionally, learn how you can work with your child’s clinicians and insurers to obtain necessary equipment.
Student Panel - Hear From the Experts!
J. Patrick Ryan, Supervisor of Outreach, Community Programs, Perkins School for the Blind
A panel of middle and high school students with visual impairments will share their first-hand experiences, hopes and dreams, and what they think parents should know in order to most effectively support their own child. This session will allow for questions, so come prepared to ask what you’ve always wanted to know.
Technology at Your Fingertips
Rachel Antonino, M.S., Teacher, Lower School & Early Learning Center, Perkins School for the Blind
Lindsey Lush, Assistive Technology Teacher, Lower School & Early Learning Center, Perkins School for the Blind
This session will provide an overview of technology for students with visual impairment and multi-sensory needs. Explore and learn about a wide variety of fun and educational technologies that can be used to access activities related to both learning and recreation.
Transition IFSP to an IEP
Brenda Allair, M.Ed., Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI), Coordinator of the Infant Toddler Program, Community Programs, Perkins School for the Blind
This session will walk parents through the initial IEP process, with a focus on children with visual impairment and additional disabilities. Learn what you need to know, what to bring and what to ask for going into your child’s first IEP meeting.
Empowering Each Other on Our Journey
Keynote Speaker: Burju Sari, M.Ed., Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI), Community Programs, Perkins School for the Blind
Burju Sari is a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI). The mother of 9-year-old twin boys, her journey started upon learning one of her sons had vision loss, the result of periventricular leukomalacia. After meeting her son’s TVI in 2010, she knew she needed to do something to help other families and became a TVI herself.
In 2015, she earned her Master’s in Education for Teaching Students with Visual Impairment from UMass Boston. Today, she works for Perkins School for the Blind’s Community Programs as an itinerant teacher, specializing in early intervention. Additionally, Sari provides training to teachers and families, locally and in Europe, for how to support children with CVI and low vision.
The Early Connections Conference will be held in Watertown on Perkins' campus. Perkins will provide free child care and lunch for attendees.
Childcare is provided for free to all parent or guardian registrants. Any parent or guardian taking advantage of childcare must provide the following:
- 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 that may help your child feel more comfortable.
Microwaves will be available for you to heat food. Emergency number on the day of the conference is the Administrator for Emergency Coverage hotline (617) 201-7512.
To ensure the health and safety of all children present at the conference and enrolled at Perkins School for the Blind, please note the following:
- Perkins School for the Blind is a nut free campus. While you’re welcome to bring your child’s preferred snacks,please leave anything with peanut butter or nuts of any kind at home. If in doubt, please err on the side of safety for all and leave them at home. Perkins will provide meals, snacks and beverages as part of the registration fee.
- Additionally, Perkins’ Lower School building is a fish-free area. This includes tuna, fish oil, and products with fish-based ingredients. Again, when in doubt, please err on the side of caution, and leave them at home.
Directions by car
Exit the Massachusetts Turnpike (traveling east or west) at Exit 17. Follow signs marked “Watertown,” leading to Galen St. Follow Galen St, crossing bridge to Watertown Square. Bear right (not the hardest right along the river) onto North Beacon St. (Rte. 20). Follow North Beacon St. for about one-half mile to the Perkins campus on the right. Pass the campus entrance and turn right at the light onto Beechwood Ave. Parking lot is on the right.
Directions by public transportation
From the Green Line/Kenmore Station, take Bus #57/Watertown to the last stop, Watertown Yard. Cross the bridge and keep right, following North Beacon St. (Rte. 20). Campus is one-half mile on the right. (About 1 hour)From the Red Line/Harvard Square, take Bus #71/Watertown to the last stop, Watertown Square. With your back to the river, walk to the right following North Beacon St. (Rte. 20). See above. (About 45 minutes)Or, from Green St. and Prospect St. in Central Square, take Bus #70, usually marked “Waltham.” Shortly after the Arsenal Mall, get off at Beechwood St. (tell driver in advance). Follow Beechwood St. to the left for one block. Campus is on the right across the street from Beechwood and North Beacon St. (About 45 minutes)