Category: Education

My Love Affair with Talking Books

Gayle YarnallThis week we introduce Gayle Yarnall, a patron of the Perkins Library and part of the Library Outreach Team whose goal is to spread the word far and wide about library services.

The Talking Book Program is 80 years old and I have been a big fan and loyal patron for 47 of those years.  I somehow got to my senior year in high school without ever being told about talking books. My vision was poor. I could not easily read print. I could never read for pleasure. My mom recorded the books I absolutely needed for school and I faked the rest.

Talking books introduced

It wasn’t like my vision was being ignored. I grew up in Chicago. My parents took me to all the best doctors who tried all kinds of treatments including drugs and very unflattering eye wear.

In my senior year we moved to Florida and I went to a new doctor. This doctor casually mentioned the Talking Book Program and a big ugly record player, the talking book player of the day, moved into my house. The first book I read was Tale of Two Cities. My mom was thrilled she did not have to record it.

Literature becomes a companion

From that book on I was wandering through the garden of literature, both old and new. I discovered travel books and mysteries, historic fiction and political books. I was off and running and I have never stopped.

Talking books followed me from Florida to Colorado and then to Massachusetts. They got me through raising three kids, middle age, and now into “seniorhood”. Is there such a word? They have introduced me to authors from around the world, places I have traveled and places I hope to travel. They have brought me through illnesses and power outages. They have given me endless sources for conversation.

Maybe most important of all they have kept me company.

Now I travel around Massachusetts spreading the word about the Library services. This is like being paid to eat chocolate. I am amazed at how many people don’t know about this service. How can you not love a library that comes to you? How can you not love a service provided by people who love what they do.

Help us to spread the word! Contact the Library at or 1-800-852-3133 or me at

Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library

Imagine a library right at your front door! That is what Perkins Library provides. This month we will learn more about this wonderful resource from our Guest Blogger, Debby Smith, Library Outreach Coordinator for the Perkins School Library.

A Library that delivers

We are the free public library for people who have difficulty reading regular sized print. Audio, large print and braille books are delivered to the homes of our patrons by the US postal workers. No postage is necessary.

Our patrons may have difficulty seeing regular sized print. They may have difficulty holding a book due to a physical condition such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease. Or, they may have a reading disability.

Whatever the reason, if they want to read, we are here.

US Postal Worker

A wealth of resources

And we don’t just have books.

There are magazines, movies, museum passes. Even the opportunity to read over 300 newspapers across the country and from around the world is available by signing up for a service called Newsline. Subscribers access the service by telephone or computer.

Having worked with people who are blind or visually impaired for over 31 years, it is exciting to see how print materials are so much more accessible. The idea that you can listen to today’s newspaper, the entire thing, any time you want, not depending on someone else, is amazing.

Dean Denniston

Books offer lifeline

As the Library Outreach Coordinator, I have the privilege of going into the community to spread the word about the Perkins Library. It is so rewarding to be able to tell people that they can still enjoy reading.

When I meet with patrons they tell me that books are their “lifeline”. Some people say they read more than ever before because there are so many wonderful books available to them. When I talk to new people they cannot believe that this service is here; it is easy, it is accessible and it is free!

person listening to book


For more information about the Perkins Library, or to get an application in order to apply for services, visit our web site at or call 1-800-852-3133.

Also, be sure to read more about our library in the October blogs to follow.

Exploring Complementary & Alternative Therapies

YogaThere are many types of alternative therapies available that support natural self-healing and encourage sense of overall well-being.  Alternative therapies can reduce stress, pain and fatigue.  Where does one begin?   Do your research and decide what is important to you when considering CAM.

The National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is a great starting point to gather basic, reliable information. The following fact sheets were particularly helpful:

What is Complementary or Alternative Medicine (CAM)?
CAM is defined as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine or standard care.  Standard care is what medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy and allied health professionals, such as registered nurses and physical therapists, practice. Examples of CAM therapies include acupuncture, chiropractic, meditation and yoga.

Alternative medicine means treatments that you use in place of standard ones.

Complementary medicine includes nonstandard treatments that you use together with standard ones.

Are You Considering Using CAM?

Tell Your Health Care Provider About Your Use of Complementary Health Practices
Selecting A CAM Practitioner

For Additional Information:

Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine Acupuncture Unit
Massachusetts Board of Registrations of Chiropractors
American Message Therapy Association
American Music Therapy Association, Inc

Check out our website at, to search for various alternative therapies.

Alternative Medicine, Acupuncture, Holistic Health, Music therapy,  and Art therapy.

Wellness Center offers Alternative Healing to People with Disabilities

Reservoir Family Wellness CenterI sat on the couch opposite Dr. Maria Broderick in her new offices. The red and brown earth tones in the room released my concerns of the day. The room glowed in the hue of the light of the setting sun. It was an appropriate setting to discuss Dr. Broderick’s approach to health and healing, in which she adds alternative therapies to more traditional ones.

I was interested in Dr. Broderick’s work at the Reservoir Family Wellness Center. Dr. Broderick directs the art of acupuncture and herbal medicine for families. She focuses especially on families and their children with disabilities.

An integrative approach that works

From the beginning of a child’s life, if that child is born with a disability, parents often receive mixed messages. Dr. Broderick has dedicated her life to helping these families and children by using an integrative approach to caring.

Dr. Broderick specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum and has been successful in addressing a common issue with these children: sensory impairment. One of the ways she treats sensory impairment is through a method called Qigong.

Qigong offers a new method of healing

Years of research show that Qigong Sensory Training can reduce sensory impairment. It can also improve adaptive behaviors in children. Dr. Broderick explains.

“Through Qigong Sensory Training, parents can realize the opportunity to direct their love for their children and their desire for closeness into an intervention that requires only their hands, their heart, their persistence and a few simple instructions to deliver.”

Very simply, qigong provides a way of touching that is not corrective or punitive. Caregiver and child do specific exercises together as a way to expend energy, bond more deeply and grow beyond the developmental delay. This method of healing helps parents learn how they can contribute, through their healing touch, to the health of their child.

Making life more joyful

“My purpose in life is to help anyone whose life is touched by autism and special needs…I want to help find the latest and greatest information available. There are so many ways to save time, money and frustration while making life easier, better and more joyful.”

Dr. Broderick is someone you can count on to help you to support the best vision of the healthy development of our children; all of our children.

Alternative Healing Provides Support for All

Guest Blogger, Kathleen Kopitsky, MS, MDivThis month I am pleased to introduce a friend and colleague, Kathy Kopitsky, Director of Adult Foster Care and Shared Living, who is returning as a guest blogger. While Kathy is a professional in the field of disabilities, this month she shares her personal experience in becoming aware of the value of alternative healing.

Facing a life challenge

My Neurologist finished reading the test results, took off his glasses, looked at me and shrugged, “There is nothing more I can do for you.”

“Really?” Tears were welling in my eyes.

I had been living with a left facial palsy as the result of a viral infection for months. It seemed that everything from my speech to my eating was affected. I wanted this to go away. I had plans for my life, my career. Plans that did not include smiling like Shrek; plans that did not include spitting while I sang in the choir on Sunday morning; plans that had no room for facial palsy.

He put his glasses on and reread part of the report. He looked at me over his glasses and said, “Perhaps you could try acupuncture.”


Acupuncture as an optionReservoir Family Wellness Center

I was totally skeptical. I did not know much about acupuncture as a method of healing. And I had no idea if it could be of use to me. Who would willingly want needles inserted into their body?

After weeks of researching, I decided to visit with a practitioner who was opening a new office near my work place. I set up an appointment after work so that I could stop on my way home.

I chose the Reservoir Family Wellness clinic in West Concord. I made this choice because of the founder of the clinic, Dr. Maria Broderick. According to their website, Dr. Broderick could help me with the pain associated with my facial palsy.

Alternative therapies for people with disabilities

I was also interested to read about how Dr. Broderick has dedicated her practice and her life to working with families, specializing in children with developmental delays including autism. I was not sure what exactly that could mean. However, I have spent my life working in the human services field and wanted to support someone else who did too.
In the waiting room of Dr. Broderick’s new office, among other books and magazines on healing, was a copy of Autism Advocate with an article written by Dr. Broderick. I was warmly welcomed and my treatments began.

In the 6 months of my own treatment —which has gone well— I have had a chance to speak to Dr. Broderick about her work with families dealing with autism.

I want to share what I found with you, dear reader. In the coming weeks I will do just that.

Training Resources for Adults with Disabilities

Teacher with Adult LearnersThere are many trainings for people with disabilities both in state and around the country. The following include those recommended through discussions with self advocacy groups around the state.

Trainings in Massachusetts

Self Advocacy Leadership Series / Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council
Contact Sandy Houghton at 617-770-7676

Offers a ten week self-advocacy leadership program that provides education, training and support to people with developmental disabilities.

Assistive Technology Workshops / Easter Seals
Contact Jeff McAuslin at 774-641-6340,

Easter Seals assistive technology staff share their expertise through informative workshops, course offerings, iPad and product spotlights.

Healthy Sexuality / Relationship Training / DDS Central/West Region
Contact Pat Carney at 413-5083,

Offers sexuality training for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities in agencies, school systems and on an individual basis.

Mass Advocates Standing Strong (MASS)
To schedule a training session contact: 617-624-7549,

Offerings include “How to start a self advocacy group”; “Awareness and Action”, an abuse awareness and action program; and “Explore, Prepare, Act”, an employment training.

Training Resources in other states include curriculum, higher education, webinars and conferences.

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, SABE
P.O. Box 30142
Kansas City, MO 64112

SABE is the self advocacy organization for the United States and their website includes resources for conferences, webinars and publications.

UNH Institute on Disability 
10 West Edge Drive
Suite 101
Durham, NH 03824
phone: 603-862-4320

This comprehensive website offers extensive resources, curriculum, workshops and webinars.

The Pennsylvania Training Partnership for People with Disabilities and their Families
1755 N 13th Street
Student Center
Room 411S
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Contact Carol Csaniz at 1-866-865-6170 or TTY: 1-215-204-1356

The Partnership provides state-wide training, technical assistance, mentoring and leadership development by and for people with disabilities.

Adult Education: A Valuable Resource for People with Disabilities

When I think of the old saying by George Bernard Shaw, “Youth is wasted on the young”, I think I would have to add, “Education is also wasted on the young”. Having returned to college at the age of 53, I truly believe that education as an adult was far more exciting, fulfilling and definitely appreciated than when I was young.

And I don’t think I am alone in feeling this way.

Adult education is valued by all

Adult education, whether it be a bridge class or a masters level course, offers an opportunity to expand our thoughts and explore new subjects. We have all seen the brochures that come in the mail and are often left wondering if it is time to take up piano lessons or join a yoga class. The intent may be social, or you may simply want to improve your life in some way.

As an advisor for a self advocacy group, I have learned that adults with disabilities are interested in further education for the same reasons. For some it is social, yet for many, trainings are a way to improve their lives in a number of areas. From leadership training offered in a Self Advocacy Leadership Series to community employment offered through Explore, Prepare, Act, adults with disabilities are increasing their independence across the state.

Healthier choices

This month, we will learn more about a training that covers a topic near and dear to us all; choosing a healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t just include eating right and exercise but just as important, we will hear more about taking charge of your health in general. With the use of curriculum from an IPAD app, “My Health, My Choice, My Responsibility”, a self advocacy group from HMEA completed a comprehensive training that could be duplicated anywhere in the state.

Their advisor, Pam Green, will share her experience with the training, while a self advocate, Nora McShane, will discuss her experience as a trainer.

Join us this month to learn more about this unique training and how to take responsibility for your own heath.

INDEX Provides Resources to Individuals with Autism in Massachusetts

Multicolored Puzzle Piece Symbolizing Autism Awareness


This month we were fortunate to hear from Amy Weinstock , Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center, (AIRC) at New England INDEX.  The Center provides information and support to self-advocates, family members, providers, employers and educators on issues related to medical insurance for autism treatment.

Amy spearheaded the passage of , “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism” (ARICA), which took effect in Massachusetts on January 1, 2011. Since passage, there have been many questions relating to the implementation of the law, including who is eligible, what treatments are covered and how to access coverage.

For information on any issues concerning insurance coverage for autism-related treatments & services, call AIRC at (800) 642-0249 or email at  Be sure to check out Amy Weinstock’s  monthly webinars, FAQs and to sign up for the insurance updates

Other Helpful Links

New England INDEX  also has an extensive database of disability resources for individuals with ASD; check out our MNIP Autism Fact Sheet for an overview of information.

Autism Speaks also offers a listing of autism resources in Massachusetts  listed by age group & categories.

Autism Support

  • Autism Support Centers
    The Autism Support Centers are a great starting point for parents to get guidance and support with information about autism, services in their area, and future trainings. Many of the staff are parents themselves, bringing a personal perspective.
  • Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM)
    AFAM is dedicated to improving and expanding the funding and resources for Massachusetts citizens with an ASD by educating and informing legislators and policy-makers.
  •  Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE)
    A resource and support center serving the Boston / New England area for individuals with Asperger Syndrome, high-functioning autism and their families. AANE website has a database of support groups, family grants, specialized programs, conferences, trainings and more. For more information and how AANE can help you, call 617-393-3824.

Advisory Committee and Board Resources for People with Developmental Disabilities

CAB member Douglas Russell, Jr. of Worcester with DDS Commissioner Elin Howe and Regional Director, Terry O’Hare.
CAB member Douglas Russell, Jr. of Worcester with DDS Commissioner Elin Howe and Regional Director, Terry O’Hare.

Here are some great opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to have a voice and share their perspective on advisory and policy making boards.

Citizen Advisory Boards (CABs)

Individuals with intellectual disabilities are encouraged to join the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Citizen Advisory Board (CAB) .  The advisory board meets monthly at the local DDS area office.  Citizen Advisory Board members give input on services,  share concerns that  individuals face and provide suggestions for improving services.  Board members also participate in evaluating programs through Family Citizen Monitoring.

As part of the legislative advocacy effort, CAB members also meet with legislators to inform and educate them on important issues. Most importantly, members host recognition events to acknowledge outstanding services.

For additional information about DDS CABs go to Frequently Asked Questions.

Individuals interested in joining a Citizen Advisory Board can obtain a CAB Application or contact Ralph Edwards, the DDS Director of Office of Citizen Leadership, at or call (617) 624-7755.

Additional Resources

Boardsmanship Inclusive and Accessible
This workbook from People First of California Inc. clearly explains the role of board members and preparation for serving on a board.

Get on Board and Make Difference
Effective practices for including people with developmental disabilities as new members on boards and committees is presented in this document.

Facilitation Tips
The Board Resource Center provides this “plain language” check-off list for advocates to ensure they have a voice in public policy.

Facilitation Guide
This Guide is for facilitators offering support to people with developmental disabilities on advisory boards.

The Guide – NASDDDS Handbook on Inclusive Meetings and Presentations
The guide includes resources for conducting accessible meetings, presentations and a checklist for involving people with developmental disabilities.

Not Another Board Meeting, Guide to Building Inclusive Decision-Making Groups
This publication is helpful for support personnel working with people with developmental disabilities interested in being involved in decision making groups.  To order copies call Becky Thrash at (508) 945-9941 or email . You will only be charged for shipping cost.


Being a Board Member is an Honor

Picture of Mary sitting on a couch

This week I introduce Mary Blauvelt as a guest blogger

My name is Mary Blauvelt and I have a developmental disability. But because I have a disability, it doesn’t mean I can’t do the things I want to do.

I go to the Minute Man Arc Day Hab and live at Carter house in West Concord. In my spare time I go to ceramics and chorus. In the last musical I was Tiger Lilly, the Indian princess in Peter Pan. I am also a member of a book club and President of the Minuteman Self Advocacy group. I was also in a walking club until it got too cold.

Becoming a Board Advisor

About a year and a half ago I joined the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Advisory Committee. I have a supporter who brings me to the meetings and helps me when I need help. I like the meetings; I like them a lot. I learn about the things they are doing at Shriver.

At one of the meetings I met John, who came to Minute Man to meet my friends and talk about using computers. It was called a focus group and he wanted to know how easy or hard it was for us to use computers and get on websites. I learned a lot. Now I go into the computer lab at Day Hab and am saving to buy my own in the future.

And a Board Director

I am also very proud to be a member of the Minute Man Arc Board of Directors because everyone can’t be on it. I have a mentor, Liz who talks to me about the agenda before the meeting and helps me at the meetings if I need her. It is an honor. We learn about the programs, and talk about how to make things better

Contributing to the community

I think the other board members like hearing what I have to say. I also get to vote which feels good because everyone doesn’t get a chance to vote on certain things. It is a good way to let your voice be heard.

Even if you are a person with a disability, you can still be on a board. No one can turn you down because you have a disability, but you should be prepared. You can go to a training like I did or maybe just try it out and go to a meeting first to see if you like it. Whatever you do, you should know about the different issues facing people with disabilities today.