Latest Event Updates

Program Highlight: The IDEAL Program at Francis Wyman Elementary School, Burlington

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L to R, top row. Christine Newton, aide; Janet Cappola, Physical Therapist; Dennis Gougan, Teacher; Susanne Carbone, Nurse; Teacher, Pat Hansen; Nurse, Deb Regan; Occupational Therapist L to R, Bottom row: Mary D'Addario, Speech Therapist; Anne Harbour, aide; Maria Cormier, Teacher

Individual Developmental Education for All Learners

The philosophy of the LABBB I.D.E.A.L. Program is that every child has the right to an individualized education that will help them learn to the best of their ability no matter what their disability. We serve a variety of disabled children ages 5-11 in grades Kindergarten through Five. The children’s special needs conditions include, but are not limited to cerebral palsy, visually impairment, seizure disorders and neurological impairments. All of our children have some degree of motor and language impairment.

Housed in the Francis Wyman Elementary School in Burlington our program is an eleven month program. That includes the ten school months as well as a camp program that runs half days during the month of July. We offer two small classes no larger then six students per class. Each classroom is staffed with a special education teacher, a nurse and at least one assistant. We offer services in the area of Physical Therapy, Occupation Therapy, Speech & Language, and Social Services. Using assistive technology the children work on basic communication skills, including augmentative alternative means of communication, gross and fine motor skills cognitive skills and early self-care skills. All of our children work on individual education plans where they develop cognitive skills at there own pace.

We are a small specialized program with the benefits of being involved in a large public school. We follow an inclusion model whenever it is appropriate. At any given time you might see students in a school play, participating in regular recess, or studying the subject of wind while flying kites with a regular education class. Weekly we join our voices together in the “Big Sing” group along with other special education classrooms in our school. The children also partake in community experience programs whenever possible,  such as bowling in Woburn, Bowlarama and school curriculum related fieldtrips.


LABBB Team Meeting Workshop

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On January 30, LABBB Collaborative held a “Team Meeting Workshop” for LABBB administrative staff and administrative staff who work in the LABBB districts to work on developing an I.E.P. protocol for Team meetings.  The goal of this workshop was to discuss facilitation models, laws and regulations under I.D.E.A.  and best practices that will promote more efficient and productive I.E.P. meetings.

Sally Smith, the LABBB/EDCO/CASE special education professional development coordinator, facilitated this meeting.  Sally was the former Special Education Director in Belmont.

All participants who attended this meeting have a significant amount of expertise chairing I.E.P. meetings, therefore, the discussions was very interactive.  Furthermore, this was also a learning opportunity because of the in depth knowledge of special education that the group has and we appreciated all the comments and suggestions that were offered.

A Team meeting protocol document will be created that will outline all components of a Team meeting.  The objective is for all staff to understand the expectations of the I.E.P. process and increase communication among all team members. Training for staff who attend I.E.P. meetings will also be conducted when the final protocol is completed.


“Team Meeting Workshop” participants included:

Sally Smith,  Special Education Professional Development Coordinator

Ken Kramer, Belmont, Director of Special Education

Tom Riley, LABBB, Life Skills and Admissions Coordinator

Jon Pike, LABBB, Program Director

Nicole McDonald, Burlington, Out of Distict Liaison

Jimmy Kelly, LABBB, Program Director

Nancy Campbell, Arlington, Out of District Liaison

Joe Brescia, LABBB, Program Coordinator

Sandy Goldstein, LABBB, Program Director

Barbara Fortier, Lexington, Out of District Liaison

Sarah Orlov, Bedford, Assistant Special Education Director

Mary Jane Weinstein, Belmont, Assistant Special Education Director

Dianne Costello, LABBB, Program Coordinator

Karen Conway, LABBB Vocational Coordinator

Patric Barbieri, LABBB, Executive Director

The LABBB Photography Club

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The LABBB Photography club was a vision of Theresa Leblanc,Vocational counselor, and Betsy Kidder, Occupational Therapist in the LABBB Collaborative.  For those of you who have attended the LABBB photography club exhibits you have experienced a new feature of our program that is very unique!

Three years ago Theresa and Betsy Kidder, LABBB Occupational therapist, offered their first photography course for students in the LABBB Program.  This has been a project that has received a significant amount of recognition and the student photographs have been on display at Wilsons Farms, Lexington High School, and Citibank.  Furthermore, Hewlett Packard has also contacted the club to inquire about donating digital camera’s, a school committee member  has been interested in having the students work displayed in the community and the photography club has had articles in the Lexington Minuteman, Boston Globe and the Council for Exceptional Children on-line magazine.

The photography clubs “unveiling” exhibits have been exciting events.  This is an evening event where the students photographs are shown to the public. The attendees have included: current LABBB students, family, family friends and relatives, LABBB staff , building staff among many others.

Below are some links if you would like to look at more pictures that have been taken by the students.  They are remarkable pieces of work.  Not only have we been impressed by the students ability to create these works of art, but it has also been a positive social experience for all our students.

"Unveiling" Exhibit, December 5, 2008
"Resting Rusted Bikes"


Betsy Kidder, LABBB O.T. and Kathleen T.

"Four Bouyant Boats"

"Leaning Steeple"


To view more pictures and articles about the LABBB photography club, please visit the sites below.

  • Link to the LABBB Photographers Website:

  • Link to Boston Globe Article

  • The Boston Globe article was also featured in the Council on Exceptional Children C.E.C. online magazine and was called, “Young Artists use Photography to view the World.”  The link is below.  Go to the section on Eye on Exceptionalities.


Program Highlight: “Career Directions Program” at Minuteman Regional High School, Lexington

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LABBB Collaborative, in partnership with Minuteman Regional Vocational High School, is pleased to announce an exciting new program, Career Directions, providing vocational and academic opportunities for students of the Collaborative.

This new Collaborative program has just been launched and is designed to provide quality vocational training and academic instruction based on the interests and skills of our students. Students will complete an exploratory phase where they experience a multitude of shops/laboratories. After that, students will develop vocational skills in an area of their choosing. Our students are thrilled to be able to experience a hands-on educational program at one of the premier Vocational High Schools in the state

Career Directions, located at Minuteman High School in Lexington, functions cooperatively with other LABBB programs located at Minuteman. The staff of Career Directions and LABBB Vocational Training Program welcome you to our blog.

Pictured L to R: Brian Walsh, Teacher; Ken Moeller, Assistant;  Steve Thompson, Teacher; Dianne Costello, Program Coordinator; Brenda Wells, Assistant.

New LABBB Brochure

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The new LABBB Brochure has finally arrived.  Below is a picture of the front cover.    It is a 20 page booklet that has descriptions of all the LABBB Programs.  I want to thank everyone who worked on this project.   It was a long process and much more difficult than anticipated, but we have a final product that is very impressive. As I stated in my letter, we will update this every year and keep it current.  We are also updating the website and the plan is to keep it consistent with the colors, and format of this new brochure.   Click here for full Brochure: Click here to view brochure.

If you have any feedback on changes that could be made for next year we welcome your suggestions.  This was a great start to the project and we look forward to continually improving each year!

Marisol O’Brien

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Marisol O’Brien was a student  in our I.D.E.A.L. Program in Burlington for the past 3 years. I wanted to share with you the article that was in the Boston Globe on December 23, 2008.  The LABBB collaborative, especially the staff in our IDEAL Program, appreciate all the support we have received from the Francis Wyman Elementary school community.

‘She smiled right until the end’

Lexington family mourns life of a special 8-year-old

Marisol Liliana O'Brien, 8, seen in her First Communion dress, died Saturday in her home.
Marisol Liliana O’Brien, 8, seen in her First Communion dress, died Saturday in her home.
By Bryan Marquard Globe Staff / December 23, 2008

As if she knew her time alive would be too brief, Marisol Liliana O’Brien seemed to keep her eyes open day and night.

“From the very first night, she would not sleep,” said her father, Thomas O’Brien of Lexington, who first held Marisol eight years ago in a hotel in Guatemala, when his adoptive daughter was 7 months old. “She didn’t want to close her eyes and miss anything, I think. There I was alone in this hotel room with her – I didn’t even have a crib. So I put her on the bed next to me. We had a great time, and for the next three days we walked through the streets. Guatemala City is filled with wonderful people, filled with good will.”

So, too, was Marisol, despite spending most of her life afflicted by a form of leukodystrophy, a degenerative disorder that affects the tissue that controls how signals are sent throughout the brain.

Nevertheless, her smile turned strangers into friends, even as her illness brought family members closer to their faith and tightened the bonds of a community.

Marisol was 8 when she died Saturday in her Lexington home, her family gathered around.

“The last thing she did was that she smiled and mouthed the words, ‘I love you’ to us,” her father said. “She smiled right until the end.”

Her smile, joyful and inviting, breathed warmth into encounters often fraught with silence.

“She had an ability to reach out to people,” her father said. “At the beginning of her disease, we were in and out of hospitals. We would be on an elevator, the door would open, and a serious doctor would step in. Marisol would look up and say, ‘hey’ or ‘hi’ until the person turned and looked. And she would ask, ‘Where’s your mama?’ Then Marisol would point to my wife, Patricia, and say, ‘This is my mama,’ and she would completely disarm any doctor, any professional.”

Dr. Pat O’Malley, head of the pediatric palliative care team at Massachusetts General Hospital, called her “a remarkable young lady.”

“I think she was very well loved by all of her providers,” she said. “I only knew her from the time when she was not able to speak and not able to walk, but even then she drew people around her and was such an affectionate and warm-hearted little girl.”

Before the doctors, tests, and painful decline in Marisol’s health, the O’Brien family felt close to perfect, her father said, and she was the presence who completed the picture.

Thomas O’Brien, a former director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and his wife, the former Patricia Joyce, adopted all four of their children: first Lucas from Colombia; then Nina from Guatemala; and Tomas from Ecuador. A trip to adopt Marisol meant traveling familiar ground.

“We had eight or nine trips in total to build our family,” Thomas O’Brien said. “God has been good to us. Our whole journey with all of our children has been a wonderful blessing.”

With three young children at home, he went alone to Guatemala City to bring home Marisol, and “next thing I knew, the people from the adoption agency brought this little girl to me, and she was beautiful,” he said. “A foster family had cared for her for her first seven months, and her foster mother had outfitted Marisol with two little earrings.”

When he arrived at Logan International Airport with Marisol eight years ago this month, “the kids were so excited, each of them hugging her and holding her,” he said.

“She loved to dance and sing,” he said. “We had four children under the age of 5, and I have this vision of all four of them strapped in their child seats as we drove, and Marisol was in the middle. The music was on and Aretha Franklin was singing, ‘I Say a Little Prayer for You,’ and Marisol would say, ‘louder, Daddy, louder.’ And then she’d say, ‘again.’ ”

The dancing began to slow before she turned 3, when she starting having trouble walking. Many doctor visits later, she was diagnosed with leukodystrophy, a disorder her father called cruel. Physical abilities disappear, replaced on some nights by seizures and muscle spasms.

“My wife, in six years, literally has not slept through the night one single time,” he said. “My wife is an amazing person. I am so fortunate to have a wife who is so strong in her love for our family and her love for our faith.”

“We could not bear this, we could not make it through this journey, if it were not for three things,” he added. “One is our faith, the second is our family, and the last is a group of friends. They were unbelievable. If we had emergencies and an ambulance had to come at 3 a.m., we knew we had friends we could count on to come and watch our kids if we had to go to the hospital.”

Marisol, he said, brought the O’Briens closer to their spiritual family at Sacred Heart Church in Lexington, where a funeral Mass will be said tomorrow at 10 a.m. Parishioners sometimes held 24-hour prayer services, staying up with the family.

“I think when you face this kind of a journey, you understand that there is a spiritual aspect of our lives that has to be central,” he said. “For us, it’s our faith. We’re Catholics, so for us particularly now, when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas, this is a wonderful time for us to celebrate the life of a child who simply loved others.”

O’Malley said her time at the hospital with Marisol brought to mind a poem by the late Raymond Carver, who wrote that he got what he wanted in life, “to feel myself beloved on the earth.”

“That just sums up Marisol to me,” she said. “I think I will remember her whenever I see that poem. She was really graced with love by her family and friends and providers, and we were all graced by her.”

Along with her parents, two brothers, and sister, Marisol leaves her grandparents, Gerald Joyce of Milton, and John and Anne O’Brien of Harwich.

“Marisol was a beautiful child who had a simple approach to life,” her father said. “She would look at everyone – medical professionals, her brothers, her sister, her parents – every day and say, ‘I love you.’ “

Program Highlight: LABBB Primary Development Program at Memorial Elementary School, Burlington

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Welcome to the LABBB Primary Development Program! Our classroom is designed for kindergarten through grade two learners with autism spectrum disorders as well as for those learners who can benefit from the program’s instructional approaches and environment. The program has a high teacher-to-student ratio (currently, four core staff and six learners), with ongoing speech/language, occupational, and physical therapy services delivered by LABBB therapists. Additional support, both direct and consultative, is provided by a LABBB behaviorist and a LABBB reading specialist. Based in the Memorial Elementary School in the K-2 wing, our learners also have daily opportunities to participate in activities with their grade-level peers.

The primary development program addresses: speech and language development (including social and pragmatic communication); academic skill-building to access the general curriculum (based on the Massachusetts Frameworks); functional skill building that includes gross and fine motor development as well as adaptive skills for application at school, home, and in the larger community; and sensory regulation. Our learners tend to have relatively strong visual and kinesthetic learning styles. Keeping our learners’ needs, styles, and relative strengths in mind, we take a multi-faceted approach to learning, which includes:

  • Highly individualized instructional programs based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). We employ aspects of evidence-based ABA methodologies, which at this time includes Verbal Behavior and TEAACH.


From L to R: Jo-Ellen Percival, O.T Assistant, Linda Bartlett, Classroom Aide, Roberta Klix, Teacher, Vickie McIsaac, Classroom Aide, Jane McGrath, O.T, Jessica Kort, P.T, Joann Warino, Classroom Aide, Mary D’Addario, Speech

  • Pervasive use of visual cues and multi-modal communication tools, such as individual schedules, topic boards, social stories, play scripts, and static and dynamic display devices.
  • “Hands on” individual and small group learning opportunities to acquire new skills with ongoing generalization of those skills in the general education classroom as well as larger school and community environments.
  • Incorporation of a sensory diet into the daily curriculum.
  • To the extent possible, direct and incidental instruction in natural settings, for example, learning playground skills (both social and gross motor) in the playground at recess alongside peers.

We believe that our learners are active, equal members of the school community and we strive to ensure that they are included in the general education classroom and school-wide events as much as they are comfortable and able. For some of our current learners, this mean daily participation in English language arts centers and “specials” (e.g., art, gym, and music) and for others, attending morning meeting and having snack, lunch, and recess with their peers. In the future, we hope to add a book buddies and “game day” to promote additional opportunities for social interaction.

The LABBB Primary Development program embraces a collaborative, team approach, that includes not only core staff, but also our learners’ parents and families, Memorial School staff, and LABBB administrators and support staff.