Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sensory Processing Disorder: A Guest Post by Chynna T. Laird

Chynna T. Laird is a mother and author. In her new book, Not Just Spirited, she chronicles her journey with her oldest daughter, Jaimie, who has Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD. She is also the author of of a children's book, I'm Not Weird, I Have SPD. She has written the following guest post to help parents understand what their child with SPD experiences.

Read a review of Not Just Spirited at Things and Stuff Reviews and enter to win a copy of the book while there. The giveaway runs until February 5, 2010.


What a Sensational Child Wants the World to Understand
by Chynna T. Laird

When I wrote my children’s picture book, I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD, one of my goals was to tell others what Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) felt like from the eyes of a child going through it. I used the voice of a four-year old little girl—essentially, my Jaimie’s voice—to describe how the world made her body felt and how it scared her because she wasn’t always able to control her reactions. It’s often those reactions that people judge resulting in misunderstanding and misdiagnosis of these beautiful children. Hurtfully, I saw it all the time with Jaimie.

The one thing I did before writing my children’s book and memoir was ‘field research’. I tried as best as I could to put myself into Jaimie’s world in order to write about it and to make others understand what was going on in her tiny little body: I wore my shoes on the wrong feet then tried coordinating myself; I tried doing simple tasks without my glasses on; I turned on everything in our house that made noise then tried doing a task requiring me to concentrate; I shone bright lights in my face while studying or writing; I spend an entire day struggling to write or eat with my opposite hand; I put on the most uncomfortable clothing (itchy, tight, too small or short or other irritations) then tried carrying on with regular routines; I ate a meal right beside our garbage bin; I tried eating foods with strange textures or that were extreme in terms of saltiness, sourness, etc.; and many other methods.

People may say that I went a bit extreme with my efforts but until I did some of those things I simply couldn’t understand how the world felt to my daughter. I couldn’t understand how the exercises I was doing with her were supposed to help her until I put myself in that place too. And I didn’t know how to make others understand until I did.

As a result, I came up with a list of things I call, “What Jaimie Would Tell You, If She Knew How To.” Here are a few of them:

I’m interested in you but please give me some time. Children with more severe forms of SPD are sometimes seen as being ‘cold’ or ‘distant’—Jaimie often was. That’s not the case at all. These children feel things deeply—at a much deeper level than the rest of us. Their sensory systems are on constant high alert and don’t always know when something will trigger sensory overload. We don’t realize that a scent on our clothes, the tone of our voice or even how our faces move when we talk can be triggers for these children. It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in other people; only that they may need a bit of time to get used to new people and teach their bodies to get used to your unique smell, voice or characteristics.

Be patient with me. One of the main things Jaimie taught me was patience. It can take time for her to finish, or even begin, a task. It can take her a bit longer to make a decision in terms of what to wear or what she’d like to play. She needs a lot of extra preparation and “heads up” before new events and she can go from happy to screaming within minutes—and not be able to tell us why (or even know herself) until later on. A sensational child needs you to have patience with her and give her the time she needs to get ready, be ready and handle the task at hand.

I’m not a ‘bad kid’. A child with SPD can melt down easily, especially in the Preschool years when communication skills are still developing. This can lead to an observer thinking these children have behavioral difficulties that simply require extra discipline. Nothing is further from the truth. These children melt down because they become overwhelmed with sensory stimulation that isn’t being processed. Think of it this way: Have you ever walked by a playground flooded with children? Now picture yourself standing in the middle of all of those excited, screaming kids: The screaming, the children running around, all the different voices, perhaps different smells… it’s chaos! That’s what Jaimie feels every day about everything in every situation: chaos and disorder. A sensational child wants you to know she isn’t ‘bad’; just overwhelmed and needing a calmer place.

My feelings are real. It’s been said that SPD is an “invisible disorder” because we can’t see SPD on a child’s face or body. What they struggle with is deep within their bodies—in their brains and nervous systems—and the world can only see their reactions. A sensational child wants you to know that what they feel is real and it hurts when people misunderstand or misinterpret they’re behavior. My Jaimie has become an expert on holding everything inside because the one thing she fears—more than how anything in her world makes her body feel—is losing it in front of people. That’s when people see that she’s ‘different’ and she feels shame with that. A child should never have to feel that way. Her feelings are real, her struggles are real and she wants people to understand her.

I’m a smart kid. “Special needs” doesn’t mean unintelligent. Nothing hurts Jaimie more (or makes me angrier) when people treat her “different” because she has special needs. A sensational child would say, “Please don’t judge me based on my social issues or how I react to things. I can do tons of things, even when I struggle with a few other things.” Remember: There’s so much more beneath the surface.

I’m not angry with you. This is something I constantly have to remind my other three children of whenever Jaimie melts down. In that frame of mind, Jaimie often lashes out at the closest person to her—usually me or her siblings. This is because Jaimie holds everything inside until that one last sensory stimulus sets her over the top. A sensational child wants you to realize, especially other children whose little feelings shatter so easily, that he doesn’t mean to be hurtful. He just isn’t able to control what he’s feeling and, because of his poor social skills, doesn’t always know the “proper” way to express what’s going on inside of him. Don’t worry! He wants you to know that he’s learning how to communicate with you better—just wait!

Please respect my personal space. A sensational child is so much more sensitive than other children are. She’d want you to know that even your own personal scent—even if it’s a good smell—can be enough to send her into an inconsolable fit. She doesn’t want you to be afraid to approach her. Please just do so while remembering that it takes her a little bit longer to get used to your presence. Ask her if she’d mind you sitting with her; start with activities she’s comfortable with; you can even ask her what she does or doesn’t like about new people or things. In Jaimie’s case, if people take it slowly with her, she eases quicker and responds so much more positively.

I find it hard to focus on too many things at the same time. Because he hasn’t learned the skill of tuning things out, a sensational child’s attention is continually pulled in different directions. He wants you to know that he’s learning how to focus on one task or person at a time. We need to give him our patience as he attempts his task and understand that the fewer things presented to him at once, the less frustrated he’ll be.

The new is scary to me. When a sensational child’s symptoms are quite severe, she’ll cling to what she knows and can be rigid about routine. She can also shy away from new people or situations. Now, we can’t let her stick only to what’s new or she’ll never be able to function in the outside world. But we can start with what she’s familiar and comfortable with while working new things into her safe zone. Yes, it can be a much longer process but that’s how you can help make a sensational child feel safer when dealing with new things. Remember: She isn’t trying to be difficult; she’s simply trying to get along in a world that she struggles to coordinate her self within. Easing new people or experiences into what she’s already comfortable with is a great way to start then, eventually, she’ll want to try something new.

Please see the things I can do. Even I’ve been guilty of this. We can get so caught up in trying to help our sensational child cope with his struggles we tend to forget what he does well. Every child can do something really well. Acknowledge his talents. Such things can be used in times of frustration when they struggle with things they find difficult. Think of how much it can mean to them just to hear you say, “Oh, John. Look at all of these beautiful drawings you did for me. Not only are they wonderful but you were able to concentrate to do them and you had fun doing it!”

I love you, even if I’m not always able to show it. It can be so painful, especially as a Mom, not to be able to give or receive the usual signs of love and affection from our sensational child. If her tactile sensitivities are too high she can’t handle even the gentlest of touches (As a matter of fact, Jaimie can only deal with deep pressure—light touch drives her mad. Especially when the wind blows on her skin or hair.) This doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel love, or wants to give it; only that she can’t handle the lighter touches. In Jaimie’s (almost) seven years, I can count on my hands how many times she’s hugged me by putting her arms on me and not just sticking her head out at me and saying, “Hug.” But I know that she loves me—I can see it in her deep blue eyes. And she knows I love her.

I have seven senses. If you understand this, you’ll be well on your way to seeing inside a sensational child’s world. Despite what you’ve learned at school, there are actually seven senses and they all work together to help us effectively interact with the world around us and the people in it:
Auditory: This is our sense of hearing. It involves not just what we hear but how we hear and how we interpret sounds. (This sense is closely related to the vestibular system.)

Olfactory: This is our sense of smell. It's actually the only sense that doesn't need to make pitstop at a specific processing area in the brain before telling the body how to react. The sense of smell can be a powerfully emotional experience because we often connect certain scents with memories. It affects what we'll eat, what we'll play with, who we'll get close to or even play with.

Visual: This is the sense of sight. This involves everything we see but also how our brains interpret what we see. Because the eyes use muscles to adjust to light (which lets us focus on objects), it's closely related to the vestibular and proprioceptive systems.

Gustatory: This is the sense of taste. It's closely related to smell (think of when you have a cold and can't taste anything.) Taste is important because it not only helps us have a good relationship with food but it helps keep toxic things out of our bodies (eg: When things taste bad, you spit it out.)

Tactile: This is the sense of touch. The skin is the largest organ on the body. This system helps us learn how to interact with the people and objects in our environments. It also helps keep us safe by understanding when things are hot, cold, soft, hard, painful or feel good. It makes us feel safe touching and being touched.

Vestibular: This is the sense that is closely connected to the cochlear system in the inner ear. It helps us feel balanced, coordinated, grounded and help us with maintaining proper head motion (Helping with vision and hearing).

Proprioceptive: This sense sends messages back and forth between the brain and the muscles and joints. This system not only tells our bodies how to move but if we're moving, and how fast. And because it involves all the muscles in the body, it can affect speech and eating (tongue, jaw and mouth muscles), writing and hand grip (fine motor skills) and muscle tone (gross motor skills).

These are the main things that I learned from Jaimie’s experiences and that we try helping others understand through her eyes. Above all else, I think what they’d most love for you to see is that they are a child first who just happens to have a sensational life.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Summer Camp Options for Special Needs Kids

For Our Kids, For Ourselves, a Jewish community support resource organization for parents with children with learning differences and social issues, will be hosting a special panel presentation to discuss summer camp options for children with learning differences and developmental disorders.

The free presentation will take place on January 31 from 4:15-6:30 p.m. at La Madeleine (in the Associate Room) at 11858 Rockville Pike in Rockville.

Representatives will come from Summit Sleepaway Camp, Camp Attaway, Lynn Israel's Sensory Integration Day Camp, and SummerEdge (The McLean School).

For more information, contact Jaime Selvin at jaimeselvin@aol.com.

MCPS Placements Forum

Trying to decide what the best school for your child might be is one of the difficult things about parenting a special needs child. You can learn about placement options at the MCPS Placements Forum on April 7, from 6:30-9 p.m.

The Partnership for Extraordinary Minds (xMinds) is hosting the second annual forum for parents of students on the autism spectrum. Administrators from MCPS will present information about the placements for diploma-bound students in grades K-12. The format will allow for questions from parents.

It will take place at Aspen Hill Library (4407 Aspen Hill Road) in Rockville.

Updated to add: This event has been rescheduled from its original March 4th date. Its new location is to be determined. For more information, email info@xMinds.org.

Sensory Friendly Film: The Tooth Fairy

Enjoy a screening of The Tooth Fairy in a sensory friendly environment on February 6 at 10 a.m.

AMC Entertainment and the Autism Society have teamed up to provide a mellower setting for families affected by autism and other disabilities. The movie auditorium will have its lights brought up and the sound turned down, families can bring in their own GFCF snacks, and no previews or ads will be shown before the movies. Audience members are also welcome to get up and move or vocalize. (Unless the safety of the audience is questioned.)

Tickets cost between $4 and $6 depending on the theater. The AMC Rio Cinemas 18 in Gaithersburg (9811 Washingtonian Blvd.) is one of the theaters that participates.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Event Summary for the Week of January 18, 2010

Lecture: The Challenge of Inflexibility

Dr. Edward Spector will be speaking on the "Challenge of Inflexibility: Meltdowns and More" on January 21 from 7:30-9 p.m.

The lecture, sponsored by the GT/LD Network, takes place at Walter Johnson High School (6400 Rock Spring Drive) in Bethesda.

Super-Sprint Triathlon to Benefit Autism Speaks

If you like to exercise and you support Autism Speaks, consider racing in the Bethesda Super-Sprint Triathlon to benefit Autism Speaks.

The April 18 triathlon will consist of a 250 meter swim, a 9.3-mile bike ride, and a 2.5-mile run through the Georgetown Prep campus grounds.

There are only 500 slots available for athletes, so register early online.

Sports Programs for Kids with Developmental Disabilities

Sports Plus, a non-profit organization providing sports programs for children ages 5-14 with mild to moderate developmental disabilities, has posted their Winter 2010 registrations.

Classes for children with ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and many other syndromes take place in Bethesda and Gaithersburg. Sports Plus offers an indoor gym and sports program, swim programs, and tae kwon do.

For more information, contact Natalie Liniak at sportsplus@comcast.net.

Special Education Free Informational Day

Local experts in special education needs will offer a free informational day for families and educators from across the DC area on January 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the National 4H Conference Center (7100 Connecticut Avenue) in Chevy Chase.

The event will introduce services and tools through ask-the-expert panels and exhibits by a range of local service providers. Panels will address educational advocacy, educational assessment, related services such as speech or occupational therapy, and the transition from high school to adulthood.

Pre-registration is not required.

Sponsors for the event include the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students, the Auburn School, The Siena School, Commonwealth Academy, JSSA, The Lab School of Baltimore and Baltimore Lab, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, and Kingsbury Day School.

Special Needs Days at The Playseum

Updated to add: The Playseum has extended the hours for their special needs day to 1-6 p.m.

The Playseum in Bethesda is a hands-on indoor playspace for young children. They have set aside two upcoming Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m. specifically for children with special needs. The Wednesdays are February 24 and March 24.

They suggest that you contact them ahead of time to let them know the age of your child so they can best accommodate them and their needs. You can contact the Playseum at 888-5PLAYSEUM or at gina@playseum.com.

The Playseum is located at 7000 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. Admission is $5 per person. Their regular hours are Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Winter Parent Academy Workshops

The MCPS Parent Academy has published their Winter 2010 schedule. There is a separate AutMont post on their five-part special education series, but in addition to those, there are many wonderful workshops pertinent to autism families. You can register online for any of these workshops.

January 23, 9-10:30 a.m. Can We Talk? Speaking Up for Your Children to Help them Succeed (Spanish): Developed by the Parent Advisory Council this workshop offers information on how to talk effectively with teachers and principals and advocate for your children. The workshop will be held at Shady Grove Middle School (8100 Midcounty Highway) in Gaithersburg. This Spanish-language workshop will also be repeated February 16, 9:30-11 a.m. at Wheaton Woods Elementary School (4510 Faroe Place) in Rockville.

January 28, 7-8:30 p.m. Communicate Successfully with School Staff: This workshop will offer information on how to talk effectively with teachers and principals and how to advocated for your child. Tips and resources will be shared. It will take places at the People's Community Baptist Church (31 Norwood Drive) in Silver Spring.

February 8, 7-8:30 p.m. Can We Talk? Speaking Up for Your Children to Help them Succeed: Developed by the Parent Advisory Council this workshop offers information on how to talk effectively with teachers and principals and advocate for your children. The workshop will be held at Watkins Mill High School (10301 Apple Ridge Road) in Gaithersburg.

March 17, 7-8:30 p.m. The Special Education Process (Spanish): Learn more about the special education process and how to support your child's learning. This workshop will be held at Gaithersburg Elementary School (35 North Summit Avenue) in Gaithersburg.

Special Education Workshop Series

The MCPS Parent Academy has some terrific special education workshops scheduled over the next couple of months and their series on Special Education is one of the best. I have attended this series twice and will likely go again this winter. If you are looking for some good information on law and advocacy, as well as practical information for how to work with the school, this is a fabulous series to go to. Both times I've gone, people have asked questions and learned about their specific situations. While this is an MCPS program, the presenters are generally not MCPS personnel.

This five-part, free series will take place at Neelsville Middle School (11700 Neelsville Church Road) in Germantown. Each workshop takes place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. You can attend any number of the workshops and can register online.

The topics and dates for each workshop follow:

Parents as Advocates and the Family-School Partnership: This workshop is facilitated by the Montgomery County Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health and will provide information on the special education process and share tips on how to advocate for your child.

The IEP Process and Special Education Law: Learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and how parents can prepare for IEP meetings. Components of the IEP will be discussed.

The IEP Process and Special Education Law: A continuation of the February 10 workshop.

The School System and Resolving Disputes: Learn about proactive steps to take to work in partnership with staff to discuss and resolve issues.

Monitoring Your Child's Progress and Finding Support: Learn ways to organize your child's records and papers and find out about community resources and supports.

Edited to Add: Because of snow cancellations, the people behind these workshops are trying to reschedule some of them. I will post further if new dates become available.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Event Summary for the Week of January 11, 2010

Parent Information Fair on SPD

All parents are invited to a parent information fair on sensory processing disorder. The fair, which takes place in Arlington, Virginia, will feature Myania Moses speaking about the latest information on SPD.

There will also be professional service providers at the fair who can speak to you about your individual needs.

The fair will take place on January 15 from 9-11 a.m. at The Washington Golf and Country Club (3017 North Glebe Road) in Arlington.

You must pay the $10 entry fee with cash or check only. Reservations are required via email to kate@specialneedskidsinfo.com or by phone at 703-524-8441.

Perspectives on Autism Conference in Rockville

Families Together is holding their Perspectives on Autism conference on February 19 in Rockville. This one-day conference will cover topics centered on the family, including sibling feelings, parent perspective, and a keynote by Eustacia Cutler, the mother of Temple Grandin.

You can register online for the conference, held at the Manor Country Club (14901 Carrolton Road) in Rockville. The conference costs $65, although there are a limited number of discounted registrations for parents. You must call (866) 326-4864 for the discounted registration. Lunch is included.

Next Steps: Employment Training

MCPS' Transition Services is offering the fourth in their series of Next Steps: School to Adult Living Transition Workshops this month.

The next workshop is Integrated Employment and Vocational Training. It will be held on January 27 from 7-9 p.m. at Earle B. Wood Middle School (14615 Bauer Drive, Rockville).

School system and local representatives will discuss training opportunities, legislation pertinent to employment of individuals with disabilities, and supported employment options available to eligible individuals.

Transition Times Program

If you are the parent of a young adult soon to leave high school, you might be interested in Transition Times, which is a joint program of Potomac Community Resources and the Arc of Montgomery County.

It is intended for families of students transitioning from high school to adulthood and adult services. Learn from other families and professional resources and share ideas, strategies, and support.

No registration or RSVP is required for this free event, but if you contact PCR at info@pcr-inc.org and request to be put on the Transition Times email list, you will receive advance notice of each meeting topic prior to each meeting.

The next meeting is January 20 from 7:30-9 p.m. and will be held in the Arc of Montgomery County's conference room (11600 Nebel Street in Rockville).

SEAC Meetings for All Special Education Parents

MCPS' Special Education Advisory Meeting meets the 4th Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville.

Prior to the presentation, public comments are accepted from 7 to 7:15 p.m.

All are welcome. The meeting takes place in Room 127 at 850 Hungerford Drive.

Anyone wishing to give public comments must bring five copies of your testimony and contact one of the co-chairs prior to the meeting. Co-chairs are Joan Sabaka (valntine20@aol.com), Anne Turner (adturn88@verizon.net), and Laura Swerdlin (lauraswerdlin@verizon.net).

Project Access College Information Orientation

Howard Community College's Project Access will be presenting a general information parent/student orientation session about their program on January 23 at 1 p.m.

Project Access is a transition and retention program located on the Howard Community College campus in Columbia. It is aimed at helping high school students with disabilities get into and succeed at college.

Students completing grades 9-12 and who will be receiving a high school diploma are eligible for the program.

This informational session will be held in the Burrill Galleria, which is attached to the library at Howard Community College. For more information, contact Linda Schnapp at 410-772-4625 or lschnapp@howardcc.edu.

Learning Disability Conference in Baltimore

The Learning Disabilities Association of America will be presenting its 47th annual International Conference in Baltimore this year from February 17-20.

The conference will focus on learning disabilities, including specific workshops on medical, mental health, teacher preparations, public policy, adults, assessment, research, and more. More information is available in the online pre-conference book.

You can register online for the event, which costs $310 for members and $410 for non-members for all four days. Single days are also available. Early bird registration at a discounted rate is available until February 1st.

This conference is aimed at adults with and parents of children with learning disabilities and ADHD, as well as teachers, principals, administrators, counselors, social workers, and more.

In addition, there are several special events at the conference, including one on Saturday, February 20th from 1-4 p.m. called "Navigating the Special Education Legal Process" presented by Ellen A Callegary, Esq. This seminar is specifically designed for parents and discusses the top ten common mistakes parents make when navigating the special education process. Admission to this event ("Special Event C") is $50.

All events will take place at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, located at 700 Allceanna Street.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Event Summary for the Week of January 3, 2010

JSSA Support Groups

JSSA offers many programs to help individuals on the autism spectrum and their parents. One of the programs they offer are support groups that allow parents and family members to share information and support. These groups have no charge.

They offer a Parent Support Group for Children across the Autism Spectrum that meets on Mondays at 200 Wood Hill Road in Rockville. Meeting dates are January 11, February 1, March 1, April 12, and May 3 from 7-8:15 p.m. Call 301-610-8361 to register.

There is also a Family Support Group that meets on Tuesdays at 6123 Montrose Road in Rockville. These meeting dates are January 19, February 16, April 20, and May 18 from 7:15- 8:45 p.m. Call 301-610-8371 to register.

McTrans Meeting

The next MCTransitions meeting will take place January 14 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Arc of Montgomery County (11600 Nebel Street) in Rockville.

Julia Mack, Department Director of JECS (JSSA Employment and Career Services) will be speaking at the meeting. She will be offering information on setting expectations and finding support for adult children in the job market.

Special Education Advocacy Workshop

Rich Weinfeld and Michelle Davis of the Weinfeld Education Group will be leading a workshop on Advocacy: Making the Special Education Process Work for Your Child on January 12.

The workshop is intended to help parents and educators understand the law, the IEP process, and how to effectively design education plans so that children can benefit.

Registration is limited for this $30 workshop that will take place at Congregation Har Shalom (11510 Falls Road) in Potomac. It will take place from 7:15-8:30 p.m. For more information, you can call 301-468-9343 extension 2 or visit the Parent University website.

New Parent Support Group

The Montgomery County Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health is forming a brand new support group for parents and other primary caregivers who live in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Wheaton.

The group's kickoff meeting will take place January 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Colesville Professional Center (13321 New Hampshire Ave, Terrace Level, Suite B) in Silver Spring.

The group is intended to be a safe place to share experiences, discover resources, and gain support.

Brooke Kaiser, Director of Respite for Easter Seals of Greater Washington, DC, will be speaking at the first meeting. Michele Banks, the Federation's Family Services Supervisor, and Sheri Verdonk, a parent advocate, will facilitate the support group.

Assistance with child care and transportation is available, but must be arranged at least one day prior to the meeting. Contact Michele Banks at 301-648-4978 for assistance. To get more information or to confirm your attendance, call the number above or email Sheri Verdonk at sverdonk@yahoo.com or Michele Banks at mbanks@mcfof.org.

Young Adults with Asperger's Social Club

JSSA has created a new Young Adults with Asperger's Social Club for men and women ages 19-30. The club is geared toward individuals with Asperger's or similar conditions.

The club meets every couple of months on Sundays in 2010. They will be meeting February 7, April 18, June 13, August 15, October 17, and December 12 from 12:30-2:30 p.m.

Participants can choose from a $100 year-long membership or a $25 monthly fee, which covers the cost of membership, but not the cost of activities that the club may participate in. Transportation is not provided.

For more information, contact Ana Rosenthal at 301-610-8355 or arosenthal@jssa.org.

Demystifying Autism with Bill Stillman

Shared Support Maryland, Inc, the Autism Society, and DDA Southern MD Region are co-sponsoring a two-day workshop with Bill Stillman called "Demystifying Autism: An Inside-Out Perspective."

Stillman, an individual with Asperger's Syndrome, will speak about autism from the perspective of those who experience it. The workshop is intended for anyone involved with people on the spectrum.

The workshop will take place January 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Universities at Shady Grove (9630 Gudelsky Drive) in Rockville. There is space for 300 participants on the first day and for 50 on the second day. The registration deadline is January 6. Email pamelah@sharedsupportmd.org for a registration form. The cost is $30 for the first day and $25 for the second and does not include lunch.