Written by Garry L. Earles, L.I.C.S.W   
Friday, 03 April 2009

This past March 10 & 11, The Western Massachusetts Association Of Special Education Administrators and the Mary Lyon Foundation held their 19th Annual Special Education Conference at Deerfield Academy.  Over 500 educators (school administrators, special education directors, regular and special education teachers, school social workers, school psychologists and paraprofessionals) from throughout Western Massachusetts and beyond took advantage of a rare regional training opportunity to attend the 2 day conference. The large number of attendees clearly indicates the need for information and training on special education concerns.  The variety and quality of the presentations was first rate as was often noted by those in attendance.  The conference was developed and coordinated by Dr. Susan Samoriski of the Mary Lyon Foundation with the help of many volunteers who were greatly assisted and supported by various Deerfield Academy technical, dining and security personnel.

The conference offered almost three dozen workshop options from which to choose, some that ran all day and many that were either morning or afternoon sessions.  There was a keynote addresses each day and a special luncheon presentation by Massachu-setts Secretary of Education Paul Reville.  For a full listing of presentations and speakers, please refer to the conference brochure, available for downloading in PDF format.  

Garry L. Earles, LICSW, a Franklin County resident and contributor to The Optimist on child and adolescent mental health issues and their implications for special education, presented an all day seminar on each of the two days.  The well attended presentations were entitled Who’s In Charge? which discussed executive functioning and Out of Control Kids which focused on impulse control issues.  Garry is a nationally known presenter and trainer in the field of child & adolescent mental health especially as those conditions interact with and impact the educational environment.  Having been in Dubuque, Iowa (where he presented to over 1200 attendees) two weeks prior to the Western Mass conference, Garry had an opportunity to interact with regional educators in Deerfield.  For more information on Garry and his work in this field, please visit his website at: http://www.garryearles.com/

More and more, child & adolescent mental health conditions are appearing in classrooms throughout the country where the challenges they present to educational personnel are numerous and complex.  School districts have become beholden to this population to provide adequate and appropriate services to these young people.  Unfortunately, educators are not trained clinicians and they struggle valiantly to find ways not only to educate these kids but to address their mental health issues.  The conference addressed the growing thirst of school personnel at all levels for information and assistance so they can better serve the needs of their students.  

A well-deserved thanks is due to all those who worked hard to make the conference so successful and to all those who attended to enhance their own professional development in order to better assist special needs kids and adolescents in our region. We look forward to seeing you all again next year.

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