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Addressing ‘Learning Differences: What Works?’

McLean Schools hosts “Cecily’s Advocacy Workshop.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Edward Spector, Psy.D.

Keynote speaker Dr. Edward Spector, Psy.D. Photo by Susan Belford.

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Chairperson Laurie Friedman

— More than 200 parents, family members, and educators flocked to Potomac’s McLean School on Saturday, Feb. 9 to take advantage of the 4th annual “Cecily’s Advocacy Workshop” — a seminar which disseminates information and the latest research on strategies for coping with children with ADD, ADHD and other learning differences.

The seminar is held each year in memory of Cecily Kaufman of Potomac who was a member of the McLean School Parents Association Executive Board and always the first to volunteer at the school. After she died from breast cancer in 2009, her friends and fellow McLean volunteers planned the first advocacy workshop to pay tribute to Kaufman’s devotion to the school and to honor her husband Joel and children Ben and Rachel.

Each year the workshop has attracted more and more registrants — and this year’s workshop was no exception. The keynote address was standing-room-only. After this address, participants had to decide which informational break-out sessions to attend. The common comment overheard was that “there are just too many interesting and helpful sessions. I wish I could attend more than two of these valuable programs.”

“This program is put on by parents who have kids with learning differences for other parents whose children also have learning differences. We found this is absolutely the best help for other parents. The seminar is a long culmination of parents helping parents and learning together,” said Chairperson Laurie Friedman. “It’s a challenge to keep making it better each year, but parents always report they gain a wealth of useful information from this workshop.”

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McLean student volunteers register participants.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Edward Spector, Psy.D. on “The Healthy Use of Technology: Setting Limits on the Virtual World.” Spector gave the warning signs of the compulsive use of these technologies but also indicated what is appropriate use — and the risks as well as the value of youth’s utilization of technology. “I recommend that all parents initiate a family game night where parents play their children’s games with them. It is an educational activity for the entire family. Well designed games are great teachers and actually elevate problem solving skills and inductive reasoning,” he said.

Parent and McLean School board member Eric Greenberg found the seminar very helpful: “Raising kids is always complicated, and this seminar offers parents a chance to speak with experts and share their experiences and questions with the other parents. The McLean School serves as a bridge; they are more than just a school — they serve as a resource for helping families and teachers — as well as our entire community.”

Parent Stacey Wills, spouse of a McLean School alumni and mother of two McLean School students attended the workshop for the second year: “The seminars give me a factual framework for making decisions concerning my children. Each year their topics are timely and provide information that I need. I plan to attend the “What’s Eating Your Child?” workshop to learn more about nutrition and how it affects my children. The experts are excellent and I am pleased to have accurate information.”

For the first session, participants were given the choice of attending one of the following seminars: “Parenting under Complex Conditions: Creating a Nurturing Stepfamily Environment” led by Jonah Green, LCSW-C; “What’s Eating Your Child?” (nutrition strategies for better learning and mood) facilitated by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND; “Raise Your Child’s Social IQ” led by Cathi Cohen, LCSW, CGP; “Adoption Through the Eyes of Children: A Developmental Perspective” with Debbie Riley, MS, and “Medication Management of ADHD in the Teen Years: Keys to Success and Pitfalls to Avoid” with Dr. Chuck Conlon, MD.

The topics for the second seminar were “Understanding Adolescent Social Culture: From Bonding to Bullying, led by Julie Baron, LCSW-C; “College Considerations for LD/ADHD Students,” chaired by Hannah Serota, McLean’s College counselor, along with Rachel Masson, director of admission at Landmark College; “Raise Your Child’s Social IQ” with Cathi Cohen LCSW, CGP; “Beneath the Mask: Adoption Through the Eyes of Adolescents by Debbie Riley, MS, and “Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know” with Ann Dolin, M. ED.

At 12:30, lunch was held and registrants were able to attend an exhibit fair as well as ask questions of the presenters.