Latest Event Updates

Brain Development, Stress and Trauma Webinar Recap

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Webinar Recap:

According to webinar presenter Aaron Wiemeier, developmental trauma has the same effect on the brain as physical trauma.  Additionally, the human brain is constantly analyzing the environment for threat — even if it has never experienced trauma before.

Because trauma affects the structures of the brain that we use to deal with stress, hurt or pain (emotional or otherwise), we resort to other less natural and more dysfunctional patterns of coping such as: anger, emotional withdrawal or numbing, distraction and sometimes a delayed ability to recognize feelings.  This type of response is rooted in a negative cognitive message such as “I am powerless.  I deserve bad things.  I am not loveable, etc.”  Wiemeier refers to this as “The Road Block to Healing.”  A specialist in the area of attachment and trauma, with a particular emphasis on the neurophysiology of trauma, he uses a practical, and often experiential community-based approach to helping and empowering families and individuals to overcome the effects of trauma.


Aaron Wiemeier, MS, LPC

Author Aaron Wiemeier, MS, LPC will discuss the latest research on how trauma — including stress — can impact the developing brain and how this may translate into difficult behaviors seen in the school and at home.

Trauma in all its forms has a profound impact on the developing brain and body. Developmental trauma (such as chronic everyday stress) can have the same impact on the brain as a single episode of acute trauma, such as a car crash.

It is not just the conscious memory of a traumatic event that a child must deal with. Trauma is stored in the brain as primarily sensory memory — a muscle movement, a taste, a smell, a feeling, or a sound. To understand how difficult it is to overcome this type of trauma, think about how difficult it would be to “unlearn” riding a bike or playing a piano. It is essential that professionals who work with children understand the true dynamics of brain development and how it can be impacted by traumatic experiences. Practical application and creative interventions for students whose social, emotional &/or behavior difficulties may stem from trauma will be discussed; these interventions may also be applicable with young people with Asperger’s Syndrome or other forms of Autism. This insightful 90-minute webinar will:

  • Provide participants with a base of explanation of structure, function and development of the nervous system
  • Pinpoint the single-most inmportant aspect of all human functioning and provide key elements needed to cultivate a more positive outcome in this process.
  • Debunk common myths about “trauma” and how it affects the brain and behavior.
  • Enable participants to understand trauma and its impact on brain development and child behavior.
  • Equip participants with the tools necessary to recognize some of the warning signs of a traumatized child and what they can do to create a context for healing in both the home and school.


  • Understand how brain structure and development is connected to behavior and traumatic experience
  • Develop new tools for professionals working with students on issues such as:
  • Discipline
  • Anger
  • ADHD
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Comprehend the single-most important aspect of all human functioning as it relates to children and yourself, along with key elements needed to cultivate a more positive outcome in this process.
  • Unlearn common myths about what trauma actually is and its affects on the brain and behavior.
  • Explore recommended tools to help professionals recognize warning signs of a traumatized child and what they can do to create a context for healing in both the home and school.
  • Learn how to apply current insights from brain development & trauma to improve effectiveness in working with young people.


  • Click here to register for the 11:30 am Eastern Time WEBINAR.
  • Click here to register for the 11:30 am Eastern Time SITE LICENSE.
  • Click here to register for the 2:00 pm Eastern Time WEBINAR.
  • Click here to register for the 2:00 pm Eastern Time SITE LICENSE.



The Misuse of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Classrooms

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The following is a guest post by Dr. Deb Leach who will be presenting a 90-minute webinar entitled “ABA & Your Inclusive Classroom: Helping Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders Using Applied Behavior Analysis on 8/31/12 @ 11:30 am or 2:00pm ET.

I may upset a few parents with this post, but just know that I what I am about to say is the best interest of your children.  Many, many, many (did I say many?) parents insist that their children with autism have “shadows” when they are included in general education classrooms.  Parents tell one another things like, “Whatever you do, make sure the shadow is assigned to your child, not the classroom.”  In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to assign a non-certified staff person to a child.  In fact, it is not just my opinion.  Research has shown that having a shadow assigned to a student can have detrimental effects  (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000); Giangreco & Broer, 2005).  Some of the documented negative effects of having shadows assigned to students include:

  1. Interference with engagement with the teacher
  2. Interference with engagement with peers
  3. Decision making by under-qualified personnel
  4. Unnecessary dependence on the paraprofessional by the student
  5. Stigmatization
  6. Behavior problems

I can’t tell you how many times I stepped into classrooms in which a shadow is assigned to a student, and I wanted to grab a megaphone and shout out, “PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE CHILD!”  This is not because paraprofessionals aren’t wonderful people, because they almost always are.  This is because they are doing what they have been told to do: “keep the child on task,” “reduce problem behavior,” “help the child with academic work,” “help the child with organization,” etc.  The problem is, these responsibilities need to be the teacher’s responsibilities.  While I am well aware that a general education teacher certainly needs support to be able to meet the needs of a student with autism in the classroom, the support should not be a shadow.  It could be a paraprofessional assigned to work under the guidance of the general education and special education teachers who are responsible for the student’s education.  Or…it could be a special education teacher who co-teaches with the general education teacher all or some of the day.  When paraprofessionals are in inclusive classrooms there are many ways they can be utilized to support all students including the student with autism such as:

  1. Providing small group instruction
  2. Monitoring students working independently
  3. Monitoring centers or stations
  4. Preparing materials to allow for differentiated instruction and assessment
  5. Provide 1:1 support as needed

When paraprofessionals are used in ways listed above, it allows the general education teacher to better meet the individual needs of the student with autism as well as other students in the classroom.  Of course, general education teachers need training and support from special education teachers to know how to effectively teach students with autism.  And, even more importantly, general and special education teachers need training on how to work collaboratively and how to effectively utilize paraprofessionals in the classroom.

Written by Deb Leach, Ed.D., BCBA

Dr. Leach will also be a featured speaker at the Students Who Are Wired Differently National Conference in June 2013 in Atlanta.

Black Girl Blues Webinar Sparks Important Discussion Among Educators

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If you were not able to attend the Black Girl Blues webinar yesterday, our presenters Carolyn Strong and Julie Burnett made a strong case for education and re-education on this often taboo subject. Perhaps the most striking information shared was in the form of video clips – profoundly eyeopening proof of the prevalence of intra-racial bullying among school-age girls. The presenters fielded an overwhelming number of insightful questions from attendees. Here are just a few:

How do you create an anti-bullying program when your principal is a bully?

When you work in a predominantly white school environment with most of our African-American girls participating in the Voluntary Transfer Program, how do you begin this courageous conversation with ALL students? Or should we do “pull outs” with our beautiful young girls and teach these concepts?

As a Dean, how do you change your course of action when you realize that a potential bully situation (as reported by a parent, teacher or the bullied student) is really a peer conflict? Or should it still be reported and treated as a bully situation?

Can you speak to early intervention? As a counselor of Kindergarteners and 1st graders, I find that many black girls are carrying out their poor self-image or prejudicial views of skin tone and hair design at this young age, and it only gets worse throughout elementary school. Please give some suggestions on how to approach this.

Attendees took away information on the Q.U.E.E.N. model for conflict resolution, how to build community with students and parents in preparation for re-education efforts and the importance of confronting the issues surrounding intra-racial bullying instead of ignoring potentially uncomfortable situations. A recorded version of this webinar will soon be available for purchase if you would like to add this resource to your professional development library. Join the conversation on Twitter or via Facebook.

Carolyn and Julie will be presenting on this topic at the 2013 National Conference on Girl Bullying in Las Vegas. Make plans to join us.

A Personalized View on the Need for Intra-Racial Bullying Education

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Guest Contributor Carolyn Strong will present a webinar entitled “Black Girl Blues: Insights/Strategies for Addressing Intra-Racial Bullying” on August 16 at 11:30 am or 2:00 pm (ET).

As I sit here trying to begin my story, I am taken aback by the fact that I just don’t know where to start!  I have witnessed so many instances of intra-racial unrest that I am having a hard time determining which allegory to begin with.  Do I start with an incident from my childhood in which I was barred from playing outside in the summer sun because I was, “dark enough already?”  Or do I initiate this piece by describing the utter disgust I felt as I watched a family friend pinch the nose of her newborn granddaughter in an attempt to prevent her nose from becoming ”wide and Africanized?”  Or should I just jump right in and talk about my mother’s misuse of the baby bonnet as a means to preserve my newborn’s “pretty yellow skin?”

Wherever I choose to begin my story, I realize that it is a narrative that must be told.  For years, this concept of intra-racial discontent has been tearing away at the fabric of the African-American community; particularly the girls. Ever since there has been something called a “Negro Woman” in America, society has gone out of its way to catalog us based on skin color.  From the “house negro” and “field negro” classifications of the antebellum south to the current depictions of African-American women in popular culture, the “black” woman has consistently and constantly been pigeon-holed based on skin color, hair texture, body size and attitude.

Ok, I’m supposed to talk about my personal experiences with intra-racial discord; those experiences that necessitate these courageous conversations.  But, as I look around, I cannot help but see how far beyond me this problem is.  The simple fact is, this issue is not new. However, how we deal with it is. Admittedly, I have had negative experiences due to my dark brown skin color and kinky hair texture.  Nevertheless, I assert that because of the positive people in my village and my support network, I was able to power through the negativity and persevere.  Because of this network of women that loved me and treated me as if I was worthy of…anything, I was able to navigate this labyrinth called life.  As I look around, I weep for our girls because the village is burning and society has thrown away all of the water buckets.  When I was a child, yes, it was clear from the images on television that only light skin and straight hair were considered beautiful to popular culture.  However, I was fortunate enough to have dark-skinned women with kinky hair in my life that carried themselves in such a way that no one would dare say they weren’t.  These were my teachers, my church family and sometimes the women within my biological family.  These women were the mélange of my village.

The aforementioned issue has manifested itself in a civil war among black girls; a place where name-calling, ridicule, deceit and physical aggression often play themselves out in our schools.  Often the behavioral response is a mimicking of the negative portrayals of black women that I see way more than I would like in popular culture.  These images often leave me with a sense of emptiness and fear for future generations of girls that look like me and leave me to wonder how do we fix it?

While I don’t claim to have the magic cure-all to resolving the malaise of African American girls, I do believe that I have found a healthy place to start.  The solution starts with everyone that has taken the time to read this.  The elucidation lies with all of those that are willing to take up the charge of being a part of a young girl’s village.  Making an attempt to understand this often overlooked problem and begin courageous conversations is definitely a good foundation for change.

“Black Girl Blues: Insight/Strategies for Addressing Intra-racial Bullying” Webinar

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Thursday 8/16/12 @ 11:30 am or 2:00 pm
Register here.

We have all been subjected to questions about our race/ethnicity:  American Indian…Alaska Native… Asian…Black/African American…Native Hawaiian…Other Pacific Islander…White…Hispanic/Latino…Middle Eastern…Other?  Although you will never see it in writing, African-American girls are also subjected to additional “colorist” descriptors:  High Yellow…Chocolate…Red Bone…Coffee-Colored…Dark…  For these females there also exists an unfair threshold of “acceptable blackness” in social circles, employment and sometimes within their own families.

What does it REALLY mean to be black in America? As long as there have been blacks in the new world, this has been an issue up for debate. But for African American girls, these questions of racial identity and physical appearance – light skin vs. dark skin, straight hair vs. kinky hair, etc. – often manifest themselves in ways that are detrimental to them and to other girls.  This media-fueled war wages on in the inner circle of black girls.  This webinar will be filled with “ah-ha moments” that can be taken away and shared for the betterment of school culture.  The presenter will also discuss best practices as they relate to teaching and mentoring African-American girls.

This revealing 90-minute webinar elucidates the historical cultural and social factors behind girl bullying among African Americans today.  “Sankofa” – the practice of looking backward in order to move forward – is a principle and practice that was once commonplace among African American people.  In a television- and internet-focused environment, emphasis has moved away from “sankofa,” as young girls began looking to popular culture, searching for a sense of who they are.  Consequently, music and media have not wasted any time telling these girls who they should be. When your pop-culture sense of self clashes with what you see in the mirror everyday, girls can become angry and lash out – most likely at each other.  Black Girl Blues is a presentation that attempts to tackle these issues from a historical platform.

In this webinar you will:

  • Gain a historical understanding of the malaise that surrounds African-American girls.
  • Contextualize the aggressive behavior of girls.
  • Acquire some of the tools necessary to restore a positive sense of self.
  • Discuss recommendations for reducing aggressiveness in this population.
  • Learn to recognize and combat some of the detrimental images in popular culture.
  • Learn the unspoken do’s and don’ts related to this highly sensitive topic.
  • Leave with a better understanding of the secret world of black girls.

This webinar will provide a handout to assist you in the learning process and aid you in the drafting and implementing a plan of action to:

  • Pinpoint and address the historical events that have contributed to the emotional factors in racial identification and preference in African-American girls.
  • Renew a positive self-image for young women.
  • Combat the negatives effects of the media with regard to gender and race.
  • Apply best practices to address aggressive behavior within the secret world of black girls.

About the Presenters:

Carolyn Strong & Julie Burnett

Carolyn Strong
Carolyn Strong is an educator with more than 10 years of experience  working with inner- city youth. She is currently Dean of Students in a high  school serving more than 2,100 young people. In this role as disciplinarian,  she witnesses and confronts bullying daily by creating and implementing  prevention programs in conjunction with traditional discipline.  She holds multiple Master’s degrees in both  curriculum and educational leadership and is currently pursuing a doctoral  degree in curriculum and social inquiry.  Carolyn’s research focuses on  bullying and the black aesthetic, girl bullying and minority representation in  gifted education.  She is the founder of and has conducted training at schools throughout the  Chicagoland area.  Carolyn has also  presented on the topic of Black Girl  Blues at several regional and national conferences – including the recent  National Conference on Girl Bullying.

Julie Burnett
Julie Burnett has over fifteen years experience working in Chicago Public Schools.  Ms. Burnett is a learning disabilities and reading teacher who has worked as a Chicago district level administrator and coach. In addition, Ms. Burnett has worked as a university external partner with Chicago elementary and high schools to improve student achievement and was the Director of the Urban School Improvement Network at the University of Chicago, where she incubated and supported new schools opening under the Chicago Renaissance 2010 initiative including charter and performance schools. Ms. Burnett’s work is an expression of her belief that education can transform and uplift individuals, families, and communities. Currently, Ms. Burnett is the Director of Curriculum for the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community.

One Principal’s Mission: Improve attendance, lower latecomers to classes, increase scholarships and create a positive school climate.

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Breakout speaker Dave Derpak caught our eye at the National Conference on School Discipline in June.  While the session evaluations were certainly complimentary, it was the student ratings that we later found on that stood out most.  Principal Dave Derpak has used humor and a “no-nonsense” approach to build positive relationships with students over the years.  Here are what some students have had to say about him:

“Mr. Derpak is the greatest human being I’ve met, and was the COOLEST principal ever.  He interacted with the students all the time, and was totally down to earth.”

“He’s pretty much what I imagine as the perfect principal, he cares about his students, he’s proud of his school and he talks to you like he’s your friend, not your superior.”

Establishing a good rapport with students is one thing, getting results from those same students who are known to habitually pull prank fire alarms is quite another.  Derpak has navigated this often tumultuous terrain masterfully and has managed to “bring order to a place of chaos.”

Read about Derpak’s strategy in this article from The Globe and Mail.

If you’d like to participate in a web-based training with Dave Derpak and his colleague Chris Parker on Tough Love Meets Zero Tolerance, please visit to register.