NAPAC Open House November 7

Please join us November 7th for the NAPAC Open House. Meet Courtney Pham, NAPAC Chair, and the school liaisons. Learn more about NAPAC’s resources and how we can support students and families. All are welcome.

NAPAC Open House

Date: November 7, 2020

Time: 6:30 – 8:00pm

Place: Stevens Memorial Library

Volunteer for Understanding Our Differences

Understanding Our Differences (UOD) is a nationally recognized, educational program that teaches elementary school children to develop understanding and respect for fellow students and others with physical, sensory or developmental disabilities. UOD is an interactive disability awareness curriculum that North Andover Elementary Schools teach to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Each year, students participate in 2 to 3 sessions introducing various kinds of disabilities. The programs’ goals are to foster respect, acceptance and compassion for people of all abilities as well as increase tolerance and reduce bullying. It reinforces North Andover’s RAISE values.

You do not need any experience nor a child with a disability. All training takes place online and can be completed in under twenty minutes. You will be done by 10:00 AM most mornings. If you can help please click here:  and add your name to any program(s) this year.

Learn more about UOD here and see the full list of program dates: Understanding Our Difference

Above and Beyond – Thank You Mrs. Beckley

NAPAC would like to acknowledge those teachers who go above and beyond to help their students throughout the school year.

This month NAPAC acknowledges Mrs. Beckley from Grade K at the Atkinson Elementary School.

“Mrs. Beckley went above and beyond by ensuring the teacher for the next grade level had the same information she did about my son to ensure the best experience for both of them.  She even took time out of her own training days in the week before school started to attend in service training for the new teacher to make sure all of the information she had gained could be passed on. I believe this type of teacher collaboration not only helped my son and his teacher in his subsequent school year, but also shows great teamwork and the spirit of Atkinson Elementary.”

MRS. BECKLEY Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond – Thank You Mrs. Curtis

NAPAC would like to acknowledge those teachers who go above and beyond to help their students throughout the school year.

This month NAPAC acknowledges Mrs. Curtis from Grade 1A at the Atkinson Elementary School.

“Mrs. Curtis has always been attentive and intuitive to my son’s specific disability. She works
actively and openly with me on any questions that she may have throughout the school day that pertain to his needs.  She has been completely receptive to having to modify her teaching style to accommodate my son in any way he needs. When I drop my son off at school in the morning, I feel completely at ease knowing he has someone who has nothing but the best intentions for him in mind, and for that, I am completely grateful.”


NAPAC Curtis

Franklin 5th graders experience autism

Imagine doing a group jigsaw puzzle and seeing that the person on your left has the piece needed, but Discovering Our Differencesyou cannot speak or gesture to the person to let him know he has the piece. Or imagine playing charades and having to use only facial expressions and body language to convey feeling guilty, shy, or determined. On Tuesday, February 2, 90 fifth-graders learned how difficult these tasks are–and how they can be some of the challenges that face people with autism every day.

“I liked the puzzle because it involved teamwork, and it gave us a better understanding of what it is like to have autism,” said Cole Giles. For Kara Muldoon, whose brother has autism, the activities were revelatory. “They were fun, but it made me realize how hard it is for my brother,” she said.
The puzzle and charade activities were part of a two-hour program called Understanding Our Differences, funded and sponsored by the North Andover Parent Advisory Council (NAPAC). The program, created in 1978, teaches children to develop understanding and respect for their peers and others with disabilities. More than 200 schools nationwide have used the program, and the idea to bring it to North Andover came from new Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Price, who experienced it first-hand in Newton. “I am excited that this program, that I have experienced as a mother, is coming to North Andover,” said Price. “I can tell you that both my daughters have loved this program and learned a lot about others and the challenges that some of their classmates face.”

After playing the games, the students discussed what it felt like to not be able to communicate or read expressions accurately. Then they watched videos about what it is like to have autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, and Aaron Levinger, a 26-year-old from Wellesley, spoke about what it is like for him having Asperger’s Syndrome. “Everyone with AS is different,” he emphasized. “One of my favorite sayings comes from author Stephen Shore: ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.’” Levinger explained that oftentimes, people on the autism spectrum crave structure and routines. “When rules aren’t being followed, it upsets me,” he said. He then told the kids a story about a time when he was in third grade, and the teachers decided to switch classes for April Fool’s Day, making Levinger so upset that he cried. When discussing an inability to read social situations, Levinger recounted the time when his family was at a Super Bowl party, and he walked over and turned the TV off because the sound was bothering him. “I didn’t understand that people wanted to watch it,” he explained. “Another social rule that I never understand is that people don’t always want to talk about my special interest, game shows. I’ve come pretty close to memorizing every person who has ever hosted every game show ever made–and not just in America!” This later prompted several questions from the students about his favorite game shows.

Students remained engaged throughout the speech and asked many thoughtful questions that really exhibited their desire to understand what it is like to have autism. Questions included, were kids mean to you? (“Not really; I was never bullied”), how did you feel when you found out you had Asperger’s? (“I was happy because I thought, now I have a name for it”), are you affected less by emotion than people without AS? (“No, I have plenty of strong emotions–I just might display them differently”), and do you have any advice for my 15-year-old brother, who has autism? (“Stay calm. You’ll be OK. You will get through school.”)

After hearing Price talk about how well the program has worked in Newton (where it started), NAPAC decided to pilot the program on a small scale this year. The group chose the Franklin Elementary School because of its large autism population and the size of the school. Right from the start, principal Joe Clarke was on board with the idea. “This is an incredible program that really helps solidify the “I” (inclusion) in our RAISE values,” he said. “The games were fun, but they helped the kids think about different communication styles. And Aaron, the speaker, did a phenomenal job in bringing it to life and keeping the kids engaged and asking meaningful questions.”

NAPAC has a second program scheduled for April on learning disabilities, also at Franklin. Ultimately, the group would like to bring the program to all elementary schools and involve students in grades three through five. “Our long term goal is to take this district-wide,” said NAPAC chair Maureen Ryan. “This will increase the children’s understanding of a greater range of disabilities and chronic health conditions starting at a younger age.” Price supports this goal: “Understanding our Differences is a wonderful program that highlights everything we believe in the North Andover Public Schools: that we respect all of our students, support an inclusive environment, and foster empathy.”

Watch the video

By Holly Vietzke-Lynch

This article has appeared in:

North Andover Public Schools Knightly News

Wicked Local:


Join Us Sunday Oct. 25 for “Dislecksia: The Movie”

NAPAC and the Stevens Memorial Library are pleased to present


Dislecksia: The Movie – Get on board with Emmy award-winning filmmaker Harvey Hubbell V and his crew as they explore the unique nature of how each of us learn. Join Hubbell, dyslexic superstars Billy Bob Thornton and Joe Pantoliano, world-renowned brain scientists and researchers, students and advocates as they join a movement to revolutionize education. Find out what it’s like to have your brain scanned inside an fMRI and visit with a group of dyslexic researchers in the jungles of Costa Rica, all the while following Hubbell through his days of growing up dyslexic before many had even heard of the word. Through the non-linear brain of Hubbell, his lens captures the otherwise complex issues of learning differences in a manner that allows the audience to recognize the differences and honor the gifts in all of us. This is social awareness with a heart.

RATING: This documentary is appropriate for children and adults (it is unrated).

LOCATION: Stevens Memorial Library Community Room

DATE: Sunday October 25, 2015

TIME: 2:30 – 4:00pm

Stop by the Library this Month to Learn More About Dyslexia

Stop by the Stevens Memorial Library this month to learn more about

  • What are some early warning signs?
  • Did you know Steve Jobs was dyslexia?
  • Browse the Library’s books and audio books.
  • Take home a book list for parents and students.
  • Find resources.

Join us at the Library on October 25 at 2:30 for Dislecksia: The Movie!

Thank you to Decoding Dyslexia-MA for helping NAPAC coordinate this display and movie.

Aaron’s Presents Sponsors Bracelet Making Workshop

Aaron’s Presents sponsored a bracelet making workshop for members of NAPAC and their families in January, 2015.IMG_0451

Aaron’s Presents offers grants, support and mentorship to children in the eighth grade or below who are willing to take the initiative to turn their thoughtful, creative ideas into reality. The workshop was conducted by two elementary school girls who received a grant from Aaron’s Presents to teach bracelet making to other children. Thank you for a fun and inspiring afternoon!