Staff Spotlight: Susan LaPlant helps guide families through residential placement
December 17, 2019
Longtime Admissions Team member Susan LaPlant has been working with our students, adult residents, and their families for 25 years. She offers a unique and insightful perspective of the work we do, the reasons our programs are successful, and the ways families can navigate the often exhausting and emotional journey to residential placement for their child.
When she reflects on the students she has come to know here at Latham, she lights up. “The students amaze me all the time! From their graduation speeches to their vocational awards to their performing arts endeavors, students are achieving mastery of goals, making friends, giving of themselves, and learning to be independent in many different areas.”
Susan said she is proud to be a part of our mission-driven organization. “I’ve been fortunate to have been working for Latham since 1994, and there are many things about Latham Centers that keep me coming to work energized. The co-workers really are amazing; I’m inspired by the work they do here every day,” Susan said. Latham is committed to creating opportunities for growth and advancement for staff members, she noted. “I’ve had opportunities to work in different positions and advance in our organization, and so many of my colleagues have also developed their careers here.”
Growth is also a key component of our residential therapeutic school. In Susan’s role in Admissions, she communicates regularly with families and professionals about that growth. “It is always easy to talk to prospective parents about our program because I can share years of success stories that illustrate how Latham School offers students an opportunity to grow in profound ways.”
Susan is often asked for advice from parents and caregivers who are at a place in which they feel their child needs a residential placement. Here is her advice for those embarking upon this journey. “When I answer the question about how to proceed, my response varies for each family and child. For a family realizing their son or daughter is struggling, I am aware that the family is also struggling, often feeling they have exhausted all their resources.” Here are the steps Susan recommends:
First, call our Admissions Team at (774) 353-9237 to schedule a time for a phone conference. We will listen and provide as much knowledge as we have.
Second, we invite families – and anyone interested – to come for a tour. When advocating for a child with a school district, it is best to have knowledge about what you are advocating for (in this case, residential placement).
Third, I wish I could say that resolution will come quickly, but please know this is a process and it takes time. Schools do not generally offer residential placement unless a child is physically aggressive at school. I tell parents that they have the right to advocate for residential if their child is not making progress in his or her current program. As we have seen, families may have to settle for a different placement first, as the law does say least restrictive placement. And typically, students would have to fail in their current program before a move is considered. From my experience, parents who have worked with an educational advocate (and sometimes a special needs attorney) have had very positive outcomes.
Above all else, Susan tells parents not to do this alone. Get educated. Get support. And get all the information possible (websites such as wrightslaw.com are helpful.) If you are in Massachusetts, there are plenty of resources including: Federation for Children With Special Needs and Special Needs Advocacy Network.
Thank you, Susan, for your many years of service! You have helped our students and adult residents; countless parents and caregivers; and the entire staff at Latham working to ensure brighter futures for everyone.
Pictured: Latham’s Admissions/Outreach Team includes (left to right) Katrina Fryklund, Ashley Pouliot, Patrice Carroll, Brittni Kliment, and Susan LaPlant.