Transition Services at NESCA

Planning, Consultation, Coaching, Assessment, Training and More


Transition is the complex process by which an adolescent or young adult masters the skills necessary to function independently in postsecondary life.. NESCA offers vision-driven and person-centered transition services that redefine transition as a process that both anticipates high school completion and extends beyond it. NESCA offers a wide variety of services designed to support the needs of students, families, schools, and professionals. These services are coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, and provided by our Team of Transition Specialists in conjunction with our Clinical Staff.

What We Offer:

Planning & Consultation

Ongoing Planning and Consultation

Transition planning and consultation involve understanding and nurturing an individual’s postsecondary vision, and helping that individual and his or her family identify resources, services, skills and strategies necessary to realize it. We collaborate with families, schools and community members to optimize the use of the Transition Planning Form (TPF) in order to assure that it is closely aligned with the student's vision and IEP goals.

However, transition planning often needs to go much further. Transition planning can complement school-based programs and remain available to a student through the entire transition period.

Generally, the planning process begins with 2-3 tightly spaced meetings to facilitate parent and student input, the development of a relationship and strategic planning. In some cases, it may be advisable for the transition specialist to attend neuropsychological testing feedback sessions or perform school observation to facilitate a common understanding and coordinated care.

Subsequent meetings will be scheduled as necessary to monitor and revise the transition plan. This is highly individualized and can range from monthly meetings to as few as two times per year.

Short-Term Consultation

What’s the most productive way to use the summer time? Is my TPF being used effectively? What type of transition assessment does my child need? How can we create a meaningful gap year? How do we navigate the transition from schools to adult human service supports?

Short-term consultation may be appropriate for families who are looking to answer a specific question related to transition planning and/or are trying to decide whether ongoing planning an consultation services are appropriate for their needs. Short-term consultation may be as brief as a record review and hour-long parent consultation, or as comprehensive as several parent and student intake sessions culminating in a written report with transition planning and assessment recommendations.

Program Consultation

Serving the individualized transition needs of students with widely varying social, emotional, and cognitive needs within a school, summer, or afterschool program is a complex endeavor. With over a decade of experience designing transition-specific programming, our staff work collaboratively with schools to refine current services, design new classes and programs, develop skill-building curricula, and train staff to effectively facilitate the development of independence for students.

Coordination or Case Management Services

Transition programs and services are constantly evolving; it seems like new opportunities are available every day. Still, it can be difficult to find one singular program that meets a student’s unique transitional needs. In these instances, we are available to work with schools and families to build a team of providers to deliver services for an individualized transition plan or postgraduate year program. NESCA will additionally facilitate the program to ensure coordination of care.

Training for Schools, Professionals and Groups

NESCA offers a wide variety of workshops providing both theoretical and practical information for supporting students with developmental, learning, and/or emotional challenges. Below is a sampling of our most popular workshops. These and other trainings pertaining to students with learning differences may be tailored to meet the needs of your school or organization. Workshops typically range in length from 1.5 - 3 hours but can be shortened or lengthened upon request.

  • Assessments: The Cornerstone of the Postsecondary Transition Process
  • Venturing Outside of the Classroom: Community Supports for Effective Transition Planning
  • But She’s Only 12: Why and How to Begin Transition Planning
  • The ABCs of Agencies: A Brief Overview of State and Public Supports
  • Using the Transition Planning Form to Your Advantage
  • Strategies for Supporting Tweens, Teens and Young Adults with Social-Cognitive Deficits
  • Fostering Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy in Youth with Social-Cognitive Deficits
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1:1 Coaching

For students with social, emotional, organizational and/or learning differences, hands-on instruction in real world environments is a critical means of developing skills for post-secondary living, learning and working. NESCA is pleased to offer individualized community-based coaching services delivered by seasoned professionals and designed to support the needs of transition-aged youth.

Community-Based Skills Coaching

Community-based skills coaching is a time-limited, intensive service focused on developing essential adaptive and practical independent living skills in real-life environments. This is critical for individuals needing to generalize skills taught in the classroom and/or who learn best experientially.

This type of skills coaching is suitable for any student seeking experience outside the walls of a high school environment and also may be an important component for an individual taking part in a fifth year, postgraduate or gap year experience.

While coaching can occur over the course of one or more school years, many individuals choose to participate in a set number of hours per week for a short-term period of time (e.g., 6 weeks, 8 weeks), focusing on specific individualized goals in three areas: continued learning, vocation, and community life.

Skill development may include executive functioning, interpersonal skills, self-advocacy, self-care/hygiene, meal planning and preparation, money management, shopping, travel training, engaging in volunteer and community service work, establishing healthy fitness routines, nutrition, and other skill areas critical for successful independent adult life.

Specific short-term goals are set by the client and coach in collaboration with family members prior to the first coaching session. Overall well-being and familiarity with community resources are a focus for every participant.

Moreover, our coaches work collaboratively with agency representatives and accompany clients to meetings with them as appropriate, on behalf of eligible individuals who will be receiving ongoing support from adult human service agencies such as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and/or the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

Pre-College Coaching

NESCA offers Pre-College Coaching services carefully designed to help students develop concrete skills and knowledge critical for managing the transition from high school to college. Designed to meet the needs of students intending to enroll in two- or four-year college programs, NESCA offers an individualized and real world approach to the process of exploring and identifying college options.

Through one-to-one sessions with a transition specialist, students are able to learn about a variety of post-secondary options as well as key differences between high school and college. Pre-College Coaching sessions often take place in local community settings enabling students to explore college for the first time, learn how to navigate specific college campuses, and practice hands-on skill development such as self-advocacy, navigation, money management, social communication and time management utilizing resource found on a college campus. Pre-College Coaching at NESCA is a learning process that meets a student where they are at and provides a practical road map outlining short- and long-term goals unique to their college transition.

For families needing support with College Selection, NESCA offers a short-term service designed to prepare a student and family to select an appropriate college environment; when appropriate, College Selection also occurs as part of Transition Planning and Consultation.

College Selection

Searching for a suitable post-secondary setting that affords opportunity for success is a difficult process for students with learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders. Through short-term consultation, NESCA’s transition specialists support students (and their families) to develop a college planning timeline, create college lists, learn how to explore a college online, plan college visits, research support services and more.

Importantly, transition specialists are able to visit local colleges with students to help them get the most from their experience, reality test “fit,” and investigate beyond the official presentation. While NESCA does not provide ongoing college counseling, consultation with a transition specialist is an ideal way to start the college selection process.

Moreover, when questions about a student’s readiness for a two- or four-year college experience are raised, NESCA transition specialists are uniquely qualified to assess readiness and provide appropriate referrals to alternative transition, gap-year, and age 18-22 programs.

Career Coaching

Career Coaching is an opportunity for students (or recent graduates) to develop workplace skills and explore possible careers. Learning about the range of career options is an important experience as an initial stage of career development. Preparation begins with awareness and exposure. Through an individualized approach, students are explicitly taught about their own personal strengths, interests and abilities and how they apply to the world of work. With this early exposure, students and their families can define a clearer vision for the future and map out a specific course of action. Through Career Coaching, students and parents begin the process of navigating the future while setting attainable short- and long-term goals. As coaching progresses, the student will gain access to increased self-awareness, actively form self-advocacy skills, and feel ownership of their vision.

NESCA offers coaching opportunities designed to meet students at their stage of career development:

  • Career Awareness – Students have the opportunity to learn about the world of work including how the language and expectations are different than school. They will learn about themselves and how their strengths, interests and abilities carve out a path to employment. Students will gain familiarity with skills and behaviors required for work, including social communication, and also the range of options related to their unique interests and abilities.
  • Career Exposure – Students learn about the differences between jobs and careers. They will be able to identify short-term goals leading to future employment. They will be exposed to job shadows, informational interviews, paid and unpaid internships, and/or volunteer work. Students will become more familiar with their own self-determination skills, enhancing their abilities to identify strengths, aptitudes, learning styles, transferable work skills and behaviors as well as work preferences.
  • Career Preparation – Students will create a step-by-step action plan for achieving realistic career goals. This may include educational planning for attendance at technical schools, increased job training and/or higher education. Students will be taught explicitly how to remain flexible with respect to potential career choices, to develop independent coping skills and to make a well thought-through decision. Students will further reduce dependence on school support by identifying and developing independent networks. Students will learn and follow through on job seeking tasks with supportive or competitive employment as the ultimate goal.
  • Career Maintenance – Students will have a job and/or internship. They will receive job site specific coaching to maintain employment. They will improve on their communication skills as they apply to the world of work. They will learn how and with whom to problem solve on the job. They will be able to describe to future employers what their transferable employment skills are and how they learn best on the job. Students will increase their independent living skills and self-advocacy skills as they relate to the world of work.

Career Coaching may take place initially at NESCA in order to obtain basic information regarding students’ strengths, interests and abilities. This can happen after transition assessment by NESCA or as a part of Transition Planning and Consultation. Once students are interested and/or able, Career Coaching will take place in their local communities and include learning to access transportation and other job specific skills necessary for success.

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Transition Assessment at NESCA

NESCA offers a wide range of transition assessment services, designed to identify and cultivate a student’s post-secondary living, social, and vocational goals and to determine the students related strengths and needs. It is recommended that all families begin the transition assessment process by scheduling a one-hour parent intake and consultation. The ultimate aim of transition assessment is to identify skills and services necessary to ready the student for his or her transition from high school to the next phase of life. NESCA’s transition assessment services are designed to support the needs of students, families, schools, and professionals.

Transition Planning Assessment (TPA)

TPA is an assessment that can be conducted as a standalone evaluation or an adjunct to a neuropsychological evaluation at NESCA. This is often a good starting point for younger students as well as individuals interested in gaining new data to inform the transition planning process at school, home and in the community. TPA measures a student’s interests, preferences, needs and skills related to the demands of current and future social, living, educational, and work environments.

Assessment typically involves parent and student interviews as well as 1-2 office-based testing sessions with a transition specialist. Questionnaire data from the student, parent, and teacher(s) is additionally critical to the process. TPA can help to determine short- and long-term planning goals, identify needed services, support instructional programming decisions, provide information about present level of performance, and refine a student’s personal vision.

Community Based Transition Assessment (CBTA)

Community Based Transition Assessment is a person-centered and highly individualized, community-based assessment developed to address questions regarding transition readiness. In response to the student's articulated vision, this assessment includes observation in familiar and novel environment(s) in which they anticipate pursuing their post-secondary goals.

Assessments can be located in a wide range of settings; each unique to the student being assessed. Typical locations may include school, town centers, retail settings, college campuses, recreational settings, volunteer sites, and vocational settings. Through a combination of structured activities and naturalistic observation, the CBTA functionally assesses key abilities for postsecondary life such as social communication, navigation, executive functioning, self-advocacy, self-determination, problem solving, stamina, and use of technology in real-world environments.

CBTA traditionally includes a document review, student interview, 2-3 hours of observation, parent feedback and a written report with recommendations. Depending on the unique referral question and focus of evaluation, formal assessment of a specific area of concern (e.g., executive functioning, self-determination, adaptive functioning, or vocational interests) and/or additional observation hours may be added. As with other transition assessments at NESCA, CBTA can be conducted as a standalone assessment or in combination with a neuropsychological evaluation.

Vocational Assessment

Vocational assessment carefully evaluates a student’s preferences, interests and aptitudes in relation to future employment through a variety of informal and formal evaluation tools. A critical component for evaluation of student abilities is situational assessment and/or observation of current work-related activities. Interviews with family, school and community providers familiar with the student’s strengths and needs are also crucial.

As with all transition assessment at NESCA, the vocational assessment process is highly individualized based on the student’s current programming and experience, or lack of experience, with employment. Individualized vocational assessment is often as relevant for a student who has a part-time job at a local supermarket as for a student who has not yet had their first volunteer experience. Regardless of prior experience, vocational assessment at NESCA includes a detailed written report with specific recommendations for supporting progress toward postsecondary employment goals including appropriate career exploration activities and initial or next work experiences.

Comprehensive Transition Assessment

NESCA’s comprehensive transition assessment is comprised of a series of tests, interviews, and questionnaires, as well as home, school, vocational, and/or community-based observations. The assessment typically consists of an intake session with the parent, three to five hours of in-office assessment, two to three observations outside of the office (e.g., at school, at an internship site, in the community), and a feedback session. Comprehensive transition assessments are conducted by a team, as we have found that when it comes to this type of assessment, “two sets of eyes are better than one.”

Best practice indicates that transition assessment should be thought of as a process conducted over a number of years beginning in middle school, rather than as a one-time evaluation. However, in the event that this process has not taken place (which is not particularly unusual, given that the concept of transition assessment and planning is relatively new to many clinicians, families, and schools), students in their sophomore, junior, or senior years of high school might require a comprehensive transition assessment, in which the range of transition readiness areas (e.g. learning profile, daily living skills, social skills, coping skills, pre-vocational skills) is necessarily assessed within a compressed timeframe. Typically, these types of transition assessments span a two to three-month period, from the initial intake session to the time the written report is finalized.

Assessment Consultation

There are countless number of formal and informal measures to choose from when assessing a student’s current performance level and skill-building capacity. Moreover, a number of assessments are performed throughout the education process but may not be documented or credited as transition assessment. NESCA staff work in partnership with schools to evaluate current transition assessment practices and identify the best tools and strategies to support the needs of their student population.

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