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Tips for Structuring Schedules with Transition Activities

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC
Transition Specialist and Consultant

There are lots of helpful resources, including articles, blogs, charts, etc. being shared about how to structure your time while you are at home and continue to work on maintaining transition skills. While much of the information is helpful and informative, it can also become overwhelming. Many people have asked how to organize all of the information and make it manageable for both themselves and the transition-aged individual they are supporting.

Below are some samples of schedules and lists that may be helpful establishing routine into this uncertain time.

 

 

About the Author

Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC, works with teens, young adults and their families out of the Newton, MA and Plainville, MA offices. Lauzon has unparalleled experience as a Transition Specialist, Transition Consultant and Vocational Program Coordinator. Lauzon will be providing transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations and observations) consultation, case management, training and professional development for schools; and transition planning, consultation and coaching for transition-aged students and their parents.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert transition specialists or neuropsychologists, please complete our online intake form

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Resilience during COVID-19: Collective Efficacy

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Renée Marchant, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

There is an array of research-proven factors shown to increase psychological and physiological resilience or “bounce-back” from stressful experiences, such as maintaining a social network and practicing healthy coping skills when in distress.

One important factor is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is distinct from self-esteem. Self-esteem is a judgement of self-worth whereas self-efficacy is a judgement of personal capability. People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered;
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate;
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities; and
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments (Bandura, 1995).

The COVID-19 crisis has cultivated a closely related and critical construct, collective efficacy. Collective efficacy is a group’s shared belief in its capability to organize and execute actions required to achieve goals (Bandura, 1995). In other words, members of a community look out for each other, support each other in solving problems, and, in effect, improve their lives through combined efforts.

Collective self-efficacy is everywhere amidst this crisis. Social distancing is in itself a collective efficacy measure. Thousands of communities across the world continue to show everyday kindness for those in need and solidarity for those on the front lines. A few local Massachusetts examples are:

Collective efficacy is proven to increase resilience at a family level and at a community level. Collective efficacy is critical for navigating through, tolerating and “bouncing back” from this crisis. Collective self-efficacy can be cultivated and grown at home through small, meaningful and intentional acts.

Here are three research-proven “collective self-efficacy” enhancers to practice while you’re home with your family during COVID-19:

  1. Stay active in a cause for kindness and connection: Make art or compliment cards for first responders. Record a video and send to a local nursing home. Participate in an organized trip to the grocery store for vulnerable members of your community.
  2. Create collective mastery experiences: Mastery experiences are experiences we gain when we take on a challenge and succeed. Identify a “home project” such as organizing a closet together. Creatively problem solve how to cook a snack or meal with four ingredients already in your kitchen. Organize a family “work-out” exercise challenge.
  3. Encourage reflection and communication: Identify a small, realistic goal for each family member to accomplish each morning. Have each family member name a “take away” and “throw away” from their day in the evening. Share a “strength story” to reflect on a strength you and/or your family member showed that week. Consider using specific value-driven language to identify this strength (see examples from the VIA character strengths research studies below).

About the Author:

Dr. Renée Marchant provides neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments for youth who present with a variety of complex, inter-related needs, with a particular emphasis on identifying co-occurring neurodevelopmental and psychiatric challenges. She specializes in the evaluation of developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder and social-emotional difficulties stemming from mood, anxiety, attachment and trauma-related diagnoses. She often assesses children who have “unique learning styles” that can underlie deficits in problem-solving, emotion regulation, social skills and self-esteem.

Dr. Marchant’s assessments prioritize the “whole picture,” particularly how systemic factors, such as culture, family life, school climate and broader systems impact diagnoses and treatment needs. She frequently observes children at school and participates in IEP meetings.

Dr. Marchant brings a wealth of clinical experience to her evaluations. In addition to her expertise in assessment, she has extensive experience providing evidence-based therapy to children in individual (TF-CBT, insight-oriented), group (DBT) and family (solution-focused, structural) modalities. Her school, home and treatment recommendations integrate practice-informed interventions that are tailored to the child’s unique needs.

Dr. Marchant received her B.A. from Boston College with a major in Clinical Psychology and her Psy.D. from William James College in Massachusetts. She completed her internship at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute and her postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, where she deepened her expertise in providing therapy and conducting assessments for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as well as youth who present with high-risk behaviors (e.g. psychosis, self-injury, aggression, suicidal ideation).

Dr. Marchant provides workshops and consultations to parents, school personnel and treatment professionals on ways to cultivate resilience and self-efficacy in the face of adversity, trauma, interpersonal violence and bullying. She is an expert on the interpretation of the Rorschach Inkblot Test and provides teaching and supervision on the usefulness of projective/performance-based measures in assessment. Dr. Marchant is also a member of the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) and continues to conduct research on the effectiveness of family therapy for high-risk, hospitalized patients.

 

To book an evaluation with Dr. Marchant or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

An OT’s Guide to Home Learning: Board Games and Puzzles

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist; Real-life Skills Program Manager and Coach

As social distancing recommendations, stay-at-home orders and shelter-in-place mandates continue to keep families confined to the home, parents are quickly being asked to take on the roles of teacher, therapist, warden, work-from-home professional, best friend and more. For parents of children with special needs and learning differences, this can feel extra daunting. There are countless online resources providing specific in-home activities, recommendations, and suggestions for working on targeted skills (e.g., literacy, fine motor, sensory integration, gross motor, etc.) in the home. It’s easy to get quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught of information.

While I believe there are many useful and creative free resources available online (I’ve written some of them!), our “new normal” includes many barriers to easy implementation including time, expertise, resources and confidence. Today, I want to share how some fun activities involving board games that you may already have in your home could make the task of keeping children engaged, interested and learning a little bit easier. Our game makers are getting increasingly creative and aware of their role in helping children build their skills, and the games listed below are just a few of the many options available.

5 Board Games for Development of Visual Perception

  • Connect 4 – Playing Connect 4 with the traditional rules requires kids to track horizontally, vertically and diagonally with their eyes. They need to visualize where their checker will land and place it in the correct spot at the top. Additionally, children need to monitor two colors at a time to ensure that they do not need to block their opponent on their next turn. For younger children, consider using the board to practice patterns or make shapes out of one color.
  • Quirkle – Quirkle combines colors, shapes and a grid pattern to create an interactive game for children to play with their parents. It promotes form perception, visual discrimination, tracking and matching.
  • Dominoes – There are many different games that can be played with Dominoes, making it easy to scaffold the activity for all different ages. Dominoes works on many of the same skills as Quirkle, but really allows children to practice visual figure ground. Figure ground is the ability to distinguish relevant information from a busy or overwhelming background. Dominoes have lots of different colored little dots in different patterns and alignments allowing children to practice this skill. Notably, Dominoes often have a tactile aspect allowing children to both see and feel the dots.
  • Spot it! / Spot it Jr! – Spot it! has quickly become a favorite game of occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and school psychologists alike. It practices a multitude of important skills. In terms of visual perception, Spot it! focuses on visual discrimination, hand-eye coordination, attention to detail, figure ground and more. Due to its popularity, Spot it! has provided us with an excellent variety of specific versions, such as Alphabet, NFL, Gone Camping, Animals, as well as substantial Spot it Jr.! options.
  • Memory – Unsurprisingly, the game Memory works on increasing visual memory! Children have to remember which cards they have picked, where they are on a grid and where the matches are. There are lots of options to order online, but this can absolutely be played used playing cards or DIY pictures drawn on pieces of paper. Children are also able to practice pronation/supination by flipping over the cards and placing them back down on the table.

 5 Board Games for Development of Fine Motor Skills

  • Trouble – Trouble allows children to work on building hand strength as they push down the pop-o-matic die roller. Try to ensure that children are using the muscles in their hands and fingers to push down, and limit the amount of body weight they use to help them push down. Additionally, children practice a pincer grasp as they pinch their pegs to move them around the board.
  • Hi-Ho! Cherry-O! – This game includes little plastic fruit that need to be placed in a basket to promote a pincer grasp and a spinner board that helps teach kids to flick or push a spinner.
  • BedBugs – Tongs and tweezers are part of an OT’s go-to toolbox as they promote fine motor precision, keeping an open webspace, and hand strength and coordination. This game is for children age 4 and up and provides each player with their own tongs to try and catch little bouncy bugs on a bed. Add a layer of complexity by having kids each try to catch one color!
  • Avalanche Fruit Stand – Another game that incorporates tweezers, Avalanche Fruit Stand promotes grip strength, pincer grasp and problem-solving as children need to balance different fruits on a stand. There is also a spinner to add in another element.
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos – Use this game to practice finger isolation and increase finger/hand strength. Encourage your children to use one finger at a time to depress the lever and make their hippo eat the marbles. Try switching fingers for each round.

*Bonus!* While many of these games work on more than one skill at a time, one age-old recreational activity that targets visual perception, visual motor integration and fine motor skill is simply completing a puzzle. Focus on teaching strategy and problem-solving by having your children start with the edge pieces, organize by color or choose one figure or character in the puzzle to build independently.

About the Author

Dr. Sophie Bellenis is a Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in educational OT and functional life skills development. Dr. Bellenis joined NESCA in the fall of 2017 to offer community-based skills coaching services as a part of the Real-life Skills Program within NESCA’s Transition Services team. Dr. Bellenis graduated from the MGH Institute of Health Professions with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a focus on pediatrics and international program evaluation. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, as well as the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. Having spent years delivering direct services at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, Dr. Bellenis has extensive background with school-based occupational therapy services.  She believes that individual sensory needs and visual skills must be taken into account to create comprehensive educational programming.

To book an appointment or to learn more about NESCA’s Occupational Therapy Services, please fill out our online Intake Form, email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

But First, Settle into the New Normal

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Let’s face it, parents have a big job to do when life is “normal,” never mind when we are living in this new normal. Parents are being bombarded with information from every corner of your life—even all of us at NESCA are blogging every day to help parents with information. Packets of educational information are being sent home, online learning classes are being arranged, etc. Talk about information overload. Are you feeling overwhelmed or saturated yet? Do you need a break from it all, even though we are only in week two of this pandemic in the United States?  Some parents are worried about their child’s education and, perhaps, their special education services. I get it. Many federal and state agencies as well as local school districts are trying to figure this out as we speak. This is a time to exercise patience with yourself, your leaders and your family members as we figure this new normal out.

Many of you are not teachers and, even if you are a teacher, teaching your own child is different than teaching your class. To your son/daughter, you are mom/dad—not their teacher.  So, trying on this new role isn’t going to be easy. If you aren’t a teacher, you may feel ill-equipped or may not even not know where to begin in doing these new educational tasks with your children. Even in the best of circumstances, children may “regress” or not learn new content during this time period. It is what it is. They can learn new and different things that aren’t in this realm—something we’ll continue to elaborate on in future blogs.

In the midst of this new normal, you are also home trying to figure out your own new rhythm of working from home or being unemployed, etc. Take the next few weeks to settle into this new normal. We are creating new rhythms as we are all at home trying to work, play, live and love each other. Most importantly during this time, don’t forget to enjoy each other, love each other and have some fun. Given all the tasks being asked of you, be realistic. Ask yourself what you are capable of doing given your circumstances and life realities. Don’t set your expectations too high, or you will be disappointed. Try to create structure out of chaos before you even begin to “be your child’s teacher.”

Words of advice:

  • Smile each day upon waking – make the best of the day
  • Live in the moment – one day at a time
  • Have fun and laugh every day – create moments of laughter and joy, as these are the moments that will be remembered
  • Breathe, and do it deliberately – use a reminder on your smart watch, fitness tracker or phone
  • Communicate honestly with each other
  • Be flexible – know there will be curveballs thrown your way
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself and your family members

These helpful hints will hopefully make each day go a little smoother! We are all in this together.

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Maintaining Transition Skills at Home

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC
Transition Specialist and Consultant

Transition skills are vital for many students, especially those who are close to turning 22 and aging out of the public education system or in their senior year of high school. Below are some free tools and suggestions, based on DESE’s secondary-transition model, regarding how students can continue to work on developing and maintaining a variety of skills while out of school.

Education and Training

  • If you are thinking about taking a college class, spend time researching different colleges online. Make a list of what you like about each school and what you don’t like. Write down what services/accommodations each college has to offer.  
  • Watch virtual tours of college campuses.
  • If you are thinking about going into a training program, research what programs are out there. Are the programs online or in-person and how long do they take to complete, what is the cost, etc.?
  • If you want to finish your MCAS or work on your GED, download study guides online and take practice tests.

Employment

  • Create a free account with teacherspayteachers.com and download free practice job applications and job interview questions.
  • Complete a free online career interest inventory at: www.mynextmove.org and www.careeronestop.org.
  • Research different careers and make a job journal. The job journal can include the following: education needed, work environment (i.e. inside or outside, many people or few people, standing all day or sitting all day, salary, job tasks, etc.). O*Net is a great resource for this.
  • If you have been considering a part time job this summer, start researching places that are easy for you to get to. You can even fill out online applications.
  • Research places in your community that need volunteers. Email them or make a list of whom to contact.

Independent Living

  • Create a free account with teacherspayteachers.com and download free financial literacy activities around banking and budgeting.
  • If you are thinking of getting your Driver’s License, many websites offer free practice online tests.
  • Use Pinterest for recipe ideas and make a meal each day for you or your family.
  • Create a recipe book of foods you can make.
  • Practice different independent living skills for household management (i.e. laundry, cleaning, organizing, folding clothes, sorting clothes by size and color, etc.).
  • If you are thinking about making some extra money when the weather gets nicer, go through items and start making a yard sale pile!

Community Participation

  • Research what adult service agencies have to offer (i.e. MRC, DDS, DMH, Centers for Independent Living, etc.).
  • Register to vote.
  • Research fun places close to where you live and make a list of things you want to do when the weather is nice.

 

About the Author

Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC, works with teens, young adults and their families out of the Newton, MA and Plainville, MA offices. Lauzon has unparalleled experience as a Transition Specialist, Transition Consultant and Vocational Program Coordinator. Lauzon will be providing transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations and observations) consultation, case management, training and professional development for schools; and transition planning, consultation and coaching for transition-aged students and their parents.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert transition specialists or neuropsychologists, please complete our online intake form

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Now is a Great Time to Practice Self-compassion

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Cynthia Hess, PsyD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow

In this new era of social distancing, and where homeschooling has gone from being an exception to a new way of life, many are feeling confused, overwhelmed and wondering what to do next. Many parents have found themselves adrift in a sea of uncertainty without a compass. In her New York Times article titled, I Refuse to Run a Coronavirus Home School, Dr. Jennie Weiner discusses the perils of comparing ourselves with other parents on social media and of setting unrealistic expectations that we are going to navigate this wild period of uncertainty perfectly and with grace. Parents who are working at home may be feeling as though they are unable to meet the demands of parenting, teaching, and performing at their jobs, leading to feelings of inadequacy. About her own family’s experience, she states, “We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, [her kids] punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.”

Within the context of uncertainty and inevitable change, there are opportunities to help kids develop important life skills. While reading and math are certainly an important part of a child’s education, there are many “soft skills” that lead to healthy outcomes in life. At school these softer skills are nurtured when children are asked to wait patiently in line; whether it’s for gym class, lunch or a turn on the swing. In the classroom they are expected to listen to others, raise their hand or wait to be called on by their teacher. Navigating these tasks requires children to monitor their behavior, plan for when it’s their turn, direct their attention to their goals and be respectful. Many of these soft skills are already practiced at home and in the course of everyday life. Children are learning while waiting for their turn to play a game or watch a show. They are also learning while waiting for a parent to play a game, watch a show or read a book with them. Times like these can be very challenging for children and their parents, but learning to manage the often-inevitable frustration, anger and/or disappointment, helps children become more resilient and self-reliant – skills that are not always overtly taught, but are important as children continue to grow into adulthood. Be gentle with yourself knowing that at any given moment you are doing your best, and that is good enough.

As we all head down this path of uncertainty, Dr. Weiner suggests that we meet this new challenge head on, holding our breath, crossing our fingers and accepting that it’s going to be messy and that is okay. At the end of the day, tell yourself gently: “I love you. You did the best you could today, and even if you didn’t accomplish all you had planned, I love you anyway.”

To read Dr. Weiner’s article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/coronavirus-home-school.html?referringSource=articleShare

 

About the Author

Dr. Cynthia Hess recently graduated from Rivier University with a PsyD in Counseling and School Psychology. Previously, she earned an M.A. from Antioch New England in Applied Psychology. She also worked as an elementary school counselor and school psychologist for 15 years before embarking on her doctorate. During her doctorate, she did her pre-doctoral internship with RIT in Rochester, N.Y. where she worked with youth ages 5-17 who had experienced complex developmental trauma. Dr. Hess’s first post-doctoral fellowship was with The Counseling Center of New England where she provided psychotherapy and family therapy to children ages 5-18, their families and young adults. She also trained part-time with a pediatric neuropsychologist conducting neuropsychological evaluations. Currently, Dr. Hess is a second-year post-doctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychological assessment, working with NESCA Londonderry’s Dr. Angela Currie and Dr. Jessica Geragosian.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert neuropsychologists, please complete our online intake form

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Five Tips for Promoting Fine Motor Development in the Home!

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist; Real-life Skills Program Manager and Coach

  • Writing on a vertical surface is a great way to promote proper hand/wrist positioning and fine motor growth – try taping paper to an easel or to the wall and allowing them to try writing on this plane.
  • Skip the fat pencils for our little learners. While specific adapted writing utensils for children with fine motor needs can be best assessed by an occupational therapist, for the majority of our young learners, the rule “the object promotes the grasp!” is applicable. If we want our learners to be building strength and learning proper hand positioning, I suggest trying either a standard number 2 pencil or a mini golf pencil.
  • Let your children peel off and stick on their own stickers! In reality this could end up with some ripped stickers or extra time spent on a project, but peeling off stickers promotes a pincer grasp, bilateral coordination and visual motor integration. If your child is too young to find the edge and begin to peel, consider starting the sticker and then letting them finish peeling it off independently.
  • Use scissors to cut anything and everything! While supplies of construction paper and worksheets sent home from school may be dwindling, consider letting your children cut up junk mail (make sure it’s sanitized), old magazines, newspapers and scraps of old cloth. Some of our kids will want to use these scraps to create a collage or other art projects, while others will simply enjoy the act of shredding. You can make this activity accessible for really young kids by simply having them tear the paper with both hands.
  • Bring out the tool box! Twisting a bolt onto a screw, using a wrench to tighten a hex-nut and using a hammer to pull nails out of a block of wood all help with fine motor and increasing strength. For more of a visual perception task, considering mixing all of the screws, nails and bolts together and having your child sort them into different bowls or containers.

 

About the Author

Dr. Sophie Bellenis is a Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in educational OT and functional life skills development. Dr. Bellenis joined NESCA in the fall of 2017 to offer community-based skills coaching services as a part of the Real-life Skills Program within NESCA’s Transition Services team. Dr. Bellenis graduated from the MGH Institute of Health Professions with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a focus on pediatrics and international program evaluation. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, as well as the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. Having spent years delivering direct services at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, Dr. Bellenis has extensive background with school-based occupational therapy services.  She believes that individual sensory needs and visual skills must be taken into account to create comprehensive educational programming.

To book an appointment or to learn more about NESCA’s Occupational Therapy Services, please fill out our online Intake Form, email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

We’re in this together, but do we have to be together all the time?

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Everyone being home at once is now the “new normal,” and, let’s face it, nothing feels normal about the situation we are in now. We are in uncharted waters and need to create life boats for all of us to use when the going gets tough. No matter how much you love your kids, your pets, your wife, husband or partner and they love you, you will all need some time away from each other.

As you try to create a routine and schedule of activities for your family, one activity to include – one life boat to create – is designated “alone time.” Alone time is when everyone in the house chooses an activity that they can do by themselves without interruption. Specify time limits for alone time based on the ages and stages of your kids and the types of activities they can do independently. This could be watching a movie, reading a book, drawing, playing with special toys (only used during this time), listening to music or a podcast, doing a puzzle, or even a little screen time, etc. Another life boat for parents and guardians needing to work from home is to make “Stop” and “Go” signs to hang on a door. When the Stop sign is up, it means, “No interrupting. ___ (i.e. mom, dad, grandma, etc.) is working.” Each parent or caregiver can take turns with work, keeping in mind that flexibility and kindness is needed for all of us to survive.

Another life boat to create is a calming space. Many kids share a bedroom with a sibling so they do not have a private, separate space to go to as a retreat. A calming space is one that’s as quiet as possible and away from the activity center of your dwelling. It is a separate space to “chill out” in. When you create this space, you will have to teach your kids about the space, what it is used for, how to use it, what can and can’t be done in it, etc. Set boundaries and stick to them so each child can get what they need. Get the kids involved in the design and creation of this new project. Let them choose what goes in it and what types of activities can be done in it. It can be a small nook already available in your house (i.e. under a stairwell, inside a closet, a corner in a bedroom, in the dining room if this space isn’t frequently used, etc.).

If you don’t already have a “nook,” make one. Remember the “calming space” is a separate place used to pause and self-regulate; a cozy place away from everyone else. You can create a “calming space” by tacking a sheet to a couple of walls in a corner to create a triangular space. If you have extra folding chairs, set them up and drape a sheet over the chairs to create a tent-like space. If you go camping and have a room big enough to set up your tent in, do that! With so many packages being delivered these days, be on the lookout for a large delivery or appliance box. Let the kids decorate it. Use a curtain and a rod, hang a hook from the ceiling and attach a canopy.

What goes inside the tent can be decided upon by the kids. If they are new to this, offer some ideas, such as pillows, a sleeping bag, calming music, favorite stuffed animals, weighted blankets, fidget toys, soothing visuals (i.e. lava lamp, water toys, etc.), calming scents, etc. Activities for kids to do when inside may include coloring, drawing, matching games, reading stories about feelings and ways to express feelings, etc. (many are available online and can be downloaded). Each child could have their own box outside the calming space that has their own calming items in it to use when they enter the calming space. Encourage your child or have items in the space that promote calm and mindfulness, such as deep breathing exercises, calming scents, serene images, soft music, feeling cards, etc.).

Let this be a break from the chaotic pace of life and uncertainty of the present.

Resources for specific calming activities:

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

7 Ways to Build Work-readiness from Your Couch

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS
Director of Transition Services; Transition Specialist

With schools across the country closed, special education and transition services are on hold for millions of young people. Fortunately, there are options for teenagers and young adults of all abilities to build important career planning, work readiness and even paid employment experience from home. Here are some suggestions for teens and young adults to build employment skills from the comfort of home:

  1. Use this time to draft your first resume (or edit an existing one). Even students with no work experience have plenty of information to put on a resume. Minimally, your resume should include your contact information, education to date and any volunteer, informal work activities or paid work experiences you have had. It is also appropriate to include skills and personal qualities, school accomplishments, and extracurricular activities that are nonwork related. Learn more about writing a resume for a part-time job at: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/part-time-job-resume-example-for-a-teen-2063248 and https://www.thebalancecareers.com/high-school-resume-examples-and-writing-tips-2063554.
  2. Take an online career interest test (or 10). There are a number of great free career interest tests available online for students with a variety of reading abilities. Some of the most common free tests include O*Net Interest Profiler, The Holland Code Interest Test and CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment. Residents in Massachusetts can access many assessments online at the MassHire Career Information System. When inventory results are provided, each web site typically includes information about exploring ideas and careers further.
  3. Remotely learn about jobs of interest. Many students learn best experientially and, while current times prevent activities like job shadowing and internships, you can still virtually explore jobs of interest by watching career videos. Some web sites that offer a wide range of employment videos include Career One Stop Career Cluster Video Series, DrKit.org or MassCIS locally.
  4. Practice phone and video skills, including interview skills. While text messaging and social media communications may be better for connecting with friends, phone and video conferencing skills are increasingly important for seeking and maintaining employment. Take this opportunity to pick up the phone and call family members and friends. Build and practice video conference skills with platforms like Facetime, Skype, Google Duo and zoom.us. You can also download apps like Job Interview Question-Answer to work on video interview skills.
  5. Use the time to improve typing and digital literacy skills. Even if you have been taking notes on an iPad, Chromebook or computer for years, you can further improve your typing skills. One free web site that we like is com. To build Google or Microsoft Suite skills, check out other free resources like GFCGlobal and https://usefyi.com/g-suite-training/. You may even want to enroll in certification courses to build your credentials.
  6. Become a virtual volunteer. Whether you are trying to keep moving on your school’s volunteer hours requirement, looking for a meaningful way to spend time or want to beef up your resume, virtual volunteerism offers a great opportunity to use time at home meaningfully. To learn more about virtual volunteerism, check out this blog by GoodWill Industries or this lengthy resource assembled by Jayne Cravens at Finding Online Volunteering.
  7. Apply for a remote job. While employment trends are not clear, there are still companies hiring across the globe. Research and apply for remote and work-from-home positions, such as the examples listed here on The Penny Hoarder.

 

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist at NESCA for consultation, coaching, planning or evaluation, please complete our online intake form: https://nesca-newton.com/intake-form/.

About the Author:

Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is NESCA’s Director of Transition Services, overseeing planning, consultation, evaluation, coaching, case management, training and program development services. She is also the Assistant Director of NESCA, working under Dr. Ann Helmus to support day-to-day operations of the practice. Ms. Challen began facilitating programs for children and adolescents with special needs in 2004. After receiving her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ms. Challen spent several years at the MGH Aspire Program where she founded an array of social, life and career skill development programs for teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and related profiles. She additionally worked at the Northeast Arc as Program Director for the Spotlight Program, a drama-based social pragmatics program, serving youth with a wide range of diagnoses and collaborating with several school districts to design in-house social skills and transition programs. Ms. Challen is co-author of the chapter “Technologies to Support Interventions for Social- Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personality Style, and Self-Regulation” for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism. She is also a proud mother of two energetic boys, ages six and three. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, she provides support to individuals with a wide range of developmental and learning abilities, including students with complex medical needs.

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

School-based Occupational Therapy at Home

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist; Real-life Skills Program Manager and Coach

While school districts and government officials work to plan for the current “new normal,” no concrete decisions have been made about the delivery of special education and provider services. As parents take on the huge task of educating within the home, it is important to consider how we can bolster some of the skills that are continuously targeted in the school setting. As an occupational therapist, I have provided direct services and worked with teachers who are adeptly teaching a class of 20, while simultaneously making sure that their two students with OT needs are being provided appropriate accommodations and motor practice. Here are some activities that can be done in the home to keep the development and learning going!

If your child’s occupational therapy (OT) evaluation mentions difficulty with fine motor coordination, consider incorporating these activities into your day.

  • Sort marbles, pompom or coins. Using fingers to pinch and pick up small objects helps to build strength and solidify grasp and grip patterns. Increase the difficulty of this activity by having kids push pompom and marbles through small holes or manipulate coins through slits in a tub or box.
  • Play with playdough or putty. Make shapes using cookie cutters, push beads into putty and pull them all out, roll playdough into a snake and use different pinches to create patterns from head to tail. Pinches to consider include: thumb and index finger, thumb and index+middle finger and thumb against the side of the index finger (lateral pinch).
  • String beads, cheerios or pasta with holes. This activity promotes bilateral coordination, fine motor control and grasp patterns. Scaffold this activity by starting with threading on pipe cleaners, moving to dry spaghetti and finally working to thread onto string.
  • Practice using tweezers to pick up small objects.

If your child’s OT evaluation mentions difficulty with visual perception or visual motor integration, try these!

  • Puzzles! Doing a puzzle requires multiple visual perceptual skills, as well as the fine motor precision to fit pieces together.
  • Word searches. Word searches require horizontal and vertical tracking, letter discrimination and visual figure ground ability. Consider scaffolding this activity by finding word searches that only have horizontal words, have both horizontal and vertical, or have horizontal, vertical and diagonal words.
  • Sorting activities. Objects can be sorted by color, shape, size, texture and a plethora of other characteristics. Consider using objects found in the home, such as pens, buttons, silverware or simply items in a junk drawer for sorting activities.
  • Mazes, Hidden Pictures and Spot the Difference activities can all be found online.
  • Copying activities. Draw pictures using horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, circles, squares, triangles and crosses and have your child try to copy them exactly. This activity works on visual motor integration specifically.

If your child’s OT evaluation mentions difficulty with endurance, postural stability or core strength, try these!

  • Draw or play while lying on the ground. Tummy time is often thought of as an activity to help our newborns, but lying on your tummy and using the muscles needed to keep the upper body and head stable can be beneficial for building strength in most of our kids.
  • Yoga! Incorporate an online video or movement break into your daily routine.
  • Pretend to be different animals! Walk like a bear, slither like a snake, hop like a frog or trot like a horse. Mimicking these animals is a great activity to do while listening to music and uses all different muscles.

While it can be difficult to target our children’s specific needs without direct access to therapists and our usual resources, building in small activities throughout the day can help to maintain strength, skill development and the foundational abilities needed for academic growth.

 

About the Author

Dr. Sophie Bellenis is a Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in educational OT and functional life skills development. Dr. Bellenis joined NESCA in the fall of 2017 to offer community-based skills coaching services as a part of the Real-life Skills Program within NESCA’s Transition Services team. Dr. Bellenis graduated from the MGH Institute of Health Professions with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a focus on pediatrics and international program evaluation. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, as well as the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. Having spent years delivering direct services at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, Dr. Bellenis has extensive background with school-based occupational therapy services.  She believes that individual sensory needs and visual skills must be taken into account to create comprehensive educational programming.

To book an appointment or to learn more about NESCA’s Occupational Therapy Services, please fill out our online Intake Form, email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.