NESCA has unexpected availability for Neuropsychological Evaluations and ASD Diagnostic Clinic assessments in the Plainville, MA office in the next several weeks! Our expert pediatric neuropsychologists in Plainville specialize in children ages 18 months to 26 years, with attentional, communication, learning, or developmental differences, including those with a history or signs of ADHD, ASD, Intellectual Disability, and complex medical histories. To book an evaluation or inquire about our services in Plainville (approx.45 minutes from NESCA Newton), complete our Intake Form.

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Technology to Relieve Holiday Stress – Really?

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS
Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Counseling Services, NESCA

During this holiday season, life for most people gets a bit more hectic. Many of us feel more stressed, busy, and overwhelmed with everyday life as well as preparing for the holidays. Our children are stressed as well, as they feel our stress. Older students feel the end of semester stress of papers being due and final exams looming.

A client, who is a college student, called me the other day and said, “I am just so stressed and angry, I couldn’t wait ‘til my appointment. I am angry at nothing and everything. I am being hard on myself and others.” I reflected on these feelings, and we discussed that, at this time of year, many people feel more stress and have a “shorter fuse.” I reminded him that being angry at himself for being angry wasn’t the solution/remedy; that just intensifies the feeling. Instead, we talked about normalizing his feelings, remembering to focus on his breath, and have compassion. When we focus on our breath, we shift our attention away from the thoughts and feelings that make us spiral. This client plays video games, so introducing him to stress management apps/games was a “no brainer.” I reminded him to use the app at least once a day for a few minutes, especially during this holiday season. This practice helps him and can help all of us to establish a new habit of stress reduction to help us remember how to focus on our breath and shift our attention.

Since most adults and children are using technology daily, let’s focus on spending some of that screen time for managing our mental health and stress levels. Experiment with free versions of apps and find one that resonates with you or your children, then practice it every day. Make it a part of your daily routine for at least 5 minutes. Pick the time that works for you. It is something that can even be done as a family. We establish routines for reading at night, let’s establish a routine of stress management at night, whether it’s an app or another method. Prioritize the time; it will make all your lives better! This habit and skill development will ultimately help us develop stress management skills and be able to use them when we are stressed. The development of these skills also helps us feel less stressed in general. Instead of feeling stress during the holidays, let’s feel the joy, love, and gratitude that abounds.

Listed below are a sampling of several stress management apps related to mindfulness, emotional recognition and regulation, and anxiety/depression to help you and/or your children manage the stress of the upcoming holiday season. Hopefully one of them will resonate with you and your children so that you all may experience more resilience and peace when stress does happen.

Headspace (Children through Adult) is a mindfulness/meditation app that helps people reconnect with their breath. Headspace for Kids focuses on five areas: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up.

Calm (Children through Adult) is an app that focuses on mindfulness, yoga, guided meditation, breathing programs, improving focus, calming and relaxing music, and more.

Insight Timer (Children through Adult) is an app that includes lessons/classes, talks, music, and more on a variety of topics, such as mindfulness, stress reduction, achieving better sleep, anxiety, yoga, and other areas.

Super Better (Age 13 through Adult) is an app that uses games to build resilience, change mindset, emotional control, mental flexibility, achieve goals – even with challenges – and helps with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and more.

Mindshift CBT (Teens through Adult) is an app that focuses on anxiety reduction, including worry, perfectionism, social anxiety, panic, phobias, and more.

Breathe2Relax (Teens through Adult) is an app that focuses on diaphragmatic breathing and stress reduction.

Smiling Mind  (Ages 7 through 18) is part of a broader collection of tools/curriculum that focuses on mental health for children and adults (teachers and parent). It focuses on mindfulness, deep breathing, body scan, gratitude, and more.

Positive Penguins (Ages 4 through 11) is an app that helps children understand how their feelings and thoughts are connected and to develop more positive thinking.

Resilient Family, Happy Child (Ages 4 through Adult) is an app that uses simple mindfulness- based movement to support the development of resilience and self-regulation.

Mightier (Ages 6 through 14) is a biofeedback tool that uses a heart sensor to help children understand their emotions and teaches them calming strategies.

HeartMath (Ages PreK through Adult) is a company that has many tools, games, music, curriculum, books, and more that focu on stress reduction. They have biofeedback apps and desktop computer versions for single users, classes, or multiple clients. They all use a heart sensor. Inner Balance is the app it uses within the program.

DreamyKid (Ages 9 through 18) is an app that uses guided visualizations, meditations, and affirmations related to mindfulness.

WellBeyond Meditation for Kids (Ages 4 through 8) is like DreamyKid but is geared towards younger kids with guided meditations, visualizations, and breathing exercises.

Breathe Think Do Sesame (Ages 2 through 5) is an app that helps children learn deep breathing, problem solving, an emotional vocabulary, positive thinking habits, and more through guided meditations, visualizations, stories, breathing exercises, and more.

Mindful Powers for Kids (Ages 5 through 10) Through play, games, stories, and more, kids learn about emotions, mindfulness, positive thinking, body scanning, and more. It uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as a guiding principle of its platform.

 

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 clinicians, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant/service 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.

 

Coping Strategies for Anxiety and Panic

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By: Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L
NESCA Transition Specialist & Occupational Therapist

Do you, your child or your loved one deal with frequent anxiety? Stress? Panic? Sometimes it may feel like you are spinning out of control. With so much going on in the world, in our own lives, and in our own head, it can feel like an impossible task to quiet the mind and calm the body. However, there are things we can do to regulate the nervous system, thereby relaxing the body and reducing the effects of anxiety. Below is a list of these strategies, but they are not one-size-fits all. Try each of them and see what works best for you or your loved one.

  • 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Technique: This technique is helpful to ground yourself in the present moment. Often, we can get stuck in our own head, and our worries and fears spiral out of control. This strategy is helpful to pull yourself out of those thoughts and into the present moment. The procedure is as follows:
    • Identify five things you can see. Feel free to describe them. What color are they? What are their shapes?
    • Identify four things you can touch. Get up and actually touch them! How do they feel? Are they soft? Hard? Squishy? Wet?
    • Identify three things you can hear. Is there a car driving by? Are the noises loud or soft?
    • Name two things you can smell. Are the smells pleasant? Neutral? Familiar?
    • Finally, name one thing you can taste. Can you taste the remnants of dinner on your tongue? Perhaps you have a piece of candy nearby you want to put in your mouth and describe.

Hopefully, completing this technique helps break the anxiety spiral. Feel free to repeat it as many times as you need. You can try to identify new items and sensations each time.

    • Weighted blanket or deep pressure: Deep pressure activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxing your body. Therefore, if you are feeling anxious, try sitting with a weighted blanket. Alternatively, if you have a pet, put them on your lap. Both the pressure of their body and the act of petting them is great for relaxing. You could also try giving yourself a hand massage or tight hug.
    • Box breathing: This is a breathing technique that also activates the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxes the body. The steps of this technique are as follows:
      • Take a slow breath in through your nose (if possible) for four seconds
      • Hold that breath for four seconds
      • Slowly breathe out for four seconds
      • Hold your breath again for four seconds
      • Repeat this cycle three or four times
    • Funny videos: Sometimes it can be helpful to distract the mind with a funny video. Animal videos can be great! Or perhaps you have a favorite comedian that will always make you laugh.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tightening different muscle groups and then letting them go. It helps to relax the body and reduce tension. You can find a guided YouTube video to walk you through the process, or you can also try it on your own by moving from head to toe, tightening different muscle groups. You may start by tightening all of the muscles in your face for 5-to-10 seconds as you inhale and relaxing the face muscles as you exhale. Give yourself 10-to-20 seconds to relax before moving on to the next muscle group.

 

About the Author

Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist who focuses on helping students and young adults with disabilities to build meaningful skills in order to reach their goals. She has spent the majority of her career working in a private school for students with ASD. She has also spent some time working in an inpatient mental health setting. Lyndsay uses occupation-based interventions and strategies to develop life skills, executive functioning, and emotional regulation. While completely her doctoral degree at MGH Institute of Health Professions, Lyndsay worked with the Boston Center for Independent Living to evaluate transition age services. She uses the results from her research to deliver services in a way that is most beneficial for clients. Specifically, she focuses on hands-on, occupation-based learning that is tailored the client’s goals and interests.

 

To book coaching and transition services at NESCA, 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, as well as Londonderry, New Hampshire. NESCA serves clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.