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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executive function coaching

Allow Them to be Challenged! (Building Children’s Executive Functions): Part 1

By | NESCA Notes 2024 | No Comments

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Coach

Executive function – the ability to engage in goal-directed behaviors, such as planning, organization, focus, and self-regulation – is a set of cognitive skills that all individuals possess and use on a daily basis.

Like any skill, each person’s executive function is at varying stages of proficiency and development. Furthermore, a person’s day-to-day capacity for executive functioning can fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including age, cognitive profile, environment demands, emotional state, physical illness, stress, mental health, etc.

As the role of executive function in learning, working, and general life tasks is becoming more widely acknowledged and understood, it is also becoming more common to make accommodations for young people to support their executive function challenges. It is exciting to see more of this consideration and inclusion; however, I often find myself in conversations with families, educators, and related professionals regarding the difficulty of balancing executive function support and accommodation with allowing space and opportunities for growth and skill development.

How can we resist the temptation to completely alleviate a young person’s struggle, especially when we know that the individual needs opportunities to practice the executive function skills they are attempting to master? It comes down to exposing young people to calculated challenges.

Facing challenges is an important part of learning and developing independence. It is also important to be thoughtful about the level of challenge we present to an individual. In my coaching, I like to think of Lev Vygotsky’s theory of learning in which every person has a “zone of proximal development” that encompasses the skills or tasks that they cannot yet do on their own, but that they can achieve with guidance or assistance (often referred to as “scaffolding”). When a learner receives support attempting a task that is just beyond their individual reach or capacity, it allows them to stretch their skills and current knowledge. With guidance and repeated practice, the learner develops the ability to utilize the skills and knowledge independently; their zone of proximal development shifts, and they can tackle more complex and challenging skills (citation).

Challenge is essential to growth. But finding a person’s zone of proximal development is not an exact science – it’s individual, shifts with time and circumstances, and it can be difficult in the moment to know if you’ve struck the right balance between supporting your child while simultaneously allowing for sufficient challenge.

You may be thinking, “What’s too little challenge? What’s too much? Is my child facing an overwhelming amount of executive function demands, or are these challenges good growing and learning opportunities for them?” Next week’s blog will give a few examples of how parents and caretakers may be able to balance support vs. calculated challenge. And, in the meantime, consider collaborating with an executive function coach! It’s a great way to answer these questions and learn how to independently identify the appropriate level of challenge for your child.

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Did you know that NESCA offers parent coaching tailored to helping parents facilitate their child’s executive function growth? While many families take advantage of the opportunity to have their student’s work directly with our executive function coach and utilize parent coaching as a support for generalizing the strategies the students are learning, this has also been an invaluable service on its own for many parents.

 

About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, New York (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Preparing for a College Visit

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

With vacation weeks coming up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, many local families—especially those with juniors in high school—are contemplating visits to college campuses. School vacation weeks in the spring are a great time to visit colleges because you can tour the campus at a point in time when students are engaged in a typical flurry of academic and extracurricular activities. Summer may allow for more convenient or peaceful tours, but it is not a time of year when the happenings on campus accurately reflect student life (unless there is a very active summer session). Instead, spring and fall are often considered the optimal seasons for campus visits. For those of you planning upcoming visits, here are a few tips to consider—especially if you are a student with a learning disability, autism, or a mental health diagnosis.

  • Sign up ahead of time for the tour through the college’s web site. Even if a college does not require registration, potential students should go ahead and register for the college tour so that they get “credit” for their visit. There are lots of metrics that count as part of the college admissions process, and one of these important variables is literally the number of times that a potential student makes contact with the college. Things like registering for a tour, emailing admissions, following the college on social media, visiting with college representatives at college fairs, and signing up to receive materials by mail or email can all be considered “points of contact” with the college and may help students to ultimately be accepted.
  • Be prepared to answer a few questions about yourself. Most college information sessions or tours will start with the admissions staff and/or tour guide introducing themself and asking a few questions about the students in the group. Students should be prepared to share things like their name, hometown, grade, potential major, and clubs or activities they might want to participate in during college. Not all of this information will be requested outright, but some will typically be part of introductions and more may be asked during a presentation or tour. For students who have a hard time answering questions on the spot, they will feel much more comfortable if they have thought about—and practiced—answering these questions before the tour. They can also be more actively involved. Terms like undergraduate, graduate, first-year, and transfer may also come up when visiting colleges, and it can be helpful to review some college vocabulary ahead of time so that students are not flustered in the moment.
  • Ask questions of your own! (But make sure you are asking the right people your questions.) Information sessions and college tours are typically facilitated by admissions staff and college students. These are the times when you are learning about the college in general and getting a sense of campus culture, facilities, and services available to all students on the campus. For legal reasons, college admissions and college disability supports are notably separate entities. This means that college information sessions and tours are not typically the time and place for accommodation- and disability-specific questions. So, what questions should you ask? Well, there are plenty of web-based resources that you can look to in order to create your own personal list of tour questions. Here are just a few you might find interesting:

Even if you have done online research about a college, it’s a good idea to ask a few questions about items that are important to you to see if things on campus are really as described. Also, if you are a student with a disability, you might ask some of the questions that get at culture and inclusion: What’s it like to be a new student on campus? How do you see the college demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion? What controversial issues have come up on campus?

  • Don’t panic if you don’t see yourself or your student in the tour guide. College tour guides are typically some of the highest performing, actively involved students at the college and are usually representative of an extreme rather than the “average” student. While these students are certainly a part of the campus and culture, it is important to get a sense of who else is on the campus. Take time to observe and talk with other students you see walking around on campus. If you can, circle back to an academic building in an area of interest and find a student to talk to there. Or just stop a few students around campus and ask informal questions (e.g., Why did you pick this college? What do you wish you could change? What do you do like about being a student here? What do you wish you knew before you started college here?).
  • Take time to eat on campus. Make time before or after your tour to eat in a main cafeteria or campus center. If you are going to be eating three meals a day on campus, its important to know what that experience will be like. Certainly, the food is important. You need to know if there are a variety of food options and that there is something you would be comfortable eating for all meals. Also, you want to get a sense of the atmosphere, including how crowded it is and how easy it is to find a table.
  • If you are just getting started on your college search process and do not have a set list of schools yet, don’t worry. You can still get out and visit schools. I often suggest starting with different college archetypes (e.g., big school, little school, school spread out in a city, school with more defined campus, private, public, community, etc.). It can be good to just pick a few different school types, visit the colleges, and then do some real downloading of information and preferences immediately after the visits. I often ask students to do some ratings of colleges as they leave the schools so that they can quantify their “gut feeling” about a school and use that for comparison even if they aren’t sure exactly what it was that they liked or disliked. Even a bad college visit can help to determine some of the things that are most important about the college search process!

Embarking on college campus visits is a bit of a house hunting process—you are looking at potential academic homes. It can definitely be overwhelming, especially when it’s a process that you have not been through before and you may not know exactly what you want or what’s worth looking at. But you have to start somewhere. Following these suggestions should allow you to get a true sense of campus life and culture while also learning about yourself and your own preferences and values. Be prepared, but also trust yourself, and let each experience help you learn who you want to be as a future college student.

 

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college, work, and more independent adult life. Such services include executive function coaching, pre-college coaching, transition planning, and neuropsychological evaluation. To learn more specifically about our coaching services, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/ . NESCA also offers postsecondary transition consultation to families who want support identifying whether students are ready for college transition, or they may need a step in between or a scaffolded transition: https://nesca-newton.com/transition/#planning. To schedule an appointment with one of our expert clinicians or coaches, please complete our intake at: https://nesca-newton.com/intake/.

 

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is an expert transition specialist and national speaker who has been engaged in evaluation, development, and direction of transition-focused programming for teenagers and young adults with a wide array of developmental and learning abilities since 2004. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with youth with autism, she enjoys working with students with a range of cognitive, learning, communication, social, emotional and/or behavioral needs.

Ms. Challen joined NESCA as Director of Transition Services in 2013. She believes that the transition to postsecondary adulthood activities such as learning, living, and working is an ongoing process–and that there is no age too early or too late to begin planning. Moreover, any transition plan should be person-centered, individualized and include steps beyond the completion of secondary school.

Through her role at NESCA, Ms. Challen provides a wide array of services including individualized transition assessment, planning, consultation, training, and program development services, as well as pre-college coaching. She is particularly skilled in providing transition assessment and consultation aimed at determining optimal timing for a student’s transition to college, technical training, adult learning, and/or employment as well as identifying and developing appropriate programs and services necessary for minimizing critical skill gaps.

Ms. Challen is one of the only professionals in New England who specializes in assisting families in selecting or developing programming as a steppingstone between special education and college participation and has a unique understanding of local postgraduate, pre-college, college support, college transition, postsecondary transition, and 18-22 programs. She is additionally familiar with a great number of approved high school and postsecondary special education placements for students from Massachusetts including public, collaborative, and private programs.

Ms. Challen enjoys the creative and collaborative problem-solving process necessary for successfully transitioning students with complex profiles toward independent adulthood. As such, she is regularly engaged in IEP Team Meetings, program consultations, and case management or student coaching as part of individualized post-12th grade programming. Moreover, she continually works to enhance and expand NESCA’s service offerings in order to meet the growing needs of the families, schools and communities we serve.

When appropriate, Ms. Challen has additionally provided expert witness testimony for families and school districts engaged in due process hearings or engaged in legal proceedings centering on transition assessment, services and/or programming—locally and nationally.

Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Challen began her work with youth with special needs working as a counselor for children and adolescents at Camp Good Times, a former program of Milestones Day School. She then spent several years at the Aspire Program (a Mass General for Children program; formerly YouthCare) 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. Also, she 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 skill and transition programs.

Ms. Challen received her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. While training and obtaining certification as a school guidance counselor, she completed her practicum work at Boston Latin School focusing on competitive college counseling.

Ms. Challen has worked on multiple committees involved in the Massachusetts DESE IEP Improvement Project, served as a Mentor for the Transition Leadership Program at UMass Boston, participated as a member of B-SET Boston Workforce Development Task Force, been an ongoing member of the Program Committee for the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity (AANE), and is a member of the New Hampshire Transition State Community of Practice (COP).

She is also 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: Innovations that Enhance Independence and Learning.

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

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, NY (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

The Intersection of Mental Health and Executive Function

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Executive Function Coach

Mental Health challenges and executive function (EF) deficits are often intertwined, as one can easily impact the severity of the other. As a psychotherapist and executive function coach, I find myself regularly assessing my clients with comorbid EF and mental health challenges in order to identify which presented first.

Why does this matter?
Emotional regulation and executive control both live in the frontal lobe of the brain. They operate close together and impact one another. Because of this, mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety, can be overlooked and mislabeled as an executive function deficit. Identifying the root cause of a student’s EF struggles is critical for properly planning appropriate next steps and necessary supports. For example, if a student’s depression is causing them not to initiate and/or complete work, the depression usually needs to be addressed before they receive EF coaching. If the student is already working with a mental health professional, such as a therapist, it is important for them to be cleared by the therapist to add in an EF coach. Working on too many new skills at once can be overwhelming, so it is important that enough foundational coping skills are learned first.

An example of anxiety causing an EF deficit:
Clara gets extremely anxious in social situations due to a lack of self-esteem. She had a negative experience in middle school where other students made fun of her lisp whenever she read out loud in class. Now, in high school, Clara is afraid to ask questions, even when she is confused. She is left not fully understanding the material, class assignment expectations, or how to approach studying for quizzes and tests. Rather than asking for help, Clara keeps to herself. Even when teachers offer to help her, she responds with, “Thank you, but I’m all set.”

Clara’s parents can see that she struggles to initiate homework assignments, rarely studies for upcoming tests, and that her grades are declining. They don’t fully understand why, because when they ask her, she is quick to deflect and change the subject.

By checking in with Clara’s teachers, her parents may receive feedback that she often shies away from their support. With a lack of understanding why, her teachers aren’t sure how else to approach the situation other than continuing to check in. Jumping into EF coaching to address her task initiation and study skills may help, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem. A more appropriate action plan would be for Clara to first receive psychotherapy, addressing the bullying that led to her social anxiety and self-esteem issues and then shifting to EF skill building.

An example of an EF deficit causing anxiety/depression:
Gabriel is a seventh grade student diagnosed with ADHD. He has a difficult time advocating for himself and asking for help due to some additional communication challenges. His ADHD also makes it challenging to stay on task and pay attention to details. This results in Gabriel constantly forgetting what his homework assignments are and when they are due, creating a lot of missing work. Gabriel’s teachers are often redirecting him and reminding him of incomplete work. They have tried to help him develop plans to make it up, but he struggles to follow through with these plans. At home, Gabriel’s parents often share their frustrations with him and try to help him get back on track. With adults constantly reminding him he’s behind, Gabriel has developed internalized anxiety, often wondering why he can’t be like everyone else. He tries so hard to remember what his homework is and when it is due, but can never seem to get it right. Over time, he begins to experience symptoms of depression as his self-esteem declines.

In this situation, Gabriel’s lack of EF skills is the root cause of his negative thinking patterns. By receiving EF coaching, he can learn ways to regularly track his assignments. He can be taught how to break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks in a way that helps him overcome procrastination. Additionally, he is able to become proactive and communicate with his teachers so that they are kept on the same page. As these skills get stronger, Gabriel becomes more responsible, and gets praise from his teachers and parents in return. Given the impact of this situation, he may also benefit from short-term counseling to better understand the connection between his EF and anxiety. Increased self-awareness helps students learn how to advocate for themselves the next time they encounter a similar situation.

Does this sound familiar?
These scenarios are common and can be difficult to navigate without proper assessment and guidance from professionals. If you or your child struggles with mental health and EF-related challenges and you are not sure where to start, book a free introductory call with me or one of our other wonderful and experienced EF coaches. NESCA also offers comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation services and neuropsychological consultation for families who are wondering about possible missed learning, attention, mental health, or other diagnoses. We look forward to working with you!

 

About the Author

Carly Edelstein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Having worked both in private practice and schools, she has extensive experience supporting students, families and educational teams to make positive changes. Ms. Edelstein provides executive function coaching and psychotherapy to clients ranging from middle school through adulthood. She also offers consultation to schools and families in order to support her clients across home and community environments.

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s counselors, coaches, or other experts, please complete our online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and staff in the greater Burlington, Vermont region and Brooklyn, New York, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Summer Planning for Teenagers

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

March is an incredibly busy time in my household. Three out of four of our family members celebrate birthdays, winter sports turn into playoffs, and school events seem to pop up every week. March is also the time when we finalize our “summer camp plan” and manage lengthy online registration processes. If you have a teenager in the household, particularly a teen with a disability, you may also be thinking about summer and feeling particular pressure to “make the most” of the time while your child is still in high school. In case you are still scrambling for your own summer plan, I wanted to offer up several activities that are worth considering as part of your teen’s summer plan.

Get a paid summer job! Time and time again, research indicates that individuals who have paid employment in high school are more successful college students and more successful in obtaining employment as adults. If your child is college bound, having a paid work experience among their high school activities is a huge boost to their college applications. And, if not, paid work experiences teach soft skills for employment, help students figure out more about their career interests and preferences, and help to build meaningful resumes. Being able to do work that meets someone else’s standards is a vital life skill, and summer is an optimal time to build that skill.

Gain overnight experience. Students who plan to go to college but have never spent a night away from home need to know how they are going to handle that experience. There are all sorts of summer programs where students can spend time overnight, away from home, among peers. Overnight programs vary in length. Students who are just venturing out for the first time may feel most comfortable in a program that lasts a week or less, whereas other students may want a 3-week or 6-week experience. For college-bound students, I often recommend taking advantage of programs that happen right on college campuses in dorms. But there are also great programs outdoors or even travel programs in the United States or overseas. Knowing that you can spend the night away from family (and knowing what it’s like to “live” among a whole group of young people) is often a critical step in setting post-high school goals.

Use the time to build new executive functioning or emotional regulation skills. Students who struggle with executive functioning or emotional regulation often need coaching or therapy during the school year, just to keep up with school activities. However, students and families often reach out for these resources because they are already in crisis. A student will seek out an executive function coach when a student is already behind with assigned work or grades. Families often seek out therapy when an emotional crisis has occurred. School provides a number of executive functioning and emotional demands, so it can be hard for a coach or therapist to build new skills with a student while the student is also meeting those demands. Summer can be an optimal time to work more intensively to build new skills, strategies, and systems because it is a time when other demands are reduced. If your teen has a therapist, tutor, executive function coach, social pragmatic coach, or other support person who is helping them to tread water during the school year, it’s definitely worth asking whether intensive services over the summer might help the student to build skills that will last long-term and help the student be better prepared for the following school year.

Summer can also be a great time to tackle time-consuming activities, like completing the college application, drafting a college essay or two, cleaning out a bedroom or reorganizing study space, or building a new life skill, like driving, cooking, or mastering a laundry routine.

March is a great time to take stock of what your teenager wants to do after high school, what challenges might impede them smoothly transitioning to those activities, and thinking about how summer might be the perfect time to eliminate some of those challenges!

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college, work, and more independent adult life. Such services include executive function coaching, pre-college coaching, transition planning, and neuropsychological evaluation. To learn more specifically about our coaching services, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/. NESCA also offers postsecondary transition consultation to families who want support identifying the most meaningful ways for their student to spend the summer: https://nesca-newton.com/transition/#planning. To schedule an appointment with one of our expert clinicians or coaches, please complete our intake at: https://nesca-newton.com/intake/.

 

 

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is an expert transition specialist and national speaker who has been engaged in evaluation, development, and direction of transition-focused programming for teenagers and young adults with a wide array of developmental and learning abilities since 2004. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with youth with autism, she enjoys working with students with a range of cognitive, learning, communication, social, emotional and/or behavioral needs.

Ms. Challen joined NESCA as Director of Transition Services in 2013. She believes that the transition to postsecondary adulthood activities such as learning, living, and working is an ongoing process–and that there is no age too early or too late to begin planning. Moreover, any transition plan should be person-centered, individualized and include steps beyond the completion of secondary school.

Through her role at NESCA, Ms. Challen provides a wide array of services including individualized transition assessment, planning, consultation, training, and program development services, as well as pre-college coaching. She is particularly skilled in providing transition assessment and consultation aimed at determining optimal timing for a student’s transition to college, technical training, adult learning, and/or employment as well as identifying and developing appropriate programs and services necessary for minimizing critical skill gaps.

Ms. Challen is one of the only professionals in New England who specializes in assisting families in selecting or developing programming as a steppingstone between special education and college participation and has a unique understanding of local postgraduate, pre-college, college support, college transition, postsecondary transition, and 18-22 programs. She is additionally familiar with a great number of approved high school and postsecondary special education placements for students from Massachusetts including public, collaborative, and private programs.

Ms. Challen enjoys the creative and collaborative problem-solving process necessary for successfully transitioning students with complex profiles toward independent adulthood. As such, she is regularly engaged in IEP Team Meetings, program consultations, and case management or student coaching as part of individualized post-12th grade programming. Moreover, she continually works to enhance and expand NESCA’s service offerings in order to meet the growing needs of the families, schools and communities we serve.

When appropriate, Ms. Challen has additionally provided expert witness testimony for families and school districts engaged in due process hearings or engaged in legal proceedings centering on transition assessment, services and/or programming—locally and nationally.

Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Challen began her work with youth with special needs working as a counselor for children and adolescents at Camp Good Times, a former program of Milestones Day School. She then spent several years at the Aspire Program (a Mass General for Children program; formerly YouthCare) 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. Also, she 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 skill and transition programs.

Ms. Challen received her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. While training and obtaining certification as a school guidance counselor, she completed her practicum work at Boston Latin School focusing on competitive college counseling.

Ms. Challen has worked on multiple committees involved in the Massachusetts DESE IEP Improvement Project, served as a Mentor for the Transition Leadership Program at UMass Boston, participated as a member of B-SET Boston Workforce Development Task Force, been an ongoing member of the Program Committee for the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity (AANE), and is a member of the New Hampshire Transition State Community of Practice (COP).

She is also 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: Innovations that Enhance Independence and Learning.

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

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, NY (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

A Little Coaching for Caretakers Goes a Long Way When Building Executive Function Skills for Students

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Coach

In my work as an executive function tutor, a priority is to foster collaborations with the other adults in my clients’ lives. Every relationship brings something different to a young person: different perspectives, areas of expertise, support abilities, opportunities for conflict management, etc. But while every person in your child’s life plays a unique role in their growth, family members often serve as the “control tower” for communication between the various environments of a child’s life. That’s why, of all the collaborations I engage in, parent/guardian collaboration can have the most significant impact on my clients’ executive functioning progress.

When I start working with an executive function client, I work to establish a clear line of communication with caregivers at the outset so they are well-informed of our session work. But direct parent/guardian coaching allows for collaboration on a much deeper and consistent level. Similar to executive function tutoring, parent/guardian coaching is regularly scheduled, has established goals, and serves as a space to discover and learn different strategies for supporting executive functioning skill development. Furthermore, because of the individualized nature of coaching, it can address a wide range of family needs, such as assistance with school documentation; brainstorming and creating home supports for a neurodivergent child; receiving reassurance and guidance in difficult-to-navigate or novel parenting situations; and managing your own daily demands so that you have more bandwidth for supporting your child, etc.

Here are some example situations demonstrating when and how parent/guardian coaching can have a big impact:

→ Your child is in elementary school and is still developing their self-awareness and ability to self-reflect. In their weekly executive function tutoring, they cannot always accurately self-report the daily demands they face or struggle with. You’ve set up brief weekly parent/guardian coaching in order to share important background/contextual updates that will help me direct my tutoring focus and strategy suggestions. I offer weekly tips that help you to practice accurate self-reflection with your child. It also allows you to share any new concerns that arise.

→ Your 9th grade child has been working with an executive function tutor for a little over a year now and has learned several executive function management strategies. They’ve reached the point in their development where they need to generalize their knowledge. You’ve decided to start parent/guardian coaching because you are uniquely positioned to support this generalization at home. I touch base with school staff to also support generalization at school.

→ Your high school child is struggling with executive functioning, and you want them to get support, but they are not open to meeting with an executive function tutor. You start parent/guardian coaching in order to learn concrete strategies to support your child with the executive function demands of school and home. The parent coaching is also helping you to reflect on the ways you can facilitate a better communication dynamic with your child.

As you can see in the above examples, even though the coaching sessions are attended by the parent/guardian, the purpose of the work is to supplement the executive function (EF) development of your child. Here are just a few ways in which parent/guardian coaching contributes to your child’s success. Coaching can:

→ help you further create a home environment that is supportive of your child’s EF needs and skill development

→ help you know how to “lend” your prefrontal cortex to your child in a way that reduces overwhelm, but still provides limits so that they have opportunities to develop and practice skills for managing EF tasks with greater independence

→ help you expand your strategies for responding to challenges or conflicts that arise while working on EF goals between tutoring sessions

→ help you know how to prioritize your focus in supporting your child’s goals (there are so many resources, it can be a challenge to know which to start with)

→ help you use strategies that promote a mindset of growth, reflection, and self-compassion (all important for your child’s EF skill development)

→ help normalize the act of receiving help and support. Your commitment to coaching models for your child the importance of getting support for your needs, being open to feedback, and embracing personal change/growth.

The list can go on because the opportunity to work with clients and caretakers in tandem offers exponential benefits for the client. What parent/guardian coaching does on a fundamental level is support families in developing a new filter, perspective, and framework for approaching and supporting the young person’s executive function needs.

 

About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, New York (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Technology Tools to Boost Your Productivity Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L
NESCA Executive Function and Real-life Skills Program Manager

As winter envelops us in its chilly embrace, it’s easy to feel the drag on our productivity. The cold, dark days can sap our motivation, making it challenging to tackle our to-do lists. But fear not! In this second part of our series on technology tools to enhance productivity, we’ll explore five more applications designed to support you through the winter slump.

Before diving into these tools, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s normal to experience dips in productivity, especially during the winter months. These apps are here to provide an extra boost for those who may need it.

  1. Finch: Finch is a self-care app used to build healthy habits and routines. Within this app you will be given a virtual pet bird. As you set, meet, and reach your goals, you will boost your pet’s energy so that it is able to go out on adventures. You will earn coins to buy your pet new outfits, home décor, and flights to new destinations. This app helps gamify the process of building healthy habits by creating fun incentives to get your tasks done.
  2. Forest App: Spending too much time on your phone or computer can contribute to feelings of lethargy and distraction, especially during the winter months. Forest is a clever app that encourages you to put down your device and focus on what’s important. Simply set a timer, plant a virtual tree, and watch it grow while you work. If you succumb to the temptation of checking your phone or browsing the web, your tree will wither and die. With Forest, you can cultivate healthier digital habits and reclaim your productivity.
  3. Cozi: Cozi is a family organizer app designed to streamline your household routines. From managing schedules and appointments to coordinating grocery lists and meal plans, Cozi helps keep your family on track during the hectic winter months. With shared calendars and reminders, everyone stays in sync, reducing stress and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
  4. Streaks: Forming good habits is essential for maintaining productivity, especially when the days are short and the nights are long. Streaks is a habit-tracking app that helps you establish and maintain positive routines. Whether you want to exercise more, drink more water, or practice mindfulness, Streaks makes it easy to track your progress and stay motivated. Streaks empowers you to build habits that stick, even when the winter weather tempts you to hibernate.
  5. Headspace: Taking care of your mental well-being is crucial, especially during the darker days of winter. Headspace is a meditation app that offers guided mindfulness exercises to help you reduce stress, improve focus, and cultivate a sense of calm. Whether you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder or simply feeling overwhelmed by winter blues, Headspace can provide the support you need to prioritize your mental health and boost your productivity.

The winter months can be challenging, but with the right technology tools at your disposal, you can stay focused, organized, and productive. Whether you’re building healthy habits and routines, reducing screen time, coordinating family schedules, or prioritizing mental health, these apps are here to support you every step of the way. So don’t let the winter blues hold you back—embrace the power of technology and conquer your to-do list!

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L, Vermont-based Executive Function and Real-life Skills Program Manager, 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.

Dr. Wood accepts Vermont- and Massachusetts-based transition and occupational therapy assessments. Her in-home and community-based coaching services are available in the greater Burlington, Vermont area. Dr. Wood can accept virtual coaching clients from both Massachusetts and Vermont.

 

To book coaching and transition services at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

 

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, New York (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Why is it so hard to develop Executive Function skills for college as a high school student?

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

Students with disabilities often have challenges with executive function skills. These may include difficulties with organization, planning and prioritization, time management, task initiation, attention and effort, working memory, self-regulation, self-monitoring, and mental flexibility. Being successful as a college student often depends on using and integrating these skills. Therefore, it’s no surprise that most of the IEPs I read when working with teenage and young adult students have goals or objectives aimed at remediating executive function (EF) skills. However, many students on IEPs have these “EF” goals for years and still don’t effectively develop the skills they need to successfully manage executive functioning tasks as college students.

One of the reasons for the remaining skill gap when students matriculate to college is because high school student responsibilities are pretty radically different from college student responsibilities. While research indicates that individuals can continue developing executive function skills throughout the lifespan, this requires a very particular set of activities. Executive function skills develop through a combination of direct instruction and opportunities to practice using the learned skills with and without support. But there often are not opportunities for practicing the skills needed for college as a high school student.

Below is a list of executive function supports that exist in high school, but often disappear in college:

  • Classes are small and always taught by teachers
  • Class material is centralized in books or on the board in the classroom
  • Time is structured by the school
  • Students are told what they need to learn from homework
  • Students are reminded of assignments and due dates
  • Completed homework is checked by teachers
  • Reading is discussed in classes
  • Studying is limited to a few hours per week
  • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material
  • Teachers approach students who need help
  • Schools are required to find students with disabilities who need specialized instruction and accommodations
  • Parents and teachers will remind students of their responsibilities
  • Parents and teachers will help to set priorities (or simply set them for the student)
  • Parents and teachers will correct students when behavior is unexpected

In college, students may have large classes taught by other students or experts in their fields who aren’t experts on teaching. They have to use syllabi, manage their own schedules (with large swaths of unscheduled time), integrate academic materials from a wide range of sources, and self-direct long hours of reading and studying. They also have to be responsible for advocating for themselves, knowing when they need help, and knowing what they are responsible for (academically, socially, and in their dorms) and getting those things done without parent and teacher reminders. For students who have strengths with executive functioning, often the transition to college still presents a steep learning curve. But for those who have vulnerabilities in these areas, it can be critical to recognize that the gaps are large between these two learning environments, and sometimes additional support and instruction is necessary while students are taking college classes. Some students will still need to build effective academic and executive function skills, and practice and master those executive function skills, while they are in college and managing this new set of demands.

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college, including executive function coaching, pre-college coaching, transition planning, and neuropsychological evaluation. To learn more specifically about our coaching services, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/ . To schedule an appointment with one of our expert clinicians or coaches, please complete our intake at: https://nesca-newton.com/intake/ .

Reference:

Many of the bulleted items of executive function supports that exist in high school are adapted from this high school versus college comparison by King’s College: https://www.kings.edu/admissions/high_school_vs_college

 

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is an expert transition specialist and national speaker who has been engaged in evaluation, development, and direction of transition-focused programming for teenagers and young adults with a wide array of developmental and learning abilities since 2004. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with youth with autism, she enjoys working with students with a range of cognitive, learning, communication, social, emotional and/or behavioral needs.

Ms. Challen joined NESCA as Director of Transition Services in 2013. She believes that the transition to postsecondary adulthood activities such as learning, living, and working is an ongoing process–and that there is no age too early or too late to begin planning. Moreover, any transition plan should be person-centered, individualized and include steps beyond the completion of secondary school.

Through her role at NESCA, Ms. Challen provides a wide array of services including individualized transition assessment, planning, consultation, training, and program development services, as well as pre-college coaching. She is particularly skilled in providing transition assessment and consultation aimed at determining optimal timing for a student’s transition to college, technical training, adult learning, and/or employment as well as identifying and developing appropriate programs and services necessary for minimizing critical skill gaps.

Ms. Challen is one of the only professionals in New England who specializes in assisting families in selecting or developing programming as a steppingstone between special education and college participation and has a unique understanding of local postgraduate, pre-college, college support, college transition, postsecondary transition, and 18-22 programs. She is additionally familiar with a great number of approved high school and postsecondary special education placements for students from Massachusetts including public, collaborative, and private programs.

Ms. Challen enjoys the creative and collaborative problem-solving process necessary for successfully transitioning students with complex profiles toward independent adulthood. As such, she is regularly engaged in IEP Team Meetings, program consultations, and case management or student coaching as part of individualized post-12th grade programming. Moreover, she continually works to enhance and expand NESCA’s service offerings in order to meet the growing needs of the families, schools and communities we serve.

When appropriate, Ms. Challen has additionally provided expert witness testimony for families and school districts engaged in due process hearings or engaged in legal proceedings centering on transition assessment, services and/or programming—locally and nationally.

Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Challen began her work with youth with special needs working as a counselor for children and adolescents at Camp Good Times, a former program of Milestones Day School. She then spent several years at the Aspire Program (a Mass General for Children program; formerly YouthCare) 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. Also, she 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 skill and transition programs.

Ms. Challen received her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. While training and obtaining certification as a school guidance counselor, she completed her practicum work at Boston Latin School focusing on competitive college counseling.

Ms. Challen has worked on multiple committees involved in the Massachusetts DESE IEP Improvement Project, served as a Mentor for the Transition Leadership Program at UMass Boston, participated as a member of B-SET Boston Workforce Development Task Force, been an ongoing member of the Program Committee for the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity (AANE), and is a member of the New Hampshire Transition State Community of Practice (COP).

She is also 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: Innovations that Enhance Independence and Learning.

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

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, NY (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Loving Individuals with Executive Function Challenges: Real-world Examples of Flexibility and Adaptability

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

Last week I discussed how being flexible and adaptable is a great way to support individuals with executive function struggles. Today I’d like to give you a few examples of how that would look in real life!

Scenario #1
You are the parent from the nighttime routine debacle from last week. Instead of bedtime being relaxing, it fills you with anticipatory dread. Bedtime is in 15 minutes, and you are scrambling to get your child ready. After prompting your child for the 27th time to pick a pair of pajamas and put them on – something they have to do literally every night and should come as no surprise to them, you walk into your child’s room to see the contents of their backpack strewn all over the floor as they look for their favorite plushie to pack for school tomorrow. Pajamas are not on, teeth are not brushed, and now there is a room to clean. You feel your frustration boil over as you realize that it will be yet another night of everyone going to bed late and stressed out. You think to yourself, “This shouldn’t be this difficult! My kid should be able to do a simple nighttime routine and get to bed on time!”

→ Examples of Flexibility and Adaptability: You stop constantly prompting (or as your child calls it, “nagging”) and start providing external supports that help them foster more independence. After sitting down together and learning that visual reminders are helpful, you posted a nighttime routine checklist on the wall. In your discussion, you also realized that your little one runs out of steam about 15 minutes in, so you simplified the nighttime routine to the bare minimum. You even started shuffling some of the nighttime tasks to earlier in the day when everyone has more energy. It’s a little unconventional to put on pajamas before dinner, but it’s one less task to do later, and it makes dinner fun.

Scenario #2
You love your partner dearly, but for the life of them, they are incapable of arriving to any family event even remotely on time. The lead-up to walking out the door and into the car is always filled with shouting and frustration, and while you arrive together, you arrive late and grumpy.

→ Examples of Flexibility and Adaptability: You started traveling separately to family events. Yeah, it confuses some of your relatives, you’re using double the gas, and your partner shows up way later than they would if you drove together, BUT you both arrive at the family gathering in great moods and enjoy your time with everyone, which is your actual priority. It’s also helped your relationship because it’s removed a lot of the push-pull dynamic that was created by rushing to get somewhere together on time. You also notice how it has opened the door to more conversations around your spouse’s neurodiversity and ways to support them. But really, the best part of this new flexible arrangement is that you can get there on time before all the tasty food runs out, and when you’re feeling generous, you even save your partner a plate!

Scenario #3
No matter how hard you try, your fridge is a warzone. Vegetables rot before you can cook them; you have multiple bottles of hot sauce because you keep forgetting you already have some; and a pack of mushrooms stares judgingly at you every time you pass over it because you still haven’t bought the other ingredients for the mushroom soup you plan(ned) to make.

→ Examples of Flexibility and Adaptability: You let go of how you thought a fridge needed to look, and organized it in a way that makes sense for your brain and eating habits. Vegetables now go in the fridge door where you’ll have a visual reminder to eat them before they go bad. Condiments are on a lazy Susan so you can quickly check what you have and don’t have. You also started shopping for only 1-2 dishes at a time, and now keep all the ingredients needed for a dish together in bins so they’re ready to go when you cook. Yes, you know pasta doesn’t need to be in the fridge, but you know what, this is your life, and this makes sense for you. And while it’s true that this new organization system is suboptimal in terms of space usage, you’ve noticed that you’re actually using more of what you do have in the fridge, which is your priority.

Want to explore this topic more?
Here are a few social media accounts that are modeling a more flexible and adaptable approach to executive function demands:
@thecenteredlifeco
@strugglecare (along with her Podcast “Struggle Care”)
@divergentcoachkelly
@adriabarich

And, if you would like to explore additional solutions to executive function challenges, NESCA’s team of expert executive function coaches is available to work with you and/or your family. We have coaches who can work in-person or remotely. Let us know how we can support you.

 

About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and the greater Burlington, Vermont region, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Reduce Your Frustrations: How Being Flexible and Adaptable Helps You and Your Loved One with Executive Function Challenges

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

The Dreaded Nighttime Routine
Hey parents, tell me if this rings a bell. Instead of bedtime being relaxing, it fills you with anticipatory dread. Bedtime is in 15 minutes, and you are scrambling to get your child ready. After prompting your child for the 27th time to pick a pair of pajamas and put them on – something they have to do literally every night and should come as no surprise to them – you walk into your child’s room to see the contents of their toy bin strewn all over the floor as they look for their favorite plushie to pack for school tomorrow. Pajamas are not on, teeth are not brushed, and now there is a room to clean. You feel your frustration boil over as you realize that it will be yet another night of everyone going to bed late and stressed out. You think to yourself, “This shouldn’t be this difficult! My kid should be able to do a simple nighttime routine and get to bed on time!”

In my experience, so many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation with a child, a partner, or even ourselves. While you might like for me to launch into tips and tricks for achieving a seamless nighttime routine for your family (does that exist?!), instead I’d like to explore the idea of challenging our “shoulds,” and discuss how being more flexible with ourselves and others can help reduce our frustrations.

Yep, I’m Talking about Letting Go!…Again!
If you or a loved one struggle with executive function demands, it’s important to get more comfortable letting go of how things “should” be, and start being flexible around how things could be. I really love Dr. Russell Barkley’s shepherd analogy for parenting a child with ADHD, as it can be applied to a wide range of relationships and situations involving individuals with executive functioning challenges. He tells us that parents are not engineers, and they do not get to design their children to be the way they’d like them to be. Instead, he pushes parents to accept that they are “a shepherd to a unique individual,” and while “no shepherd is gonna turn a sheep into a dog,” parents do have the power to “pick the pastures in which the sheep will graze and develop and grow.”

Whether you are shepherding a child, a loved one, or yourself, this approach helps us let go of who a person should be, how the routines of daily life should go, or what tasks should be easy. Trying to turn a sheep into a dog (aka trying to shove a round peg into a square hole) only leads to frustration, and worse yet, often sets neurodivergent people – and those who love them – up to fail. Instead, start focusing on how daily life could be, and channel your efforts into shaping your environment and tasks accordingly.

Flexibility and Adaptability are the Tools for Letting Go
The best way to start shaping the environment to better suit the needs of an individual with executive function struggles is to be flexible and adaptive. Below is a list of strategies for being more flexible and adaptive:

Adaptivity Killers Adaptivity Enhancers
-All-or-nothing thinking

-100% optimization and productivity

-Shaming in order to motivate action

-Rejection or deprivation of needs

-Growth mindset (progress over perfection)

-Selective effort and investment

-Positive self-talk and celebrating small successes

-Self-reflection and compassion

Notice how the Adaptivity Enhancers above align with practices that will dissipate frustrations or at least help you weather them with more ease. Take a look at how each would play out in real life:

  • “I may not be the most athletic human in the world, but I’m really interested in doing more physical movement. I bet if I practiced, I could increase my athletic ability and start to enjoy physical activity more.” (growth mindset).
  • “I know I can’t go from 0 to 100, and that I only have so much expendable energy in the day. I’m going to focus my efforts on lifting weights: starting with small weights and lifting just twice a week.” (selective effort & investment).
  • “Today I lifted for less than my target time, but I’m really proud of myself for coming all the way to the gym after I had such a crummy day at work. I’m also proud that I lifted weights for as long as I did.” (positive self-talk; celebrating small successes).
  • “I notice that I’m usually cranky on Wednesdays after work, and it’s a drag to get myself to the gym – which is totally understandable. Maybe I can better support myself by going on Tuesdays when I tend to have more energy.” (self-reflection and compassion).

Stay tuned for next week’s blog for more real-life examples of how being flexible and adaptable can help you navigate everyday executive function demands.

 

About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and the greater Burlington, Vermont region, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Registering for Spring Classes: Tips and Tricks

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

I previously wrote a blog, “Why a task is never just a simple task,” in which we broke down all the demands involved in a seemingly simple writing assignment. As the holidays begin to approach and the fall semester starts to wind down at colleges across the country, students face another seemingly simple task: spring registration. I cannot count the times recently I’ve asked a client, “Is everything set up for class registration?” For a majority of college students, the topic sparks an anxious flutter in their chest, and for students who experience the additional hurdle of executive function challenges, it can be even more daunting.

So to all you college students out there, I dedicate this blog to you. Here are five tips for surviving the class registration process:

  1. Know your important dates and requirements.
  • Look through your school’s academic calendar and make note of important dates: advising appointments, class registration window, add/drop deadline, etc. Some of these deadlines can coincide with busy academic times of the semester, and if you don’t set a reminder for yourself ahead of time, they can be easy to miss.
    • **Fun Fact** your personal registration date is likely based on how many credits you’ve completed so far.
    • **Even more of a Fun Fact** you may have to go on a virtual “wild goose chase” to track down said date. Don’t give up until you find it!
  • Be clear on your credit and course requirements for both graduation and the major you have declared. Depending on your college and major, you may have more or less wiggle room with the number of credits you take each semester, or with the order in which you take certain classes. It’s becoming common for student portals to have a “DegreeWorks” section that clearly lays out the specific requirements that apply to you and shows your progress towards meeting those requirements. This also helps students get a better sense of the big picture, which can demystify the class registration process, and help them make more informed class choices for next semester.
  1. Plan ahead.
  • The class registration process is heavily multi-step, and therefore virtually impossible to complete in one day, so please don’t do that to yourself. Make sure you start planning at least two weeks in advance. Some of the things you need to prepare for include:
    • Knowing which website or portal to go to for class registration and making sure you are familiar with how to log in and navigate it.
    • Having a class wish list prepared, ranked in order of priority so you know which classes to try to snag first. It’s helpful to create this list with an academic advisor.
    • Clearing any financial or academic holds on your account (e.g., some colleges require you to meet with an advisor to be eligible to register for classes). You don’t want to be trying to clear holds on the actual registration day.
    • Knowing who to reach out to if things go awry on registration day…say the internet crashes; you spill a Starbucks iced soy milk latte on your laptop; you mix up the dates and miss your registration window…want me to keep going? 
  1. After you plan, make a backup plan…but be chill about it.
  • You can clear every hold, prepare an airtight class list, wake up at the crack of dawn, and click the “register” button the millisecond your registration window opens…and still not get all the classes you wanted (the universe is awesome like that sometimes).
  • This isn’t to say that thought, care, and planning are not needed, BUT it’s helpful to remind yourself that it’s OK if things don’t go exactly according to plan.
    • Although your class registration window marks the start of when you can register for classes, the add/drop window typically goes into the first or second week of the semester. And leading up to the semester, many students will be shifting their schedules around, so the classes you need may open up. AKA, there’s time to tweak things; it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have your schedule fully set by the end of your class registration window.
  • So what I’m saying is: make a backup plan, but it doesn’t have to be an entire 50-step tactical plan for world domination. Instead, focus on making a list of a few alternative courses that would still fulfill some of your general or major requirements. If it’s too stressful to do that, your backup plan can simply be, “I am going to check back with the portal every couple of days to see if any classes opened up,” or “I am going to nag my advisor to help me get this sorted,” or “I am going to vent to my executive function coach about this, then figure it out together.”
  1. Ask for help, and don’t be shy.
  • Most incoming first-year students are guided through their first semester’s class registration at some point during their orientation process. However, once you become a full-fledged college student, you’re expected to manage your own tasks and proactively advocate for yourself. Just because no one reaches out to tell you about a requirement or deadline does not mean that you will not be held to it.
    • No, you are not the only one struggling with this. No, everyone else does NOT have it all figured out. No, people will not think you’re silly for asking for clarity or help with this stuff. Do not hesitate to ask. for. help.
  • Depending on the college and major, academic advising can be your best friend, or a source of frustration and confusion. If you’re not getting the clarity and support you need from advising, don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone and everyone who may be of help, including:
    • Student Accessibility Services
    • Student Portal / DegreeWorks
    • A favorite professor
    • Friends in your same college / major
    • Slightly older family members who have gone through this
    • Your executive function coach (hint, hint, hiiiiiiint)
  1. Honor yourself and your needs.
  • There is more than one way to do college. More and more, the 4-year college goalpost is becoming a thing of the past. Think outside the box for ways to get your credits. Fall and Spring are not the only semesters (there’s summer I, summer II, and even winter break semesters), and your primary college is not the only place you can take classes.
  • Think about how you learn best and honor that. If you do better spreading out those heavy pre-med classes rather than taking them all at once, do that! If you struggle with big lecture-style courses, balance them out with smaller discussion-based classes. If you know getting out of your head and into your body helps your mental stamina, sign up for a one-credit pass/fail dance class…or a badminton club since badminton is the greatest sport of all time, and no, I will not explain myself! There is no right or wrong way to do this. Be flexible, honor yourself and your needs, and do what best helps you reach your goals.

 

About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham (coming soon), Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and the greater Burlington, Vermont region, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.