While school may be wrapping up, Summer is an ideal time to embark on transition assessment and services to ensure that your child’s IEP process is preparing them for learning, living, and working after their public education. The ultimate goal of transition assessment is to identify the necessary skills and services to ready a student age 13-21 for transitioning from high school to the next phase of life. To book an intake and consultation appointment, visit: www.nesca-newton.com/intake. Not sure if you need an assessment? You can schedule a one-hour parent/caregiver intake and consultation.

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executive function

Allow Them to be Challenged! (Examples of Balancing Support with Challenge): Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Coach

Last week’s blog discussed the “zone of proximal development” and the importance of providing young people with calculated challenges in order to facilitate their executive function development (https://nesca-newton.com/allow-them-to-be-challenged-building-childrens-executive-functions-part-1/). Because the balance between providing support and allowing challenge is highly individual, I wanted to write a follow-up blog providing some examples of how this balance can be implemented:

EXAMPLE 1: A middle schooler is struggling to turn in their assignments on time, even when they already have them completed.

EXAMPLE 2: An elementary-aged child is struggling to keep their work desk clean, and it’s causing a lot of conflict and stress during homework time.

EXAMPLE 3: A high school student wants to find a summer job so they can earn some money and build their resume.

Remember that every child and family is unique, and there is no one right answer. It may take time to find the right balance for your child, but it is well worth the effort!

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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.

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

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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.

Building Executive Function Skills over the Summer

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S
Transition Specialist; Psychoeducational Counselor

As the countdown to Summer begins post April vacation, teens are getting excited for this season of rest, with more time to socialize and spend their days doing the things they want to do. While the first two weeks tend to be filled with high energy and plans, as the summer continues, the energy starts to slow down and boredom sets in. This part of the summer is a great time for adolescents to lean into building executive functioning skills that they may not have had time to practice fully during the school year. And the planning to do so should begin now, prior to the summer, instead of introducing this when they already feel unmotivated.

Executive dysfunction is supported through the school year with structure, routines, consistent visual schedules, online calendars, reminders, and many other external supports. As noted in previous blog posts for students with executive functioning challenges, the focus during the school year can easily fall into a pattern of “putting out fires” or providing intense support to catch up on never-ending assignments, instead of proactive skill building. The summer offers a low-pressure environment for students to practice planning, organizing, following through, and self-monitoring.

Some ways to practice and build these skills might include:

  • Manage their own schedule. Have your adolescent practice keeping a weekly schedule. Teens can print off a blank weekly schedule or utilize a digital version to list what needs to be accomplished each week (work, appointments, chores, exercise, social, hobbies, small goals) and plug these into a weekly checklist or visual calendar. At the end of each week, teens can reflect on how much they were able to follow the system they tried and what obstacles got in the way of anything they didn’t accomplish.
  • Practice setting alarms. Even if it’s for 10:15 AM (or later) and actually waking up at the time they needed to is important all year long. Allow them to troubleshoot if they sleep in, including what routine can they shift from the night before to meet this?
  • Set their own appointments. Is there a dentist appointment that needs to be made or a car service that family needs completed? Have your teen take ownership of calling or going online to make the appointment, tracking the appointment, and following through with going to the appointment.
  • Household chores. Ask your teen to take ownership of one part of the home (e.g., mowing the lawn). Work to schedule out how often throughout the summer this job needs to be completed and set a plan for how to follow through with this responsibility.
  • Make a meal for the family. Following through with all the steps included (finding a recipe, budgeting, food shopping, prepping, managing the timing of each item that needs to be cooked) is a great way to practice executive functioning skills.
  • Get a summer job. Working is a great way to build many executive functioning and self-determination skills for teens. Not only does it add structure to the week, it also helps with regulation and provides social opportunities.

Summer is a great time to build executive functioning skills for school but also life. If you’re interested in hearing more about NESCA’s executive functioning coaching session or real-life skills coaching, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/ or complete our Intake Form at: www.nesca-newton.com/intake.

 

About the Author

Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has worked with transition-aged youth as a licensed School Psychologist for more than a decade. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with a range of learning and social/emotional abilities. Kristen’s strengths lie in her communication and advocacy skills as well as her strengths-based approach. She is passionate about developing students’ self-awareness, goal-setting abilities, and vision through student-centered counseling, psychoeducation, social skills instruction, and executive functioning coaching. Mrs. Simon has particular interests working with children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum as well as individuals working to manage stress or anxiety-related challenges.

Mrs. Simon is an expert evaluator and observer who has extensive working knowledge of the special education process and school-based special education services, particularly in Massachusetts. She has been an integral part of hundreds of IEP teams and has helped to coordinate care, develop goals, and guide students and their families through the transition planning process. Mrs. Simon further has special expertise helping students to learn about their diagnoses and testing and the IEP process in general. She enjoys assisting students, families, and educators in understanding a student’s disability-related needs as well as the strategies that can help the student to be successful in both academic and nonacademic settings. Mrs. Simon has often been a part of teams in the years when students are initially participating in transition services, and she has helped countless students to build the skills necessary to be part of their first team meetings. She is committed to teaching students—as well as parents and educators—how to participate in student-centered team meetings and the IEP processes.

At NESCA, Mrs. Simon works as a transition specialist and psychoeducational counselor. She works with adolescents, their families, and their school communities to identify and build the skills necessary to achieve their postsecondary goals. Mrs. Simon provides transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations, and observations), program observations and evaluations, case management and consultation, and individualized counseling and skills coaching.

 

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; 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.

 

How the Pandemic Changed In-Person Learning

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Maggie Rodriguez, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Among the parts of my job that I find most meaningful are the conversations I get to have with parents during intake and feedback sessions. During an intake, much of the emphasis is on history taking. Some of it isn’t very exciting; trust me, I get that it can be tedious to review information like how much your child weighed at birth, how many ear infections they had, and when they learned to walk. Yet so often the information parents are able to share about a child’s history is crucial. There’s a quote attributed to Michael Ventura that says, “Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots and doesn’t mean a damn thing. Knowledge is information-in-context… connecting the dots.” The history parents share provides essential context that helps us piece together and make sense of the data we get from doing an assessment in the office.

In recent years, we’ve added questions about COVID-19 to help us understand how that experience has impacted the children and teens we work with. I regularly ask parents, “How old was your child when COVID-19 hit? What grade were they in and how long did remote learning go on? When did they return to in-person instruction?” During a recent intake with a parent, I got an answer I wasn’t expecting. A very thoughtful and perceptive mom gave me some dates and ages then paused for a moment and added, “But even though they’re back in school, I don’t think learning has ever been the same since COVID.” I asked her to tell me more, and we had a wonderfully thought-provoking conversation. As so often happens, I learned a great deal from a parent. Since that time, I’ve extended the discussion to include some of my very insightful colleagues, who have also shared their thoughts. The consensus is that “in-person learning” in 2024 doesn’t mean the same thing it did in 2019. So, what’s changed?

Yes, students are, for the most part, sitting at desks inside classrooms rather than connecting remotely from their desks (or kitchen tables or couches) at home, but what happens in the classroom and beyond is different in some important ways.

  • Technology: In speaking with parents and colleagues in different fields, I’ve repeatedly heard that pandemic-related school closures “accelerated the use of technology” and “online learning platforms” in education. There was certainly a need to use online learning platforms during the pandemic, and the extent to which schools incorporated technology speaks to ingenuity and flexibility in the face of an unexpected and incredibly challenging situation. Moreover, technology is a wonderful tool that can be used to enhance learning in many ways. That being said, many parents and colleagues have observed that schools never went back to “how information and tasks were managed pre-COVID.” That is, technology and online platforms have remained a part of the learning experience. The challenge for some students is that even within the same school system, there can be a great deal of variability between the specific platforms individual teachers use and how they make use of them. Especially for students who struggle with anxiety or executive functioning weaknesses, keeping track of and switching between different platforms and applications for different classes can be overwhelming.
  • Different Teaching Methods: One of the trends I’ve observed directly and have gotten feedback on from others has to do with how teachers provide instruction in the classroom. Compared to “the before times,” the post-pandemic years have seen a rise in independent learning, even within the context of the classroom. More often, teachers have students work independently, whether that means reading through Google slides at their desks or completing worksheets and tasks on their own. There seems to be less direct teacher-led instruction and an increased reliance on independent learning, which often incorporates use of technology, such as Chromebooks, in the classroom. While some students thrive when given the freedom and flexibility to learn on their own, many students learn best when provided with instruction using more direct, structured, and an interactive approach.
  • The Boundaries are Blurred: Working adults will relate to this phenomenon. Back before COVID-19, many of us had pretty clear boundaries separating our work lives from our personal lives. We commuted to an office or other workplace, worked for a set time period, then went home. That all changed when many non-essential employees pivoted to working from home at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. Suddenly our kitchens or bedrooms were transformed from private living areas to undefined spaces that housed both our personal lives and our work lives. And our work and home lives bled into each other as we tried to fit in work when we could, especially if we were also home-schooling or caring for children all day. Though many employees are back to the office at least to some extent, the boundaries remain somewhat blurred. The same phenomenon has happened for students. There is a “24-7 connectedness” that technology enables, which has both pros and cons. Because a lot of schools still use online platforms for assigning, submitting, and grading homework, teachers can post assignments at any time. One parent described a sense of assignments popping up online “like Jenga blocks, one layered in after another.” Similarly, students can turn in assignments at any hour of the day or night. One of my colleagues has observed that this has negatively impacted sleep habits for some students. Another colleague astutely pointed out that, not only can this be overwhelming for students, but it may also be contributing to some of the burn-out many teachers are experiencing.

Education has been perhaps permanently altered by the pandemic, just as many of us have been. The changes that have occurred bring benefits and challenges that our students and teachers are still adjusting to. I don’t have answers or solutions, but I know that I’m going to be adding to the questions I ask parents about COVID-19, education, and the impact on their student. It’s still important for me to learn when a student resumed “in-person learning,” but I’m no longer going to assume that phrase means the same thing it’s always meant. Instead, I’ll be asking parents to tell me what in-person learning looks like now, because the reality is that none of us has gone back to life circa 2019. Just like all of us, our students are living in the “new normal,” and we need to understand it so that we can support them in benefiting from the opportunities it brings and in navigating the challenges it poses.

 

About the Author

Maggie Rodriguez, Psy.D., provides comprehensive evaluation services for children, adolescents, and young adults with often complex presentations. She particularly enjoys working with individuals who have concerns about attention and executive functioning, language-based learning disorders, and those with overlapping cognitive and social/emotional difficulties.

Prior to joining NESCA, Dr. Rodriguez worked in private practice, where she completed assessments with high-functioning students presenting with complex cognitive profiles whose areas of weakness may have gone previously undiagnosed. Dr. Rodriguez’s experience also includes pre- and post-doctoral training in the Learning Disability Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Neurodevelopmental Center at MassGeneral for Children/North Shore Medical Center. Dr. Rodriguez has spent significant time working with students in academic settings, including k-12 public and charter school systems and private academic programs, such as the Threshold Program at Lesley University.

Dr. Rodriguez earned her Psy.D. from William James College in 2012, where her coursework and practicum training focused on clinical work with children and adolescents and on assessment. Her doctoral thesis centered on cultural issues related to evaluation.

Dr. Rodriguez lives north of Boston with her husband and three young children.  She enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and bike riding with her family, practicing yoga, and reading.

To book a consultation with Dr. Rodriguez or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, 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, NY, 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.

Mindfulness-based Interventions for Children with ADHD

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often struggle to sustain attention, follow directions, and appropriately interact with peers when compared to children with typical development. Executive functioning challenges, including difficulties with self-regulation, are also common in individuals with ADHD. Executive functioning refers to the neuropsychological-based functions involved in the regulation of behavioral states and the organization of goal-directed behavior. This can present as difficulty breaking down goals into steps, planning, monitoring the effectiveness of an approach to a task, modulating one’s emotions, etc.

Currently, evidence-based treatment methods for managing ADHD symptomology include medication, behavioral interventions, or the combination of the two. In addition, one domain that has received increased attention from the scientific community over the past several years is the integration of mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) within treatment (Felver & Jennings, 2016).

Mindfulness is the ability to bring one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can allow an individual to consider alternative ways to perceive and react to a situation (Singh et al., 2007). Many MBI curriculums include lessons on focusing one’s attention on the present moment, which can improve individuals’ self-regulation, executive functioning, concentration, and emotional-reactivity, while reducing aggressive behavior, social problems, and anxiety (Keng et al., 2011; Parker et al., 2014).

One such curriculum, originally developed for adults with Intellectual Disabilities and aggressive behaviors, is Soles of the Feet (SoF) (Singh et al., 2003). The purpose of this exercise is to shift the individual’s attention from a typically triggering situation to a neutral stimulus. The SoF intervention involves teaching an individual to recognize situations that trigger an emotional response in real life or through role-play scenarios. Next, the individual is guided through steps in the curriculum that consist of finding a neutral body posture, breathing naturally while thinking about the triggering event, and shifting attention to the soles of the feet. Then the individual is guided to be mindful of their feet on the ground. The goal is for the individual to end this process having appropriately responded to the situation without engaging in behavior that was contrary to expectations. Research suggests that engaging in this intervention significantly improved participants’ ability to regulate their aggressive and disruptive behaviors, and appropriately engage with others (Felver et al., 2013; Singh et al., 2007).

There are several mindfulness-based activities, such as progressive muscle relaxation and focusing on your five senses, that can be modified to support children’s attentional and emotional regulation. For some ideas, please consider visiting the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Magination Press website, where they offer several children’s book titles related to a variety of topics, including mindfulness.

References

Felver, J. C., Doerner, E., Jones, J., Kaye, N., & Merrell, K. M. (2013). Mindfulness in school psychology: Applications for intervention and research. Psychology in the Schools, 50, 531–547

Felver, J. C., Celis-DeHoyos, C., Tezanos, K., & Singh, N. N. (2016) A systematic review of mindfulness-based interventions for youth in school settings. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0389-4

Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041-56.

Parker, A. E., Kupersmidt, J. B., Mathis, E. T., Scull, T. M., & Sims, C. (2014). The impact of Mindfulness education on elementary school students: evaluation of the Master Mind program. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 7(3), 184-204. doi:10.1080/1754730x.2014.916497

Singh, N. N., Wahler, R. G., Winton, Adkins, A. D., Myers, R. E., & The Mindfulness Research Group. (2003). Soles of the feet: A mindfulness based self-control intervention for aggression by an individual with mild mental retardation and mental illness. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 24, 158–169.

Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Singh, J., Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., & McAleavey, K. M. (2007). Mindful parenting decreases aggression and increases social behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behavior Modification, 31(6), 749-771. doi:10.1177/0145445507300924

 

About Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.

Dr. Halladay conducts comprehensive evaluations of toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children with a wide range of developmental, behavioral, and emotional concerns. She particularly enjoys working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and complex medical conditions. She has experience working in schools, as well as outpatient and inpatient hospital settings. She is passionate about optimizing outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities by providing evidence-based, family-oriented care.

 

If you are interested in booking an appointment for an evaluation with a Dr. Halladay or another NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, please fill out and submit 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, 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.

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.

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.