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executive function

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.

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.

6 Technology Tools to Boost Your Productivity and Organization for the New School Year

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

As the new school year unfolds, many of us struggle to transition from the carefree days of summer into the rigorous routines of being a productive and organized student. If you find yourself grappling with low energy, an overwhelming list of tasks, scattered notes, forgotten homework, and neglected chores, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. The beginning of a school year can be a challenging adjustment. Fortunately, modern technology offers a number of solutions to help ease the cognitive load that comes with academic responsibilities. Below are six technology tools that can help you reclaim control over your productivity and organization.

  1. Goblin Tools: The first tool on the list, Goblin Tools, is a versatile platform designed to empower folks to independently manage their lives and it was specifically designed for the neurodiverse community. The tool can be used on a desktop or can be downloaded as an app. Goblin Tools has a number of features, including the “Magic To-Do List,” that breaks down simple to complex tasks into manageable steps, a time estimator for effective planning, and a writing formalizer to polish communication. It even includes a tone judge to assist with interpreting the tone of written messages, a brain dump compiler to organize your thoughts into a to-do list, and a “chef” which can recommend recipes based on the ingredients you have in your house.
  2. Google Calendar: Google Calendar is an extremely popular tool when it comes to staying organized. It allows you to keep track of events, create tasks, set reminders, and collaborate with others on the platform. Google Calendar syncs across all devices, which allows individuals to ensure they are not missing important appointments or assignments. The integration with Gmail and other Google services further streamlines productivity by centralizing your tasks and appointments.
  3. Reminders App (iPhone): If you’re an iPhone user, the built-in Reminders app is a hidden gem for boosting productivity. It offers a straightforward way to create to-do lists, set time-based and location-based reminders, and categorize tasks. The app integrates with Siri, allowing you to add tasks with voice commands.
  4. Habitica: Habitica gamifies the process of staying organized and forming good habits. This unique tool transforms your daily tasks and goals into a role-playing game, where you earn rewards and level up by completing your to-do list and adhering to your habits. Habitica also allows you to join parties with friends, creating a supportive community of accountability. By turning productivity into an enjoyable game, Habitica makes the journey toward organization and productivity both fun and motivating!
  5. Livescribe: Livescribe is a note-taking tool that bridges the gap between traditional pen-and-paper note-taking and digital organization. This smart pen not only records your handwritten notes but also synchronizes them with an app on your device. As you write, it captures audio recordings of lectures or discussions, making it an invaluable resource for reviewing class materials. You can even tap on your written notes to hear the corresponding audio, allowing you to revisit important moments and enhance your understanding of complex topics.
  6. Rocketbook: Rocketbook is a digital notebook designed to bring together the ease of handwritten notes with the organization of a digital storage system. Using special erasable pens, you can take notes on Rocketbook’s pages and then use a companion app to scan and store your notes in the cloud. The pages are reusable and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. This solution ensures your notes are organized, accessible, and eco-conscious. You will no longer be scrambling to find where you scribbled down the information about an upcoming test. All of your notes will be stored in the same place.

Transitioning into a new school year can be a daunting task, but with the right technology tools at your disposal, you can navigate the challenges of productivity and organization with confidence!

 

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 (coming soon), Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

NESCA Welcomes Back Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Executive Function Coach

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

NESCA welcomes Ms. Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW, back to its coaching and psychotherapy services teams. She previously interned with NESCA, and we are thrilled to have her back on board as both a Psychotherapist and Executive Function Coach. Read more about Ms. Edelstein’s career journey and her return to NESCA in the following Q&A interview.

 

This is your second time working with NESCA. Tell us what you did with NESCA previously.
Yes, and I am elated to be back! During my graduate studies at Simmons University, I interned at NESCA as a psychotherapist. In addition to providing individual psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and young adults, I worked with a few high school and college students as an executive function (EF) coach. I also provided psychotherapy to clients from India and the Philippines, which was an incredible and unique experience. I have yet to find a practice as dynamic and integrative as NESCA and look forward to rejoining as a seasoned clinician!

You will be splitting your time and talents in two roles here at NESCA. Fill us in on your dual role and what your previous experiences bring to both.
At NESCA, I’ll be providing psychotherapy and executive function coaching. Both of these roles have been a consistent focus of mine simultaneously throughout my professional life. After obtaining a B.S. in education at the University of Vermont, I worked in special education as a paraprofessional, supporting students with special needs in the classroom. In this role, I helped students learn new strategies to maintain their focus, self-regulate, and improve their organization. Additionally, throughout graduate school, I worked part-time as an EF coach at Engaging Minds, helping elementary, middle, and high schoolers with their homework and school assignments by finding ways to improve their task initiation, organization, time management, and planning skills.

My interest in social work/mental health counseling was sparked by my experience as a student teacher at UVM. During the entirety of my practicum, I found myself  gravitating towards students who struggled academically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. I was determined to help these students navigate their challenges by building meaningful connections, providing additional academic support, and increasing their self-confidence by focusing on their strengths.

My counseling experience officially started in graduate school with two full-year-long internships. My first internship took place in the counseling department at Boston Green Academy, a public charter school for grades 6-12, and my second was at NESCA. After graduate school, I worked as a school adjustment counselor at Newton South High School and also took on clients part-time at a private practice. In these roles, I supported the social and emotional wellbeing of students with special needs, as well as their families. After working in corporate wellness for the last year and a half, I am excited to return to the clinical setting, working for a practice that was a major part of my social work journey.

Having worked as a high school adjustment counselor, you must have seen many of the challenges students have with executive function. What are your biggest takeaways from that experience? How do you think that prepared you to be an EF coach?
The majority of my students struggled with executive function, therefore providing support in this area was part of my day-to-day routine. My biggest takeaways are:

  1. Identifying a “why” helps individuals become more motivated to be proactive in their EF journey. For example, I tend to ask people how improving these skills will affect their academic goals, mental health, social relationships, etc., so that there is significant meaning to the work being done.
  2. There is a system that works for everyone! Whether it’s electronic or physical, once someone identifies an organization system that increases their independence, it’s important that they stick to it and are consistent with it. Having a set system will allow them to easily locate their assignments, know when they are due, and how they’ll go about completing them. It’s always helpful for parents and teachers to be made aware of this system as well so that everyone is on the same page.
  3. Creating a regular homework routine is key to increasing productivity and limiting distractions. This includes having an identified start time, location, and plan. I always recommend structured breaks being part of this plan as well.
  4. I always advise folks to not compare themselves to others when it comes to their EF skills! We all have natural strengths. A skill that comes easy to you may be the most challenging task for someone else.

There have been countless reports and studies related to the negative impact COVID had on kids. As a psychotherapist to teens and young adults, what challenges are you seeing most in youth post-pandemic?
There’s no doubt that the impact of COVID on our youth has presented serious and complex challenges. The loss of structure, social opportunities, and extracurriculars (to name a few) is a shock to the system and very traumatic. The biggest challenges I’ve seen post-pandemic have been an increase in digital dependence, cyberbullying, school-based anxiety/refusal, and regression in social skills. That being said, as important as it is to identify post-pandemic challenges, there is value in pointing out gained strengths as well. A lot of students who I worked with learned new coping skills, acquired a deeper understanding of their needs, and discovered exciting new hobbies that they now get to share with others.

 

About Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW
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 Ms. Edelstein for psychotherapy or EF coaching, please complete our online intake form

 

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

 

Getting to Know NESCA Pediatric Neuropsychologist J. Michael Abrams, Ph.D.

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach

I recently spoke with J. Michael Abrams, Ph.D., pediatric neuropsychologist practicing in NESCA’s Londonderry, New Hampshire office. Dr. Abrams joined NESCA last fall. Take a few minutes to learn more about him in today’s blog interview. 

How did you became interested in neuropsychology?

Back in the mid-80s, I worked at McLean Hospital, in the Child & Adolescent Inpatient program. They had an educational program set up for the kids that was run by psychologists who were embedded in the classrooms. There was a fair amount of test development going on at that time that used a lot of materials to build executive function and cognitive skills among the students. I was always interested in education and special education, but it was this experience that changed my career mindset toward psychology. So, I went back to school to study psychology.

Tell us about your career journey.

I always wanted to work with children and adolescents. That desire stemmed from my initial interest in special education and education in general, and I was on that path. I spent about seven and a half years at McLean, with the first couple of years working on an inpatient unit. Then I transferred to the psychologist-run education program, where I was a classroom educator.

After switching to psychology, my original clinical interest was with children who had experienced abuse and neglect and those who were involved in children’s eyewitness testimony. The focus was on how the experiences they had been through affected their memory, attention, and cognitive development. The more I worked with children and adolescents, the more I recognized how these neuropsychological factors impacted all aspects of their lives. It became much more than what I saw in the context of a legal case; instead, I saw how their experiences affected the management of themselves, their image of themselves, their hopes and aspirations, etc. I became really interested in how their neuropsychology intersected with their opportunities and experiences.

What segment of children and adolescents do you primarily work with? What is your specialty area?

I am particularly interested in working with children from age eight through 14, when their cognitive development is really taking off and they are trying to master this whole new set of skills. This time is filled with questions and challenges concerning self-esteem, mood, relationships, family relationships, etc. It’s a time when they are asking themselves what they are good at, where they struggle, and what those strengths and challenges say about them as a person. There is a great opportunity to have a big impact on kids in this age range. It’s such a gift to allow them to see themselves as successful and have that lead to future success.

What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your profession?

The rewarding part is two-fold. The first is the interpersonal emotional piece. On a personal level, it’s rewarding to be able to contribute to other peoples’ success, whether it’s the clients, the practice, or the field overall. The second piece is more personal and intellectual. It’s intellectually stimulating to be able to integrate all of the information we gather or identify about a person, and to be able to communicate those findings or revelations to a child and their parents or caregivers. The intellectual reward lies in the ability to effectively communicate a child’s cognitive complexity in a way that they understand and can use to help reach their goals.

The challenging part has to do with the mental health landscape overall. As someone who is involved in neuropsychological assessments, it can feel like operating within a silo in the overall landscape. So many of the systems, such as insurance and education, are not set up for seamless collaboration with psychology practices or other areas of behavioral health. Unfortunately, this can make getting the appropriate mental health care or educational/therapeutic interventions a cumbersome, sometimes adversarial process. It’s the frustration that accompanies the much larger, more overarching need to develop a genuine collaboration among all the pieces within the health and mental health care settings.

What interested you about NESCA?

I was drawn to the opportunity NESCA provides to interact with other psychologists and affiliated clinicians on an ongoing basis. Professionally, I am not operating in a silo. At NESCA, there is more regular consultation and collaboration on how to put together a comprehensive and coherent plan for these kids. I was very excited to have a team of highly qualified, very experienced professionals, within the same organization, who can provide a range of supports and services for the kids we work with. Having this as a resource is a great opportunity for our clients and our staff, alike.

 

About Pediatric Neuropsychologist J. Michael Abrams, Ph.D.

Dr. J. Michael Abrams has over 30 years of experience in psychological, educational, and neuropsychological assessment and psychotherapy in various settings. A significant aspect of Dr. Abrams’ continuing interest and experience also includes the psychological care and treatment of children, adolescents, and young adults with a broad variety of emotional and interpersonal problems, beyond those that arise in the context of developmental differences or learning-related difficulties.

 

To book a neuropsychological evaluation with Dr. Abrams in Londonderry, NH, or to book with another expert NESCA neuropsychologist, complete NESCA’s online intake form

 

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