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

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executive function

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.

Why a Task is Never “Just a Simple Task” – a compassionate perspective on executive functioning difficulties

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

I’ve often experienced the frustration of a student being given a task–whether it be at home or school–and struggling to complete it. Teachers and parents alike have said to me, “I just don’t understand why they can’t get it done. It’s a simple task.” I’d like to challenge the concept of a “simple task.” Once we begin to dig beneath the surface, we start to see all the hidden demands that every task requires of us and our brains.

As a trained Special Education teacher and executive function coach, I was taught to search for the hidden demands in the academic tasks I give my students. For example, asking a student to write a story about a time they were sad involves a multitude of mini-tasks that present varying levels of challenge depending on the student and their learning needs:

  • Recognize what sad feels like to you
  • Activate your memories to recall a time you felt what sad feels like to you
  • Remember the order of events of a memory that may be more visceral than cerebral
  • Determine which details are important vs. less important to include in your story
  • Decide who your audience is, and remember what the purpose of this story is
  • Perspective take and infer what would make your story interesting to your audience
  • Identify words that will accurately convey your experience to your audience
  • Utilize your knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation to craft intelligible writing
  • Understand and implement a proper story arc so that your story flows

All of this is not even including the related emotional demands:

  • Decide if you’re even motivated to do this, and if your relationship with your teacher is worth all this headache
  • Manage the frustration that comes up at every.single.step.along.the.way.
  • Self-soothe when your insecurities bubble up and you start to question your identity as a writer, student, and/or good person

Oh wait, you thought we were done? There is also a myriad of executive function demands such a task places on a student:

  • Understanding the steps you needs to take, and determining where to start
  • Motivating yourself to take the first step despite feeling extremely stuck
  • Deciding which parts of the writing process to prioritize and spend more time on
  • Knowing how long this will take you, and managing your time respectively
  • Maintaining focus on a task that involves doing the most laborious and LEAST interesting thing a teacher could ask you to do…write
  • Managing the impulse to turn to your friend next to you and talk about what you’re really interested in, which is obviously Minecraft

The above lists are far from comprehensive, and even so, they help demonstrate how a “simple” task is in fact a much more complex–and demanding–series of mini-tasks to complete. Depending on the student, they may easily breeze through these mini-tasks, hardly experiencing them as demands, or they may acutely feel the weight of each mini-task. Students with executive function struggles are more likely to fall into the latter category.

While the best way to support your student or child will vary, the first step is the same for everyone: awareness. The more aware teachers and parents can be about the hidden demands involved in the tasks we assign, the better prepared we can be to support students in overcoming those demands. Acknowledgement and compassion go a long way. Start by reflecting on all the mini-tasks involved in each of your own daily activities, and your ability to identify hidden demands will steadily improve. You can extend this new self-awareness to your students or child, helping them to understand that every task contains a series of smaller steps to follow, and all these steps can make a task feel complicated and draining. Soon, both you and your child will be pros at seeing what lies beneath the surface, and you’ll never label something “a simple task” again!

If today’s post resonates with you or your child, consider reaching out to NESCA; we’re here to help with life’s “simple” tasks! For more information about NESCA’s executive function coaching, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/detailed/#coaching-executive-function.

 

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

 

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.

Meet Jasmine Badamo, MA, NESCA Executive Function Coach

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach

This week, I had the pleasure of talking with Jasmine Badamo, MA, an Educational Counselor and Executive Function Tutor here at NESCA. While Jasmine has been with NESCA for quite a while on a per diem basis, she officially joined our team on a full-time basis within the past few months. Our clients and staff have enjoyed getting to know her, so we’d like to introduce you to her as well.

What brought you to the education field?

In college, I majored in science, but took a different turn when it came to my career path. After I graduated from college, I took a job teaching English abroad. During that time, I realized that I was far more interested in—and better at—teaching than I was in science. This experience solidified for me that education was really where I wanted to take my career. When I was back in the U.S., I earned my Master’s in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) at CUNY Hunter College. While in the TESOL program, I also became very interested in special education.

How did you learn about the need for Executive Functioning (EF) tutoring or coaching?

During my time in the TESOL program, I noticed there was a lot of overlap among students in the TESOL program and those in special education—there was a need for individualization among both sets of students. During this time, I learned how to modify a curriculum to be appropriate for each unique learner. I went on to work in a school-based special education setting for three years. Here is where I realized that a lot of the underlying needs of students in special education stemmed from their EF challenges.

When I was studying for my special education license, Executive Functioning wasn’t really even a thing yet; there was a concept, but no real name for it. Once it was given a name and there was more of an understanding about it, everything clicked for me. When I learned that I could make EF the focus of a job, I got really excited. I dove in headfirst and immediately started expanding my coursework in that area.

Executive Function covers a lot of territory. Where did you start?

While I was working toward my professional certificate with Landmark College, I was also working as a 4th grade special education teacher. When Covid hit, we all immediately saw the need for putting those EF coaching skills to really good and frequent use in helping our students to transition to remote education. We were able to help our students find functional, realistic, manageable tools to make their life less stressful while learning from home.

What about NESCA did you find attractive?

I was looking to focus a little more on EF outside of the elementary school setting. I found NESCA through a connection I made at Landmark. With NESCA’s EF and Real-life Skills Coaching Program, I was able to offer tutoring to a more diverse population among a wider range of ages, which was exciting to me. Being a part of NESCA’s coaching program also allowed me to really focus in on teaching EF skills, which is where my true interest lies.

How would you describe what you do to those who may not know much about EF?

I initially say that I am kind of like a special education tutor who helps people with study skills and life skills. I work closely with individuals who struggle with organization, time management, and focus to build skills in those areas to make things easier for them to do on their own. I often work with people who have characteristics of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or a learning disability.

How do you do tutor students in EF?  

It all comes down to individualization. I spend a good amount of time focusing on getting to know a person in the beginning. I try to identify the biggest stress point or disconnect in their life. Together, we develop strategies to tackle those stressors in a way that works for them. We may come up with a bunch of potential strategies, but finding the ones that are realistic for them to maintain independently is the key to success. Once we identify and practice those, we remove the scaffolding bit by bit, giving them the independence they desire.

What is the favorite part of your job?

I love to figure out something that will have a positive impact on a student…that moment when we crack the code! It’s amazing to be able to use my knowledge in a way that can be directly meaningful to someone else in their life.

What do you find most challenging?

The fact that everything I do with each student is totally individualized can be challenging. There’s no script to go off of, and it takes a lot of trial and error to find what you’re looking for. You so desperately want to help the person and ease their struggles. Even if you find the right way to build an EF skill, it still takes a lot of time and patience. Teaching the student to also be patient with themselves during this time can be a challenge. But it’s so worth it!

Are there other areas of EF you’d like to focus on?

A lot of the strategies that can be used with students who struggle with EF are designed for neurotypical people. Often the tier one interventions that work for neurotypical individuals are not really tailored for them. That means we have to find creative ways to support these students while still honoring who they are. We can’t change the world for them, but they need to be able to navigate through it. And yet, we don’t want them to have to change the person who they are. It can be difficult, so I’d love to work on identifying more strategies and tools that may be good options for my specific students. I’d like to help them to find a better balance between the way the world works and the way their brain works.

Tell us what you’ve found rewarding about your work at NESCA so far.

I truly love getting positive feedback from my students’ parents. I am so validated by how appreciative they are that I “get” their kid. Sometimes my students tell me, but more often than not, I hear this feedback from their parents.

Unfortunately, a lot of kids with EF struggles are on the periphery with friends or academics. It’s great to be able to tell them there’s nothing wrong with them and guide them to having more self-compassion and self-empowerment. I strive to let my students know that we all have EF struggles. Life is one giant EF demand on us, and it’s a good thing to seek out support to help manage those demands. We put so much pressure on ourselves to manage it all, but it’s okay to get guidance, support, or a boost from someone else.

 

About Educational Counselor & Executive Function Tutor Jasmine Badamo, MA

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

 

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.

Understanding and Identifying Organizational Challenges

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Director of Training and New Hampshire Operations

When clients come for neuropsychological assessment, a domain of skills that is commonly assessed is executive function. Executive function is a complex set of cognitive and self-management skills that allow for efficient, goal-oriented problem solving and task completion. These skills do not speak to how smart someone is, or whether or not they will achieve a goal. Instead, they speak to the ease with which one works toward their goal – Is their path a nice straight road from beginning to end? Or was it a zig-zagging route filled with stops and starts, redos, and confusion?

Executive function is a broad domain containing many different skills, such as planning, working memory, self-monitoring, impulse control, and organization. This last skill – organization – is one that can be commonly misunderstood. That is likely because people often focus on behavioral organization, meaning whether someone keeps their things in order. While a tidy bedroom and neat locker make it easier to find things, there are other aspects of organization that can have a much greater impact on learning, task completion, and daily functioning. From a neuropsychological standpoint, there are three aspects of organization that should be of focus, including:

  • Behavioral Organization. As noted above, this is the aspect of organization with which people are most familiar. It can be thought of as your “organization of stuff” skills. At home, this may be keeping an organized bedroom, putting things away when done, and knowing how to find things when you need them. At school, this may involve keeping a neat locker or desk, having color-coded binders for your classes, or turning in assignments once you’ve completed them. Individuals who struggle in this area may often lose their belongings, fail to turn in completed tasks, or frustrate their parents with their messy rooms.
  • Organization of Information. This is the organizational skill that is often of most focus within neuropsychological assessment. This is a cognitive aspect of organization, meaning others cannot necessarily observe when someone struggles in this area. This aspect of organization speaks to one’s ability to process information in a manner that appreciates both the details and how they integrate into a “big picture.” This skill is very important for learning, allowing you to consolidate information into memory in a manner that is connected and organized, which makes it much easier to remember and retrieve later on. Think of this as the filing cabinet of the brain. Organization of information and ideas is also important for reading comprehension as well as written expression, including prioritizing ideas and pulling them together in a cohesive manner. Individuals who struggle in this area may be overly detail-focused, missing main ideas or struggling with abstraction. They may also become easily overwhelmed by information, not knowing what is most relevant, which may result in difficulty planning, executing, and drafting writing assignments.
  • Organization of Time. A.K.A. – time management. This organizational skill requires you to both recognize the end goal while also being able to break the task into smaller steps that can be accomplished over a short or long span of time. It requires a recognition of how long each step may take and how to balance such requirements within life’s other time constraints. Individuals who struggle in this area may appear to procrastinate, though the true challenge may lay in difficulty estimating time or understanding how to break things down and create the road map from “here to there.” This is often a person who may be misunderstood as lacking motivation, given their difficulty initiating and completing tasks, though their lack of execution actually stems from difficulties organizing information and time.

Quite often, individuals with organizational challenges do not struggle in all three of the above areas. A child may appear fastidiously organized, with an impeccably organized room and diligent notes; however, they may be relying on this excessive behavioral organization as a means for compensating for hidden challenges with informational organization. They may not know what is most important, so they study excessively for tests or over-include information in their essays. To the observer, they look astute; however, they are cognitively over-extending themselves. As already noted, organizational challenges may also present as the “unmotivated” student, as long-standing difficulty knowing how to break down tasks and manage time may have resulted in helplessness. This is why neuropsychological assessment is often an important tool for understanding and supporting these students – as the underlying challenges may not be behaviorally observable. Positively, executive function skills can be taught to address any of the above concerns, but interventions will always be most effective when the areas of need are clear.

 

About the Author

Dr. Angela Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist at NESCA. She conducts neuropsychological and psychological evaluations out of our Londonderry, NH office. She specializes in the evaluation of anxious children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors lending to their stress, such as underlying learning, attentional, or emotional challenges. She particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child, as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.

 

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

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Londonderry, NH, Plainville, MA, and Newton, MA serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call (603) 818-8526.

Low Motivation-based Procrastination: Tips for getting over the hurdle

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

Procrastination is affecting a lot of us these days. There is a wide variety of reasons that people put things off until the last minute. In a previous blog, I discussed tips for anxiety-based procrastination which you can read here. Today I would like to talk about procrastination related to low motivation.

Have you ever had a day where you cannot get off the couch, and you want to keep binge watching your favorite show? Or, maybe you have noticed your child cannot seem to get off TikTok to do their homework. These are all examples of procrastination as a result of low motivation.

It can be extremely challenging to find the motivation to do things we don’t want to, especially when it means transitioning away from the things that bring us joy. You may have noticed this getting worse as the weather turns colder and the sun sets earlier each day. Many people find that their mood and motivation hit a low during these fall and winter months. So, how do you overcome this feeling?

Here are five strategies to get over the procrastination hurdle when motivation is low.

1. Momentum Stairs – Do you remember learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion? The Law of Inertia says an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion. Makes sense, right? If you have been sitting still and engaging in an activity you enjoy (I’m looking at you, Netflix), it can be extremely difficult to transition to the task you have been putting off.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to start with an activity that is more enjoyable just so you can get moving. For example, if you need to write a paper, but you can’t get off the couch, build your momentum by making yourself a cup of tea. That gets you off the couch and away from the TV, and once you are up, maybe you complete a small chore that isn’t too difficult (watering your house plants, wiping the counter, etc.) then you can move on to start writing your paper.

To initiate that movement, it is easiest to start with something easy and work your way toward the task that you have been procrastinating. Some folks find it helpful to picture a set of stairs; the activity they enjoy is at the top and the uninteresting task is at the bottom. You must take small steps down the stairs to build momentum toward the activity at the bottom of the stairs.

2. Habit Stacking – Habit stacking is a great strategy to help build routines out of existing habits and overcome low motivation. Once a routine is in place, it takes a lot less energy and motivation to complete those regular activities since they have become automatic.

The principle behind this strategy is that you slowly add to existing habits until you have formed a routine. For example, let’s say you eat breakfast every morning, but have not been good about taking your vitamins. By habit stacking, you could start taking your vitamins every day as soon as you finish breakfast, thereby accomplishing two things much more easily than having to remember to take your vitamins separately later in the day.

It may be helpful to place your vitamins in your pantry so there is always a visual reminder when you are making breakfast. Stacking habits in this way can make it much easier to form new routines that help you get past low motivation and accomplish bigger goals.

3. Reduce Barriers – Another helpful strategy for low motivation is to reduce the barriers needed to start the activity. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to think about cooking that homemade meal you have been wanting to try, or to deep clean an area of your house that you can never get to. That results in low motivation, and the best way to overcome it is to reduce any barriers to initiating the activity.

One suggestion is to take all the materials you will need to complete the task out the day or night before. That can help reduce the barriers to getting started when you are feeling tired later in the day. You could also create checklists for yourself to reduce the cognitive load for certain chores. For example, a house cleaning checklist. Follow this checklist each time you have to clean so that you do not need to use as much brain power. When you can reduce the barriers to starting an activity, it will be so much easier to get up the motivation to complete it.

4. Pairing – Try pairing an activity you must do with something you enjoy doing. When motivation is low, sometimes the only way we can get ourselves up and moving is by combining the activity we have been putting off with something enjoyable. The key to making an effective and lasting pair is to ensure you only engage in the specific fun activity while completing the unpreferred task.

For example, if one of your goals it to take a daily walk to improve your health, but you cannot find the motivation to do it each day, it might help to pair it with a new audiobook that you are really excited about. Only allow yourself to listen when you are walking because that will transform the walk itself into a reward, and you will likely stop dreading it.

5. Five-minute Max – The five-minute max strategy is excellent for low motivation – and it’s easy to accomplish. Set a five-minute timer and start the activity you have been putting off. Tell yourself that you can stop the activity after five minutes. More than likely, once you start, you will be able to keep going, but you have the option to stop after just five minutes. Knowing that you only have to work for five minutes can help when motivation is low and make a task seem a lot less exhausting.

There is no perfect strategy that works for everyone in every situation, but adding these strategies to your toolbox can help you experiment with which methods work best for you. See if you can find just one tool to help you in those moments when low motivation is impacting your ability to get moving.

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

Pediatric Neuropsychologist Ferne Pinard, Ph.D., Joins NESCA

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach

I recently had the opportunity to learn more about Pediatric Neuropsychologist Ferne Pinard, Ph.D., who joined NESCA in this August. We are thrilled to have her on board and hope you learn more about her background and specialty areas in today’s blog interview.

How did you choose pediatric neuropsychology as a profession?

I’ve had an interesting journey to get to where I am today professionally. I started working with adolescents in the West Indies as a high school teacher. There I quickly learned that meant not just teaching to the curriculum, but also looking at each student as a whole person – often along with their parents – providing counseling to them and additional academic support as needed to meet their needs. That sparked my initial interest in working to support children.

That spark turned into a deep interest in psychology. In college I decided to major in psychology. I became involved in research examining various aspects of child development and learned about statistical methods.

In graduate school, I worked with my mentor on research projects that involved administration of neuropsychological tests and examining how performance on these tests were related to various outcomes (e.g., academic performance, externalizing behaviors). I enjoyed doing assessment as part of the research project and other training experiences. Although I toyed with the idea of becoming a therapist – as I was trained to provide therapy and conduct assessment – I decided to further my knowledge in the brain/behavior relationship

How have your previous work experiences prepared you to be a neuropsychologist with NESCA?

I spent the last 11 years at Boston Children’s Hospital, first as a post-doctorate fellow and later as an attending neuropsychologist.

As a fellow at Boston Children’s, I had the opportunity to work in various specialty clinics, gaining exposure to patients with a range of medical and genetic conditions, including neurofibromatosis, cancer, etc.

Later, I went on to gain specialty experience in the Pediatric Neuro-immunology and Learning Disabilities programs. As an attending neuropsychologist, I worked with, trained, and supervised pre-doctorate psychology interns and post-doctoral fellows.

As part of the neuroimmunology program, you assisted with research on the impact of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC) – also known as Long Haul Covid – on children and their education. Tell us about that.

Yes, I had the opportunity to provide consultation to a previous colleague examining the cognitive impact of Long Covid. I also conducted a few assessments of adolescent struggling with persistent symptoms after being diagnosed with Covid. Difficulties with attention, mood, executive functioning (e.g., working memory and slow processing speed), and fatigue are commonly reported among individuals with Long Covid. These students also experienced disruption in school due to their illness then ongoing symptoms and understandably find it difficult to keep up and meet academic expectations. So many young people were sadder and more anxious throughout Covid…layer Long Haul Covid on top of that, and it’s a huge problem.

How do you see your previous work experiences translating to the families we work with at NESCA?

I bring a lot of knowledge and evaluation experience to NESCA, but most importantly, I bring expertise and compassion in working with families – creating and maintaining relationships with them. The greatest thing I can do for a family is to listen to their concerns, let them feel heard, and allow them to express their feelings about what they and their child are going through. This helps the parents and the child’s school gain a better understanding of the child.

How do you tailor your evaluations for different children, say an anxious child?

Patience and validation are key. I think it is also important to include the child and their caregiver in the discussion. Perhaps I add additional structure to the evaluation (e.g., use of a checklist, breaks at predetermined times), integrate strategies to reduce anxiety (e.g., deep breathing, use of fidgets), or modify the evaluation to take place over three sessions instead of two. Sometimes, the child is allowed to have the parent in the room with them throughout the evaluation. There are different approaches that can be taken based on each individual, and it’s my role to work with the child and caregiver to identify what would work best for the child.

You’ve had a lot of experience evaluating medically complex children and children who are dealing with medical conditions that many think only affect adults. Tell us about that.

It’s true. I’ve worked closely with children who have gone through cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. These are always very touching experiences. These children have been through so much medically that sometimes the medical experiences lead to mental health challenges. They may have gotten through the cancer itself, but there can be residual and sometimes long-term fears of a reoccurrence. Often, there is an intensely emotional component to these assessments because of what the children and their families have endured. I’ve heard the fear in the voices of both the children and their parents’ voices. It’s my job to listen and provide them with a safe space.

Some of the children seen may not be able to maintain engagement for a typical evaluation due to fatigue related to their medical condition and treatment, for example. In these cases, the evaluation will need to be carefully tailored to address the referral question (s). And again, the approach to the evaluation would have to be modified to meet the child where they are.

I’ve also worked with children who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions. With these children, I always factor in the amount of stress they are experiencing in life and school as well as the fears they have about how MS may impact them later in life. The stress they feel, whether at school or based on their diagnosis, can have a negative impact on their symptoms. There’s a cascading effect from the brain and all of its thoughts and worries, and that is what we help them deal with. I am always eager to advocate for these children who bear such a heavy load.

What is the most rewarding part of your job as a neuropsychologist?

I feel that I have added value to a child’s life, when I can provide them and their families with a meaningful and comprehensive understanding of their profile—one that includes strengths, not just a focus on weaknesses. I think this is essential as it enables the family and child to advocate for their needs.

Why did you want to be part of NESCA’s team?

Initially, I was really drawn to the integrative approach to care for the children who are with NESCA. Coordination of care, whenever possible, and consultation among professionals involved in a child’s care leads to better outcomes. I was also excited to work with the professionals who specialize in different areas than I am accustomed to working with, such as postsecondary transition. The team here is very willing to collaborate so we can all teach and learn from each other. While I know I will gain great knowledge from the group, it really best serves the families with whom we work.

 

About Pediatric Neuropsychologist Ferne Pinard, Ph.D.

Dr. Pinard provides comprehensive evaluation services for children, adolescents, and young adults with learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), and psychiatric disorders as well as complex medical histories and neurological conditions. She has expertise in assessing children and adolescents with childhood cancer as well as neuro-immunological disorders, including opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome (“dancing eyes syndrome”), central nervous system vasculitis, Hashimoto’s encephalopathy, lupus, auto-immune encephalitis, multiple sclerosis (MS), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and acute transverse myelitis (ATM), and optic neuritis.

To book a neuropsychological evaluation with Dr. Pinard or another expert neuropsychologist at NESCA, complete NESCA’s online intake form

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

College Freshman and Executive Function: The Often Unexpected Demands

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

It is no surprise that the experience of a high school student is vastly different than that of a college student. This transition is seen as a pivotal step towards independence as we send students off to learn, grow, and explore in an often substantially less supported and less controlled environment. The hope is that after 13 years of K-12 education, our students have developed the academic, communication, and organization skills needed for success in school. They know the tricks of the trade. They have systems to employ and even more systems to fall back on if needed. They have become experts at learning, and they know the drill. But what happens when students get to college and everything, from the style of instruction, to the flow of coursework, all the way to the demands outside of learning are just…a little bit different? For some students, this is a welcome opportunity to rise to the challenge, but for others, this is a daunting, overwhelming, and seemingly impossible ask. As an occupational therapist specializing in executive function, I have spent the last few years directly supporting those college freshman – the ones who look at the new demands and think, “I was never prepared for this, I don’t know if I can do this.” And I don’t blame them for feeling that way! The demands and expectations truly change. Here are a few that stand out:

  • Time management – High school schedules are rigid. Students are expected to arrive at a specific time, follow a block schedule, and make it to each of their classes (generally all in one building). If they forget what period it is, they can ask a friend, teacher, or almost anyone in the hallway. Conversely, every student in college has their own schedule that they are expected to track and manage. On Monday, they may be in class from 10am-2pm, while on Tuesday they are in class from 3pm-5pm on the other side of campus. There is no one to quickly ask or check in with regarding when and where they are supposed to be and consistency is rare. This trouble is further compounded by the fact that college coursework requires a substantial amount of work to be done outside of the classroom that must be planned for and built into the weekly schedule.
  • Reading a syllabus – While “reading a syllabus” may sound simple, these documents are often over 20 pages long, providing information about course content, course expectations, professor’s preferred method of communication, grading systems, and a full schedule of what is due and when. Additionally, each of these documents uses a different format and is frequently amended during the semester. High school students are used to an online portal that is consistently used by their teachers and provides built-in reminders and updates. Syllabi are tricky, and many students skim them without absorbing.
  • Assignment tracking – As mentioned above, college portals are nowhere near as comprehensive, up-to-date, or accurate as most ex-high school students expect. Professors may change a due date in class without updating a syllabus or expect students to keep track of a paper that is due more than a month away. Many college students need support putting a system in place to quickly consolidate due dates, set internal deadlines, and track what they need to hand in. This is especially important when breaking down large assignments into manageable chunks or learning to prepare in advance to for busy times in the semester, such as midterms or finals week.
  • Communicating with instructors – Many college students need support in pushing themselves to attend office hours, reach out early and often via email if they have questions about classwork or assignments, and even introduce themselves to their professors.
  • Developing healthy habits and routines – On top of academic executive function demands, college students are dealing with an increase in life-based executive function demands. They are managing their own eating habits, morning routines, evening routines, and organizing all of their personal belongings in their own space. Completing all of this while maintaining life balance can be tricky, and may require some support.
  • Accessing accommodations – The accommodation process at a college level is vastly different from the IEP or 504 process in high school. While this topic could be a blog on its own, the biggest takeaway for me is the level of responsibility that falls on the students. They are in charge of letting each professor, at the beginning of every semester, know about their accommodations for sitting in classes, taking exams, or turning in assignments. This requires a level of self-advocacy and functional communication that they may not have had to demonstrate in high school. This demand does not disappear throughout the semester, as they often need to remind professors a week before an exam about their needs or independently book a room to take their test.

While this may seem like a lot, the good news is that our students have learned how to learn. Their systems may need updating, and their strategies may need fine tuning, but with guidance I have found college success to be a truly achievable goal. I often find that once provided with a foundation and tips for how to be successful, my college freshmen do rise to the challenge and eventually build the ability to do all of this independently. If you feel that your student could benefit from some executive function support as they embark on their college journey, please reach out about NESCA’s EF Coaching Program!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Making the Most of Summer – Setting a Few Life Skill Goals (for College and Life in General after High School)

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

Summer in the United States is looking more “normal” than it has in three years. Kids are in camps, summer school is in-person, and families are traveling. While there is a semblance of planning and activity that many of us missed greatly in 2020 and 2021, many teenagers are still finding their groove with changing work schedules, driver’s education, etc. No matter what your teenager is doing, this is great time to sit down and set a few “simple” life skill goals for the summer. In 2020, I wrote a two-part blog series focused on eight life skills that are critical to build before college:

  1. Getting up “on time” each morning
  2. Washing, drying, and putting away laundry—including sheets
  3. Basic kitchen skills
  4. Using basic tools (e.g., screwdriver, hammer, measuring tape, etc.)
  5. Medication management
  6. Money management
  7. Routine exercise
  8. Using a calendar for scheduling

For teenagers in high school or heading off to college, these are great skills to begin tackling over the summer months. For example, getting up by a certain time is something that can be especially important to work on when consequences are low. For instance, it is hard to let a teen sleep in when they are going to miss an AP exam, but it can be easier to let them practice using an alarm (and possibly oversleeping) when they are going to a movie with a friend or attending a camp. Summer is a great time for teens to be able to experience natural consequences as they practice taking on new risks and responsibilities associated with some of the life skills above.

A challenge when working with, or parenting, teenagers who have a lot of skills to develop is figuring out where to start or how to gain “buy-in.” One of the ways that I like to work with students to set life skill goals is to have the student take a basic life skills inventory, such as the Casey Life Skills Toolkit, Life Skills Inventory, or Adolescent Autonomy Checklist. After a student rates their own skill levels, I ask them to review skills that they cannot already do and identify how important those skills are on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, we go through the list again, and I ask which skills they would like to learn in the next 2 months, 6 months, and year. Once the teenager has identified the importance of a skill and the desire to work on the skill in the near future, it is much easier to set short-term goals. We can work out a skill-building plan for the summer. including how much time to dedicate on a daily or weekly basis. We can also talk about the types of barriers or challenges that might get in the way of the teenager practicing these skills. Additionally, we can set expectations for how often the teen is going to report back to me on the skill so that there is built-in accountability, and the teen knows to expect the check-ins rather than feeling like someone is checking up on them.

Every teenager is different. If you are a parent wanting to help your child make the most of summer, you may find that you can go through the same process that I do to help your child set a few short-term goals. Other teenagers will be able to work on goals themselves—once they have gone through the exercise of setting them. And others, may benefit from having a coach who can build a relationship, support development of executive function and coping skills, and partner with the teen in making the most of summer. If you think your child would benefit from some coaching or an “expert” to work with them, we have a great team of professionals here at NESCA who are ready to help.

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

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

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

Learning with Executive Dysfunction—How Graphic Organizers Can Help

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By Olivia Rogers, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist, NESCA

When it comes to executive dysfunction, we often see students struggle with the organization of language. This presents differently in each student, but may be seen as difficulty comprehending information, and getting ideas out of their heads and organized into words or on paper. They might recognize the words when listening or reading, but they hit a wall when it comes to making sense of the message or describing it. This often results in students feeling lost, confused, and overwhelmed.

When students struggle to organize language and grasp concepts independently in the classroom, we need to break it down and teach it differently. Graphic organizers help us to do so.

What is a graphic organizer?

Graphic organizers are tools that use visual symbols to express knowledge, concepts, thoughts, or ideas, and the relationships between them. The main purpose of a graphic organizer is to provide a visual aid to facilitate learning and instruction. They help students see visually what is expected of them, what they should focus on, and break complex tasks down for them.

What does the evidence show?

There is plenty of evidence demonstrating the benefits of using graphic organizers. The results of most studies have voiced the positive effects of graphic organizers in mainly comprehension and writing, in addition to remembering course content. One such study recommended the use of graphic organizers for teaching expository text structures with students to improve reading comprehension. A popular strategy to help students understand expository texts is to teach the various types of text structures: cause-and-effect, compare/contrast, problem/solution, etc. When students know the underlying organization of the information, it helps them create a working model of it in their minds, resulting in a better understanding and ability to recall. (Pyle et al., 2017). Another study sought to investigate how pre-writing activities based on graphic organizers, such as webs, and beginning, middle and end charts, affect the overall quality of student writing. The results of the study indicate that using appropriate pre-writing strategies based on graphic organizers and giving enough time for the students lead to better quality writing (Servati, 2012).

How are Graphic Organizers Used in Speech Language Therapy?

1. Graphic Organizers Help Students Focus

Many students exhibit disorganized thinking processes, poor initiation skills, word recall difficulties, poor attention, and decreased task endurance. These weaknesses can impact a student’s ability to get started on a project, organize a writing assignment, or even complete a math task. Graphic organizers help students access prior knowledge and get them actively engaged in learning.

2. Graphic Organizers Provide a Visual Map and Help Clarify Abstract Concepts

Have you ever had so much information that you couldn’t hold onto it all? Graphic organizers bring together large pieces of information and tie the relationships together. The concepts and linguistic relationships flow better and make sense to students.

3. Graphic Organizers Help Build Vocabulary

Students benefit from graphic organizers as they expand their word knowledge and make connections. Graphic organizers are great for teaching concepts like descriptive adjectives, antonyms/synonyms, items in a category, part/whole relationships, and definitions.

4. Graphic Organizers Improve Expressive Language

Graphic organizers support oral and written language in all areas of academic learning. Some students have difficulty creating pictures in their head, retrieving words to verbalize their ideas, and putting their thoughts in order. Utilizing a graphic organizer can help students when they need to present information orally or develop a draft for writing.

 

Resources:

Architects For Learning. (2022, May 18). Helping students manage what’s hard about school and thrive as life-long learners. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://www.architectsforlearning.com/students-parents/about-us/

Erwin, L. (2017, May 26). 5 reasons to use graphic organizers in speech therapy. My Speech Tools. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://myspeechtools.blogspot.com/2017/05/5-reasons-you-should-use-graphic-organizers-speech-therapy-sessions.html

Servati, Katrina, “Prewriting Strategies and their Effect on Student Writing” (2012). Education Masters. Paper 242. https://fisherpub.sjfc.edu/education_ETD_masters/242

Sherman, H. (2017, December 23). Using Graphic Organizers is Essential in Speech Therapy. Speech Time Fun Speech and Language Activities. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://speechtimefun.com/using-graphic-organizers-is-essential-in-speech-therapy/

Pyle, N., Vasquez, A. C., Lignugaris, K., & B., Gillam, S.L., Reutzel, D.R., Olszewski, A., Segura, H., Hartzheim, D., Laing, W., and Pyle, D. (2017). Effects of expository text structure interventions on comprehension: A meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 52(5), 1–33. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1002/ rrq. 179

 

About the Author

Olivia Rogers received her Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Maine, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders and concentrations in Childhood Development and Disability Studies. She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in speech-language pathology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, as well as a professional license in speech-language pathology from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Ms. Rogers has experience working both in the pediatric clinic setting as well as in public schools, evaluating and treating children 2-18 years of age presenting with a wide range of diagnoses (e.g., language delays and disorders, speech sound disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, autism spectrum disorder, social communication disorder, and Down syndrome). Ms. Rogers enjoys making sure therapy is fun and tailored to each client’s interests.

In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts and spending times with friends and families.

 

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

 

To book an appointment with Olivia Rogers, please complete our Intake Form today. For more information about NESCA, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.