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:
- Getting up “on time” each morning
- Washing, drying, and putting away laundry—including sheets
- Basic kitchen skills
- Using basic tools (e.g., screwdriver, hammer, measuring tape, etc.)
- Medication management
- Money management
- Routine exercise
- 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 email@example.com, call 617-658-9800 or complete our online Intake Form.