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What’s the Big Deal about a Pencil Grip?

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By: Jessica Hanna MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, NESCA

With kids back in school, drawings, coloring pages, and written work will make their way from the classroom to backpacks and eventually to the fridge for everyone to admire.

From infancy to adulthood, we all hit many milestones in life. Some milestones stand out more than others, but the little ones are no less important. The ability to hold a writing tool is a milestone that moves through various stages from infancy through adulthood. If you get the chance to view and capture each stage along a child’s development, it’s genuinely fascinating!

So, what’s the big deal about the stages involved in holding a writing tool, such as a crayon, marker, or pencil? These stages are the foundation for developing the tiny muscles and arches of the human hand, creating strength and endurance during a writing/drawing activity, and developing stability to manipulate the writing tool to use it the intended way. As humans, we all move through these stages at one point. The progression through each stage is not uniform or standard. The ultimate goal is to reach the ability to hold a writing tool with a functional grasp pattern that promotes adequate speed, accuracy, and legibility without it being the cause of pain or fatigue.

For many kids, achieving fine motor precision and the skill for written output is challenging. However, as NESCA Occupational Therapist Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L, reminds us in her recent post, “Handwriting vs. Typing: Where do we draw the line?,” handwriting is still a valuable life tool.

So, what does the progression of pencil grasp development actually look like?

Primitive Stages – Observed between 12 and 36 months. The art of drawing and coloring is often the first exposure and gateway to children learning how to hold a writing tool. There is all the freedom, no pressure of writing, and no right and wrong to their drawing.

  • Radial Cross Palmer Grasp (Fig a.) – Full arm and shoulder movement is used to move the writing tool. The writing tool is positioned across the palm of the hand, held with a fisted hand, and the forearm is fully pronated with elbow winged high out to the side.
  • Palmer Supinate Grasp (Fig b.) – Full arm and shoulder movement is used to move the writing tool. The writing tool is positioned across the palm of the hand, held with a fisted hand, with slight flexion of the wrist, and the elbow slightly lowered out to the side.
  • Digital Pronate Grasp (Fig c.) – Full arm and shoulder movement used to move the writing tool. Arm and wrist are floating in the air, and only the index finger extends along the writing tool toward the tip.

Schneck, CM, and Henderson (1990)

Children will begin to shift between the various pencil grips as their shoulder and arm muscles become stronger and steadier.

Immature grasp or transitional grip phase – This grip has been observed as young as 2.7 years of age through 6.6 years of age as stated through research (Schneck, CM, and Henderson (1990)).

  • Static Tripod grasp (Fig g.) – The child will use their forearm and wrist movements only keeping fingers stationery and wrists slightly bent. Movement of the hand can be observed as not graceful. The thumb, index and middle finger will work together as the shaft of the pencil is stabilized by the 4th finger.

Ann-Sofie Selin (2003)

Mature grips – There is so much talk about what looks right and what looks wrong. Traditional pencil grips have evolved through time. There have been four pencil grips now classified as a mature grasp pattern. All mature grips use precise finger movement to manipulate a writing tool while keeping the forearm stabilized.

  • Dynamic Tripod Grip (Fig 1) – Previously known as the golden standard of all grips, where the thumb, index, and middle finger function together, while the pencil shaft rests on the middle finger.
  • Dynamic Quadrupod Grip (Fig 2) –The thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers function together while the pencil shaft rests on the ring finger.
  • Lateral Tripod Grip (Fig 3) – The pencil shaft is stabilized by the inner (lateral) side of the thumb and index finger while resting on the middle finger.
  • Lateral Quadrupod Grip (Fig 4) – The pencil shaft is stabilized by the inner (lateral) side of the thumb, index, and middle finger while resting on the ring finger.

Koziatek SM, Powell NJ (2003)

Pencil grips are generally believed to affect handwriting, and awkward pencil grips become the most commonly assumed cause as to why that is (Ann-Sofie Selin, 2003). However, the production of untidy or illegible handwriting does not always correlate to an unusual pencil grip. The most efficient pencil grip for a child is the one that will help them write with speed and legibility, without pain for an extended period of time.

When should a parent, caregiver or educator be concerned?

  • There is pain and excessive pressure on the writing tool by holding on too tight
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Writing speed is compromised
  • Complaint of hand fatigue during writing and coloring activities
  • Holding the pencil with a primitive grasp (e.g., full fist) after 4 years of age
  • White knuckles or hyperextended joints in fingers holding a writing tool
  • Visible flexed wrist and forearm lifted off the writing surface
  • Inability to choose a clear hand preference between ages 4 and 6 years of age
  • Complete avoidance of all drawing or writing activities

If you are concerned about your child’s pencil grip and/or handwriting, an Occupational Therapist can work with you to identify challenging areas and determine next steps. Let us know if we can help support your child.

References

Koziatek SM, Powell NJ. Pencil grips, legibility, and speed of fourth-graders’ writing in cursive. Am J Occup Ther. 2003 May-Jun;57(3):284-8.

Schneck, CM, and Henderson (1990) Descriptive analysis of the developmental progression of grip position for pencil and crayon control in nondysfunctional children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 44, (10) 893 – 900

Ann-Sofie Selin (2003). Pencil Grip: A Descriptive Model and Four Empirical Studies. Åbo Akademi University Press.

 

About the Author

Jessica Hanna has over 10 years of pediatric OT experience in conducting assessments and providing treatment of children and adolescents with a broad range of challenges and disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, visual impairments, cerebral palsy, executive function deficits and developmental disorders of motor function. Prior to joining NESCA, Jessica trained and worked in a variety of settings, including inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, private practice, schools and homes. She has served on interdisciplinary treatment teams and worked closely with schools, medical staff and other service providers in coordinating care. In addition, Jessica provided occupational therapy services at Perkins School for the Blind and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital pediatric inpatient unit, where she conducted comprehensive evaluations and interventions for children with a broad range of presentations.

 

To book an appointment or to learn more about NESCA’s Occupational Therapy 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.

 

Don’t Let Summertime Chores Deflate Your Vibe

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By: Jessica Hanna MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, NESCA

It’s summertime, and let’s face it, nobody wants to do chores. However, through learning about the benefits of chores in a previous NESCA blog post, we realized all that it can bring to the table to improve child development skills.

Nevertheless, let’s step back. No one ever said chores must be painful or that it is all business and no play. Even when it comes to chores, you can keep it fun! The beauty about chores is that in addition to learning personal responsibility, improved self-care skills, and teamwork, chores help children to incorporate and work on an array of skill sets, such as:

  • Visual perceptional skills
  • Executive functioning skills
  • Bilateral coordination skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Upper body strength
  • Sensory regulation

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what that can look like:

 Water play chores

Stop what you’re thinking…yes, it can seem messy, but remember the goal: participation, have fun, work on important skills (bilateral coordination, sequencing, crossing midline, integrating sensory input).

  • Cleaning off sandy beach items Works on a 2-step or 3-step sequence and bilateral coordination skills.
    • 2-step sequence (rinse and dry using a water bucket or water hose)
    • 3-step sequence (rinse/dry/store back in beach bag)
  • Watering plants/flowers outside – Provides heavy work and promotes bilateral coordination to hold a water-hose and use upper body strength to maintain arms lifted above gravity.
  • Rinse dishes in the sink – Works on sequencing steps, crossing midline, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination.
  • Wipe down indoor/outdoor tables – Incorporates motor planning, crossing midline, and promotes upper body strength.
  • Clean reachable outdoor/indoor windows – Remember it is not about the streaks left behind. The task promotes and builds on upper body strength, hand strength, motor planning skills, and bilateral coordination skills.

Chores that work on visual perceptual skills

  • Sorting clean laundry – Play assembly line with clean clothes or turn it into a mini obstacle course. Sorting and putting away laundry can be a group effort for everyone in the family!   
    • Matching socks
    • Color coding clothing
    • Sorting by category (pants/shirts/undergarments)
  • Putting away groceries…what is more fun than playing store? – Have your child follow a pre-made visual or written checklist to make sure and check off all items purchased (e.g., create your shopping list on Prime Now or Peapod where visuals are supplied, and you print a copy for your child to follow and mark up).
  • Loading the dishwasher – When it comes to loading the dishwasher, we all know it can be a game of Tetris, even for adults! When helping your child load the dishwasher safely, make sure you place one item first in a designated area and see if they can sort items accordingly.
  • Cleaning up toys on a floor – When asking your child to pick up toys, reduce visual clutter, and be specific.
    • Place a perimeter (e.g., use a hoola hoop/painter’s tape) around toys that need to be picked up.
    • Use a visual checklist to identify toys to be picked up (e.g., books, Legos, crayons).
    • You can turn it into a scavenger hunt game (e.g., find 10 crayons on the floor).

Chores that promote regulation

Heavy work chores/activities help with sensory regulation through the act of pushing, pulling, and lifting heavy items.

  • Laundry – If you have a front-loading reachable washer and dryer, have your child pull wet clothes out of the washer, or dry clothes from the dryer. Or have your child (depending on size and strength) help carry a basket of clean or dirty clothes to and from the washer and dryer. (To add a fun twist, have them walk over items, around items, spin, bend, etc., with a basket of clothes).
  • Vacuuming/Swiffering – Make sure the size is appropriate. Little ones love handheld vacuum cleaners and dust pans if they cannot manipulate larger sized appliances. Handheld vacuums are fun for kids to use in helping to clean out the car! Turn it into a game to vacuum the treasures your car “ate” during those summer outings can be an adventure for them and a bonus for you!
  • Bed making – Have your child sit in the bed and help pull up those sheets and blankets from the sitting position. It’s fun when it fluffs up and gets tricky when you must sneak or crawl out without pulling the sheets down!

Always keep in mind what you want the goal of a chore to be and remember that they do not have to be done perfectly. When chores are broken down into steps, are provided and paired with a verbal and visual demonstration, and are concrete, your child will be successful in participating in your chore of choice. You must remember to create the just-right challenge regarding your child’s age and pair it with fun!

 

About the Author

Jessica Hanna has over 10 years of pediatric OT experience in conducting assessments and providing treatment of children and adolescents with a broad range of challenges and disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, visual impairments, cerebral palsy, executive function deficits and developmental disorders of motor function. Prior to joining NESCA, Jessica trained and worked in a variety of settings, including inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, private practice, schools and homes. She has served on interdisciplinary treatment teams and worked closely with schools, medical staff and other service providers in coordinating care. In addition, Jessica provided occupational therapy services at Perkins School for the Blind and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital pediatric inpatient unit, where she conducted comprehensive evaluations and interventions for children with a broad range of presentations.

 

To book an appointment or to learn more about NESCA’s Occupational Therapy 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.

 

Transition Planning for Adulthood—It Starts at Birth

By | NESCA Notes 2019

 

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

There are many transitions throughout a person’s life, but as a transition specialist working at a pediatric neuropsychology practice, my focus is most often on helping students who have struggled with learning, social and/or emotional difficulties to plan for and successfully navigate the transition from secondary school to whatever comes next in life (e.g., employment, transition program, community college, apprenticeship, etc.). I focus on helping young people envision their future selves and set short- and long-term goals for themselves—putting them into the driver’s seat for their own lives and helping them manage the risks and responsibilities that come with making choices for themselves.

When a family walks into my office for the first time, it is common for one parent or caretaker to worry aloud that they are starting transition planning for their child “too late.” I consistently respond that it is never too late to start planning and to begin transferring responsibility from one generation to the next. But today, I also want to emphasize that “it’s never too early” to start to plan for your child to be a more independent and competent adult—the best transition planning starts at birth.

Some common examples of transitions that start at a very early age that many parents and caregivers can relate to are: a child sleeping through the night for the first time unsupported, holding a cup and drinking without spilling, feeding oneself with a spoon, and/or riding a bicycle. Each of these activities is an example of a child building competence and independence while their parents simultaneously relinquish some amount of control. Often times, mistakes, messes and even pain are a natural part of the process.

From a young age, there are many skills that children can learn that will make a big difference for them later in life. Some examples include:

  • Picking out clothes for the next morning
  • Putting dirty clothes in a hamper
  • Loading the washing machine
  • Putting clean clothes away in drawers
  • Washing hands before eating, after using the bathroom and after playing outside
  • Setting the table (maybe not plates or glasses, but perhaps napkins, forks and spoons)
  • Carrying dishes to the counter and placing them next to the sink after dinner—or even in the dishwasher
  • Putting their own garbage in the trash
  • Collecting small trash bins to dump into a larger bin/bag on trash day
  • Helping to pack their own lunch
  • Helping to prep a meal (e.g., washing veggies, pouring ingredients, etc.)
  • Getting condiments from the refrigerator and putting them away after dinner
  • Getting a snack for self or a sibling from the refrigerator or pantry
  • Wiping down the table after a meal
  • Feeding/providing water for pets
  • Weeding
  • Raking leaves
  • Shoveling snow
  • Helping to get the mail
  • Brainstorming for/making a shopping list
  • Finding assigned items at the grocery store
  • Carrying light grocery bags
  • Helping to pack belongings for a family trip
  • Making gifts/cards for a celebration
  • Budgeting a few dollars to buy inexpensive but thoughtful gifts for family members

Some of these will apply to your child and some of them will not. And some of these may require adding time to your schedule, allowing a child to complete tasks at their own pace, or doing some household reorganization, allowing a child to access items necessary to complete tasks. Finally, a lot of deep breathing and patience—for both you and your child—will be required!

At any point in time, you can identify a task  you regularly do for your child and consider where there are pieces they can do for themselves. If your only role in the task is to prompt your child, consider whether there might be a low-technology tool (post-it, photograph) or high-technology tool (alarm, phone reminder) that could take the place of your prompt. If you are not sure how to make a change, it may be a good time to get help from a teacher, pediatrician, behavioral therapist, special educator, etc.

The important thing is that you are starting to think about where there is a potential for increasing competence, independence, confidence and self-esteem for your child. You are starting to plan for your own obsolescence in your child’s life, or at least in their carrying out every day self-care activities and chores. While that is a scary thing, it is also a beautiful and empowering thing!

*This blog was originally published in August, 2019.

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist at NESCA for consultation, 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

 

Organizing Screen Time During Remote Learning

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Working remotely has placed all of us on our screens more. My eyes, back and head hurt!  For months, screen time has been our lifeline to our family and friends, work and learning. Adults and children are on screens to connect with our families/friends, to learn, to play etc. And with remote or hybrid learning most likely here to stay to some degree for the 2020/2021 school year – even with lessening restrictions – our students will remain on screens. Helping students manage the amount of screen time they have is and will remain a daunting task.

I often talk to parents about what goes into their day for healthy living (i.e. exercise, sleep, work, play, outdoor time, etc.). We can add things like responsibilities/chores, alone time, down time, family time, etc. A child’s day also consists of routines, activities, chores, sleep, outdoor time etc. This becomes even more critical as we think about all the ways we are using screens nowadays.

To help manage screen time for our kids, it is important for parents to set boundaries and guidelines around screen time and clearly communicate the specific activities they do on screens. Create a clear way to communicate about screen time:

  • “Friend Time/Social Time”
  • “Family Time” (talking with relatives, playing Pictionary over Zoom)
  • “School Time” (Math, ELA, etc. – whether it be asynchronous or synchronous)
  • “Down Time” (i.e. meditation apps, sleep apps, etc.)
  • “Free Time” (the child’s choice with parent guidance)
  • “Indoor Exercise Time” (movement apps, online exercise shows or classes, etc.)

By creating a clear and common language around screen time/use within your home, children will better understand what their role is within each of these blocks, and communication related to screens becomes easier. Children and parents can talk more clearly about what the child is doing, what the child should be doing, what they want to be doing, and about learning expected behaviors and limits around each specific time. For instance, during family screen time (talking with grandma and grandpa), it’s okay to be wearing your pajamas or be in bed,  but for school screen time, this is not okay – the child needs to be dressed and at their designated workspace.

Establishing some guidelines, expectations and rules around screen time also allows parents and caregivers to talk with their children about healthy living and responsibilities (i.e. getting outdoors, exercising, eating, chores/responsibilities, relaxation, etc.) and how all this fits into a day. For example, 30 minutes of exercise is part of every day, playing a board game as a family is a part of every week, doing chores and completing daily living routines (dressing, brushing teeth, etc.) are a part of every day, reading a book or being read to happens every day, etc.

To help children understand and comply with screen time and use guidelines, Create a screen time agreement/contract jointly with your child. After explaining the above distinctions, guide them to figure out what goes into each category. The types of activities, games they play, who’s on the calls, etc. and what the expectations are for each. Take notes during this brainstorming session to then create an actual agreement/contract from those notes. Make sure to include rewards and consequences. There are “have-to” or “non-negotiable” activities that parents want children to do. Make these clear to the child, especially about the number of warnings they receive to get off of a device when prompted. Use and make sure your child knows that parental controls exist and that you will use them as well as time- tracking technology to help them be successful in meeting their goals, getting their rewards and being a great family member. Make sure there are screen time-free zones/hours (no one in the house is on a screen). This helps the child develop and learn non-technology-based entertaining behaviors. Everyone agrees to and signs the contract.

Finally, you might want to create creative/imaginative time activities, quite time activities, among others, to round out your child’s development. Get a hold of screen time before it takes hold of you and your child. Screen time can be a very slippery – even dangerous – slope for all of us these days. Help your child and yourself to be more mindful of the amount of time you are using screens and for what purpose. Good luck!

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

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

 

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.

 

Life Skills for College to Work on Now – Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

In Massachusetts, we are more than five weeks into home-based learning and looking toward another two months (or more) of schools and childcare facilities being closed. Unfortunately, this is taking a particularly large social and emotional toll on our teenagers and young adults. One strategy for coping with current conditions is to focus on concrete ways that we can control our daily lives and to set short-term tangible goals. With that in mind, I am writing a second blog focusing on the opportunity teenagers are being given to build daily living and executive functioning skills that will ultimately help them live away from home and self-direct their lives. Last week, I discussed four important skills that are critical for attending residential colleges: getting up on time each morning, doing laundry, having basic kitchen skills, and using basic tools for assembling and fixing things around home. This week, I am offering another four skills. For any young person, I always suggest letting the student pick the skill(s) they want to work on first. When you have a lot to work on, you may as well pick the starting point that feels most important and motivating!

  • Medications: For students who have been on medication during high school, keeping that medication regimen stable is typically a must during the transition to college. Students need to have the knowledge, preparation and organizational skills needed to maintain their own medication regimen. Often a good way to start this process is to purchase a 7-day pill organizer and have teens be responsible for dispensing their own medication for the week. Certainly, a smartphone or smartwatch with several alarms can be useful for remembering medications at needed times. For more information about medication management expectations in college, check out this article by Rae Jacobson. He makes some useful recommendations, such as using a unique alarm tone for medication reminders and putting pills in highly or frequently visible locations (e.g., next to your toothbrush that you routinely use).
  • Money: Students in early stages of high school may be too young for their own bank accounts and credit cards. However, some banks do offer accounts that are specially tailored for minors. Students can open a joint bank account as a minor with a parent or legal guardian. Teens can also practice managing plastic through use of traditional prepaid debit cards, Amazon.com or store gift cards, or a debit card made especially for minors like Greenlight. From home, teens can practice making necessary online purchases, tracking payments and shipping, checking account balances, and using a software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to keep a record of purchases. There are also plenty of great free web-based financial literacy resources that teens can use to learn about banking and consumer skills from home; a few resources that my colleague Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC, and I like include:
  • Building an Exercise Routine: Believe it or not, basic fundamentals like healthy eating, sleep hygiene and regular vigorous exercise are strong predictors of college success and satisfaction. As we are living in a period of time where team sports are not accessible, this may be exactly the right time for teenagers to build their own individual exercise routine that can be carried out at home and in one’s local neighborhood. A good baseline to strive for is a routine that includes exercise sessions at least three days per week. With decreased time factors in our lives, students can play around with morning, afternoon or evening exercise to see what feels best for their bodies and brains. If brisk dog-walking, jogging/running or biking activities are not appealing, there are plenty of great YouTube exercise videos (e.g., dance, yoga, strength training, cardio training, etc.) that require no equipment and are calibrated for all kinds of bodies and levels of fitness. Setting a schedule for weekly workouts will help to ensure that exercise becomes more routine and tracking progress with that schedule (e.g., journaling, marking a calendar, using an app like Strava or Aaptiv, etc.) helps to build and sustain motivation. Some teens (and adults) also find that they are more able to stick to an exercise routine if they use a smartwatch to help track, celebrate and prompt their progress.
  • Using a Calendar System for Scheduling: The alarm clock mentioned in last week’s blog is certainly an important time management tool that is vital to master prior to attending college. Another critical time management tool for college (and life beyond) is a calendar system for managing one’s schedule. When starting to build time management skills, simply asking your teen to write down their schedule can be a good place to start. What do they know they have to do each day of the week? What appointments or activities are missing? Teens may have a calendar system that they are already accustomed to using for checking the date, but may not be using that tool to manage their entire schedule. Some common calendar app tools include iCal, Google Calendar and Outlook, but some teens may do better with paper-based systems. If a teen benefits from a paper copy of their schedule, I would still recommend that they learn to use something electronic, then just print off their daily, weekly or monthly schedule based on preference and need. Practice inputting activities that are happening right now, such as assignments, remote classes, meals, therapy, etc. Teens can also play around with reminder settings to see what feels best for prompting participation in activities. Sometimes 15 minutes is too much time, but 5 or 10 is just right. Other times, more than one reminder is needed.

To read more about the Life Skills recommendations from last week’s Transition Thursday blog, click here!

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Life Skills for College to Work on Now – Part 1

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

As a transition specialist working with students who have the cognitive and academic potential for college but have sometimes missed opportunities to develop life skills while keeping up with rigorous academic and extracurricular schedules, I am encouraging families to think of this time as a gift. Students, especially those in 8th-10th grade, have a novel opportunity to build life skills that can help them to live away from home and self-direct their schedules. Without school closures, this opportunity likely would not have come until after 12th grade. With that in mind, here is a list of 4 life skills that are critical for attending residential college that I am recommending some of my students work on:

  • Getting up “on time” each morning: We all know that teenage sleep schedules are rarely in alignment with traditional high school hours. Without transportation time, there is a new opportunity to practice using an alarm clock and build a sleep schedule and that is a little closer to teenage physiological needs. If teens are using a cell phone alarm, it is helpful to put the phone in airplane mode and plug it in away from the bed. With an alarm clock, some experts recommend clocks with blue numbers and facing the clock away from the bed. Good sleep hygiene depends on many factors, such as diet, caffeine intake, exercise, temperature, clothing and electronics use, so teens may want to organize their own “sleep study” to figure out what helps them personally to build a successful sleep routine. Teens can also play around with the sound an app or alarm clock makes to find something that is effective in waking them up without startling.
  • Laundry: When building new skills, I always recommend that students learn and practice the skills to the point of automaticity. Given the amount of time that we are now spending at home, this is the perfect opportunity to learn to do laundry, including reading labels, sorting clothing/linens and running the washer and dryer. If a teen is not interested in learning from a parent, YouTube is a great resource for learning steps to manage laundry and how to operate practically any model of washer or dryer. Teens will learn more quickly if they are practicing the skills multiple times per week, so consider building a schedule that takes into account repeated practice (e.g., clothing is washed midweek, and sheets and towels are washed on the weekend).
  • Basic kitchen skills: While colleges do have meal plans available, many students will still choose to cook a least one meal a day or week for themselves. Being able to cook some basic breakfast, lunch and dinner foods allows students to save money and time, be creative or enjoy a preferred taste/food that they are missing. If a student enjoys cooking and wants to learn to cook for others, that is a great social skill—food is definitely a way to build community (I still have college friends who request I make them grilled cheeses when we get together). I recently came across this parenting piece in The Washington Post highlighting 7 kitchen skills kids need before they leave for college, and now is certainly a good time to work on some of these skills. The article highlights wielding a knife, boiling water, sautéing, baking and roasting, using a slow cooker, planning meals and doing the dishes. But you may want to just start with planning and prepping preferred cold foods or microwave safety. Teens should consider their favorite basic foods and go from there.
  • Using basic tools: You don’t need to know every household maintenance skill to live in a college dorm. But being able to assemble things, fix loose screws and make other basic repairs is important for setting up your dorm or apartment space and saving time (and energy) chasing down maintenance. Some of the basic tools that are useful to be familiar with include a hammer, screwdrivers, measuring tape, pliers, a level, Allen keys and even some wrenches. There are lots of ways to start building familiarity with tools, such as inventorying current household tools, tightening screws on cabinet and drawer handles, hammering down loose nails on a porch, etc. As home repairs need to be tackled, use this as a life skills lesson and include teens in the process. One additional maintenance task that does not require tools is replacing lightbulbs—students should know how to safely remove bulbs from floor and table lamps and check the size, shape and wattage of the bulb, and shop for replacement bulbs.

Stay tuned for additional Life Skills recommendations in next week’s Transition Thursday blog!

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Transition Planning: “Remote” Work-based Learning Experiences

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

In the past three weeks, I have consulted with countless parents of high school students who are worried about how school closures and social distancing are impacting their child’s ability to gain need work experience during high school. Prior to March, I had been working with their teens to plan for summer internship programs, obtain first paid work experiences or finish out volunteer hours needed for senior graduation. Now, many of those plans are moot or uncertain. Instead, we are beginning to create backup plans (and backup plans for our backup plans) for continuing to build skills that will help these students be employable and successful even if internships and competitive work experiences are not accessible.

Fortunately, an unexpected benefit of Covid-19 school closures is the extraordinary educational resource-sharing that is occurring across the country (and even across the globe). We are all able to continue to build resources to help one another and the families that we support remotely. From our couches, we are able to access trainings provided by researchers, providers and educators who are among the top in their fields, often free of cost, and we are able to be part of large active professional networks. One of my favorite resources for transition-related information during this time is the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) who hosted presenters Brenda Simmons, MS, and Michael Stoehr, MS, to speak about Employment Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences in a Virtual World on Tuesday, April 7th. Because of the work I am doing with families, I was particularly appreciative of one model shared by Brenda Simmons, MS, and Michael Stoehr, MS, during a webinar I attended: A Work-Based Learning Continuum.

Work-based learning experiences, including paid employment, are one of the most substantial predictors of postsecondary adult employment for students with disabilities. While paid employment in an integrated setting is a critical work-based learning experience, it is a part of a continuum of activities, many of which are still accessible during the current remote-learning times. Below is a graphic adapted from Simmons and Stoehr to help visualize this continuum.

Work-Based Learning Continuum adapted from Simmons and Stoehr NTACT/WINTAC Training

While Internships, Apprenticeships and Competitive Employment are difficult to participate in remotely (especially because these experiences are now isolated rather than integrated), the other activities highlighted along the continuum offer more opportunities for remote exploration:

  • Job Shadowing and Worksite Tours: Even when students cannot visit worksites in person, employers may be able to provide “virtual” tours to share information about what their company does, show teens around their workplace, explain what different employees do and demonstrate work tasks. There are also many virtual tours of workplaces already readily available online. Consider who is in your network that is still going to their workplace or able to travel to work as an “essential” employee. There is a breakdown from Business Insider about the types of businesses that are considered “essential” in current times, and the range of opportunities are impressive. With job shadowing and worksite tours, it is imperative to remember that the most important component of the experience is for teens to engage in self-reflection about the jobs and worksites. What did I see? What did I learn? Is this a place I can picture myself working? What accommodations might I need to be successful in this workplace?
  • Informational Interviews and Mentoring: Before school closures, I worked with many teens who had success in finding their first internship or job through the process of an informational interview. Rather than going through a traditional application and interview process—which can be particularly difficult for teens with social or emotional vulnerabilities—students engage in a “low-stakes” conversation with an employer simply to learn more about a job of interest. While many working adults across the US are strapped for time given that they are now full-time work-from-home employees, stay-at-home parents and teachers/instructional aides all at once, there are also many employees who have found themselves with extra time and a desire to connect with others socially while giving back to their communities. This is a great time for a teen to reach out and ask for 30 minutes of someone’s time to learn more about their field of work. Here is a nice informational interviewing resource that comes from the UC Berkeley Career Center and can be adapted for these remote times. Career-focused mentoring is a step beyond an informational interview and may be a logical next step in a relationship that starts with an informational interview or might be set up with another adult who is able to assist with career exploration and development. Given current times, you may want to consider early career professionals and retired professionals as individuals who may be more available for a career-focused mentoring relationship.
  • Pre-boarding and Onboarding Training: Looking across the continuum of work-based learning experiences, pre-boarding and onboarding trainings are likely to be most unfamiliar to teens. Pre-boarding typically refers to activities that occur between the time a candidate accepts a job and has their first day, while onboarding activities usually occur on an employee’s first day (or first few days). Many companies have created digital materials, including videos and trainings, that help new hires get a sense of workplace culture and community expectations—they provide a level of information that goes beyond what you learn in an informational interview or job shadow. These training activities make for great work-based learning experiences and can be accessed as a creative resource even if a teen is not currently job searching. This is a blog that offers examples of onboarding and pre-boarding videos. But there are many more available through web-based searching or that can potentially be made available through the human resource department at a company of interest.

In a previous blog, 7 Ways to Build Work Readiness from Your Couch, I shared some useful resources for building job search skills and learning about careers of interest remotely. I would recommend that the interested reader check out that blog for websites offering virtual job shadow and worksite tour videos as well as information about volunteer and paid work opportunities that can be completed remotely.

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Resilience during COVID-19: Collective Efficacy

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Renée Marchant, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

There is an array of research-proven factors shown to increase psychological and physiological resilience or “bounce-back” from stressful experiences, such as maintaining a social network and practicing healthy coping skills when in distress.

One important factor is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is distinct from self-esteem. Self-esteem is a judgement of self-worth whereas self-efficacy is a judgement of personal capability. People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered;
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate;
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities; and
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments (Bandura, 1995).

The COVID-19 crisis has cultivated a closely related and critical construct, collective efficacy. Collective efficacy is a group’s shared belief in its capability to organize and execute actions required to achieve goals (Bandura, 1995). In other words, members of a community look out for each other, support each other in solving problems, and, in effect, improve their lives through combined efforts.

Collective self-efficacy is everywhere amidst this crisis. Social distancing is in itself a collective efficacy measure. Thousands of communities across the world continue to show everyday kindness for those in need and solidarity for those on the front lines. A few local Massachusetts examples are:

Collective efficacy is proven to increase resilience at a family level and at a community level. Collective efficacy is critical for navigating through, tolerating and “bouncing back” from this crisis. Collective self-efficacy can be cultivated and grown at home through small, meaningful and intentional acts.

Here are three research-proven “collective self-efficacy” enhancers to practice while you’re home with your family during COVID-19:

  1. Stay active in a cause for kindness and connection: Make art or compliment cards for first responders. Record a video and send to a local nursing home. Participate in an organized trip to the grocery store for vulnerable members of your community.
  2. Create collective mastery experiences: Mastery experiences are experiences we gain when we take on a challenge and succeed. Identify a “home project” such as organizing a closet together. Creatively problem solve how to cook a snack or meal with four ingredients already in your kitchen. Organize a family “work-out” exercise challenge.
  3. Encourage reflection and communication: Identify a small, realistic goal for each family member to accomplish each morning. Have each family member name a “take away” and “throw away” from their day in the evening. Share a “strength story” to reflect on a strength you and/or your family member showed that week. Consider using specific value-driven language to identify this strength (see examples from the VIA character strengths research studies below).

About the Author:

Dr. Renée Marchant provides neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments for youth who present with a variety of complex, inter-related needs, with a particular emphasis on identifying co-occurring neurodevelopmental and psychiatric challenges. She specializes in the evaluation of developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder and social-emotional difficulties stemming from mood, anxiety, attachment and trauma-related diagnoses. She often assesses children who have “unique learning styles” that can underlie deficits in problem-solving, emotion regulation, social skills and self-esteem.

Dr. Marchant’s assessments prioritize the “whole picture,” particularly how systemic factors, such as culture, family life, school climate and broader systems impact diagnoses and treatment needs. She frequently observes children at school and participates in IEP meetings.

Dr. Marchant brings a wealth of clinical experience to her evaluations. In addition to her expertise in assessment, she has extensive experience providing evidence-based therapy to children in individual (TF-CBT, insight-oriented), group (DBT) and family (solution-focused, structural) modalities. Her school, home and treatment recommendations integrate practice-informed interventions that are tailored to the child’s unique needs.

Dr. Marchant received her B.A. from Boston College with a major in Clinical Psychology and her Psy.D. from William James College in Massachusetts. She completed her internship at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute and her postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, where she deepened her expertise in providing therapy and conducting assessments for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as well as youth who present with high-risk behaviors (e.g. psychosis, self-injury, aggression, suicidal ideation).

Dr. Marchant provides workshops and consultations to parents, school personnel and treatment professionals on ways to cultivate resilience and self-efficacy in the face of adversity, trauma, interpersonal violence and bullying. She is an expert on the interpretation of the Rorschach Inkblot Test and provides teaching and supervision on the usefulness of projective/performance-based measures in assessment. Dr. Marchant is also a member of the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) and continues to conduct research on the effectiveness of family therapy for high-risk, hospitalized patients.

 

To book an evaluation with Dr. Marchant or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, 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, 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.

 

7 Ways to Build Work-readiness from Your Couch

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

With schools across the country closed, special education and transition services are on hold for millions of young people. Fortunately, there are options for teenagers and young adults of all abilities to build important career planning, work readiness and even paid employment experience from home. Here are some suggestions for teens and young adults to build employment skills from the comfort of home:

  1. Use this time to draft your first resume (or edit an existing one). Even students with no work experience have plenty of information to put on a resume. Minimally, your resume should include your contact information, education to date and any volunteer, informal work activities or paid work experiences you have had. It is also appropriate to include skills and personal qualities, school accomplishments, and extracurricular activities that are nonwork related. Learn more about writing a resume for a part-time job at: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/part-time-job-resume-example-for-a-teen-2063248 and https://www.thebalancecareers.com/high-school-resume-examples-and-writing-tips-2063554.
  2. Take an online career interest test (or 10). There are a number of great free career interest tests available online for students with a variety of reading abilities. Some of the most common free tests include O*Net Interest Profiler, The Holland Code Interest Test and CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment. Residents in Massachusetts can access many assessments online at the MassHire Career Information System. When inventory results are provided, each web site typically includes information about exploring ideas and careers further.
  3. Remotely learn about jobs of interest. Many students learn best experientially and, while current times prevent activities like job shadowing and internships, you can still virtually explore jobs of interest by watching career videos. Some web sites that offer a wide range of employment videos include Career One Stop Career Cluster Video Series, DrKit.org or MassCIS locally.
  4. Practice phone and video skills, including interview skills. While text messaging and social media communications may be better for connecting with friends, phone and video conferencing skills are increasingly important for seeking and maintaining employment. Take this opportunity to pick up the phone and call family members and friends. Build and practice video conference skills with platforms like Facetime, Skype, Google Duo and zoom.us. You can also download apps like Job Interview Question-Answer to work on video interview skills.
  5. Use the time to improve typing and digital literacy skills. Even if you have been taking notes on an iPad, Chromebook or computer for years, you can further improve your typing skills. One free web site that we like is com. To build Google or Microsoft Suite skills, check out other free resources like GFCGlobal and https://usefyi.com/g-suite-training/. You may even want to enroll in certification courses to build your credentials.
  6. Become a virtual volunteer. Whether you are trying to keep moving on your school’s volunteer hours requirement, looking for a meaningful way to spend time or want to beef up your resume, virtual volunteerism offers a great opportunity to use time at home meaningfully. To learn more about virtual volunteerism, check out this blog by GoodWill Industries or this lengthy resource assembled by Jayne Cravens at Finding Online Volunteering.
  7. Apply for a remote job. While employment trends are not clear, there are still companies hiring across the globe. Research and apply for remote and work-from-home positions, such as the examples listed here on The Penny Hoarder.

 

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Planning and Preparing for College from Home during Covid-19

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

While college in the United States is looking quite different for student’s currently enrolled, many (but not all) high school juniors across the country participated in SAT testing yesterday morning in preparation for their college application process. For teenagers–who have natural difficulties thinking ahead and anticipating consequences–being stuck at home may feel particularly tedious and taxing.

Here are some suggestions for teens that may help to use the time productively and get ahead on next year’s college search and admissions process:

  1. Use this time to draft a college application resume that includes information about your co-curricular and extracurricular activities, employment and volunteer experiences, skills, achievements and awards, summer activities, and any hobbies or interests. Try to include all of the experiences you have had throughout the year (ask your parents if you cannot remember everything you have done). You may not end up providing this directly to a college, but it will be useful when you request recommendations, complete applications, and need to put together a resume for employment. Learn more about building a college application resume at The Balance Careers.
  2. Hop on some college search engines and go through a few search processes. Search engines can help you to think about what characteristics matter to you and which selection criteria are less important. If you happen to find a school that you want to research further, even better. Some of the search engines we like include: BigFuture, Cappex, and Collegedata. There are lots of popular engines and you should pick what works for you.
  3. Take virtual college campus tours to explore colleges of interest and to begin to familiarize yourself with college daily life and vocabulary. Look at admissions sites for tour information or join a site like YouVisit. Learn more about virtual tours in this US News Article: How to Make the Most of Virtual College Tours.
  4. Practice your interview skills! There are lots of great web sites with sample interview questions (e.g., ThoughtCo.com, BigFuture). Practice with a friend via video chat (e.g., Facetime, Google, Skype, Messenger) or record yourself.
  5. Write a practice or rough draft college essay. Common App Essay Prompts remain the same from one year to the next and has already announced that first-year essay prompts will remain the same for next application season. Check those out here: https://www.commonapp.org/apply/essay-prompts

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.