NESCA is currently booking for in-person Real-life Skills and Executive Function Coaching in the Newton, MA office! Our experienced occupational therapists work alongside individuals to achieve their personalized goals, which often address functional life skills that allow them to thrive in their homes, schools, and communities. For those not local to Newton, MA, remote services are also offered. Click here for more information. To inquire about our coaching services, complete our Intake Form.



Technology Tools to Boost Your Productivity Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

As winter envelops us in its chilly embrace, it’s easy to feel the drag on our productivity. The cold, dark days can sap our motivation, making it challenging to tackle our to-do lists. But fear not! In this second part of our series on technology tools to enhance productivity, we’ll explore five more applications designed to support you through the winter slump.

Before diving into these tools, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s normal to experience dips in productivity, especially during the winter months. These apps are here to provide an extra boost for those who may need it.

  1. Finch: Finch is a self-care app used to build healthy habits and routines. Within this app you will be given a virtual pet bird. As you set, meet, and reach your goals, you will boost your pet’s energy so that it is able to go out on adventures. You will earn coins to buy your pet new outfits, home décor, and flights to new destinations. This app helps gamify the process of building healthy habits by creating fun incentives to get your tasks done.
  2. Forest App: Spending too much time on your phone or computer can contribute to feelings of lethargy and distraction, especially during the winter months. Forest is a clever app that encourages you to put down your device and focus on what’s important. Simply set a timer, plant a virtual tree, and watch it grow while you work. If you succumb to the temptation of checking your phone or browsing the web, your tree will wither and die. With Forest, you can cultivate healthier digital habits and reclaim your productivity.
  3. Cozi: Cozi is a family organizer app designed to streamline your household routines. From managing schedules and appointments to coordinating grocery lists and meal plans, Cozi helps keep your family on track during the hectic winter months. With shared calendars and reminders, everyone stays in sync, reducing stress and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
  4. Streaks: Forming good habits is essential for maintaining productivity, especially when the days are short and the nights are long. Streaks is a habit-tracking app that helps you establish and maintain positive routines. Whether you want to exercise more, drink more water, or practice mindfulness, Streaks makes it easy to track your progress and stay motivated. Streaks empowers you to build habits that stick, even when the winter weather tempts you to hibernate.
  5. Headspace: Taking care of your mental well-being is crucial, especially during the darker days of winter. Headspace is a meditation app that offers guided mindfulness exercises to help you reduce stress, improve focus, and cultivate a sense of calm. Whether you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder or simply feeling overwhelmed by winter blues, Headspace can provide the support you need to prioritize your mental health and boost your productivity.

The winter months can be challenging, but with the right technology tools at your disposal, you can stay focused, organized, and productive. Whether you’re building healthy habits and routines, reducing screen time, coordinating family schedules, or prioritizing mental health, these apps are here to support you every step of the way. So don’t let the winter blues hold you back—embrace the power of technology and conquer your to-do list!


About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

Dr. Wood accepts Vermont- and Massachusetts-based transition and occupational therapy assessments. Her in-home and community-based coaching services are available in the greater Burlington, Vermont area. Dr. Wood can accept virtual coaching clients from both Massachusetts and Vermont.


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


NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, New York (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email or call 617-658-9800.

Technology to Relieve Holiday Stress – Really?

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS
Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Counseling Services, NESCA

During this holiday season, life for most people gets a bit more hectic. Many of us feel more stressed, busy, and overwhelmed with everyday life as well as preparing for the holidays. Our children are stressed as well, as they feel our stress. Older students feel the end of semester stress of papers being due and final exams looming.

A client, who is a college student, called me the other day and said, “I am just so stressed and angry, I couldn’t wait ‘til my appointment. I am angry at nothing and everything. I am being hard on myself and others.” I reflected on these feelings, and we discussed that, at this time of year, many people feel more stress and have a “shorter fuse.” I reminded him that being angry at himself for being angry wasn’t the solution/remedy; that just intensifies the feeling. Instead, we talked about normalizing his feelings, remembering to focus on his breath, and have compassion. When we focus on our breath, we shift our attention away from the thoughts and feelings that make us spiral. This client plays video games, so introducing him to stress management apps/games was a “no brainer.” I reminded him to use the app at least once a day for a few minutes, especially during this holiday season. This practice helps him and can help all of us to establish a new habit of stress reduction to help us remember how to focus on our breath and shift our attention.

Since most adults and children are using technology daily, let’s focus on spending some of that screen time for managing our mental health and stress levels. Experiment with free versions of apps and find one that resonates with you or your children, then practice it every day. Make it a part of your daily routine for at least 5 minutes. Pick the time that works for you. It is something that can even be done as a family. We establish routines for reading at night, let’s establish a routine of stress management at night, whether it’s an app or another method. Prioritize the time; it will make all your lives better! This habit and skill development will ultimately help us develop stress management skills and be able to use them when we are stressed. The development of these skills also helps us feel less stressed in general. Instead of feeling stress during the holidays, let’s feel the joy, love, and gratitude that abounds.

Listed below are a sampling of several stress management apps related to mindfulness, emotional recognition and regulation, and anxiety/depression to help you and/or your children manage the stress of the upcoming holiday season. Hopefully one of them will resonate with you and your children so that you all may experience more resilience and peace when stress does happen.

Headspace (Children through Adult) is a mindfulness/meditation app that helps people reconnect with their breath. Headspace for Kids focuses on five areas: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up.

Calm (Children through Adult) is an app that focuses on mindfulness, yoga, guided meditation, breathing programs, improving focus, calming and relaxing music, and more.

Insight Timer (Children through Adult) is an app that includes lessons/classes, talks, music, and more on a variety of topics, such as mindfulness, stress reduction, achieving better sleep, anxiety, yoga, and other areas.

Super Better (Age 13 through Adult) is an app that uses games to build resilience, change mindset, emotional control, mental flexibility, achieve goals – even with challenges – and helps with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and more.

Mindshift CBT (Teens through Adult) is an app that focuses on anxiety reduction, including worry, perfectionism, social anxiety, panic, phobias, and more.

Breathe2Relax (Teens through Adult) is an app that focuses on diaphragmatic breathing and stress reduction.

Smiling Mind  (Ages 7 through 18) is part of a broader collection of tools/curriculum that focuses on mental health for children and adults (teachers and parent). It focuses on mindfulness, deep breathing, body scan, gratitude, and more.

Positive Penguins (Ages 4 through 11) is an app that helps children understand how their feelings and thoughts are connected and to develop more positive thinking.

Resilient Family, Happy Child (Ages 4 through Adult) is an app that uses simple mindfulness- based movement to support the development of resilience and self-regulation.

Mightier (Ages 6 through 14) is a biofeedback tool that uses a heart sensor to help children understand their emotions and teaches them calming strategies.

HeartMath (Ages PreK through Adult) is a company that has many tools, games, music, curriculum, books, and more that focu on stress reduction. They have biofeedback apps and desktop computer versions for single users, classes, or multiple clients. They all use a heart sensor. Inner Balance is the app it uses within the program.

DreamyKid (Ages 9 through 18) is an app that uses guided visualizations, meditations, and affirmations related to mindfulness.

WellBeyond Meditation for Kids (Ages 4 through 8) is like DreamyKid but is geared towards younger kids with guided meditations, visualizations, and breathing exercises.

Breathe Think Do Sesame (Ages 2 through 5) is an app that helps children learn deep breathing, problem solving, an emotional vocabulary, positive thinking habits, and more through guided meditations, visualizations, stories, breathing exercises, and more.

Mindful Powers for Kids (Ages 5 through 10) Through play, games, stories, and more, kids learn about emotions, mindfulness, positive thinking, body scanning, and more. It uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as a guiding principle of its platform.


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 clinicians, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant/service 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 or call 617-658-9800.


The Importance of SMEDMERTS

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By: Ann Helmus, Ph.D.
NESCA Founder/Director; Clinical Neuropsychologist

While supporting a friend who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have come to appreciate how challenging it is for people with this disorder to maintain a stable mood state. One of the most helpful resources I discovered in my search for information to help me support my friend was a TEDx talk by Ellen Forney, an author who has successfully managed her bipolar disorder for two decades by following SMEDMERTS, an acronym for: Sleep, Medication, Eat Well, Doctor/therapy, Mindfulness/Meditation, Exercise, Routine, Tools (coping), and Support System. I was struck that only 25% of the solution for managing her mental illness involves the mental health system: medication and doctor. The bulk of her treatment system relates to lifestyle choices.

While attention to SMEDMERTS is important for all of us, especially in these stressful times, consistent focus on these lifestyle choices is particularly critical for the many children and adolescents who we see at NESCA presenting with anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, and behavioral issues. Most of us struggle to achieve our daily goals for sleep, diet, meditation, exercise, sticking to a routine, practicing adaptive coping strategies, and nurturing our support system, even though we know how much better we feel and how much better our children function when we are focused on SMEDMERTS in our daily life. While the impact of medications and doctors on functioning is largely outside of our control, we can control our lifestyle choices, which are critical to the success of managing any mental health issue.

How can we help the children in our lives to embrace SMEDMERTS?

  • Modeling it for them. As Robert Fulgham said, “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
  • Praising their efforts. Offer positive feedback, such as, “Great idea to get up early to go for a run,” or, “I like how you called a friend when you were upset to get some advice.”
  • Enlisting the help of a coach. NESCA offers real-life skills coaching, executive functioning coaching, and health coaching to help children, adolescents, and young adults build and maintain habits to support positive lifestyle choices.

Health coaching is available to parents of NESCA clients who are seeking support in developing positive health habits, such as exercise, diet, stress management, and meditation.

If you are interested in coaching services at NESCA to support your quest for SMEDMERTS, please contact Crystal Jean: or fill out our intake form at


About the Author
NESCA Founder/Director Ann Helmus, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist who has been practicing for almost 20 years. In 1996, she jointly founded the  Children’s Evaluation Center (CEC) in Newton, Massachusetts, serving as co-director there for almost ten years. During that time, CEC emerged as a leading regional center for the diagnosis and remediation of both learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

In September of 2007, Dr. Helmus established NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents), a client and family-centered group of seasoned neuropsychologists and allied staff, many of whom she trained, striving to create and refine innovative clinical protocols and dedicated to setting new standards of care in the field.

Dr. Helmus specializes in the evaluation of children with learning disabilities, attention and executive function deficits and primary neurological disorders. In addition to assessing children, she also provides consultation and training to both public and private school systems. She frequently makes presentations to groups of parents, particularly on the topics of non-verbal learning disability and executive functioning.

To book an evaluation with one of NESCA’s many 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, as well as Londonderry, New Hampshire. NESCA serves clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email or call 617-658-9800.

The Importance of Self-care for Parents

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By: Erin Gibbons, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

As a working mother of two young children, I often feel as if I am being pulled in a million different directions. When I am at work, I want to be present for my clients and families and not distracted by personal problems. When I am at home, I want to leave my work at the office and be available to play with my children. In an ideal world, I would have the energy to be fully alert and attentive in both settings. In reality, I often find myself distracted and then the guilt sets in. If I’m thinking about my own kids while I’m sitting with a client, does that make me a bad psychologist? If I’m thinking about my clients while I’m with my children, does that make me a bad parent?

Parent guilt is not going to go away, but we can do things in our everyday lives to help combat it. Something that we all need to practice is self-care!

Self-care can take many different forms depending on what you find relaxing or enjoyable. Personally, I use exercise as my daily self-care routine. I subscribe to an online fitness program which means no hassle commuting to/from the gym, and I know I can commit to 30 minutes a day even when I’m busy. Some other examples of self-care might include:

  • Going to bed at a reasonable time every night
  • Scheduling a massage/manicure/pedicure/facial, etc. on a regular basis
  • Take a walk in the evening
  • Write in a journal
  • Meditate
  • Use a self-care app

Whatever you decide to try – remember that self-care is extremely important. We can’t be there for the ones we love if we are not taking care of ourselves. Further, by practicing self-care, we are teaching our children healthy habits that they will take with them and incorporate into their own lives as they grow up.


About the Author

Erin Gibbons, Ph.D. is a pediatric neuropsychologist with expertise in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological assessment of infants,

children, and adolescents presenting with developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorders. She has a particular interest in assessing students with complex medical histories and/or neurological impairments, including those who are cognitively delayed, nonverbal, or physically disabled. Dr. Gibbons joined NESCA in 2011 after completing a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. She particularly enjoys working with young children, especially those who are transitioning from Early Intervention into preschool. Having been trained in administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Dr. Gibbons has experience diagnosing autism spectrum disorders in children aged 12 months and above.


If you are interested in booking an appointment for the ASD Diagnostic Clinic or an evaluation with a NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, please fill out and submit our 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 or call 617-658-9800.

“Vitamin G” Project

By | NESCA Notes 2018

By: Ann-Noelle McCowan, M.S., RYT
Guidance Counselor; Yoga Specialist

Each school year I observe the fluctuations of student and adult stress, and each August the return of relaxed and recharged kids and adults.  For many, summer means a slower pace and longer days filled with activities that bring joy and support our health and happiness. Time with family, friends, and pets bonds us with others. We’re connected with nature through the fullness of trees or the heat of the sun, and our perspectives are turned outward with less time inside on screens and gaming devices.  We’re renewed with less packed schedules, fewer alarms, more sleep, and our bodies are nourished by eating outside, less complicated meals and more fruits and vegetables. So how can summer’s ease and joy build our resilience to handle the natural unavoidable stressors of the school year and seasonal changes? By starting a gratitude practice.

Gratitude practices that amp up “Vitamin G”  have been shown to help people feel better about their lives, experience higher levels of positive emotions and have fewer physical problems or even feel less pain. Vitamin “G” helps us act kinder and more generous towards others, feel less stress and then handle stress better when it shows up, as well as get more exercise, eat healthier and sleep better!  Neuroscientists have said that our brain has a “negativity bias” where our minds respond like velcro for bad thoughts and Teflon (non-stick) for good thoughts. Vitamin “G” to the rescue!  When we are thankful, it helps stop negative thoughts and increases the feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Summer naturally provides time and opportunities to teach kids about gratitude, to practice the crucial ability to notice and acknowledge things in their life that bring them pleasure. Now how to begin…

  • Start by thanking your own children and help them learn about appreciation. Don’t worry too much about younger kids who might say they are thankful for a toy, you are building the idea of gratitude. It’s the practice, not perfection. Feel free to connect Vitamin G to other important nutrients or times when you have asked them to thank others.
  • Use age-appropriate language: we are going to learn how to name/ acknowledge/ build an account or recording of things that make us feel happy/ appreciative/ lucky/grateful. Give some examples of the benefits of Vitamin “G”. Explain that deposits to this “bank account” builds a mind that feels happier, less stressed and healthier.
  • Decide how you want to recognize daily gratitude. It could be a journal, a jar, a shared blog, drawings, colleagues, voice or video recordings, or a routine prayer with your child at night. I’ll expand on how to build a gratitude jar but experiment and choose what works for your child and family.
  • Gratitude Jar: Essentials are a writing utensil, slips of paper and a vessel to store your “gratitude slips” in. You could have your child pick one or two shades of colored paper or a special pen for recording, the jar could be decorated with pictures of things they enjoy or a beloved pet or kept blank to view the collection.
  • Cut up a few different sizes of rectangle slips of paper, or print a few prompts if that works for your child. Examples of prompts could be: Today I loved… I’m thankful for….. I appreciate that … I’m grateful for… I liked it when … I felt happy when….I feel good when.
  • Make a commitment to model this on a daily or routine schedule with your child, start recording and watch their account grow.

Your Vitamin G  project will hold beautiful recollections of summer as well as teach your child an important habit of mind and useful stress buster tool. Starting a gratitude practice will build resilience and empower them to find moments of happiness and goodness even when summer ends. Enjoy and have fun!


About the Author: 

Ann-Noelle provides therapeutic yoga-counseling sessions individually designed for each child. NESCA therapeutic yoga establishes a safe space for a child to face their challenges while nourishing their innate strengths using the threefold combination of yoga movement, yoga breath, and yoga thinking.

Ann-Noelle has worked with children and adolescents since 2001 and practiced yoga and meditation since 2005. Since 2003 she has been employed full time as a school counselor in a local high performing school district, and prior to that was employed in the San Francisco Public Schools. Ann-Noelle received her dual Masters Degree (MS) in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy (MFCC), and School Counseling from San Francisco State University in 2002, her BA from Union College in New York, and her 200 hour-Registered Yoga Credential (RYT) from Shri Yoga. Ann-Noelle completed additional Yoga training including the Kid Asana Program in 2014, Trauma in Children in 2016 and Adaptive yoga for Parkinson’s in 2014.

For more information on the therapeutic yoga at NESCA, please visit




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