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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Dealing with End of the School Year Uncertainty

By | NESCA Notes 2021

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

The end of the school year can bring a lot of emotions, such as excitement for summer activities, sadness about closing relationships, and anxiety related to change. Often, children are experiencing these mixed emotions without truly understanding them. The end of this particular school year may bring some unique emotions, as it is the second consecutive ending that “looks different,” be it because students were remote for all or some of the year, class parties and field days are not happening, or children cannot give their teacher an end of the year hug. The loss of such traditions may cause kids to feel a lack of closure. Further, this transition is happening at a time when the world is starting to change again. While the loosening of restrictions and return to a semblance of “normal” may be positive for most, children may not know how to cope with all of this simultaneous change.

Here are some tips for things that adults can do to help children cope with what may be a difficult or uncertain end to the current school year:

  • Watch for signs that your child may be struggling with this transition. This may include new sleep difficulties, low frustration tolerance, heightened emotions, meltdowns, reduced appetite, loss of interest, etc.
  • Talk about their feelings related to the end of the year in an open and responsive manner, validating their emotions (e.g., “I can see why that would make you feel sad,” rather than accidentally dismissing them (e.g., “Don’t worry.”).
  • Help provide some closure with their teacher, such as writing a card or letter about what they enjoyed, learned, or overcame together this year.
  • Using artwork or journaling, help your child reflect on their development, accomplishments, and experiences this past year.
  • Create a plan for how they can stay in touch with friends over the summer and schedule some specific playdates or events to reduce worry about losing touch.
  • Maintain your basic schedule, such as morning and bedtime routines.
  • To reduce worry related to uncertainty, provide some age-appropriate opportunities to feel a sense of control, such as allowing your child to design a new daily schedule for “home days,” choose individual or family activities, etc.

The end of any school year provides a great opportunity to teach children about transition and change. We can teach them that it is okay to celebrate their accomplishment while also simultaneously feeling discomfort about what is to come and sadness about saying goodbye. Particularly during a year that has been marked by adversity, learning how to recognize, “sit with,” and manage these mixed emotions will help to build resiliency for the future.

 

About the Author

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

 

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

 

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

Why Kids Need to Outdoor Free Play

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

One of the best ways to make the most of your summer is to get outside and engage in lots of outdoor play. We live in a society where we tend to over-schedule ourselves and our children. Particularly during the school year, this makes it very difficult for children to get the amount of free play that they require. With this, I’m going to tell you five great reasons why you should throw away your schedule, put down the tablet, and get outside.

The first reason is probably the most obvious. Outdoor play provides great benefits to physical development. It improves motor coordination, strength, and balance, and it puts kids in an overall healthier position.

The next reason to play outside is that there are benefits for internal regulation. Not only does it make kids sleep better at night, but there is research to show that it aids attentional control and stress reduction. Being outdoors also provides kids with different sensory experiences – such as feeling the texture of sand and mud, or feeling the wind blow on your face – which will help to build children’s sensory tolerance.

The next reason to get outside is to improve cognitive development. Being outdoors provides a lot of opportunities to make observations, draw conclusions about things, see cause and effect, and be imaginative.

Next, playing outside aids emotional development. When we are over-scheduled, children do not have the opportunity to feel confident in their ability to step outside of their comfort zone or take risks. Experimenting and taking risks during outdoor play can help children understand that they have some control over what they can do within their environment, as well as begin to recognize boundaries.

Finally, the last reason to get outside is that it really bolsters social development. When there is no structure or there are no rules to follow, kids have to learn how to initiate their interactions, engage in conversation with each other, communicate, problem solve, and find ways to along, even when others have different ideas.

With all of the above benefits, outdoor free play is one of the best things you can give to your child. So as the weather is getting nicer and summer is fast approaching, if you are looking for something to do, sometimes it is best to just put down your schedule, get outside, and get dirty.

 

About the Author

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

 

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

 

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

The Holiday Blues Coupled with Covid

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

The holidays can be a time of great joy, but they can also be a time of great stress. Celebrations and merriment can be contrasted with pressure to amaze, long to-do lists, financial constraints or reminders of those we have lost. For many, it is a time of mixed emotions or strong internal conflict about why they cannot feel happy during a season that practically dictates it.

Holiday blues have been felt my many people for a long time, but now during a global pandemic, those feelings may be amplified and more prevalent than previous years. Families are trying to provide children with a positive holiday experience during a time of high stress and significant restriction. Family gatherings and holiday traditions are being cancelled, and many families are mourning the loss of loved ones. Adults are not the only ones feeling increased stress as we enter the holiday season. Children likely feel excited about the holiday but sad about not seeing family, not having holiday parties in school, and not being able to attend their traditional holiday events. This holiday season is simply different in ways that can bring great strain.

So, what can we do as adults to emotionally support children this holiday season? Do we allow them to observe our stress or do we keep it to ourselves in an effort to provide them with the happy holiday season that they deserve?

In June 2018, I wrote a blog post titled: “The Struggle is Not only Real, It is Necessary,” which discusses the importance of embracing uncomfortable, unwanted emotions as being necessary for personal growth and resiliency. By acknowledging, accepting and using unwanted feelings in a functional manner, we teach children to be competent and confident in their ability to navigate a stressful world. Of course, when I wrote the article, I could not have imagined the extent or duration of stress or discomfort that we would be facing in 2020. But does that change anything?

To put it simply, no, not really. Entering into the holidays with the expectation that we can protect our children from life’s stress is unrealistic. Attempting to do so will only add pressure while ignoring the mixed emotions that children are likely feeling as well. During this emotionally high-stakes time, acceptance of the struggles we face is even more critical. Adults and children both need “permission” to feel sad, frustrated, lonely or scared while also still allowing themselves to feel excited, thankful, and, yes, even joyful.

Here are some suggestions for how to help your family navigate the holiday blues this unique holiday season:

  • Talk about your feelings – wanted and unwanted ones – throughout the day, modeling and encouraging regular emotional discourse (e.g. “I love giving gifts, but getting all the shopping done is kind of stressful.”).
  • Help children label and interpret the emotions they may be having, as they may not have the right words or language for expressing them (e.g. “It sounds like you’re really disappointed we can’t go to Grandma’s house.”).
  • Be careful to not accidentally dismiss children’s feelings (e.g. “No need to be sad; we will find another fun way to celebrate.”), instead reflecting their emotion (e.g. “I know you’re sad that we can’t have a holiday party; I am, too.”).
  • Normalize the experience of mixed emotions (e.g. It’s okay to be excited for children while also feeling sad that we won’t see our family.).
  • Find new, safe holiday activities or events (e.g. holiday light drive, virtual gift exchange, etc.) and adapt previous traditions when able (e.g. virtual family gatherings).
  • Don’t romanticize the traditions that were lost this year (e.g. avoid such things as, “Our parties were always the most magical part of the holiday.”).
  • Help children understand new holiday plans as an opportunity to “celebrate” or “experience” the holiday, but be careful to not impose emotional expectations (e.g. “Enjoy the holidays!”) that can add pressure.
  • Reassure children that these changes are temporary, and traditions and visits will continue when it is safe to do so.

 

About the Author

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

 

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

 

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

Staying Values-driven During Growth: A Director’s Update

By | NESCA Notes 2019

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

It’s finally Spring here in New England – and we are seeing signs of growth and emergence from the winter. At NESCA, we’ve had our own exciting growth over the past few months:

  • In Londonderry, N.H., we brought Dina Karlon on full-time as a Transition Specialist, guiding students and young adults to their next life transition – moving from high school to college, taking a gap year, finding the right residential living environment or entering the workforce.
  • We opened a new office in Plainville, Mass. to serve clients in South Eastern Mass. and Rhode Island communities, with Pediatric Neuropsychologists Reva Tankle and Erin Gibbons available to take on evaluations in the region.
  • Dot Lucci joined our practice to direct our Consultation Services to families, schools, school districts, colleges and universities, businesses and community groups and agencies in Mass., R.I., and N. H.

While growth within an organization is exciting, it’s not without its risks. In previous work experiences, I’ve seen once thrilling and uplifting growth changes turn to a loss of values and culture, and confusion about an organization’s vision. With the recent growth NESCA has experienced, it’s led me to pause and reflect on who we are as a team.

At our core, we are a neuropsychological and educational services organization whose clinicians and practitioners are passionately driven both individually and as the NESCA team to do their best to help children, adolescents, young adults and their families get the information and support they need to be their best. We hire truly committed and dedicated neuropsychologists who want to live, eat and sleep neuropsychology. We take the time to work with families and individuals to unravel stories, dig into their concerns or struggles and identify the correct diagnosis/es (if warranted). Each clinician takes the time to develop relationships with individuals, often through multiple evaluation meetings, school or community observations and talking to stakeholders in the individual’s life to get a complete picture of each and every individual we evaluate. We aren’t about churning out reports or handing off evaluations to less experienced clinicians. Yes, we get reports out in a timely and expected manner, but not at the expense of doing what’s right and being thorough.

We value continued education and strive to stay up on the latest evidence-based treatments. We frequently invite professionals in to meet with our team and present on new resources, treatments, etc. We are always learning through formal continued education courses, the speakers we host, and most importantly, our own NESCA team.

The NESCA team is comprised of dedicated professionals who have grown their networks over the course of many years, both in discipline and geography, and use these connections to benefit our clients. If one of our clinicians is challenged with identifying the right camp, therapist, or other resource for a client, chances are very good that one of our clinicians has built – not just a knowledge base of referrals to recommend – but relationships there as well. If there is a particularly challenging case, our clients benefit from our entire team of experienced clinicians’ insights, ideas, recommendations, perspectives, experiences and resources to help. In fact, we meet on a weekly basis as a team to discuss these cases and come to the best conclusions and recommendations as a cohesive team. That’s why we can take on the difficult, complex cases and come out with the right diagnosis/es and recommended next steps and strategies.

We’ve carefully built and nurtured a work environment where we all feel supported by each other and by the company. NESCA’s staff knows that they aren’t being pushed to rush through neuropsychological evaluations to get the next client in the door. That would only be penny-wise and pound-foolish and would completely fly in the face of our values-based principles that guide our work daily.

Our staff – both new to NESCA and those who have been with us for years, if not from our inception – know they have my full support to conduct the best, most thorough and comprehensive evaluations. This is how we get to know, develop and foster relationships with our clients for years, all the while helping them succeed academically and in life. I’m proud to say that many of our staff clinicians and clients have been with NESCA for many years. As we grow, we will continue to evaluate the efforts we are putting forth to not just maintain but enhance who we are and what we do here at NESCA.

 

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 Dr. Helmus, NESCA Founder and Director, or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. To book an evaluation in Plainville, ask for Reva Tankle on the intake form. To book Consultation Services, ask for Dot Lucci. To book Transition Services in N.H., ask for Dina Karlon. 

 

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

 

 

Interview with Dina DiGregorio Karlon, NESCA North Transition Specialist

By | NESCA Notes 2019

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

 

What are Transition Services?

Transition means the process of moving from one life stage to another. In context to NESCA, we are referring to the transition from high school to post-secondary life, and we specialize in working with nontraditional students who often have had accommodations or special education services. While the prospect of leaving high school is exciting, it can be overwhelming as well. The prospect of figuring out what you want to do with your life causes some level of anxiety in all of us; transition services helps to relieve this anxiety by working with individuals in setting short and long term goals and participating in guidance and psychoeducation related to college and/or employment.

How did you get interested in this field?

Helping people understand their strengths and weaknesses while exploring their vision for adulthood is my passion. Upon reflection, I believe that I have always been a transition specialist, long before there was a name for this work. Having worked with adolescents and young adults for more than 25 years, I understand the demands and expectations placed on them and how that can be daunting. Helping people to recognize that their path may be different than they expected is very rewarding, and I do not take that responsibility lightly.

What do you like about your job?

I particularly enjoy working with adolescents and families through the college process; while the process is not difficult to understand, it is time-consuming and can often feel overwhelming. I enjoy assisting students and helping them to accomplish new tasks. I love to help people identify their strengths and use those to minimize and overcome their challenges. Being able to assist people in setting their own personal goals and achieve them is very gratifying to me. Getting to know new people, teaching important skills, presenting a different perspective, piecing together a plan; these are all things I love about the work I do.

Do you have a specialty? What do you specialize in?

I specialize in both college and career counseling. I am experienced in working with high school students as well as young adults.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I particularly enjoy working with adolescents and families through the college process; while the process is not difficult to understand, it is time-consuming and can often feel overwhelming. I enjoy assisting students and helping them to accomplish new tasks. I love to help people identify their strengths and use those to minimize and overcome their challenges. Being able to assist people in setting their own personal goals and achieve them is very gratifying to me. Getting to know new people, teaching important skills, presenting a different perspective, piecing together a plan; these are all things I love about the work I do.

What brought you to NESCA?

My experience as a school counselor and a vocational rehabilitation counselor have given me a unique skill set and provide me with the experience needed to do transition planning for students who are college bound and also students or adults who are seeking employment or support with career exploration. My passion for working with adolescents and helping them maneuver the challenges of early adulthood matches the philosophy of NESCA and I am eager to work as part of a team of specialists providing this support to young people.

What are you most looking forward to about working full-time at NESCA?

I am excited to work with adolescents to help them with the journey into adulthood. The variety of clients and their needs at NESCA is a real draw for me. Whether my work takes me to teaching a teenager how to do laundry, practicing interviewing for a first job or new school, or identifying a college list, it all sounds challenging and rewarding to me.

Who are your favorite students/clients to work with?

I have a lot of expertise in working with all kinds of students. I have worked with students who have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD, mental health disorders, and other profiles. With the myriad of clients I worked with at Vocational Rehabilitation, I have developed a solid understanding of many diagnoses and disabilities and how clients’ lives are impacted by the related challenges. I have often worked with students who face multiple barriers; seeing those students work through their challenges and develop resiliency is professionally rewarding.

What advice do you have for parents or young adults who are not sure if they need a transition specialist?

Working with a transition specialist can be very helpful for parents to understand what their children’s strengths and weaknesses are in relation to adult-readiness. Are they ready for a 4-year college? Do they need a gap year? What would that look like? Do they know how to interview for a job? Do they need help getting a job? Do they know what kind of job fits their skills? Do they know to self-advocate? Do they know how to access resources?

Teenagers will often not work with their parents to do goal setting and transition planning, so having a transition expert to work with can often help. Working with a transition specialist can also be a great step toward a student taking ownership of their future planning and a parent releasing some control and responsibility. Most teenagers or young adults would benefit from doing transition planning; but it is a highly personal family decision as to whether to work with a transition specialist.

If you are not sure if you need a transition specialist, you can always come in for a consultation appointment. This is a one-hour meeting that helps a family determine if this is the right time to work with a transition specialist and what type of transition service may be best. For example, does the family need assessment and a report for an IEP process or just help with appropriate college planning? Talking things through with a transition expert can be extremely helpful for knowing what is needed and when.

We are very excited to announce that as of February 1, 2019, Ms. Karlon is working as a full-time staff member delivering assessment services in the state of New Hampshire and college and career coaching services to clients throughout New England! NESCA is thrilled to be able to offer these expanded transition services in our New Hampshire Office in addition to the services we already offer in Newton, MA.

To schedule an appointment with Dina DiGregorio Karlon in Londonderry, please complete our online intake form: https://nesca-newton.com/intake-form/  The address of NESCA-North is 75 Gilcreast Rd #305, Londonderry, NH 03053.

 

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 info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Understanding Motivation in Children and Teenagers, and Where We Went Wrong

By | NESCA Notes 2018

By: Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist
Director of New Hampshire Operations

As parents and teachers, we hear, and say, these things all the time:

“Why doesn’t he just do it?”

“How many times do I have to ask you?”

“Why don’t you care about your work?”

“She just doesn’t have the drive.”

Be it schoolwork, chores, or social events, some kids seemingly just aren’t motivated to do things. We punish. We nag. We fight. But even with all of this, sometimes things do not change.

It is easy to become frustrated, but in this state of frustration, we often forget to ask ourselves why finding motivation is so difficult for the child.

There are two types of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is an internal desire or drive to do something based strictly on the resulting feeling of satisfaction or enjoyment. Extrinsic motivation relies on external rewards, such as money, good grades, stickers, toys, or other things. Intrinsic motivation has long-lasting effects, while behavior based on extrinsic motivation is fleeting.

Some children seem to develop intrinsic motivation naturally. For other children, we attempt to gain compliance or task completion through extrinsic motivation – behavioral charts, rewards, punishments, etc. Sometimes this works in the short term, but as soon as the rewards or punishments are gone, so is the behavior. Other times, even extrinsic motivation seems absent and behavior still does not change, no matter how big the reward or punishment.

Frustration ensues and we often find ourselves feeling or saying the above things – the child does not have the motivation, therefore the work or task does not get done. But where does this leave us? The adults are defeated, the child feels blamed, and the situation worsens.

So where’d we go wrong?

Our understanding of motivation is often backwards – motivation exists, therefore successful behavior occurs. This is wrong. We are not born inherently knowing how to motivate ourselves. We learn it through successful experiences in the world. So, what really happens is: successful behavior occurs, therefore motivation develops.

Lesson #1: Motivation is the effect, not the cause.

In reversing the relationship, we can now ask ourselves: “What is causing the lack of motivation?” If we are able to identify and address the underlying challenges, the child can begin to experience the successes that are necessary for motivation to develop over time. Further, in accepting that motivation is learned through experience and not inherent, we accept that the term “intrinsic” is somewhat misleading.

Lesson #2: Intrinsic motivation is not naturally intrinsic – it becomes intrinsic after feelings of success are internalized.

By identifying and addressing skills deficits, we can help children to experience more successes and increase their willingness and ability to “try harder.” Academic deficits, attention problems, anxiety, low self-esteem, social challenges, executive function weaknesses, among other things, can all interfere with motivation. Challenges in any one of these areas can, and will, interfere with motivation. As such, motivation is not a single thing. It is a complex skill that can only develop once other, more basic, skills have developed.

Lesson #3: Motivation is not one thing – it is the coordination of many skills.

Now viewing motivation as something that is learned over time as other, more basic, skills develop and a child experiences successes in life, we are better able to develop a plan for how to intervene.

Take home message: All children and teens can be motivated – it is our job to teach them how.

When motivation seems absent or fleeting, we must become detectives, working to figure out what underlying challenges or deficits are present. This may be aided through conversations with the child’s teachers or other support providers. Other times, a comprehensive evaluation may be necessary in order to specifically identify the child’s strengths and challenges, as well as receive individualized recommendations for how to address their needs.

Dr. Currie will be offering a free webinar about motivation and self-regulation this Spring. Stay tuned for sign-up information. 

About the Author:

Dr. Angela Currie conducts neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments out of NESCA’s Londonderry, NH and Newton, MA offices, seeing individuals with a wide range of concerns. She enjoys working with stressed-out children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors that may be lending to their stress, including assessment of possible underlying learning challenges (such as dyslexia or nonverbal learning disability), attentional deficit, or executive function weakness. She also often conducts evaluations with children confronting more primary emotional and anxiety-related challenges, such as generalized anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or depression. Dr. Currie particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.


 

Community-Based Skills Coaching: What is it? Is it the right intervention for my child?

By | NESCA Notes 2017

By Kathleen Pignone, M.Ed., CRC

Transition Specialist

What is Community-Based Skills Coaching?

Community-Based Skills Coaching is an individualized service delivered by seasoned professionals to support the needs of transition-aged youth and young adults. It is an intensive 1:1 coaching model provided in the young person’s community. It can include any area of need and is tailored to the young person’s age and stage of development.

Community-Based Skills Coaching is empowering to the young person because the coach meets them where they are at emotionally, socially and developmentally. It allows the individual to learn practical living skills across multiple real-life environments. The first step in Community-Based Skills Coaching is an evaluation period where the young person works with the coach to identify strengths and areas for improvement. Through a collaborative process, the coach and young person tailor each session to allow for direct in-vivo teaching. This can include, but is not limited to, independent living skills, career planning and work readiness skills, financial literacy skills, travel skills, social pragmatic skills and self-advocacy skills.

Coaches meet with individuals in their home communities in order to determine how to best problem solve around any barriers or obstacles that the young person may encounter. It allows for the individual to develop and generalize learned and new skills across settings and in real-time. With frequent opportunities to practice skills in authentic environments, the individual begins to develop a level of confidence and automaticity that can only be learned outside of a classroom or office.

Many transition-aged young adults are at a developmental stage of individuating away from parental support. Community-Based Skills Coaching provides an experienced and trained adult to serve as a coach and mentor in order to guide the young person. This coach becomes an important “expert” and a qualified and trusted team member who can support the individual through the lengthy process of transitioning from high school to post-secondary adult life including learning, working, daily living, and community-based leisure activities.

How do I know if this is the right support for my teen, young adult, or myself?

Coaches work with young people aged 12-26 with varying skill levels. Coaches most often work with transition-aged youth who have a diagnosed learning, emotional, and/or developmental disability and transition related skill development needs. However, our coaches are also experienced in working with young people who are struggling with forward progress unrelated to a specific learning or medical diagnosis. Coaching utilizes a strength-based approach and supports youth and young adults to learn about themselves while experiencing life outside of school and home.

The student or young adult drives the process by choosing an area of interest and need. The coach provides guidance and immediate feedback and support to practice and improve upon skill areas. The coach builds rapport with the individual and is able to re-frame and teach in the moment. An inquiry based approach is used to allow the young person autonomy over the mastery of the skill. The coaching can occur weekly or more often, if necessary. Feedback to parents and designated team members typically occurs on a weekly or monthly basis, often beginning with student input.

To learn more about our Community Coaching at NESCA, please feel free to contact Kathleen Pignone, M.Ed., CRC at (617) 658-9800 or email at kpignone@nesca-newton.com

Who provides coaching at NESCA?

Kathleen Pigone, M.Ed., CRC, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role as a Transition Specialist at NESCA. She received her undergraduate degree in Sociology from Boston College and her master of education in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Ms. Pignone was the Career Development Director at Bay Cove Academy for 15 years, providing students with classroom and real-world employment skills training, community job placement and on the job employment-training. She supervised the Career Development Program, developed individualized transition plans for students, created innovative programming for tracking and assessing long-term employability and career success for students. She also trained staff in the areas of career development and transition services.

Ms. Pignone joined NESCA in March 2016, bringing her unique expertise supporting vocational assessment and employment planning for adolescents and young adults as well as local school programs. In addition to supporting NESCA’s premier transition assessment services, Ms. Pignone engages in person-centered planning with teens and young adults, consultation and training for parents, providers and schools, and community-based skills coaching.

Dina Karlon, M.A., is a seasoned counselor specialized in transition issues. She has worked in public schools as a guidance counselor, GED program coordinator, career center coordinator, vocational assessment specialist, and school counselor. At NESCA, She offers community-based skills coaching services in New Hampshire as well as postsecondary planning consultation to students and families throughout New England.

In addition to her work at NESCA, Ms. Karlon is a Program Specialist for the New Hampshire Department of Education, specializing in development of employability skills and job readiness skills for at risk youth. She has recent experience as a Rehabilitation Counselor for New Hampshire Voc Rehab, working with students and adults with a range of developmental, learning, and social-emotional disabilities and helping to guide and coach them through transitions toward independence in both college and the working world. Prior to that, Ms. Karlon worked for more than two decades as a school counselor in local high schools.

She has provided transition services including personal, career, and college counseling to hundreds of students and their families and has also worked as an adjunct professor at Nashua Community College teaching both traditional and online classes for nearly 20 years. Ms. Karlon brings extensive experience supporting clients with career and college planning and she is able to shift fluidly with clients along their paths in each of these domains.

Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L, is Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatrics and occupational therapy in the developing world. For the past five years her work has primarily been split between children and adolescents with ASD and related profiles in the United States, and marginalized youth in Tanzania, East Africa.

Dr. Bellenis graduated from the MGH Institute of Health Professions with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a focus on pediatrics and international program evaluation. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, as well as the World Federation of Occupational Therapists.

Dr. Bellenis works as a school-based occupational therapist for the city of Salem Public Schools and believes that individual sensory needs, and visual motor skills must be taken into account to create comprehensive educational programming. She is joining NESCA in order to offer community-based skills coaching services as well as social skills coaching to students and young adults.

Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is Director of Transition Services at NESCA and oversees Community-Based Skills Coaching as well as transition assessment, planning, consultation, case management, program development, college supports, trainings, and professional development offerings.

Ms. Challen received her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Initially trained as a school guidance counselor, she completed her practicum work at Boston Latin School focusing on competitive college counseling. She began facilitating social, life, and career skill development programs for transition-aged youth in 2004.

Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Challen founded an array of programs for teens and young adults at MGH Aspire, and spent time as Program Director of the Northeast Arc’s Spotlight Program, where she often collaborated with schools to develop in-district social skill and transition programming. She is also co-author of the chapter “Technologies to Support Interventions for Social-Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personal Style, and Self-Regulation” for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism.

While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with students with Asperger’s Syndrome and related profiles, she provides transition assessment, consultation, planning, and programming support for individuals with a wide range of learning and developmental needs.