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

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occupational therapy

The Impacts of Handwriting Challenges

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Alissa Talamo, PhD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

After recently participating in the virtual conference of the International Dyslexia Association, two presentations that particularly sparked my interest were, “How Handwriting Impacts Literacy Development,” presented by Carol Armann OTR/L and Kathleen S. Wright of The Handwriting Collaborative LLC, and, “Dysgraphia – Recognize, Diagnose, and Remediate,” by Debi Buchanan, Ed.D. and Sheryl Frierson, M.D., M.Ed.

Within those webinars, research was presented that demonstrated the importance of handwriting and fine motor skills development, as those skills resulted in not only improved literacy skills, such as letter writing, but also kindergarten math performance, and these skills are associated with ongoing reading and math achievement as late as 5th grade (Dinehart et al 2013). Additionally, identifying early handwriting challenges and providing systematic handwriting instruction can reduce the number of children who ultimately will require special education services (Beringer, V& Wolf, B 2016).

Some fine motor skills necessary for the development of handwriting include in-hand manipulation (e.g., precisely picking up, manipulating, and releasing objects), graphomotor (e.g., handwriting strokes, lines used in forming letters), and visual-motor integration. Dysgraphia is an impairment in handwriting, characterized by deficits in legibility and/or fluency. However, it is not exclusively a motor impairment, but is a disruption in the coordination of the mental image (e.g., which letter, which way does it go? Where does it go in the word?) and motor output (e.g., motor sequencing, motor planning) that are required for legible and fluent handwriting.

As students move through the grades, handwriting becomes an essential component in gaining reading and writing skills. Handwriting fluency is particularly important as non-proficient hand writers cannot keep up with their ideas (Graham, 2010). While, positively, there are programs that can help students with graphomotor output challenges, such as speech-to-text programs, teaching early writing skills is essential to building literacy skills, as effective handwriting instruction has been linked to improved letter recognition, letter formation, spelling, and written composition (Berringer et al 2002, Graham Harris, &Herbert, 2011).

Depending on your child’s age, you can encourage fine motor skills development through fun activities. As examples, some good resources are https://napacenter.org/fine-motor-activities/ and https://www.understood.org/en/articles/6-fine-motor-activities-for-young-kids. If you are concerned that your child is not reaching outlined milestones in their development of the underlying skills necessary for writing accuracy and efficiency, consider asking Early Intervention (for children under 3 years of age) or your school district for an occupational therapy evaluation to determine if your child would benefit from specialized supports. For school age children, an occupational therapy evaluation to determine the functional level of your child’s writing skills would also be appropriate.

 

About the Author

With NESCA since its inception in 2007, Dr. Talamo had previously practiced for many years as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist before completing postdoctoral re-training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s Evaluation Center.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Dr. Talamo earned her doctorate in clinical health psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.

She has given a number of presentations, most recently on “How to Recognize a Struggling Reader,” “Supporting Students with Working Memory Limitations,” (with Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP of Architects for Learning ), and “Executive Function in Elementary and Middle School Students.”

Dr. Talamo specializes in working with children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities including dyslexia, attentional disorders, and emotional issues. She is also interested in working with highly gifted children.

Her professional memberships include MAGE (Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education), IDA (International Dyslexia Association), MABIDA (the Massachusetts division of IDA) and MNS (the Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society).

She is the mother of one college-aged daughter.

 

To book a consultation with Dr. Talamo or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, 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; and the greater Burlington, Vermont region, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

6 Technology Tools to Boost Your Productivity and Organization for the New School Year

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

As the new school year unfolds, many of us struggle to transition from the carefree days of summer into the rigorous routines of being a productive and organized student. If you find yourself grappling with low energy, an overwhelming list of tasks, scattered notes, forgotten homework, and neglected chores, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. The beginning of a school year can be a challenging adjustment. Fortunately, modern technology offers a number of solutions to help ease the cognitive load that comes with academic responsibilities. Below are six technology tools that can help you reclaim control over your productivity and organization.

  1. Goblin Tools: The first tool on the list, Goblin Tools, is a versatile platform designed to empower folks to independently manage their lives and it was specifically designed for the neurodiverse community. The tool can be used on a desktop or can be downloaded as an app. Goblin Tools has a number of features, including the “Magic To-Do List,” that breaks down simple to complex tasks into manageable steps, a time estimator for effective planning, and a writing formalizer to polish communication. It even includes a tone judge to assist with interpreting the tone of written messages, a brain dump compiler to organize your thoughts into a to-do list, and a “chef” which can recommend recipes based on the ingredients you have in your house.
  2. Google Calendar: Google Calendar is an extremely popular tool when it comes to staying organized. It allows you to keep track of events, create tasks, set reminders, and collaborate with others on the platform. Google Calendar syncs across all devices, which allows individuals to ensure they are not missing important appointments or assignments. The integration with Gmail and other Google services further streamlines productivity by centralizing your tasks and appointments.
  3. Reminders App (iPhone): If you’re an iPhone user, the built-in Reminders app is a hidden gem for boosting productivity. It offers a straightforward way to create to-do lists, set time-based and location-based reminders, and categorize tasks. The app integrates with Siri, allowing you to add tasks with voice commands.
  4. Habitica: Habitica gamifies the process of staying organized and forming good habits. This unique tool transforms your daily tasks and goals into a role-playing game, where you earn rewards and level up by completing your to-do list and adhering to your habits. Habitica also allows you to join parties with friends, creating a supportive community of accountability. By turning productivity into an enjoyable game, Habitica makes the journey toward organization and productivity both fun and motivating!
  5. Livescribe: Livescribe is a note-taking tool that bridges the gap between traditional pen-and-paper note-taking and digital organization. This smart pen not only records your handwritten notes but also synchronizes them with an app on your device. As you write, it captures audio recordings of lectures or discussions, making it an invaluable resource for reviewing class materials. You can even tap on your written notes to hear the corresponding audio, allowing you to revisit important moments and enhance your understanding of complex topics.
  6. Rocketbook: Rocketbook is a digital notebook designed to bring together the ease of handwritten notes with the organization of a digital storage system. Using special erasable pens, you can take notes on Rocketbook’s pages and then use a companion app to scan and store your notes in the cloud. The pages are reusable and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. This solution ensures your notes are organized, accessible, and eco-conscious. You will no longer be scrambling to find where you scribbled down the information about an upcoming test. All of your notes will be stored in the same place.

Transitioning into a new school year can be a daunting task, but with the right technology tools at your disposal, you can navigate the challenges of productivity and organization with confidence!

 

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 (coming soon), Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

NESCA Welcomes Back Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Executive Function Coach

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

NESCA welcomes Ms. Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW, back to its coaching and psychotherapy services teams. She previously interned with NESCA, and we are thrilled to have her back on board as both a Psychotherapist and Executive Function Coach. Read more about Ms. Edelstein’s career journey and her return to NESCA in the following Q&A interview.

 

This is your second time working with NESCA. Tell us what you did with NESCA previously.
Yes, and I am elated to be back! During my graduate studies at Simmons University, I interned at NESCA as a psychotherapist. In addition to providing individual psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and young adults, I worked with a few high school and college students as an executive function (EF) coach. I also provided psychotherapy to clients from India and the Philippines, which was an incredible and unique experience. I have yet to find a practice as dynamic and integrative as NESCA and look forward to rejoining as a seasoned clinician!

You will be splitting your time and talents in two roles here at NESCA. Fill us in on your dual role and what your previous experiences bring to both.
At NESCA, I’ll be providing psychotherapy and executive function coaching. Both of these roles have been a consistent focus of mine simultaneously throughout my professional life. After obtaining a B.S. in education at the University of Vermont, I worked in special education as a paraprofessional, supporting students with special needs in the classroom. In this role, I helped students learn new strategies to maintain their focus, self-regulate, and improve their organization. Additionally, throughout graduate school, I worked part-time as an EF coach at Engaging Minds, helping elementary, middle, and high schoolers with their homework and school assignments by finding ways to improve their task initiation, organization, time management, and planning skills.

My interest in social work/mental health counseling was sparked by my experience as a student teacher at UVM. During the entirety of my practicum, I found myself  gravitating towards students who struggled academically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. I was determined to help these students navigate their challenges by building meaningful connections, providing additional academic support, and increasing their self-confidence by focusing on their strengths.

My counseling experience officially started in graduate school with two full-year-long internships. My first internship took place in the counseling department at Boston Green Academy, a public charter school for grades 6-12, and my second was at NESCA. After graduate school, I worked as a school adjustment counselor at Newton South High School and also took on clients part-time at a private practice. In these roles, I supported the social and emotional wellbeing of students with special needs, as well as their families. After working in corporate wellness for the last year and a half, I am excited to return to the clinical setting, working for a practice that was a major part of my social work journey.

Having worked as a high school adjustment counselor, you must have seen many of the challenges students have with executive function. What are your biggest takeaways from that experience? How do you think that prepared you to be an EF coach?
The majority of my students struggled with executive function, therefore providing support in this area was part of my day-to-day routine. My biggest takeaways are:

  1. Identifying a “why” helps individuals become more motivated to be proactive in their EF journey. For example, I tend to ask people how improving these skills will affect their academic goals, mental health, social relationships, etc., so that there is significant meaning to the work being done.
  2. There is a system that works for everyone! Whether it’s electronic or physical, once someone identifies an organization system that increases their independence, it’s important that they stick to it and are consistent with it. Having a set system will allow them to easily locate their assignments, know when they are due, and how they’ll go about completing them. It’s always helpful for parents and teachers to be made aware of this system as well so that everyone is on the same page.
  3. Creating a regular homework routine is key to increasing productivity and limiting distractions. This includes having an identified start time, location, and plan. I always recommend structured breaks being part of this plan as well.
  4. I always advise folks to not compare themselves to others when it comes to their EF skills! We all have natural strengths. A skill that comes easy to you may be the most challenging task for someone else.

There have been countless reports and studies related to the negative impact COVID had on kids. As a psychotherapist to teens and young adults, what challenges are you seeing most in youth post-pandemic?
There’s no doubt that the impact of COVID on our youth has presented serious and complex challenges. The loss of structure, social opportunities, and extracurriculars (to name a few) is a shock to the system and very traumatic. The biggest challenges I’ve seen post-pandemic have been an increase in digital dependence, cyberbullying, school-based anxiety/refusal, and regression in social skills. That being said, as important as it is to identify post-pandemic challenges, there is value in pointing out gained strengths as well. A lot of students who I worked with learned new coping skills, acquired a deeper understanding of their needs, and discovered exciting new hobbies that they now get to share with others.

 

About Carly Edelstein, MSW, LCSW
Carly Edelstein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Having worked both in private practice and schools, she has extensive experience supporting students, families and educational teams to make positive changes. Ms. Edelstein provides executive function coaching and psychotherapy to clients ranging from middle school through adulthood. She also offers consultation to schools and families in order to support her clients across home and community environments.

 

To schedule an appointment with Ms. Edelstein for psychotherapy or EF coaching, please complete our online intake form

 

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and the greater Burlington, Vermont area, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

NESCA Offers Vermont-based Transition and Coaching Services

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

NESCA recently announced that it is now offering transition services and coaching services in the Greater Burlington, Vermont region. Learn more about what is being offered by our Vermont-based staff from my interview with Vermont-based Program Manager Dr. Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L.

Why did NESCA expand to Vermont and how can clients benefit from your services?

NESCA is expanding our in-person services to Vermont to widen the breadth of transition services offered within the state. Through research and conversations with local professionals and parents, we recognized that there is an opportunity to bolster local transition services for students to meet their personal postsecondary goals and to live fulfilling lives post-high school. Through our variety of services, our goal is to empower teens and young adults to create their own vision for the future and build the skills necessary to achieve it. This is important for students currently in public middle and high schools as well as local college students and young adults new to the world of work. At NESCA, we take a relational approach with to build a strong foundational relationship between ourselves and the clients we support. Our priority to is create a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment within our sessions.

What services do you offer?

At this time, NESCA’s Vermont-based practice will offer transition assessment, real-life skills coaching, executive function coaching, transition consultation, and functional community-based occupational therapy evaluations. All Vermont-based services are delivered by experienced occupational therapists and transition specialists with expertise in developing functional and relevant goals. For more information on each of these services, please visit our website and view our Post-Secondary Transition Services and Coaching Services links: https://nesca-newton.com/our-services/. Many folks are unfamiliar with transition assessments, so to learn more, see the following blog written by our Director of Transition Services Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS: https://nesca-newton.com/transition-assessment-what-is-it-anyway-how-is-it-different-from-neuropsychological-evaluation/.

What type of client does NESCA serve in Vermont?

NESCA’s Vermont-based practice primarily works with teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mental health diagnoses, specific learning disabilities, executive function (EF) challenges, and other complex cases based on the expertise of our providers. A specialty at NESCA is working with clients who have multiple diagnoses or who don’t fit neatly into a singular diagnostic box.

Where are you in Vermont? Are services in-person or remote?

Coaching services will be offered in the home, school, or community within the greater Burlington area. Services can also be delivered remotely if deemed appropriate for the client. Transition assessment is typically conducted within the client’s school setting.

What is different about what NESCA offers in Vermont compared to other organizations or services already available?

NESCA will be a premier independent transition assessment provider in Vermont. We are happy to collaborate with school districts or work with families directly. Additionally, we are unique in providing one-on-one occupational therapy services that specifically address life skills within a client’s home and community setting. Working within the home and community, and not only within the school setting, is incredibly important for the generalization of life skills as well as social skills, functional academic skills, and executive functioning skills.

Does insurance cover your services in Vermont?

NESCA is primarily a private pay service provider. Some families are able to obtain some coverage or reimbursement for our real-life skills coaching service with their health insurance, but it is vital that folks first check with their insurance provider to ensure our services would be covered.

How do people get more information about NESCA’s Vermont services?

To learn more about NESCA, please visit our website at: https://nesca-newton.com/.

If you would like to fill out an intake form, follow this link: https://nesca-newton.com/intake.

If you have more specific questions, do not hesitate to call: 617-658-9818

Additionally, you can contact our Vermont-based Program Manager Dr. Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L, directly at: lwood@nesca-newton.com

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

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.

 

Welcoming Renee Cutiongco Folsom, Ph.D., Pediatric Neuropsychologist

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

NESCA recently welcomed Pediatric Neuropsychologist Renee Cutiongco Folsom, Ph.D. to its clinical staff. Dr. Cutiongco Folsom brings a wealth of experiences and vast knowledge in assessing and diagnosing autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as well as conducting international evaluations. Take a moment to learn more about Dr. Cutiongco Folsom from my interview with her. 

Tell us about your background and how you got to NESCA.

I grew up in the Philippines. I started my career as a preschool teacher there for two years. At that point, I knew I wanted to work with children. I eventually got my master’s degree in psychology and took a neuropsychology class with a professor who was trained at Boston Children’s Hospital. I immediately fell in love with neuropsychology. I then came to the U.S. to pursue my Ph.D. and did my fellowship in neuropsychology at UCLA. I planned to go back to the Philippines but met my husband here in the U.S. and decided to stay here.

Since I did not go back to the Philippines, I was interested in practicing neuropsychology internationally, which I was able to do in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins. I was interested in the work NESCA has been doing internationally. The opportunity to work with a talented team at NESCA and the ability to do international evaluations was the right move for me.

What do you mean by looking beyond the data when conducting neuropsychological evaluations?

I refer to employing the “Boston Process Approach” in my evaluations and assessments because my mentor in the Philippines was trained in this approach when she did her postdoctoral work at Boston Children’s Hospital. She tried to ingrain this methodology in her trainees. What it means is that when we look at the data, we do not just look at a score. There is so much more to a child’s story than a number. As neuropsychologists, we are always looking at how the child comes up with an answer to a test. It is possible for a child to get a low score on a test of reproducing designs using blocks, for example, because the child threw or even ate the blocks! We must decipher what is behind the process by which the child produced the answer. This critical information falls outside of the data or what a score is. It tells us how the child learns, and what will help them at school, at home, and in their day-to-day life. This is the approach I take when I work with a child. I take a LOT of notes! I look to see what the child says and does, whether he or she is paying attention, and note other behaviors throughout the evaluation process. Then, I analyze all the data and look for patterns and discrepancies across various tests and measures.

When we see the data associated with the performance on a test, we must ask why, for instance, they achieved a low score. What other factors are at play? Is it anxiety or a visual-motor issue? What we observe throughout the evaluation can guide us to administer some tests that may not have been initially scheduled. Our knowledge, experiences, and careful observations help us to tease apart where a score came from and what it is telling us. We end up with a fuller picture of both the strengths and vulnerabilities of a child or adolescent.

What kind of international work were you doing previously?

After I completed my fellowship in neuropsychology at UCLA, my first job was with the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins. Because so many families go there from other countries seeking answers, the organization assembled interdisciplinary teams to serve international patients. We conducted week-long intensive and comprehensive evaluations involving a neurologist, neuropsychologist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and social worker who could help them access resources in their home country. At the end of the week of intense evaluation, we came together as a team to make a diagnosis, if warranted, and provide recommendations for interventions. It was a challenging and intense program because we needed to develop our impressions immediately. And we often saw some of the most difficult and complex cases because the families had already exhausted all the resources available to them in their home countries before traveling overseas.

What do you find most rewarding about being a pediatric neuropsychologist?

I have been practicing neuropsychology for a long time. I chose to work in pediatric neuropsychology vs. adult because we can do so much more with children. We have a particularly good chance of making a bigger impact on their lives at such an early age.

What I find most rewarding is to have patients come back for a follow-up evaluation, and I can see how the child has progressed. Their parents often thank me for providing them with a diagnosis and helping them to access resources and attest how far their child has come. Working alongside families to change the trajectory of a child’s life is very powerful.

 You specialize in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). How do you make a diagnosis and differentiate ASD from its related challenges?

You rely on years of training, your knowledge and expertise, trust your clinical judgment, and factor in the wisdom of colleagues when needed. This is how you make meaningful conclusions and diagnoses that impact a child’s life.

What do you feel makes NESCA a unique environment and practice?

The beauty of a practice like NESCA is that we get a broad spectrum of clients who present with different challenges or diagnoses. We get to see a range of ages and draw clients from all over the New England region as well as internationally. That variety enriches your perspective and gives more insight into your clinical work.

I have been at NESCA for about a month, and they take collaboration to heart. My colleagues at NESCA are a giving group of professionals when it comes to sharing experiences and knowledge. The clinicians are humble, candid, open, and eager to help children, adolescents, and young adults. As a pediatric neuropsychologist, I also get to collaborate with transition specialists, educational consultants, OTs, SLPs, and more. The multidisciplinary approach, learning from other perspectives, is a refreshing addition to my work experience.

 

About the Author

Dr. Renee Cutiongco Folsom, Ph.D. has been working with families in the greater Boston area since 2015. Prior to this, she was on staff at Johns Hopkins University and trained at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She provides comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations of children, adolescents, and young adults who have learning, behavioral, and socio-emotional challenges. Her areas of expertise include Autism Spectrum Disorder and other conditions that usually co-occur with this diagnosis; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Disabilities; and Anxiety/Depression. She thinks that the best part of being a pediatric neuropsychologist is helping change the trajectory of children’s lives.

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s pediatric neuropsychologists, please complete our online intake form

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and the greater Burlington, Vermont area, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

An Occupational Therapist’s Perspective – How AI Can Support Teens and Young Adults with Life Skills

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

Recently there has been a lot of talk in the media about artificial intelligence (AI) technology and the impact it will have on the world. With the recent development of ChatGPT and other AI technologies, the way we work, learn, and live may see some significant changes. While change can be difficult – and there are often many considerations to make before adopting a new technology system – ChatGPT is a useful tool that can support different aspects of life when used properly. Specifically, it may be a very helpful tool to support life- and transition-related skills for teens and young adults. Here are four ways that ChatGPT can support independence with real-life skills.

1.Meal Planning and Grocery Lists: Often meal planning can be daunting, and it heavily relies on strong executive functioning skills. To make this process easier, AI technology can be utilized. Simply tell ChatGPT that you would like a meal plan for the week (or any amount of time you desire), and it will create a specific meal plan and provide the grocery list if requested. It will also break down the nutritional value if requested. You can input dietary restrictions or any special considerations, and ChatGPT will create a plan in seconds. Below is an example of the prompt I provided and the response I received.

Prompt I input: Create a one-day vegan meal plan with a grocery list. Make sure it is high in protein.

Response from ChatGPT:

Breakfast:

  • Tofu Scramble with Spinach and Mushrooms
    1. 1 block of firm tofu
    2. 1 cup of spinach
    3. 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
    4. 1 tbsp of olive oil
    5. 1/4 tsp of turmeric
    6. Salt and pepper to taste
    7. 2 slices of whole grain toast

 Snack:

  • Apple and Almond Butter
    1. 1 apple
    2. 2 tbsp of almond butter

Lunch:

  • Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
    1. 1 cup of cooked quinoa
    2. 1/2 cup of black beans
    3. 1/2 cup of diced bell peppers
    4. 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
    5. 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
    6. 1/4 cup of diced red onion
    7. 1 tbsp of olive oil
    8. 1 tbsp of lime juice
    9. Salt and pepper to taste

 Snack:

  • Roasted Chickpeas
    1. 1 can of chickpeas
    2. 1 tbsp of olive oil
    3. 1 tsp of paprika
    4. 1/2 tsp of cumin
    5. Salt and pepper to taste

 Dinner:

  • Lentil and Vegetable Stir Fry
    1. 1 cup of cooked lentils
    2. 1 cup of mixed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, etc.)
    3. 1 tbsp of olive oil
    4. 1 tbsp of soy sauce
    5. 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
    6. Salt and pepper to taste
    7. 1 cup of brown rice

 Grocery List:

  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Whole grain bread
  • Apple
  • Almond Butter
  • Quinoa
  • Black beans
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Lime juice
  • Chickpeas
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Lentils
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic powder
  • Brown rice

This meal plan provides approximately 90 grams of protein, which is well above the recommended daily intake for most people.

 

2. Role Playing Social Scenarios: ChatGPT can create role playing scenarios to help teens and young adults navigate challenging or new social situations. This can help teens figure out what wording they may want to use and what someone may say in response to prepare for an interaction. Below is an example of a role play created by ChatGPT to practice social introductions.

Prompt I input: I am trying to make friends. What is a good way to introduce myself to a classmate? What might she say back? Can you create a role play?

Response from ChatGPT:

Role Play:

You: Hi there! My name is Jane. What’s your name?

Classmate: Hi, Jane! I’m Sarah.

You: Nice to meet you, Sarah! How’s your day going so far?

Classmate: It’s going pretty well, thanks for asking. How about you?

You: It’s going pretty good too. I’m excited to be in this class. What do you think about it so far?

Classmate: Yeah, me too! I’m really interested in the subject matter. What about you?

You: Same here! I think it’s going to be really interesting. Hey, do you want to grab lunch together sometime this week and chat more about the class?

Classmate: That sounds great! I would love to. How about Thursday?

You: Thursday works for me. Let’s plan on meeting in the cafeteria at noon?

Classmate: Perfect. I’ll see you then!

You: Great! Looking forward to it. See you on Thursday, Sarah.

Classmate: See you then, Jane!

 

3. Writing Professional Emails: Many teens and young adults struggle with composing professional emails. Determining what to say and making it professional can be very difficult for folks who struggle with social pragmatics, written language, anxiety, and executive functioning. When provided with a prompt, ChatGPT can help support this skill. Below is a sample email composed by ChatGPT to ask a professor for an extension on an assignment because the student has been sick.

Prompt I input: Write a professional email to my professor asking for extended time on a project because I am sick.

Response from ChatGPT:

Subject: Request for an Extension on Project Submission

Dear Professor [Name],

I am writing to request an extension on the project submission deadline, which is due on [date]. Unfortunately, I have been unwell for the past few days, and I have been unable to work on the project as planned. I am currently under medication and resting to recover fully.

I am aware that the project is a crucial part of our coursework, and I understand the importance of meeting the deadline. However, given my current health condition, I am finding it challenging to complete the project on time. I am hoping that you can grant me an extension of [number of days] days to submit the project.

I assure you that I will utilize the extended time to work diligently on the project and submit it as soon as possible. I am willing to accept any penalty that comes with the late submission, and I am committed to ensuring that the quality of my work is not compromised.

Thank you for considering my request. I appreciate your understanding and support during this challenging time. Please let me know if you require any further information or clarification.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

 

4. Job Applications: ChatGPT can provide a significant amount of support around job applications. ChatGPT can create a resume template, provide cover letter examples, outline a cover letter, and create sample interview questions. Below is a sample outline created by ChatGPT for a cover letter to Starbucks.

Prompt I input: Create an outline for a cover letter to Starbucks

Response from ChatGPT:

Introduction

  • Briefly introduce yourself and express your interest in working for Starbucks

Relevant experience and skills

  • Highlight any previous experience or skills that would make you a good fit for the company
  • Mention any experience working in customer service or the food and beverage industry
  • Emphasize your ability to work in a fast-paced environment and handle multiple tasks at once

Passion for coffee and the Starbucks brand

  • Discuss your love for coffee and how it has influenced your desire to work for Starbucks
  • Mention any knowledge you have about the company’s values and mission

Availability and willingness to learn

  • State your availability to work and any flexibility in your schedule
  • Express your eagerness to learn and grow within the company

Closing

  • Thank the reader for considering your application and express your excitement for the opportunity to join the Starbucks team.

These four examples are just a few of the many ways that AI can help support our teens and young adults with real-life skills. As with anything that is computer-generated, it is important to teach our teens and young adults to review the output and modify information for their needs or to match their own voice. It is exciting to see how these methods will evolve and be utilized in the classroom to supplement and support learning and independence in the future.

 

Note: it is important to make sure to check school/company policies around AI prior to using the technology and to remember that AI is not human and therefore may not afford the “human touch” that helps with some activities.

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

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

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

A Halloween for Everyone

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

Halloween is here, and it’s important to take a moment to consider the small steps we can take to be inclusive and promote a successful experience for all children and adolescents. While Halloween is a holiday meant to bring communities closer together, trick or treating can sometimes be overwhelming, wrought with difficulty, or just a bit too spooky.

Over the past several years, significant efforts have been made to ensure that we are being inclusive of all children. Leading the charge is Food Allergy Research & Education, or FARE, a non-profit organization focused on providing education about childhood food allergies. In 2012, FARE started the Teal Pumpkin Project, which encourages families to put a teal pumpkin on their doorstep and offer non-food alternatives, such as small toys or puzzles. A newer movement among families is to carry a blue pumpkin trick-or-treat basket to signify that they are on the autism spectrum. As a nation, we are starting to understand the need to make Halloween enjoyable for everyone.

While these clues may prompt those handing out treats to be a bit more patient or understanding of a child’s actions on their doorstep, I hope we can approach Halloween with the goal of being understanding and patient with all the children in our communities. One way is to refrain from saying things, such as:

  • “Oh no! Why aren’t you wearing a costume? You need a costume to get some candy!”
  • “You look pretty old to be dressing up! Are you sure you should still be trick-or-treating?”
  • “Only take one! Put those back!”

The child without a costume may have sensory defensiveness that makes it too difficult to put on a costume without feeling physically uncomfortable. The adolescent who is dressed up may have been looking forward to Halloween for months. The holiday could even be a special interest. Let’s let these adolescents have their day, too. And the five-year-old grabbing four pieces of candy in his little fist may have fine motor delays making it difficult for him to pick up just one small piece at a time.

Simply put, let’s have a fun AND compassionate Halloween by allowing each child or adolescent to be unique and being more sensitive to everyone’s needs.

 

About the Author

Dr. Sophie Bellenis is Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatrics and occupational therapy in the developing world. Dr. Bellenis joined NESCA full-time in the fall of 2019 to offer transition assessment, occupational therapy assessment and treatment services as well as to oversee the Real-Life Skills Coaching program as part of NESCA’s transition team.
To book an appointment or to learn more about NESCA’s Occupational Therapy and Coaching Services, please fill out our online Intake Form, email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

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

 

College Freshman and Executive Function: The Often Unexpected Demands

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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