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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Technology Tools to Boost Your Productivity Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

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

 

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

 

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

Why is it so hard to develop Executive Function skills for college as a high school student?

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

Students with disabilities often have challenges with executive function skills. These may include difficulties with organization, planning and prioritization, time management, task initiation, attention and effort, working memory, self-regulation, self-monitoring, and mental flexibility. Being successful as a college student often depends on using and integrating these skills. Therefore, it’s no surprise that most of the IEPs I read when working with teenage and young adult students have goals or objectives aimed at remediating executive function (EF) skills. However, many students on IEPs have these “EF” goals for years and still don’t effectively develop the skills they need to successfully manage executive functioning tasks as college students.

One of the reasons for the remaining skill gap when students matriculate to college is because high school student responsibilities are pretty radically different from college student responsibilities. While research indicates that individuals can continue developing executive function skills throughout the lifespan, this requires a very particular set of activities. Executive function skills develop through a combination of direct instruction and opportunities to practice using the learned skills with and without support. But there often are not opportunities for practicing the skills needed for college as a high school student.

Below is a list of executive function supports that exist in high school, but often disappear in college:

  • Classes are small and always taught by teachers
  • Class material is centralized in books or on the board in the classroom
  • Time is structured by the school
  • Students are told what they need to learn from homework
  • Students are reminded of assignments and due dates
  • Completed homework is checked by teachers
  • Reading is discussed in classes
  • Studying is limited to a few hours per week
  • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material
  • Teachers approach students who need help
  • Schools are required to find students with disabilities who need specialized instruction and accommodations
  • Parents and teachers will remind students of their responsibilities
  • Parents and teachers will help to set priorities (or simply set them for the student)
  • Parents and teachers will correct students when behavior is unexpected

In college, students may have large classes taught by other students or experts in their fields who aren’t experts on teaching. They have to use syllabi, manage their own schedules (with large swaths of unscheduled time), integrate academic materials from a wide range of sources, and self-direct long hours of reading and studying. They also have to be responsible for advocating for themselves, knowing when they need help, and knowing what they are responsible for (academically, socially, and in their dorms) and getting those things done without parent and teacher reminders. For students who have strengths with executive functioning, often the transition to college still presents a steep learning curve. But for those who have vulnerabilities in these areas, it can be critical to recognize that the gaps are large between these two learning environments, and sometimes additional support and instruction is necessary while students are taking college classes. Some students will still need to build effective academic and executive function skills, and practice and master those executive function skills, while they are in college and managing this new set of demands.

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college, including executive function coaching, pre-college coaching, transition planning, and neuropsychological evaluation. To learn more specifically about our coaching services, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/ . To schedule an appointment with one of our expert clinicians or coaches, please complete our intake at: https://nesca-newton.com/intake/ .

Reference:

Many of the bulleted items of executive function supports that exist in high school are adapted from this high school versus college comparison by King’s College: https://www.kings.edu/admissions/high_school_vs_college

 

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is an expert transition specialist and national speaker who has been engaged in evaluation, development, and direction of transition-focused programming for teenagers and young adults with a wide array of developmental and learning abilities since 2004. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with youth with autism, she enjoys working with students with a range of cognitive, learning, communication, social, emotional and/or behavioral needs.

Ms. Challen joined NESCA as Director of Transition Services in 2013. She believes that the transition to postsecondary adulthood activities such as learning, living, and working is an ongoing process–and that there is no age too early or too late to begin planning. Moreover, any transition plan should be person-centered, individualized and include steps beyond the completion of secondary school.

Through her role at NESCA, Ms. Challen provides a wide array of services including individualized transition assessment, planning, consultation, training, and program development services, as well as pre-college coaching. She is particularly skilled in providing transition assessment and consultation aimed at determining optimal timing for a student’s transition to college, technical training, adult learning, and/or employment as well as identifying and developing appropriate programs and services necessary for minimizing critical skill gaps.

Ms. Challen is one of the only professionals in New England who specializes in assisting families in selecting or developing programming as a steppingstone between special education and college participation and has a unique understanding of local postgraduate, pre-college, college support, college transition, postsecondary transition, and 18-22 programs. She is additionally familiar with a great number of approved high school and postsecondary special education placements for students from Massachusetts including public, collaborative, and private programs.

Ms. Challen enjoys the creative and collaborative problem-solving process necessary for successfully transitioning students with complex profiles toward independent adulthood. As such, she is regularly engaged in IEP Team Meetings, program consultations, and case management or student coaching as part of individualized post-12th grade programming. Moreover, she continually works to enhance and expand NESCA’s service offerings in order to meet the growing needs of the families, schools and communities we serve.

When appropriate, Ms. Challen has additionally provided expert witness testimony for families and school districts engaged in due process hearings or engaged in legal proceedings centering on transition assessment, services and/or programming—locally and nationally.

Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Challen began her work with youth with special needs working as a counselor for children and adolescents at Camp Good Times, a former program of Milestones Day School. She then spent several years at the Aspire Program (a Mass General for Children program; formerly YouthCare) where she founded an array of social, life and career skill development programs for teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and related profiles. Also, she worked at the Northeast Arc as Program Director for the Spotlight Program, a drama-based social pragmatics program, serving youth with a wide range of diagnoses and collaborating with several school districts to design in-house social skill and transition programs.

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. While training and obtaining certification as a school guidance counselor, she completed her practicum work at Boston Latin School focusing on competitive college counseling.

Ms. Challen has worked on multiple committees involved in the Massachusetts DESE IEP Improvement Project, served as a Mentor for the Transition Leadership Program at UMass Boston, participated as a member of B-SET Boston Workforce Development Task Force, been an ongoing member of the Program Committee for the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity (AANE), and is a member of the New Hampshire Transition State Community of Practice (COP).

She is also co-author of the chapter, “Technologies to Support Interventions for Social-Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personality Style, and Self-Regulation,” for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism: Innovations that Enhance Independence and Learning.

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

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, NY (coaching services only) 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.

 

Why a Task is Never “Just a Simple Task” – a compassionate perspective on executive functioning difficulties

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

I’ve often experienced the frustration of a student being given a task–whether it be at home or school–and struggling to complete it. Teachers and parents alike have said to me, “I just don’t understand why they can’t get it done. It’s a simple task.” I’d like to challenge the concept of a “simple task.” Once we begin to dig beneath the surface, we start to see all the hidden demands that every task requires of us and our brains.

As a trained Special Education teacher and executive function coach, I was taught to search for the hidden demands in the academic tasks I give my students. For example, asking a student to write a story about a time they were sad involves a multitude of mini-tasks that present varying levels of challenge depending on the student and their learning needs:

  • Recognize what sad feels like to you
  • Activate your memories to recall a time you felt what sad feels like to you
  • Remember the order of events of a memory that may be more visceral than cerebral
  • Determine which details are important vs. less important to include in your story
  • Decide who your audience is, and remember what the purpose of this story is
  • Perspective take and infer what would make your story interesting to your audience
  • Identify words that will accurately convey your experience to your audience
  • Utilize your knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation to craft intelligible writing
  • Understand and implement a proper story arc so that your story flows

All of this is not even including the related emotional demands:

  • Decide if you’re even motivated to do this, and if your relationship with your teacher is worth all this headache
  • Manage the frustration that comes up at every.single.step.along.the.way.
  • Self-soothe when your insecurities bubble up and you start to question your identity as a writer, student, and/or good person

Oh wait, you thought we were done? There is also a myriad of executive function demands such a task places on a student:

  • Understanding the steps you needs to take, and determining where to start
  • Motivating yourself to take the first step despite feeling extremely stuck
  • Deciding which parts of the writing process to prioritize and spend more time on
  • Knowing how long this will take you, and managing your time respectively
  • Maintaining focus on a task that involves doing the most laborious and LEAST interesting thing a teacher could ask you to do…write
  • Managing the impulse to turn to your friend next to you and talk about what you’re really interested in, which is obviously Minecraft

The above lists are far from comprehensive, and even so, they help demonstrate how a “simple” task is in fact a much more complex–and demanding–series of mini-tasks to complete. Depending on the student, they may easily breeze through these mini-tasks, hardly experiencing them as demands, or they may acutely feel the weight of each mini-task. Students with executive function struggles are more likely to fall into the latter category.

While the best way to support your student or child will vary, the first step is the same for everyone: awareness. The more aware teachers and parents can be about the hidden demands involved in the tasks we assign, the better prepared we can be to support students in overcoming those demands. Acknowledgement and compassion go a long way. Start by reflecting on all the mini-tasks involved in each of your own daily activities, and your ability to identify hidden demands will steadily improve. You can extend this new self-awareness to your students or child, helping them to understand that every task contains a series of smaller steps to follow, and all these steps can make a task feel complicated and draining. Soon, both you and your child will be pros at seeing what lies beneath the surface, and you’ll never label something “a simple task” again!

If today’s post resonates with you or your child, consider reaching out to NESCA; we’re here to help with life’s “simple” tasks! For more information about NESCA’s executive function coaching, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/detailed/#coaching-executive-function.

 

About the Author

Jasmine Badamo, MA, is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

 

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach 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, 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.

Meet Jasmine Badamo, MA, NESCA Executive Function Coach

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach

This week, I had the pleasure of talking with Jasmine Badamo, MA, an Educational Counselor and Executive Function Tutor here at NESCA. While Jasmine has been with NESCA for quite a while on a per diem basis, she officially joined our team on a full-time basis within the past few months. Our clients and staff have enjoyed getting to know her, so we’d like to introduce you to her as well.

What brought you to the education field?

In college, I majored in science, but took a different turn when it came to my career path. After I graduated from college, I took a job teaching English abroad. During that time, I realized that I was far more interested in—and better at—teaching than I was in science. This experience solidified for me that education was really where I wanted to take my career. When I was back in the U.S., I earned my Master’s in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) at CUNY Hunter College. While in the TESOL program, I also became very interested in special education.

How did you learn about the need for Executive Functioning (EF) tutoring or coaching?

During my time in the TESOL program, I noticed there was a lot of overlap among students in the TESOL program and those in special education—there was a need for individualization among both sets of students. During this time, I learned how to modify a curriculum to be appropriate for each unique learner. I went on to work in a school-based special education setting for three years. Here is where I realized that a lot of the underlying needs of students in special education stemmed from their EF challenges.

When I was studying for my special education license, Executive Functioning wasn’t really even a thing yet; there was a concept, but no real name for it. Once it was given a name and there was more of an understanding about it, everything clicked for me. When I learned that I could make EF the focus of a job, I got really excited. I dove in headfirst and immediately started expanding my coursework in that area.

Executive Function covers a lot of territory. Where did you start?

While I was working toward my professional certificate with Landmark College, I was also working as a 4th grade special education teacher. When Covid hit, we all immediately saw the need for putting those EF coaching skills to really good and frequent use in helping our students to transition to remote education. We were able to help our students find functional, realistic, manageable tools to make their life less stressful while learning from home.

What about NESCA did you find attractive?

I was looking to focus a little more on EF outside of the elementary school setting. I found NESCA through a connection I made at Landmark. With NESCA’s EF and Real-life Skills Coaching Program, I was able to offer tutoring to a more diverse population among a wider range of ages, which was exciting to me. Being a part of NESCA’s coaching program also allowed me to really focus in on teaching EF skills, which is where my true interest lies.

How would you describe what you do to those who may not know much about EF?

I initially say that I am kind of like a special education tutor who helps people with study skills and life skills. I work closely with individuals who struggle with organization, time management, and focus to build skills in those areas to make things easier for them to do on their own. I often work with people who have characteristics of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or a learning disability.

How do you do tutor students in EF?  

It all comes down to individualization. I spend a good amount of time focusing on getting to know a person in the beginning. I try to identify the biggest stress point or disconnect in their life. Together, we develop strategies to tackle those stressors in a way that works for them. We may come up with a bunch of potential strategies, but finding the ones that are realistic for them to maintain independently is the key to success. Once we identify and practice those, we remove the scaffolding bit by bit, giving them the independence they desire.

What is the favorite part of your job?

I love to figure out something that will have a positive impact on a student…that moment when we crack the code! It’s amazing to be able to use my knowledge in a way that can be directly meaningful to someone else in their life.

What do you find most challenging?

The fact that everything I do with each student is totally individualized can be challenging. There’s no script to go off of, and it takes a lot of trial and error to find what you’re looking for. You so desperately want to help the person and ease their struggles. Even if you find the right way to build an EF skill, it still takes a lot of time and patience. Teaching the student to also be patient with themselves during this time can be a challenge. But it’s so worth it!

Are there other areas of EF you’d like to focus on?

A lot of the strategies that can be used with students who struggle with EF are designed for neurotypical people. Often the tier one interventions that work for neurotypical individuals are not really tailored for them. That means we have to find creative ways to support these students while still honoring who they are. We can’t change the world for them, but they need to be able to navigate through it. And yet, we don’t want them to have to change the person who they are. It can be difficult, so I’d love to work on identifying more strategies and tools that may be good options for my specific students. I’d like to help them to find a better balance between the way the world works and the way their brain works.

Tell us what you’ve found rewarding about your work at NESCA so far.

I truly love getting positive feedback from my students’ parents. I am so validated by how appreciative they are that I “get” their kid. Sometimes my students tell me, but more often than not, I hear this feedback from their parents.

Unfortunately, a lot of kids with EF struggles are on the periphery with friends or academics. It’s great to be able to tell them there’s nothing wrong with them and guide them to having more self-compassion and self-empowerment. I strive to let my students know that we all have EF struggles. Life is one giant EF demand on us, and it’s a good thing to seek out support to help manage those demands. We put so much pressure on ourselves to manage it all, but it’s okay to get guidance, support, or a boost from someone else.

 

About Educational Counselor & Executive Function Tutor Jasmine Badamo, MA

Jasmine Badamo, MA is an educational counselor and executive function coach who works full-time at NESCA supporting students ranging from elementary school through young adulthood. In addition to direct client work, Ms. Badamo provides consultation and support to parents and families in order to help change dynamics within the household and/or support the special education processes for students struggling with executive dysfunction. She also provides expert consultation to educators, special educators and related professionals.

Ms. Badamo is a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience across three countries and has worked with students and clients ranging in age from 7 to adulthood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her master’s degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has also participated in graduate coursework focusing on academic strategies and executive function supports for students with LD, ADHD, and autism as part of the Learning Differences and Neurodiversity (LDN) certification at Landmark College’s Institute for Research and Training. In addition to being a native English speaker, Ms. Badamo is also conversationally fluent in verbal and written Spanish.

Having worked in three different New York City public schools, Ms. Badamo has seen firsthand the importance of executive function skills in facilitating student confidence and success. Her coaching and consultation work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client and supporting the development of metacognition (thinking about one’s own thought processes and patterns), executive function skills, and independence. She will guide clients to generate their own goals, identify the barriers to their goals, brainstorm potential strategies, advocate for support when needed, and reflect on the effectiveness of their applied strategies.

Ms. Badamo is a highly relational coach. Building an authentic connection with each client is a top priority and allows her to provide the best support possible. Additionally, as a teacher and coach, Ms. Badamo believes in fostering strong collaborations with anyone who supports her clients including service providers, classroom teachers, parents, administrators, and community providers.

 

To book executive function coaching with Jasmine Badamo or another EF or Real-life Skills Coach 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, 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.

Understanding and Identifying Organizational Challenges

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

When clients come for neuropsychological assessment, a domain of skills that is commonly assessed is executive function. Executive function is a complex set of cognitive and self-management skills that allow for efficient, goal-oriented problem solving and task completion. These skills do not speak to how smart someone is, or whether or not they will achieve a goal. Instead, they speak to the ease with which one works toward their goal – Is their path a nice straight road from beginning to end? Or was it a zig-zagging route filled with stops and starts, redos, and confusion?

Executive function is a broad domain containing many different skills, such as planning, working memory, self-monitoring, impulse control, and organization. This last skill – organization – is one that can be commonly misunderstood. That is likely because people often focus on behavioral organization, meaning whether someone keeps their things in order. While a tidy bedroom and neat locker make it easier to find things, there are other aspects of organization that can have a much greater impact on learning, task completion, and daily functioning. From a neuropsychological standpoint, there are three aspects of organization that should be of focus, including:

  • Behavioral Organization. As noted above, this is the aspect of organization with which people are most familiar. It can be thought of as your “organization of stuff” skills. At home, this may be keeping an organized bedroom, putting things away when done, and knowing how to find things when you need them. At school, this may involve keeping a neat locker or desk, having color-coded binders for your classes, or turning in assignments once you’ve completed them. Individuals who struggle in this area may often lose their belongings, fail to turn in completed tasks, or frustrate their parents with their messy rooms.
  • Organization of Information. This is the organizational skill that is often of most focus within neuropsychological assessment. This is a cognitive aspect of organization, meaning others cannot necessarily observe when someone struggles in this area. This aspect of organization speaks to one’s ability to process information in a manner that appreciates both the details and how they integrate into a “big picture.” This skill is very important for learning, allowing you to consolidate information into memory in a manner that is connected and organized, which makes it much easier to remember and retrieve later on. Think of this as the filing cabinet of the brain. Organization of information and ideas is also important for reading comprehension as well as written expression, including prioritizing ideas and pulling them together in a cohesive manner. Individuals who struggle in this area may be overly detail-focused, missing main ideas or struggling with abstraction. They may also become easily overwhelmed by information, not knowing what is most relevant, which may result in difficulty planning, executing, and drafting writing assignments.
  • Organization of Time. A.K.A. – time management. This organizational skill requires you to both recognize the end goal while also being able to break the task into smaller steps that can be accomplished over a short or long span of time. It requires a recognition of how long each step may take and how to balance such requirements within life’s other time constraints. Individuals who struggle in this area may appear to procrastinate, though the true challenge may lay in difficulty estimating time or understanding how to break things down and create the road map from “here to there.” This is often a person who may be misunderstood as lacking motivation, given their difficulty initiating and completing tasks, though their lack of execution actually stems from difficulties organizing information and time.

Quite often, individuals with organizational challenges do not struggle in all three of the above areas. A child may appear fastidiously organized, with an impeccably organized room and diligent notes; however, they may be relying on this excessive behavioral organization as a means for compensating for hidden challenges with informational organization. They may not know what is most important, so they study excessively for tests or over-include information in their essays. To the observer, they look astute; however, they are cognitively over-extending themselves. As already noted, organizational challenges may also present as the “unmotivated” student, as long-standing difficulty knowing how to break down tasks and manage time may have resulted in helplessness. This is why neuropsychological assessment is often an important tool for understanding and supporting these students – as the underlying challenges may not be behaviorally observable. Positively, executive function skills can be taught to address any of the above concerns, but interventions will always be most effective when the areas of need are clear.

 

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 Power of a List

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By Yvonne M. Asher, Ph.D. 
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

For so many children, adolescents, and young adults, I find myself recommending something that seems too simple to be of much use – a list. The power of lists has been identified and described in depth by several experts, such as Atul Gawande (The Checklist Manifesto – an excellent read). These books often discuss efficiency in the workplace, health and safety practices, and maintaining consistency in products or services. As adults, these are the things we often care about – ensuring that we are efficient, consistent, and getting things done.

In my practice, I recommend lists for different reasons. I recommend lists to teach executive functioning skills, such as planning, task initiation, organization, and task monitoring. Lists are also incredibly helpful for children who struggle to hold on to information. These children often miss information that is stated aloud, such as a parent giving directions or a teacher explaining instructions. Their brains often struggle to “keep up” with the pace of information presented in the world. Having the information written down in an organized manner, such a list, can help them access the information without time constraints.

Here is a quick example:

On a typical weekday morning, parents alternate checking on their 8-year-old as he gets ready for school. They give reminders of all the things left to do – “Brush your teeth!” “Get dressed!” “Put your homework in your backpack!” Time before the bus becomes shorter and shorter, as does everyone’s patience. Parents think, “We do the same things every single morning! Why is it so hard for him to remember?” Child thinks, “Why can’t they just leave me alone!” Voice volumes increase, tone shifts, and before anyone knows it or means to, there is a shouting match as the bus is pulling up.

Of course, a list won’t stop hurt feelings or eliminate frustration. However, if the child’s “morning routine” is posted somewhere easy to see, he may need far fewer reminders from his parents of all the tasks he has left to do. Frustration may be reduced, and the child can feel successful completing tasks with greater independence.

A list may be steps in a routine, as illustrated above. A list could also be of materials the child needs for baseball practice, the chores that should be done each week, or the limits and expectations around “screen time.” I often spend time with parents discussing the contents of a list, where the list should be placed, and the format it might take. For example, do you want checkboxes next to each item? Do you want the steps to be numbered? Maybe you love arts and crafts, and you want to laminate the list and have Velcro tabs with a “checkmark” that can be placed next to each completed task. The format and purpose vary, but lists are infinitely useful.

For many children, practice using lists is not only helping them to build skills in the moment, but is excellent practice for later life. Developing comfort with the tools and strategies that work best for you is an invaluable aspect of raising our children to become independent adults who can achieve their goals.

 

About the Author

Dr. Yvonne M. Asher enjoys working with a wide range of children and teens, including those with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, learning disabilities, attention difficulties and executive functioning challenges. She often works with children whose complex profiles are not easily captured by a single label or diagnosis. She particularly enjoys working with young children and helping parents through their “first touch” with mental health care or developmental concerns.

Dr. Asher’s approach to assessment is gentle and supportive, and recognizes the importance of building rapport and trust. When working with young children, Dr. Asher incorporates play and “games” that allow children to complete standardized assessments in a fun and engaging environment.

Dr. Asher has extensive experience working in public, charter and religious schools, both as a classroom teacher and psychologist. She holds a master’s degree in education and continues to love working with educators. As a psychologist working in public schools, she gained invaluable experience with the IEP process from start to finish. She incorporates both her educational and psychological training when formulating recommendations to school teams.

Dr. Asher attended Swarthmore College and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She completed her doctoral degree at Suffolk University, where her dissertation looked at the impact of starting middle school on children’s social and emotional wellbeing. After graduating, she completed an intensive fellowship at the MGH Lurie Center for Autism, where she worked with a wide range of children, adolescents and young adults with autism and related disorders.

 

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.

 

To book an appointment with Dr. Yvonne Asher, please complete our Intake Form today. For more information about NESCA, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Handwriting vs. Typing: Where do we draw the line?

By | NESCA Notes 2021

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

For many of our students with dysgraphia, or those who struggle with the fine motor precision and the skills necessary for written output, digital tools and accommodations that promote the use of tech and keyboarding in the academic setting are immensely helpful. These tools allow our students to show their knowledge, demonstrate their written abilities, and fully access their curriculum.  When implemented correctly, these accommodations can have a huge impact on a student’s academic career. While all of this is true, it is worth discussing whether fully taking away the need to produce and practice handwritten work is leaving some of our students at a disadvantage.

When working with adolescents and young adults to help figure out future career or education plans, I am consistently reminded of the fact that despite our continuing transition toward a more and more digitally-based world, the need for handwriting has not disappeared. While we absolutely do not need to be handwriting essays, papers, or long letters sent via snail mail, there are aspects of almost every profession and daily life that require the skill. Here are a few common issues that I am seeing pop up that speak to the need for some continued practice –

  1. Job or rental applications. While some of this has moved over to an online format, many of these still need to be filled out appropriately and legibly by an applicant.
  2. Jotting down notes. The importance of this skill should not be diminished. Whether taking a phone message, making a grocery list, or writing down a phone number, most young adults are expected to be able to read their own handwriting at a later date, or leave a message for someone else who will need to be able to read it.
  3. Vocational responsibilities. Many of our students with disabilities choose to forgo the traditional college path and find a more suitable career field to pursue. Many of my clients have become successful carpenters, mechanics, or other tradespeople. These fields all require vast skill and talent, and often require employees to mark down measurements or make quick notations.
  4. Signing documents. Many banks, institutions, and legal documents require a handwritten signature and initials on any paperwork.

While I am not advocating that we take away accommodations from our students who do not have the foundational skills to write long paragraphs or essays, I am advocating that we stop fully eliminating the demand. By expecting some quick, consistent practice of handwriting, we are building a skill that will be needed multiple times throughout life. I would suggest that students who are being given a keyboarding fine motor/visual motor accommodation, also continue to receive instruction or opportunities to practice writing activities that are less fatiguing in order to continue to build the motor planning and skill necessary. It is unfair to equate the inability to use handwriting as a tool for academic output, with an inability to learn handwriting as a useful functional tool for life.

 

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 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.

 

Put Me In, Coach!

By | NESCA Notes 2021

 

Coaching Services at NESCA

For students and young adults with social, emotional, organizational and/or learning differences, hands-on instruction in real-world environments is a critical means of developing skills for postsecondary living, learning and working. NESCA is pleased to offer individualized home-, community-,and office-based coaching services as well as remote coaching services, delivered by a team of seasoned Occupational Therapists (OTs), Vocational Counselors and Transition Specialists to support the needs of transition-age youth.

 

Meet the Coaches

 

Sophie Bellenis, OTD, OTR/L

Dr. Sophie Bellenis is Licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatrics and occupational therapy, including school-based service delivery. Dr. Bellenis has expertise in working with tweens, teens, and young adults with a wide range of social, emotional, and developmental needs. She joined NESCA full-time in the fall of 2019 in order to oversee the Real-life Skills Coaching program as well as to carry out transition assessment, occupational therapy assessment and treatment services. One of the keys to Dr. Bellenis’ success coaching students and young adults is her ability to form a meaningful relationship with each client and use that relationship to motivate lasting change.

 

 

 

 

Aubrey Matthews, OTD, OTR/L

Aubrey Matthews, OTD, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist who has focused most of her career on mental health and skill building for adolescents and young adults. She currently works full-time at a behavioral health hospital, splitting her time between the inpatient adolescent unit and the young adult intensive outpatient program. Aubrey tends to focus on building emotional regulation, executive function, and social skills through occupation-based strategies. Aubrey’s doctoral research at the MGH Institute of Health Professions focused on using LEGO therapy to build social skills at a pro-bono pediatric program, and she uses many of these creative strategies to increase client motivation and success.

 

 

 

 

Jasmine Badamo, MA

Jasmine is an executive function coach, and a New York State Certified ENL and Special Education teacher. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and her masters degree in TESOL from CUNY Hunter College. She has over 10 years of teaching experience across three countries, and has worked with students ranging in age from 7 years to adults.
Her work focuses on creating individualized supports based on the specific needs and strengths of each client, and supporting the development of metacognition, executive function skills, and independence. Building an authentic connection with clients is a top priority, as this allows her to provide the best supports possible.

 

 

 

 

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 and related social, emotional and executive functioning challenges. 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 completing 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 to the client’s goals and interests.

 

 

 

Visit our website for more information about NESCA’s Coaching Services or complete our online Intake Form