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.


Paul Tough

The Importance of Building Grit

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Alissa Talamo, PhD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan

 “Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.”

– Angela Duckworth, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

What is it that separates those who succeed and those who give up? Is it talent? Is it luck? In the book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” psychologist Angela Duckworth examined why some people are more successful than others, and she concluded that the common denominator is ‘grit.’ She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals” and notes that “bouncing back from failure turns out to be one of the best lessons a kid can learn.” While we, as parents, sometimes focus on academic success to help our children succeed, Angela Duckworth believes that grit “matters more to a child’s ability to reach his full potential than intelligence, skill, or even grades.” Research into grit also finds that, unlike IQ, which is relatively fixed, grit is something everyone can develop.

While some children seem to be naturally grittier than others, we can help our children develop the habits of persistence and perseverance that will allow them opportunities to be successful in whatever it is they feel passionate about. So, how do we help our children develop the ability to push through when things get hard, recognize that making a mistake is an opportunity to learn rather than a ‘failure,’ and stay focused on goals even during times of disappointment?

One important thing parents and teachers can do is to model and encourage goal setting. It is important to encourage children to set realistic and achievable short-term goals, so that they can experience small successes that will keep them motivated to reach their long-term goals. For example, a short-term goal could be to practice the piano for 20 minutes per day with the long-term goal of participating in the school talent show.

As parents or caregivers, we tend to want to ‘fix’ things for our children, or make the path easier for them, but to truly develop grit, a child must be provided opportunities to attempt difficult things. According to Duckworth, “It has to be something that requires discipline to practice,” and she reminds parents to remember that the actual activity doesn’t matter as much as the effort, and that it is effort that should be rewarded over achievement.

It is also important to model to children that success does not occur right away, that practice and perseverance are needed, and that learning something new is hard but that does not mean they will not be good at it. Additionally, when a child does come across a problem, rather than solve the problem for them, encourage them to figure out a way to solve it themselves. According to Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed,” “It’s so much more powerful for a child to be able to deal with adversity and overcome it. What the child takes from that experience is, ‘Hey, I can solve things.’”

Most importantly, children learn what they see, so demonstrate to your child that you are able to take on tasks that are sometimes scary. And while sometimes you may have difficulty with those tasks or even fail to complete them, your ability to persevere, problem solve, and bounce back from these experiences will go far in allowing children to believe that they also can try hard things, that failing is not a lack of success but a stepping stone to gaining a skill, and that perseverance and grit are traits that will serve them well as they continue to grow and develop.

Sources:,Grit and academic achievement: A comparative cross-cultural meta-analysis

“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” Angela Duckworth, Scribner, 2016

“How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” Paul Tough, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012


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; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, New York (coaching services only) serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email or call 617-658-9800.