physical activity

Summer Learning

By | NESCA Notes 2018

By: Amity Kulis, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

As the warm days are here and summer vacation is either upon us or close by, our minds are shifting away from education: homework, studying for tests, and general stress. However, it is important to keep in mind that while summer vacation should be fun, it also provides an opportunity to build on learning.

Summer learning loss or summer slide is a real phenomenon for most children, even those without learning disabilities. Now, I am not advocating that every child needs to be in summer school to prevent this loss, but I am suggesting that we should be mindful and think about ways to promote learning over the summer. The areas of most concern include regression in reading and math skills, physical fitness, and social skills. These challenges are easy to overcome with some thoughtful planning of activities.

Reading: Studies suggest that just four to five books over the summer help to prevent summer learning loss in reading. Now not every child is going to be excited to read, even if they get to pick out their own books over the summer. However, we can find ways to make it more interesting.

  • Perhaps everyone in the family reads the same book and there are opportunities to read together or talk about the book at night. By reading out loud this would allow for even the youngest family member to be included.
  • Maybe a child is encouraged to pick a book about an upcoming family vacation. For example, a tour guide or the history of the area and they can relate that information when they are actually on vacation.
  • Graphic novels and other books that integrate words and pictures can be more exciting for some children.
  • Visit local museums. Without your children even realizing it they will be reading as they explore the exhibits at the Science Museum or the Aquarium. Boston and New England have many wonderful museums and summer is a great time to explore them with the added benefit of your children being exposed to printed text at each exhibit. It can be expensive to visit all the museums but most public libraries offer free or discounted prices to many museums.

Math: Many studies point to the most concern for regression in math skills. It seems easier to find ways to address reading skills over the summer and more difficult to find fun ways to continue to support math development. The good news is there are fun ways to incorporate math into everyday life.

  • While most of us are trying to limit technology and screen time in our children’s lives, the reality is that most children want it. Make screen time more educational by downloading games that involve math activities that are appropriate for your child’s educational skills.
  • Get cooking! Over the summer have your child help you in preparing a meal or a favorite treat. There is so much math involved in cooking. For young children it can simply be counting out the number of carrots needed for the soup and for older children you can learn about fractions or doubling or even tripling the recipe. You’ll be helping to make math more functional and applicable to real life, plus you’ll have fun and a tasty treat afterwards.
  • Another great way to involve numbers in everyday activities is including your child in planning the schedule for the day. Planning for the amount of travel time, whether it be by car or public transportation, accounting for the amount of time at the various activities and planning in meals can be a great exercise in time management and using numbers.

Physical activity and Social Skills: In addition to the academic aspects of summer slide it is also important to consider the physical and social aspects of an unstructured summer vacation. During the school year children have daily recess and regular gym class where they are presented with opportunities to interact with peers and get their bodies moving. During the summer there are endless opportunities to continue to promote these skills:

  • Sign your child up for a camp. Almost all summer camps have a social component and many also involve regular physical activity.
  • If your child is not doing summer camp there are also plenty of activities happening on a weekly basis throughout the summer. Check out your local recreation department/community center for free or discounted activities.
  • Walk or ride instead of driving the car. In the warm weather over the summer there are so many opportunities to get outside. Ride your bike or walk to the local ice cream parlor or even just around the block.
  • It can also be a great opportunity to learn a new sport like swimming or tennis.
  • Playgrounds, the beach, water parks, among others, are excellent places to meet up with old friends or meet new friends.

The important thing for the summer is to have fun and to never stop learning!

About the Author:

Dr. Amity Kulis joined NESCA in 2012 after earning her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, with a concentration in Children, Adolescents and Families (CAF). She completed post-doctoral training in pediatric neuropsychology with an emphasis on treating children with developmental, intellectual, learning and executive functioning challenges. She also has extensive training psychological (projective) testing and has conducted individual and group therapies for children of all ages. Before joining NESCA, Dr. Kulis worked in private practices, clinics, and schools, conducting comprehensive assessments on children ranging from toddlers through young adults. In addition, Dr. Kulis has had the opportunity to consult with various school systems, conducting observations of programs, and providing in-service trainings for staff. Dr. Kulis currently conducts neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments for school aged children through young adulthood. She regularly participates in transition assessments (focusing on the needs of adolescents as they emerge into adulthood) and has a special interest in working with complex learners that may also struggle with emotional challenges and psychiatric conditions. In addition to administering comprehensive and data driven evaluations, Dr. Kulis regularly conducts school-based observations and participates in school meetings to help share her findings and consultation with a student’s TEAM.


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



Just What the Doctor Ordered: A Director’s Update on Personal and Social Coaching (PSC)

By | NESCA Notes 2019

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

So many wonderful things have happened at NESCA in the past year including our recruitment of many talented interns, post-doctoral fellows, and staff members, the opening of an office in the Foxborough/Plainville Area, and the promotion of several staff. As Founder and Director, I continue to be both proud and humbled by the incredibly talented staff I go to work with each day and the community of families and professionals who allow us the privilege of being part of their lives.

As the New Year often brings about health resolutions, including the desire to increase one’s physical and mental fitness, I am taking this opportunity to spotlight one of our most exciting new staff and services at NESCA: Certified Personal Trainer and Autism Fit Instructor Billy Demiri who leads our Personal and Social Coaching (PSC) Program.

When I arrived to check on how things were going with his first training session,  I heard Liam (not his real name) say, “I make muscular dystrophy look easy!”  This proclamation from a 10 year old boy who had, just hours before, during his evaluation, protested loudly that he would “never work with a coach, no matter what!”    Following his diagnosis of muscular dystrophy, a progressive, degenerative disorder, Liam had become clinically depressed.  Over the past few years, he was often irritable, oppositional, volatile, and completely sedentary.  While a specialized school placement, psychopharmacological intervention and therapy had all been helpful, Liam was still struggling.  His mother and I both viewed physical activity as being an important intervention for him, for medical and psychological reasons.

They were scheduled to have their intake session with Billy Demiri, who heads NESCA’s PSC program, after lunch on the day of Liam’s testing.    Clearly, getting Liam to “sign on” was going to be a challenge.    So, I hatched a plan that I explained to Billy and to Liam’s mother.  Liam’s mother was to tell him that he didn’t have to work with the coach but that she herself wanted to talk with him.  I suggested that Billy focus only on talking with Liam’s mother and not give any attention to Liam.  While Billy and Liam’s mother chatted, Liam was reading a book but regularly glancing over at them, clearly interested.  Eventually, he couldn’t resist joining the conversation.  Billy invited Liam’s mother to look at the exercise room and Liam indicated that he wanted to go too.  Liam succumbed to Billy’s gentle encouragement and was soon navigating an obstacle course and doing hurdle steps…with a huge smile on his face, a smile that I had not seen in the course of our evaluation.  His mother’s smile was even wider.

Liam came back eagerly the following week for his training session.  When he and Billy took a break, Liam told Billy, “I like this!  I can use the stuff that we’re doing, like when I’m feeling mad or upset, to make me feel better.”  He then shared with Billy how hard it’s been for him to know that he has muscular dystrophy and to be depressed.

Billy is not a psychotherapist but he is warm and an empathic listener, a young man who children and adolescents like, respect and trust.  He has done a remarkable job forging a strong connection with each of his clients and skillfully uses that relationship as the basis for getting them to take risks, move out of their comfort zone, and persist in the face of challenge, which are all ingredients in developing “grit.”  Billy’s clients make impressive progress not only physically but also emotionally.  Many of Billy’s clients struggle with self-esteem and the concrete, measurable improvements that they see on a regular basis in their physical capabilities is a huge self-esteem booster.    In addition, through the Physical and Social Coaching program, his clients reduce their level of anxiety, increase coping skills and learn about setting and achieving goals.

NESCA takes a highly integrative approach to the delivery of therapeutic services.  In the case of PSC, Billy coordinates care with the neuropsychologists who have evaluated his clients or the psychotherapists who are treating them so that he understands the underlying social-emotional concerns to be addressed in his sessions.  After an initial assessment of movement patterns, he develops an individualized physical training program that will result in improved physical well-being and serve as a vehicle for social-emotional growth for the client. As NESCA’s Founder and Director (and also a client of Billy’s!), I am tremendously proud to be able to offer this unique and ground-breaking service to our clients.


About the Author: 

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

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

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


Want to learn more about PSC? PSC will initially available for clients who are part of the NESCA family and have already participated in testing, consultation, or therapy at one of our Massachusetts or New Hampshire offices. To learn more about services, please email bdemiri@nesca-newton.com. Or, to book an intake with Billy, please complete NESCA’s Intake Form at https://nesca-newton.com/intake-form/ and select “Personal and Social Coaching (PSC)” as your reason for referral.


To book an evaluation with Dr. Helmus, NESCA Founder and Director, or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.





Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville/Foxbourough, 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.