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.

Tag

Postsecondary transition planning

Building Executive Function Skills over the Summer

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S
Transition Specialist; Psychoeducational Counselor

As the countdown to Summer begins post April vacation, teens are getting excited for this season of rest, with more time to socialize and spend their days doing the things they want to do. While the first two weeks tend to be filled with high energy and plans, as the summer continues, the energy starts to slow down and boredom sets in. This part of the summer is a great time for adolescents to lean into building executive functioning skills that they may not have had time to practice fully during the school year. And the planning to do so should begin now, prior to the summer, instead of introducing this when they already feel unmotivated.

Executive dysfunction is supported through the school year with structure, routines, consistent visual schedules, online calendars, reminders, and many other external supports. As noted in previous blog posts for students with executive functioning challenges, the focus during the school year can easily fall into a pattern of “putting out fires” or providing intense support to catch up on never-ending assignments, instead of proactive skill building. The summer offers a low-pressure environment for students to practice planning, organizing, following through, and self-monitoring.

Some ways to practice and build these skills might include:

  • Manage their own schedule. Have your adolescent practice keeping a weekly schedule. Teens can print off a blank weekly schedule or utilize a digital version to list what needs to be accomplished each week (work, appointments, chores, exercise, social, hobbies, small goals) and plug these into a weekly checklist or visual calendar. At the end of each week, teens can reflect on how much they were able to follow the system they tried and what obstacles got in the way of anything they didn’t accomplish.
  • Practice setting alarms. Even if it’s for 10:15 AM (or later) and actually waking up at the time they needed to is important all year long. Allow them to troubleshoot if they sleep in, including what routine can they shift from the night before to meet this?
  • Set their own appointments. Is there a dentist appointment that needs to be made or a car service that family needs completed? Have your teen take ownership of calling or going online to make the appointment, tracking the appointment, and following through with going to the appointment.
  • Household chores. Ask your teen to take ownership of one part of the home (e.g., mowing the lawn). Work to schedule out how often throughout the summer this job needs to be completed and set a plan for how to follow through with this responsibility.
  • Make a meal for the family. Following through with all the steps included (finding a recipe, budgeting, food shopping, prepping, managing the timing of each item that needs to be cooked) is a great way to practice executive functioning skills.
  • Get a summer job. Working is a great way to build many executive functioning and self-determination skills for teens. Not only does it add structure to the week, it also helps with regulation and provides social opportunities.

Summer is a great time to build executive functioning skills for school but also life. If you’re interested in hearing more about NESCA’s executive functioning coaching session or real-life skills coaching, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/ or complete our Intake Form at: www.nesca-newton.com/intake.

 

About the Author

Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has worked with transition-aged youth as a licensed School Psychologist for more than a decade. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with a range of learning and social/emotional abilities. Kristen’s strengths lie in her communication and advocacy skills as well as her strengths-based approach. She is passionate about developing students’ self-awareness, goal-setting abilities, and vision through student-centered counseling, psychoeducation, social skills instruction, and executive functioning coaching. Mrs. Simon has particular interests working with children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum as well as individuals working to manage stress or anxiety-related challenges.

Mrs. Simon is an expert evaluator and observer who has extensive working knowledge of the special education process and school-based special education services, particularly in Massachusetts. She has been an integral part of hundreds of IEP teams and has helped to coordinate care, develop goals, and guide students and their families through the transition planning process. Mrs. Simon further has special expertise helping students to learn about their diagnoses and testing and the IEP process in general. She enjoys assisting students, families, and educators in understanding a student’s disability-related needs as well as the strategies that can help the student to be successful in both academic and nonacademic settings. Mrs. Simon has often been a part of teams in the years when students are initially participating in transition services, and she has helped countless students to build the skills necessary to be part of their first team meetings. She is committed to teaching students—as well as parents and educators—how to participate in student-centered team meetings and the IEP processes.

At NESCA, Mrs. Simon works as a transition specialist and psychoeducational counselor. She works with adolescents, their families, and their school communities to identify and build the skills necessary to achieve their postsecondary goals. Mrs. Simon provides transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations, and observations), program observations and evaluations, case management and consultation, and individualized counseling and skills coaching.

 

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; and staff in the greater Burlington, Vermont region and Brooklyn, New York, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

College Myth Buster – Your Child’s 504 from High School Does Not Apply in College

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S
Transition Specialist; Psychoeducational Counselor

There can be a lot of confusion for students who have received special education services or accommodations in high school about what stays the same and what changes in college. Some high school families and staff know that if a student has received IEP services throughout school, the IEP does not travel with them to college. This is because an IEP is a document that is developed in accordance with IDEA, a special education law that affords protections to students with disabilities up until they graduate or age out of their local high school. When a student transitions to work or a college or university, this law is no longer relevant and the IEP essentially “expires.”

There is often greater confusion for families around whether colleges are required to follow 504 plans (i.e., accommodation plans) developed in high school. While it’s true that students with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, it’s important to understand that high school 504 plans also effectively “expire” once a child graduates. Students can still receive accommodations under Section 504, but they are unlikely to hear the term “504” or to have any written “plan” related to their disability or those accommodations. There are some important differences between Section 504 mandates under subpart E (which covers postsecondary institutions) and those that fall under subpart D (which covers secondary schools). The key differences are described below:

  • Eligibility: Colleges and universities will have their own process for eligibility, and students have to be determined eligible by their university – even if they had been deemed eligible for accommodations in high school. Students will usually need documentation from a doctor or a psychologist that demonstrates the presence of a disability as well as how that disability substantially limits learning.
  • Available Accommodations: Colleges don’t have any obligation to provide the same services and accommodations that students may have received in high school, and not all of the accommodations provided by high schools are available at the college level. Moreover, different accommodations may be available at different colleges because the law mandates that the college provides accommodations which are “reasonable” and effective, not the best or most expensive.
  • Shift in Delivery: Professors will not automatically provide an accommodation as was the case in high school. Students have to seek out accommodations and can register for them after they are officially enrolled. At the college or university level, the expectation is that the young adult knows what support is available to them and that they self-advocate for the accommodations they need. Also, even if a student qualifies for an accommodation, they have to make the choice to actively use that accommodation – if they don’t advocate, they won’t get it.

Students should also know that while accommodations help, they can only go so far (e.g., if you don’t understand the content, having extra time on the exam won’t help). Students should be sure to connect with disability services to hear about tutoring options, academic coaching, writing centers, counseling supports, and anything else that is offered.

Resources:

U.S. Department of Education: Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education

Elizabeth Cohen Hamblet Learning Disabilities Consultant website: College Disability Accommodations Information – Elizabeth C. Hamblet (ldadvisory.com)

 

About the Author

Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has worked with transition-aged youth as a licensed School Psychologist for more than a decade. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with a range of learning and social/emotional abilities. Kristen’s strengths lie in her communication and advocacy skills as well as her strengths-based approach. She is passionate about developing students’ self-awareness, goal-setting abilities, and vision through student-centered counseling, psychoeducation, social skills instruction, and executive functioning coaching. Mrs. Simon has particular interests working with children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum as well as individuals working to manage stress or anxiety-related challenges.

Mrs. Simon is an expert evaluator and observer who has extensive working knowledge of the special education process and school-based special education services, particularly in Massachusetts. She has been an integral part of hundreds of IEP teams and has helped to coordinate care, develop goals, and guide students and their families through the transition planning process. Mrs. Simon further has special expertise helping students to learn about their diagnoses and testing and the IEP process in general. She enjoys assisting students, families, and educators in understanding a student’s disability-related needs as well as the strategies that can help the student to be successful in both academic and nonacademic settings. Mrs. Simon has often been a part of teams in the years when students are initially participating in transition services, and she has helped countless students to build the skills necessary to be part of their first team meetings. She is committed to teaching students—as well as parents and educators—how to participate in student-centered team meetings and the IEP processes.

At NESCA, Mrs. Simon works as a transition specialist and psychoeducational counselor. She works with adolescents, their families, and their school communities to identify and build the skills necessary to achieve their postsecondary goals. Mrs. Simon provides transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations, and observations), program observations and evaluations, case management and consultation, and individualized counseling and skills coaching.

 

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; 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.

 

What Every SMART Goal Needs…An Action Plan

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC
NESCA Transition Specialist/Counselor

It’s become tradition for me to make my first blog of the year about goal setting. My previous blog on this topic focused on the creation of an attainable SMART goal and breaking up a larger goal or vision into smaller chunks. However, creating a SMART goal is just the first step. Once you have a goal, you need to create your action plan. Before sharing some of my favorite strategies for creating (and following through) on action plans, let’s refresh ourselves as to what SMART goals are:

Specific – The goal should be specific. I’ll increase the distance I run is vague. Will you increase the distance by 20 feet, 2 miles? Are you planning for a marathon? How will you increase your distance? Will you increase it randomly? Will you increase the number of days you run each week, the length you run each time, or a combination of both?

Measurable – There’s a good chance that if your goal is not specific enough, it will be hard to measure if you have succeeded in that goal. So, let’s make our exercise goal both specific and measurable. I’ll increase the distance I run from 1 mile to 3.2 miles (5k).

Attainable – Attainable is the hard one for many students who are still building awareness of their strengths and challenges. Let’s say a person who has never run wants to run in the Boston Marathon. This is likely not an attainable goal, even if it is specific and measurable.

Relevant – If I am trying to increase my social circle and group leisure skills, running is unlikely to get me there. However, if, like many people, we’re trying to improve our health at the beginning of the new year, increasing the distance we run certainly will help get us there. Many young adults may need to bounce ideas off someone to ensure the goal is relevant to the area at hand.

Time-bound – Attainable and time-based work tightly together. If you do not give yourself a deadline, the goal may still be there at the end of the year. Humans work best with deadlines. We need the motivation to complete a plan, and often motivation needs a sense of urgency. When determining a deadline, it is also important to circle back and ensure that the goal is still attainable given the end date. Increasing a person’s distance from 1 mile to 3.2 miles may not be reasonable in 2 weeks but may be attainable in 3 months.

So now that we have our SMART goal:

I will increase the distance I run from 1 mile to 3.2 miles in one setting by increasing the distance I run by ¼ mile each week by April 15, 2024.

Once my students have created their SMART goal, the next step I have them do is determine the “action steps” they need to achieve to make progress towards their goal. Before the students create their action steps, I ask them to list the strengths and challenges impacting their goal progress. Using their strengths and considering their challenges allows the student to build awareness of how to select action steps and determine their frequency. For some goals, the first action step may be gathering materials (i.e., if they want to get their driver’s permit) or benchmarks they should make along the way (i.e., trying to run a 5k). Each action step should have its own deadline and be similarly measurable as the original SMART goal.

The creation of action steps allows for one of the most important and challenging aspects of achieving one’s goal: the follow-up. Periodic follow-up is essential to ensure that one is progressing as needed to achieve the goal in time. The follow-up also provides the best opportunity for skill building for current and future success. When a person is checking the status of their goal, they are asking themselves:

  • What is going well?
  • What unexpected challenges have occurred?
  • Is there anything I should do differently?
  • Do I need to add or change any action steps?
  • Am I still on target to meet my goal deadline?

Being able to ask and answer these questions can make all the difference in goal achievement.

 

About the Author

Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC, is an experienced transition evaluator and vocational counselor. While she is well-versed in supporting a wide range of transition-aged youth, she is especially passionate and knowledgeable in helping clients and their families navigate the complex systems of adult services and benefits as well as medical and mental health systems. She is further adept in working individually with students of all abilities to empower self-advocacy and goal achievement.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert transition specialists or neuropsychologists, 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; 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.

 

The Benefits of Volunteering

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S
NESCA Transition Specialist; Psychoeducational Counselor

Volunteering has many benefits for school aged students beginning to participate in transition planning. Many charities and organizations rely on volunteers to continue their services and reach more people. In general, volunteering is a great way to form community connections, achieve a sense of purpose, and boost confidence and self-esteem, all while helping those in need. In thinking about a child’s eventual transition to adulthood, there are many additional hidden benefits to volunteering.

  • Build social connections: Volunteering allows individuals to engage and connect with others in a structured environment. Working with others through task completion towards a common goal is a great way for individuals to form friendships and positive connections in a low-pressure setting.
  • Mental health benefits: Volunteering has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and loneliness. Many studies have shown that helping others and carrying out altruistic acts makes you happier. In fact, some therapists believe volunteering should be built into a treatment plan in the management of depression.
  • Employment/Transition Skills: Volunteering can help individuals build various skills that will help them in future jobs. Volunteering can help develop leadership skills, one’s ability to work in a team, customer service, following instructions, and punctuality to name a few important pre-employment skills. Volunteering helps individuals learn what type of work they enjoy through exposure to various work activities and work sites. Consistent volunteer work can also help build a young person’s resume.

It may be decided that a good match leads to long-term volunteering; however, it does not have to be a long-term commitment. Consistent volunteering can be a helpful tool in the stressful seasons of the year. Helping others can help to clear your head, reduce stress, and bring a perspective that allows you to engage more fully in your other commitments.

If your child and or family unit is looking for volunteer opportunities, you can start by contacting local animal shelters, senior centers, public libraries, community centers, or food pantries. Other websites to locate family volunteer opportunities in the greater Boston area include:

https://www.doinggoodtogether.org/family-volunteering-boston

https://community-harvest.org/

https://www.cradlestocrayons.org/boston/take-action/volunteer/

 

About the Author

Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has worked with transition-aged youth as a licensed School Psychologist for more than a decade. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with a range of learning and social/emotional abilities. Kristen’s strengths lie in her communication and advocacy skills as well as her strengths-based approach. She is passionate about developing students’ self-awareness, goal-setting abilities, and vision through student-centered counseling, psychoeducation, social skills instruction, and executive functioning coaching. Mrs. Simon has particular interests working with children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum as well as individuals working to manage stress or anxiety-related challenges.

Mrs. Simon is an expert evaluator and observer who has extensive working knowledge of the special education process and school-based special education services, particularly in Massachusetts. She has been an integral part of hundreds of IEP teams and has helped to coordinate care, develop goals, and guide students and their families through the transition planning process. Mrs. Simon further has special expertise helping students to learn about their diagnoses and testing and the IEP process in general. She enjoys assisting students, families, and educators in understanding a student’s disability-related needs as well as the strategies that can help the student to be successful in both academic and nonacademic settings. Mrs. Simon has often been a part of teams in the years when students are initially participating in transition services, and she has helped countless students to build the skills necessary to be part of their first team meetings. She is committed to teaching students—as well as parents and educators—how to participate in student-centered team meetings and the IEP processes.

At NESCA, Mrs. Simon works as a transition specialist and psychoeducational counselor. She works with adolescents, their families, and their school communities to identify and build the skills necessary to achieve their postsecondary goals. Mrs. Simon provides transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations, and observations), program observations and evaluations, case management and consultation, and individualized counseling and skills coaching.

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 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.

 

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.

 

Are You Ready for Summer?

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC
NESCA Transition Specialist/Counselor

Summer will be here before we know it! Do you have your child’s summer plans and services scheduled? NESCA offers various coaching and counseling services, from executive function and real-life skills coaching to transition counseling and career counseling for high school students and young adults who are looking for support in determining their next steps. NESCA will also be offering its transition seminars again this summer from July 10th to August 9th. Each program will meet for two hours twice a week.

It can be challenging for many of our teens and young adults to fit transition skills into their school day schedule. Additionally, most students benefit and require repeated opportunities to build skill mastery and generalize the learned skills across settings. NESCA’s summer transition programs are designed to fulfill that need. Program participants will be guided through interactive and engaging lessons with 3-6 peers to develop a detailed postsecondary vision plan that incorporates all aspects of adult life (i.e., education/training; employment; independent living; social, recreation, and leisure; and community engagement).

  • The Transition Skill Building & College Exploration seminar focuses on connecting strengths and interests to college majors and potential post-college careers. This program is an excellent fit for high school students who plan to attend a 2-year or 4-year program immediately after finishing 12th grade.
  • The Transition Skill Building & Postsecondary Options/Career Exploration seminar focuses on exploring various postsecondary options and is an ideal fit for students who plan to attend non-traditional college programing, post-12th grade transition programs, or are still exploring/undecided about their next steps.

For questions or more information about either of the Summer Transition Planning Seminars, please contact:

Crystal Jean
cjean@nesca-newton.com
617-658-9818

About NESCA’s Summer Transition Planning Seminars

NESCA’s Postsecondary Transition Specialist and Counselor Tabitha Monahan, MA, CAGS, CRC, will be leading both summer transition courses.

Transition Skill Building & College Exploration

Who: Students who are considering going directly to a 2-year or 4-year college after leaving public education

When: Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 PM ET between July 10 and August 9, 2023

Where: NESCA’s offices @ 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA

Participants Will:

  • Learn how to connect skills to college majors and potential post-college careers
  • Understand the differences between high school and college accommodations
  • Understand their current accommodations, explore those they use most and identify the most beneficial ones for success in college
  • Create a list of priorities when researching colleges; create a document to help conduct college research and when attending college tours
  • Develop a short-term goal to accomplish over the course of the program with scaffolding support to develop action steps and monitor progress

Transition Skill Building & Postsecondary Options/Career Exploration

Who: Students who plan to attend non-traditional college programming, training programs, or receive employment/day service supports after leaving public education or are still exploring/undecided about their next steps after completing 12th grade

When: Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM ET between July 10 and August 9, 2023

Where: NESCA’s offices @ 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA

Participants Will:

  • Explore postsecondary options other than college (i.e., MAICEI, Americorps, Job Corps, certificate programs, MRC and DDS programs, other resources, etc.)
  • Work through strengths and challenges with more emphasis on general job skills and independent living skills
  • Learn about transferable skills and how skill-building at school, home, and in the community connects with success
  • Discuss resume development and learn about different resume formats
  • Understand why contacts are important
  • Learn about reasonable accommodations in the workplace and rights to request accommodations
  • Talk through how and when to disclose a diagnosis(es)
  • Develop a short-term goal to accomplish over the course of the program with scaffolding support to develop action steps and monitor progress

 

 

About the Author
Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC, is an experienced transition evaluator and vocational counselor. While she is well-versed in supporting a wide range of transition-aged youth, she is especially passionate and knowledgeable in helping clients and their families navigate the complex systems of adult services and benefits as well as medical and mental health systems. She is further adept in working individually with students of all abilities to empower self-advocacy and goal achievement.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert transition specialists or 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 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.

 

Getting to Know NESCA’s Kristen Simon, M.ED, ED.S

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

Although NESCA Transition Specialist and Psychoeducational Counselor Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has been with NESCA for several months, we are thrilled to announce that she will be joining NESCA on a full-time basis early this fall. Take a few minutes to learn more about her past experience and how she shares that experience with her students here at NESCA.  

Tell us about your educational and career path.

I studied psychology and counseling in undergrad and always knew I was interested in working with children and adolescents in a school setting. I entered graduate school right out of college and got my masters in School Psychology. I wanted to be able to advocate for children with disabilities and help provide students support in the moment they needed it most. When I finished my graduate work, I started as a school psychologist in a middle school and enjoyed my 10+ years in that role very much.

During my 10+ years at the middle school level, I spent a lot of time helping students understand themselves and their disability(ies). My work was strengths-based and focused on skill-building and self-advocacy. Middle school is a difficult time for any student. It was really rewarding to be able to do individual work and skill development with this age group. This is what really drew me to counseling students on social skills, learning disabilities, etc. School psychology offers a lot of variety in the day-to-day landscape.

In your 10+ years as a school psychologist, did you see any notable patterns or changes with students?

I think all educators have noticed a significant increase in anxiety and depression among school-aged students, and we certainly saw a shift in the increased need for support at the middle school I was working at. I was lucky to work in a school that responded to this shift by hiring additional counseling staff, creating therapeutic programs, and ensuring that mental health curriculums were provided to all students.

I also shifted the way I worked with students over the course of my time as a School Psychologist and helped students see themselves as a whole person with long-term goals. Helping students learn how to set goals, make informed decisions for themselves, and communicate and self-advocate across settings became the focus for almost all students I worked with. Many students in middle school had never been to one of their IEP meetings and had limited understanding of their disability(ies) and IEP goals, or why they were working with their school service providers. In Massachusetts, students who are 14 and older are invited to be part of their Team Meetings and IEP planning, so a big part of my job was helping to prepare students to participate. Most of the students I worked with initially were only focusing on their latest math test or English project, not looking at themselves as a person with a future to look toward and plan for. I noticed that they were more interested in the transition to 9th grade than the longer-term transition to adulthood and postsecondary plans. This is how I became interested in transition work.

How did you hear about NESCA?

I did not know too much about all NESCA’s services, but I certainly had read many neuropsychological evaluation reports written by NESCA clinicians for my students. I wasn’t as familiar with NESCA’s transition services and how in-depth they are. I learned that transition covers a lot of territory, and NESCA offers a huge range of those transition services, including the gaps in the services that schools can typically offer.

How do you explain your role as a Transition Specialist and Psychoeducational Counselor?

Transition services can encompass a lot of different things. Our team does transition assessments that look at a student’s skills across the areas outlined by IDEA: education/training, independent living, employment, and community participation. I do a lot of coaching with students to help them understand themselves, develop a vision, and then support them in goal-setting, self-determination, and advocacy. Psychoeducation can also encompass a range of services including self-awareness, understanding their disability and what it means to them, learning about the brain, developing regulation or social skills, and helping students participate in their IEP process.

How do you help prepare students to be part of their own IEP process?

Often, as a school counselor and now at NESCA, I help prepare students for their first IEP meeting in middle school, or whenever they begin attending. Some students have a clear vision for themselves, and I help them with their involvement and their delivery in their IEP meeting. Other students haven’t thought about postsecondary goals at all. The approach is individualized and very different for each student.

Some of the transition specialists at NESCA were involved in the IEP Improvement Project. What are your thoughts about the new Massachusetts IEP format?

I am thrilled that some of my fellow colleagues here at NESCA were involved in the development of the new IEP format. I’m excited about the new IEP format. The new format is intended to be much more student-driven. My hope is that student voices do become a bigger part of the conversation than they are now. Currently, students may say a little here or there in their team meetings. I hope their voices and visions really become a much larger part of the IEP meeting and overall plan.

What has been the most eye-opening finding for you since joining NESCA?

The most eye-opening and truly difficult realization for me has been how many parents and caregivers struggle to support their child after High School or don’t know the resources that are available to them (or what is no longer available to them). We understand that many families are operating “in the moment” and trying to support their teen in getting through High School but transition services and the IEP process are supposed to lead toward specific goals after high school and involve linkage with community services. Graduating from High School and special education tends to be a smoother process and less overwhelming if we can work with students and families to plan for this transition as early as middle school, if not beforehand.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role with NESCA?

It’s always rewarding to help students find their voice and develop personalized goals. It has also been really rewarding to work with families to make a complicated and often overwhelming process more manageable for them.

What advice do you have for early middle school parents and caregivers?

Middle school is a great time for parents and caregivers to have conversations with their child around their IEP so they can be part of the educational decisions being made. Self-determination is a huge part of being able to succeed after high school. Middle school is a great time to help students think about and try to explain their longer-term goals and to identify the skills, actions, and steps needed to reach those goals. It’s also a great time for families to help their early-middle schooler present and participate in IEP team meetings.

 

About the Author

Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has worked with transition-aged youth as a licensed School Psychologist for more than a decade. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with a range of learning and social/emotional abilities. Kristen’s strengths lie in her communication and advocacy skills as well as her strengths-based approach. She is passionate about developing students’ self-awareness, goal-setting abilities, and vision through student-centered counseling, psychoeducation, social skills instruction, and executive functioning coaching. Mrs. Simon has particular interests working with children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum as well as individuals working to manage stress or anxiety-related challenges.

Mrs. Simon is an expert evaluator and observer who has extensive working knowledge of the special education process and school-based special education services, particularly in Massachusetts. She has been an integral part of hundreds of IEP teams and has helped to coordinate care, develop goals, and guide students and their families through the transition planning process. Mrs. Simon further has special expertise helping students to learn about their diagnoses and testing and the IEP process in general. She enjoys assisting students, families, and educators in understanding a student’s disability-related needs as well as the strategies that can help the student to be successful in both academic and nonacademic settings. Mrs. Simon has often been a part of teams in the years when students are initially participating in transition services, and she has helped countless students to build the skills necessary to be part of their first team meetings. She is committed to teaching students—as well as parents and educators—how to participate in student-centered team meetings and the IEP processes.

At NESCA, Mrs. Simon works as a transition specialist and psychoeducational counselor. She works with adolescents, their families, and their school communities to identify and build the skills necessary to achieve their postsecondary goals. Mrs. Simon provides transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations, and observations), program observations and evaluations, case management and consultation, and individualized counseling and skills coaching.

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 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.

 

Are You Ready for Summer?

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC
NESCA Transition Specialist/Counselor

It is hard to believe that April vacation is here or almost here for many students. Summer will be here before we know it! Do you have your child’s summer plans and services scheduled? NESCA offers various coaching and counseling services, from executive function and real-life skills coaching to transition counseling and career counseling for high school students and young adults who are looking for support in determining their next steps. NESCA will also be offering its transition seminars again this summer from July 10th to August 9th. Each program will meet for two hours twice a week.

It can be challenging for many of our teens and young adults to fit transition skills into their school day schedule. Additionally, most students benefit and require repeated opportunities to build skill mastery and generalize the learned skills across settings. NESCA’s summer transition programs are designed to fulfill that need. Program participants will be guided through interactive and engaging lessons with 3-6 peers to develop a detailed postsecondary vision plan that incorporates all aspects of adult life (i.e., education/training; employment; independent living; social, recreation, and leisure; and community engagement).

  • The Transition Skill Building & College Exploration seminar focuses on connecting strengths and interests to college majors and potential post-college careers. This program is an excellent fit for high school students who plan to attend a 2-year or 4-year program immediately after finishing 12th grade.
  • The Transition Skill Building & Postsecondary Options/Career Exploration seminar focuses on exploring various postsecondary options and is an ideal fit for students who plan to attend non-traditional college programing, post-12th grade transition programs, or are still exploring/undecided about their next steps.

For questions or more information about either of the Summer Transition Planning Seminars, please contact:

Crystal Jean
cjean@nesca-newton.com
617-658-9818

About NESCA’s Summer Transition Planning Seminars

NESCA’s Postsecondary Transition Specialist and Counselor Tabitha Monahan, MA, CAGS, CRC, will be leading both summer transition courses.

Transition Skill Building & College Exploration

Who: Students who are considering going directly to a 2-year or 4-year college after leaving public education

When: Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 PM ET between July 10 and August 9, 2023

Where: NESCA’s offices @ 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA

Participants Will:

  • Learn how to connect skills to college majors and potential post-college careers
  • Understand the differences between high school and college accommodations
  • Understand their current accommodations, explore those they use most and identify the most beneficial ones for success in college
  • Create a list of priorities when researching colleges; create a document to help conduct college research and when attending college tours
  • Develop a short-term goal to accomplish over the course of the program with scaffolding support to develop action steps and monitor progress

Transition Skill Building & Postsecondary Options/Career Exploration

Who: Students who plan to attend non-traditional college programming, training programs, or receive employment/day service supports after leaving public education or are still exploring/undecided about their next steps after completing 12th grade

When: Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM ET between July 10 and August 9, 2023

Where: NESCA’s offices @ 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA

Participants Will:

  • Explore postsecondary options other than college (i.e., MAICEI, Americorps, Job Corps, certificate programs, MRC and DDS programs, other resources, etc.)
  • Work through strengths and challenges with more emphasis on general job skills and independent living skills
  • Learn about transferable skills and how skill-building at school, home, and in the community connects with success
  • Discuss resume development and learn about different resume formats
  • Understand why contacts are important
  • Learn about reasonable accommodations in the workplace and rights to request accommodations
  • Talk through how and when to disclose a diagnosis(es)
  • Develop a short-term goal to accomplish over the course of the program with scaffolding support to develop action steps and monitor progress

 

 

About the Author
Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC, is an experienced transition evaluator and vocational counselor. While she is well-versed in supporting a wide range of transition-aged youth, she is especially passionate and knowledgeable in helping clients and their families navigate the complex systems of adult services and benefits as well as medical and mental health systems. She is further adept in working individually with students of all abilities to empower self-advocacy and goal achievement.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert transition specialists or 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 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.

 

Preparing Students for First Team Meetings and the Transition to High School

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S
Transition Specialist

With Spring right around the corner, eighth grade students will begin to prepare for a transition to a new building. For students on IEPs, this means shifting to a new team and planning for supports that will help your child adapt and thrive in a new setting with different adults and expectations. Eighth grade IEP transition meetings tend to begin in March or April after students have had exposure to courses that are required and available in their ninth grade year. For many eighth grade students in special education, the transition meeting is one of the first IEP meetings they are invited to participate in. How can we help middle school students to prepare for and engage in this meeting?

Participating in IEP meetings is a great way for eighth grade students to build self-determination skills. Self-determination is a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that help an individual gain autonomy and allows them to set their own goals, make thoughtful decisions, and manage their own life. Research has shown that for students with disabilities, this set of skills leads to both more positive adult outcomes (employment, higher wages, better living situation) and a higher quality of life (increased satisfaction, community engagement, independence, and productivity) Wehmeyer & Schwarz, 1997. For the middle school student craving independence, this can be the perfect time to build and strengthen this set of skills. We can prepare students to engage in their IEP meeting in a multitude of ways.

  1. Familiarize your child with their IEP, including their disability, what teachers do to help in (or outside of) the classroom as well as the goals that they have been working on with special education teachers or related personnel.
  2. Ask for the agenda ahead of time and review how the meeting will run and what adults will be present. It might be helpful for special educators/related service providers to demonstrate a “mock IEP meeting” to allow a safe space for students to ask questions and plan for or rehearse how they’d like to participate.
  3. Use visual maps or outlines to summarize their current transition planning forms. Their vision will help them develop the questions they’d like to ask high school staff. Examples of these types of questions might include: What classes in robotics or coding are available, and when can I take those? Is there a debate team, and how can I be a part of that? How do I join one of the after-school clubs? How do I make sure that a digital art class fits in my schedule?

These same maps can be used to discuss what kinds of academic support will they need with the type and level of classes they are
choosing. While students will have academic supports built into their service delivery, it can also be helpful to know about any additional high school academic supports, such as a writing center, student mentoring, career exploration opportunities, etc.

  1. If your child tends to have difficulty adapting to or has anxiety around change, students should work with team members to brainstorm supports that might be helpful in making the transition to high school more successful. Cueing students to think back to previous changes or first days of school can help them initiate this task. Students might request to meet with their point person before the end of their eighth grade year, participate in a small group or personalized tour of the new building/campus, identify someone who can help the student navigate the cafeteria on the first few days or maybe identify an alternative lunch space. Additionally, students might want to ask if there are programs happening over the summer in the high school building that will help the student acclimate to their new school before the start date.

After the transition meeting is over, it can be helpful for students and family members to create a chart that outlines the student’s questions and who their point person would be. For example, if I have a question about my schedule, I should find Mr./Mrs. ______. This chart should also include their email and list where their office can be found in the building. Empowering students to use this reference guide with guiding questions even before the year ends will further strengthen both their self-advocacy and self-determination skills.

 

About the Author

Kristen Simon, M.Ed, Ed.S, has worked with transition-aged youth as a licensed School Psychologist for more than a decade. She has extensive experience working with children and adolescents with a range of learning and social/emotional abilities. Kristen’s strengths lie in her communication and advocacy skills as well as her strengths-based approach. She is passionate about developing students’ self-awareness, goal-setting abilities, and vision through student-centered counseling, psychoeducation, social skills instruction, and executive functioning coaching. Mrs. Simon has particular interests working with children and adolescents on the Autism spectrum as well as individuals working to manage stress or anxiety-related challenges.

Mrs. Simon is an expert evaluator and observer who has extensive working knowledge of the special education process and school-based special education services, particularly in Massachusetts. She has been an integral part of hundreds of IEP teams and has helped to coordinate care, develop goals, and guide students and their families through the transition planning process. Mrs. Simon further has special expertise helping students to learn about their diagnoses and testing and the IEP process in general. She enjoys assisting students, families, and educators in understanding a student’s disability-related needs as well as the strategies that can help the student to be successful in both academic and nonacademic settings. Mrs. Simon has often been a part of teams in the years when students are initially participating in transition services, and she has helped countless students to build the skills necessary to be part of their first team meetings. She is committed to teaching students—as well as parents and educators—how to participate in student-centered team meetings and the IEP processes.

At NESCA, Mrs. Simon works as a transition specialist and psychoeducational counselor. She works with adolescents, their families, and their school communities to identify and build the skills necessary to achieve their postsecondary goals. Mrs. Simon provides transition assessment (including testing, functional evaluations, and observations), program observations and evaluations, case management and consultation, and individualized counseling and skills coaching.

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

 

What Every SMART Goal Needs…An Action Plan

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC
NESCA Transition Specialist/Counselor

It’s become somewhat of a New Year’s tradition for me to make my first blog of the year about goal setting. Last year, the blog focused on the creation of an attainable SMART goal and breaking up a larger goal or vision into smaller chunks. However, creating a SMART goal is just the first step. Once you have a goal, you need to create your action plan. Before sharing some of my favorite strategies for creating (and following through) on action plans, let’s refresh ourselves as to what SMART goals are:

Specific – The goal should be specific. I’ll increase the distance I run is vague. Will you increase the distance by 20 feet, 2 miles? Are you planning for a marathon? How will you increase your distance? Will you increase it randomly? Will you increase the number of days you run each week, the length you run each time, or a combination of both?

Measurable – There’s a good chance that if your goal is not specific enough, it will be hard to measure if you have succeeded in that goal. So, let’s make our exercise goal both specific and measurable. I’ll increase the distance I run from 1 mile to 3.2 miles (5k).

Attainable – Attainable is the hard one for many students who are still building awareness of their strengths and challenges. Let’s say a person who has never run wants to run in the Boston Marathon. This is likely not an attainable goal, even if it is specific and measurable.

Relevant – If I am trying to increase my social circle and group leisure skills, running is unlikely to get me there. However, if, like many people, we’re trying to improve our health at the beginning of the new year, increasing the distance we run certainly will help get us there. Many young adults may need to bounce ideas off someone to ensure the goal is relevant to the area at hand.

Time-bound – Attainable and time-based work tightly together. If you do not give yourself a deadline, the goal may still be there at the end of the year. Humans work best with deadlines. We need the motivation to complete a plan, and often motivation needs a sense of urgency. When determining a deadline, it is also important to circle back and ensure that the goal is still attainable given the end date. Increasing a person’s distance from 1 mile to 3.2 miles may not be reasonable in 2 weeks but may be attainable in 3 months.

So now that we have our SMART goal:

I will increase the distance I run from 1 mile to 3.2 miles in one setting by increasing the distance I run by ¼ mile each week by April 15, 2023.

Once my students have created their SMART goal, the next step I have them do is determine the “action steps” they need to achieve to make progress towards their goal. Before the students create their action steps, I ask them to list the strengths and challenges impacting their goal progress. Using their strengths and considering their challenges allows the student to build awareness of how to select action steps and determine their frequency. For some goals, the first action step may be gathering materials (i.e., if they want to get their driver’s permit) or benchmarks they should make along the way (i.e., trying to run a 5k). Each action step should have its own deadline and be similarly measurable as the original SMART goal.

The creation of action steps allows for one of the most important and challenging aspects of achieving one’s goal: the follow-up. Periodic follow-up is essential to ensure that one is progressing as needed to achieve the goal in time. The follow-up also provides the best opportunity for skill building for current and future success. When a person is checking the status of their goal, they are asking themselves:

  • What is going well?
  • What unexpected challenges have occurred?
  • Is there anything I should do differently?
  • Do I need to add or change any action steps?
  • Am I still on target to meet my goal deadline?

Being able to ask and answer these questions can make all the difference in goal achievement.

 

About the Author

Tabitha Monahan, M.A., CAGS, CRC, is an experienced transition evaluator and vocational counselor. While she is well-versed in supporting a wide range of transition-aged youth, she is especially passionate and knowledgeable in helping clients and their families navigate the complex systems of adult services and benefits as well as medical and mental health systems. She is further adept in working individually with students of all abilities to empower self-advocacy and goal achievement.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert transition specialists or neuropsychologists, please complete our 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, 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.