NESCA is currently booking for in-person Real-life Skills and Executive Function Coaching in the Newton, MA office! Our experienced occupational therapists work alongside individuals to achieve their personalized goals, which often address functional life skills that allow them to thrive in their homes, schools, and communities. For those not local to Newton, MA, remote services are also offered. Click here for more information. To inquire about our coaching services, complete our Intake Form.

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real-life skills

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.

Registering for Spring Classes: Tips and Tricks

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

I previously wrote a blog, “Why a task is never just a simple task,” in which we broke down all the demands involved in a seemingly simple writing assignment. As the holidays begin to approach and the fall semester starts to wind down at colleges across the country, students face another seemingly simple task: spring registration. I cannot count the times recently I’ve asked a client, “Is everything set up for class registration?” For a majority of college students, the topic sparks an anxious flutter in their chest, and for students who experience the additional hurdle of executive function challenges, it can be even more daunting.

So to all you college students out there, I dedicate this blog to you. Here are five tips for surviving the class registration process:

  1. Know your important dates and requirements.
  • Look through your school’s academic calendar and make note of important dates: advising appointments, class registration window, add/drop deadline, etc. Some of these deadlines can coincide with busy academic times of the semester, and if you don’t set a reminder for yourself ahead of time, they can be easy to miss.
    • **Fun Fact** your personal registration date is likely based on how many credits you’ve completed so far.
    • **Even more of a Fun Fact** you may have to go on a virtual “wild goose chase” to track down said date. Don’t give up until you find it!
  • Be clear on your credit and course requirements for both graduation and the major you have declared. Depending on your college and major, you may have more or less wiggle room with the number of credits you take each semester, or with the order in which you take certain classes. It’s becoming common for student portals to have a “DegreeWorks” section that clearly lays out the specific requirements that apply to you and shows your progress towards meeting those requirements. This also helps students get a better sense of the big picture, which can demystify the class registration process, and help them make more informed class choices for next semester.
  1. Plan ahead.
  • The class registration process is heavily multi-step, and therefore virtually impossible to complete in one day, so please don’t do that to yourself. Make sure you start planning at least two weeks in advance. Some of the things you need to prepare for include:
    • Knowing which website or portal to go to for class registration and making sure you are familiar with how to log in and navigate it.
    • Having a class wish list prepared, ranked in order of priority so you know which classes to try to snag first. It’s helpful to create this list with an academic advisor.
    • Clearing any financial or academic holds on your account (e.g., some colleges require you to meet with an advisor to be eligible to register for classes). You don’t want to be trying to clear holds on the actual registration day.
    • Knowing who to reach out to if things go awry on registration day…say the internet crashes; you spill a Starbucks iced soy milk latte on your laptop; you mix up the dates and miss your registration window…want me to keep going? 
  1. After you plan, make a backup plan…but be chill about it.
  • You can clear every hold, prepare an airtight class list, wake up at the crack of dawn, and click the “register” button the millisecond your registration window opens…and still not get all the classes you wanted (the universe is awesome like that sometimes).
  • This isn’t to say that thought, care, and planning are not needed, BUT it’s helpful to remind yourself that it’s OK if things don’t go exactly according to plan.
    • Although your class registration window marks the start of when you can register for classes, the add/drop window typically goes into the first or second week of the semester. And leading up to the semester, many students will be shifting their schedules around, so the classes you need may open up. AKA, there’s time to tweak things; it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have your schedule fully set by the end of your class registration window.
  • So what I’m saying is: make a backup plan, but it doesn’t have to be an entire 50-step tactical plan for world domination. Instead, focus on making a list of a few alternative courses that would still fulfill some of your general or major requirements. If it’s too stressful to do that, your backup plan can simply be, “I am going to check back with the portal every couple of days to see if any classes opened up,” or “I am going to nag my advisor to help me get this sorted,” or “I am going to vent to my executive function coach about this, then figure it out together.”
  1. Ask for help, and don’t be shy.
  • Most incoming first-year students are guided through their first semester’s class registration at some point during their orientation process. However, once you become a full-fledged college student, you’re expected to manage your own tasks and proactively advocate for yourself. Just because no one reaches out to tell you about a requirement or deadline does not mean that you will not be held to it.
    • No, you are not the only one struggling with this. No, everyone else does NOT have it all figured out. No, people will not think you’re silly for asking for clarity or help with this stuff. Do not hesitate to ask. for. help.
  • Depending on the college and major, academic advising can be your best friend, or a source of frustration and confusion. If you’re not getting the clarity and support you need from advising, don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone and everyone who may be of help, including:
    • Student Accessibility Services
    • Student Portal / DegreeWorks
    • A favorite professor
    • Friends in your same college / major
    • Slightly older family members who have gone through this
    • Your executive function coach (hint, hint, hiiiiiiint)
  1. Honor yourself and your needs.
  • There is more than one way to do college. More and more, the 4-year college goalpost is becoming a thing of the past. Think outside the box for ways to get your credits. Fall and Spring are not the only semesters (there’s summer I, summer II, and even winter break semesters), and your primary college is not the only place you can take classes.
  • Think about how you learn best and honor that. If you do better spreading out those heavy pre-med classes rather than taking them all at once, do that! If you struggle with big lecture-style courses, balance them out with smaller discussion-based classes. If you know getting out of your head and into your body helps your mental stamina, sign up for a one-credit pass/fail dance class…or a badminton club since badminton is the greatest sport of all time, and no, I will not explain myself! There is no right or wrong way to do this. Be flexible, honor yourself and your needs, and do what best helps you reach your goals.

 

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

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

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

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

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

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

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

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

 

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

 

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

NESCA Offers Vermont-based Transition and Coaching Services

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

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

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

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

What services do you offer?

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

What type of client does NESCA serve in Vermont?

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

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

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

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

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

Does insurance cover your services in Vermont?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

Why Knowing Yourself and Saying No Matters to Neurodivergent Individuals

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Tutor

The ability to say “no” and honor your limits is a beautifully powerful skill that we can all benefit from. In a productivity-focused culture where today’s 40-hour work week is roughly equivalent to a 160-hour work week in 1950’s time (read more in Devon Price’s Laziness Does Not Exist), it’s easy to ignore our limits and put pressure on ourselves to perform at an otherworldly capacity.

While life requires all of us to push ourselves at times, it is impossible to work at 100% capacity 100% of the time. And by saying no, or deciding where to strategically place your energy, you leave yourself with the bandwidth and energy needed to be more effective and consistent in the activities that are priorities to you.

This is definitely not the first time you’ve heard these ideas. However, today I’d like to focus on why saying no and honoring your limits can be especially important for neurodivergent individuals.

Neurodiversity is the natural brain diversity that exists within the human population, similar to other forms of human diversity. The terms “neurodivergent,” “neurominority,” or “neurovariant” typically refer to individuals with a brain makeup that falls outside of the statistical majority of human neurotypes. Being a neurominority is not a problem, nor is it something to overcome. However, being a minority often means having to function within a world that is generally not designed by or for you.

Because of this, neurodivergent individuals are often implicitly or explicitly taught to modify their thoughts and actions to better fit their environment. Instead of being able to honor their individual needs and boundaries, they are frequently asked to push themselves beyond their limits. While every person—neurodivergent or not—must operate outside their comfort zone at times, for neurodivergent individuals it can become a default way of life. This is exhausting and can result in burnout.

During intake sessions with new clients, I make it a point to clarify that I’m not here to “cure” ADHD, autism, or a learning disability. I’m here to help reduce, and also cope with, the disconnect between the client, their environment, and the activities they are being asked to regularly manage. Together we find ways to make the environment better fit the individual and their needs, and then (and only then) we will implement strategies for navigating the remaining barriers to reaching their goals.

And in order to make the environment better fit the individual, each client needs to figure out what works for them and, most importantly, what does NOT work for them. For some neurodivergent folk, it can be truly ground-breaking to ask themselves, “What about my environment or current activities is not working for me? What can I start to say ‘no’ to?” It’s an important step in learning more about yourself and how your brain works, and what is sustainable for you (not someone else).

This can be hard, especially if your productivity or ability to “keep up” with others has become a pattern—or even a part of your identity. Learning to say no and to let go of not only what others regularly ask of you, but also what you have become accustomed to asking of yourself, takes time, patience, and practice.

Remember, you wouldn’t begrudge a cactus for wilting if it were asked to constantly absorb more water than its capacity, or if it didn’t get the amount of sun it required. And once you provide that cactus with the specific and appropriate external conditions, it will be able to flourish and show the world all the unique beauty it has to offer.

All of this is much easier said than done, but one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being able to join clients as they learn how to work with their brains, accept their specific way of being in the world, and start to say no to the rest.

To read more on this topic:
https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Laziness-Does-Not-Exist/Devon-Price/9781797120591

If your child, teen, or young adult needs support in this realm, complete our online Intake Form to learn more about NESCA’s Executive Function and Real-life Skills Coaching.

 

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

 

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.

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

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

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

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Breakfast:

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

 Snack:

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

Lunch:

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

 Snack:

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

 Dinner:

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

 Grocery List:

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

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

 

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Role Play:

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

Classmate: Hi, Jane! I’m Sarah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classmate: Perfect. I’ll see you then!

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

Classmate: See you then, Jane!

 

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Subject: Request for an Extension on Project Submission

Dear Professor [Name],

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

 

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Introduction

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

Relevant experience and skills

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

Passion for coffee and the Starbucks brand

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

Availability and willingness to learn

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

Closing

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

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

 

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

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.

The Importance of SMEDMERTS

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

While supporting a friend who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have come to appreciate how challenging it is for people with this disorder to maintain a stable mood state. One of the most helpful resources I discovered in my search for information to help me support my friend was a TEDx talk by Ellen Forney, an author who has successfully managed her bipolar disorder for two decades by following SMEDMERTS, an acronym for: Sleep, Medication, Eat Well, Doctor/therapy, Mindfulness/Meditation, Exercise, Routine, Tools (coping), and Support System. I was struck that only 25% of the solution for managing her mental illness involves the mental health system: medication and doctor. The bulk of her treatment system relates to lifestyle choices.

While attention to SMEDMERTS is important for all of us, especially in these stressful times, consistent focus on these lifestyle choices is particularly critical for the many children and adolescents who we see at NESCA presenting with anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, and behavioral issues. Most of us struggle to achieve our daily goals for sleep, diet, meditation, exercise, sticking to a routine, practicing adaptive coping strategies, and nurturing our support system, even though we know how much better we feel and how much better our children function when we are focused on SMEDMERTS in our daily life. While the impact of medications and doctors on functioning is largely outside of our control, we can control our lifestyle choices, which are critical to the success of managing any mental health issue.

How can we help the children in our lives to embrace SMEDMERTS?

  • Modeling it for them. As Robert Fulgham said, “Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
  • Praising their efforts. Offer positive feedback, such as, “Great idea to get up early to go for a run,” or, “I like how you called a friend when you were upset to get some advice.”
  • Enlisting the help of a coach. NESCA offers real-life skills coaching, executive functioning coaching, and health coaching to help children, adolescents, and young adults build and maintain habits to support positive lifestyle choices.

Health coaching is available to parents of NESCA clients who are seeking support in developing positive health habits, such as exercise, diet, stress management, and meditation.

If you are interested in coaching services at NESCA to support your quest for SMEDMERTS, please contact Crystal Jean: cjean@nesca-newton.com or fill out our intake form at www.nesca-newton.com.

 

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.

To book an evaluation with one of NESCA’s many 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, 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.

College Freshman and Executive Function: The Often Unexpected Demands

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Executive Function: Skill Building and Maintenance over the Summer

By | NESCA Notes 2022

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

With summer right around the corner, many students are thinking of warm evenings outside, days at the beach, pool or park, summer camps, and summer jobs. For parents, summer can sometimes feel like both a time of fun and a time of struggling to keep up with skills mastered and learned throughout the past school year, all while acclimating to a completely new summer routine. While some students receive summer services to keep up with important academic and executive function skills, there are absolutely ways for us to help support children and adolescents at home. Consider these three ways to incorporate executive function skill building into your child’s summer.

  1. Plan and Complete a Project – Work with your child to brainstorm a project that they would like to complete this summer. Some examples include having a lemonade stand, building a tree fort, doing a full bedroom makeover, or raising money for a cause they care about. Help your child figure out how to put together a plan to complete their goal. This will likely include a timeline complete with a comprehensive “To Do List,” a list of materials or supplies, and a list of people they may need to ask for help. The more intentional the planning of these steps is, the more a child will internalize the level of planning and prioritization that goes into accomplishing such a goal. You may need to jump in to help, but take every opportunity to defer to them and let them actively think things through before making suggestions or solving problems for them. Planning and executing a personal summer project helps to build organization, planning and prioritizing, flexible thinking, working memory, and task initiation.
  2. Organize a Family Outing – Summer can absolutely be a whirlwind, but reserve a day in the calendar for your child to plan a family outing or activity. This could be as big as a full day at the beach or as simple as a trip to lunch at their favorite restaurant. Help them think through everything that will be needed. What time will we leave? How long will it take to get there? How can you find that information? Should we check Google Maps together? How will we pay for the meal? By guiding your child through all of the steps before these activities, you help them recognize the level of planning and forethought that is necessary. For older children or adolescents, consider giving them a budget and asking them to plan a family outing independently, taking into account each family member’s preferences and schedules.
  3. Add a Weekly Task – During the school year, parents often do not have time to add chores or anything new at all to their child’s calendar. Dinners are often prepared and eaten on the fly between rehearsals, appointments, practices, and homework, and laundry gets done when someone has a free moment. Summer can be a great time of the year to add in an expectation for students who have been a bit overloaded with homework or other distractions. Consider adding a weekly task that student both need to complete and figuring out a way to remember (often a digital reminder!). One of my favorite options is to have a student cook a meal for the family one night per week. Have them set an alarm for 12pm that day, or even the day before, that prompts them to “figure out the plan for dinner.” This may look drastically different at various ages. An eight-year-old may be very proud of themselves for serving boxed macaroni and cheese (made with supervision), while a high school student may be up for trying to recreate a family recipe. The goal is not a gourmet Tuesday night meal, but practice with prior planning, sequencing, following directions, and building time management skills.

Incorporating children and adolescents into the planning, hard work, and many executive function tasks that go in to making a summer run smoothly allows them to build skills naturally. By handing down responsibility and increasing expectations bit by bit, we can allow our students to build their skills slowly and confidently. It’s important that students realize all of these many steps before they are expected to do everything on their own. Often, allowing children to feel this level of control and responsibility leads them to feel quite accomplished and proud of themselves! If you feel that facilitating this may be tricky, consider reaching out about executive function coaching, as all of these strategies can be practiced one-on-one with a coach!

 

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

 

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

 

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