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self-compassion

A Little Coaching for Caretakers Goes a Long Way When Building Executive Function Skills for Students

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By Jasmine Badamo, MA
Educational Counselor; Executive Function Coach

In my work as an executive function tutor, a priority is to foster collaborations with the other adults in my clients’ lives. Every relationship brings something different to a young person: different perspectives, areas of expertise, support abilities, opportunities for conflict management, etc. But while every person in your child’s life plays a unique role in their growth, family members often serve as the “control tower” for communication between the various environments of a child’s life. That’s why, of all the collaborations I engage in, parent/guardian collaboration can have the most significant impact on my clients’ executive functioning progress.

When I start working with an executive function client, I work to establish a clear line of communication with caregivers at the outset so they are well-informed of our session work. But direct parent/guardian coaching allows for collaboration on a much deeper and consistent level. Similar to executive function tutoring, parent/guardian coaching is regularly scheduled, has established goals, and serves as a space to discover and learn different strategies for supporting executive functioning skill development. Furthermore, because of the individualized nature of coaching, it can address a wide range of family needs, such as assistance with school documentation; brainstorming and creating home supports for a neurodivergent child; receiving reassurance and guidance in difficult-to-navigate or novel parenting situations; and managing your own daily demands so that you have more bandwidth for supporting your child, etc.

Here are some example situations demonstrating when and how parent/guardian coaching can have a big impact:

→ Your child is in elementary school and is still developing their self-awareness and ability to self-reflect. In their weekly executive function tutoring, they cannot always accurately self-report the daily demands they face or struggle with. You’ve set up brief weekly parent/guardian coaching in order to share important background/contextual updates that will help me direct my tutoring focus and strategy suggestions. I offer weekly tips that help you to practice accurate self-reflection with your child. It also allows you to share any new concerns that arise.

→ Your 9th grade child has been working with an executive function tutor for a little over a year now and has learned several executive function management strategies. They’ve reached the point in their development where they need to generalize their knowledge. You’ve decided to start parent/guardian coaching because you are uniquely positioned to support this generalization at home. I touch base with school staff to also support generalization at school.

→ Your high school child is struggling with executive functioning, and you want them to get support, but they are not open to meeting with an executive function tutor. You start parent/guardian coaching in order to learn concrete strategies to support your child with the executive function demands of school and home. The parent coaching is also helping you to reflect on the ways you can facilitate a better communication dynamic with your child.

As you can see in the above examples, even though the coaching sessions are attended by the parent/guardian, the purpose of the work is to supplement the executive function (EF) development of your child. Here are just a few ways in which parent/guardian coaching contributes to your child’s success. Coaching can:

→ help you further create a home environment that is supportive of your child’s EF needs and skill development

→ help you know how to “lend” your prefrontal cortex to your child in a way that reduces overwhelm, but still provides limits so that they have opportunities to develop and practice skills for managing EF tasks with greater independence

→ help you expand your strategies for responding to challenges or conflicts that arise while working on EF goals between tutoring sessions

→ help you know how to prioritize your focus in supporting your child’s goals (there are so many resources, it can be a challenge to know which to start with)

→ help you use strategies that promote a mindset of growth, reflection, and self-compassion (all important for your child’s EF skill development)

→ help normalize the act of receiving help and support. Your commitment to coaching models for your child the importance of getting support for your needs, being open to feedback, and embracing personal change/growth.

The list can go on because the opportunity to work with clients and caretakers in tandem offers exponential benefits for the client. What parent/guardian coaching does on a fundamental level is support families in developing a new filter, perspective, and framework for approaching and supporting the young person’s executive function needs.

 

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, 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.

Shouldn’t We All Get Neuropsychological Evaluations, Then?

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Yvonne Asher, Ph.D.
NESCA Pediatric Neuropsychologist

One frequent question I have been asked by parents following a neuropsychological evaluation is, “Wouldn’t this process be helpful for everyone?” This tends to come up around the issue of disclosing results of an evaluation to children and teenagers and helping them better understand “how their brain works.” Many families with whom I have had the privilege of working come back months or years later with siblings of an initial client, noting that the process was so valuable the first time, they are hoping for a similar experience for their other child or children.

So, should we all get neuropsychological evaluations? Largely, I think this question is motivated by parents who are eager to help their children understand their own strengths and weaknesses. This is a wonderful goal, as self-understanding is one of the most valuable and lifelong gifts we can give our children.

In my experience, many people come to this kind of self-understanding naturally, over time, through experiences in adolescence and young adulthood. In particular, experiences that involve more independence in living and learning promote this kind of understanding. During childhood, we may learn our relative skill among family members (“I’m good at soccer, and my sibling is good at piano”), but these relative differences may not hold once we leave our family of origin. Many people venture out into the world and find that, compared to their peers, they are actually quite skilled at getting groups of friends together, doing everyday math, putting their thoughts down in writing, or staying organized. These real-world strengths often reflect the strengths that could be found through formal evaluation. As we gain self-understanding, we may be prompted to enter certain professions, take on particular hobbies, or pursue friends and partners with specific traits.

A neuropsychological evaluation can “speed up” the process of self-understanding, giving some young people a head start on the identity formation process that naturally occurs during adolescence. For some, this head start is vital – their brains are structured in ways that present clear, observable differences between them and their peers. This may be the case with diagnoses like autism spectrum disorder, a learning disability, or ADHD. For these individuals, the feedback from a neuropsychological evaluation can (under the best of circumstances) stave off feelings of inadequacy, negative self-esteem, and shame, helping a young person to recognize the deeply important strengths that are present alongside their more observable challenges. In these cases, a neuropsychological evaluation is not only for self-understanding, but also for self-compassion. Our goal as neuropsychologists in these cases is not just to help the child or teen understand themselves, but also to be gentle and kind with how they view their difficulties. Our hope is that, when these individuals venture out of their families and into the broader world, they are able to show resiliency in the face of the obstacles that will almost certainly be present.

 

About the Author

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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

 

But First, Settle into the New Normal

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Let’s face it, parents have a big job to do when life is “normal,” never mind when we are living in this new normal. Parents are being bombarded with information from every corner of your life—even all of us at NESCA are blogging every day to help parents with information. Packets of educational information are being sent home, online learning classes are being arranged, etc. Talk about information overload. Are you feeling overwhelmed or saturated yet? Do you need a break from it all, even though we are only in week two of this pandemic in the United States?  Some parents are worried about their child’s education and, perhaps, their special education services. I get it. Many federal and state agencies as well as local school districts are trying to figure this out as we speak. This is a time to exercise patience with yourself, your leaders and your family members as we figure this new normal out.

Many of you are not teachers and, even if you are a teacher, teaching your own child is different than teaching your class. To your son/daughter, you are mom/dad—not their teacher.  So, trying on this new role isn’t going to be easy. If you aren’t a teacher, you may feel ill-equipped or may not even not know where to begin in doing these new educational tasks with your children. Even in the best of circumstances, children may “regress” or not learn new content during this time period. It is what it is. They can learn new and different things that aren’t in this realm—something we’ll continue to elaborate on in future blogs.

In the midst of this new normal, you are also home trying to figure out your own new rhythm of working from home or being unemployed, etc. Take the next few weeks to settle into this new normal. We are creating new rhythms as we are all at home trying to work, play, live and love each other. Most importantly during this time, don’t forget to enjoy each other, love each other and have some fun. Given all the tasks being asked of you, be realistic. Ask yourself what you are capable of doing given your circumstances and life realities. Don’t set your expectations too high, or you will be disappointed. Try to create structure out of chaos before you even begin to “be your child’s teacher.”

Words of advice:

  • Smile each day upon waking – make the best of the day
  • Live in the moment – one day at a time
  • Have fun and laugh every day – create moments of laughter and joy, as these are the moments that will be remembered
  • Breathe, and do it deliberately – use a reminder on your smart watch, fitness tracker or phone
  • Communicate honestly with each other
  • Be flexible – know there will be curveballs thrown your way
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself and your family members

These helpful hints will hopefully make each day go a little smoother! We are all in this together.

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

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.

 

Now is a Great Time to Practice Self-compassion

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Cynthia Hess, PsyD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow

In this new era of social distancing, and where homeschooling has gone from being an exception to a new way of life, many are feeling confused, overwhelmed and wondering what to do next. Many parents have found themselves adrift in a sea of uncertainty without a compass. In her New York Times article titled, I Refuse to Run a Coronavirus Home School, Dr. Jennie Weiner discusses the perils of comparing ourselves with other parents on social media and of setting unrealistic expectations that we are going to navigate this wild period of uncertainty perfectly and with grace. Parents who are working at home may be feeling as though they are unable to meet the demands of parenting, teaching, and performing at their jobs, leading to feelings of inadequacy. About her own family’s experience, she states, “We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, [her kids] punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.”

Within the context of uncertainty and inevitable change, there are opportunities to help kids develop important life skills. While reading and math are certainly an important part of a child’s education, there are many “soft skills” that lead to healthy outcomes in life. At school these softer skills are nurtured when children are asked to wait patiently in line; whether it’s for gym class, lunch or a turn on the swing. In the classroom they are expected to listen to others, raise their hand or wait to be called on by their teacher. Navigating these tasks requires children to monitor their behavior, plan for when it’s their turn, direct their attention to their goals and be respectful. Many of these soft skills are already practiced at home and in the course of everyday life. Children are learning while waiting for their turn to play a game or watch a show. They are also learning while waiting for a parent to play a game, watch a show or read a book with them. Times like these can be very challenging for children and their parents, but learning to manage the often-inevitable frustration, anger and/or disappointment, helps children become more resilient and self-reliant – skills that are not always overtly taught, but are important as children continue to grow into adulthood. Be gentle with yourself knowing that at any given moment you are doing your best, and that is good enough.

As we all head down this path of uncertainty, Dr. Weiner suggests that we meet this new challenge head on, holding our breath, crossing our fingers and accepting that it’s going to be messy and that is okay. At the end of the day, tell yourself gently: “I love you. You did the best you could today, and even if you didn’t accomplish all you had planned, I love you anyway.”

To read Dr. Weiner’s article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/coronavirus-home-school.html?referringSource=articleShare

 

About the Author

Dr. Cynthia Hess recently graduated from Rivier University with a PsyD in Counseling and School Psychology. Previously, she earned an M.A. from Antioch New England in Applied Psychology. She also worked as an elementary school counselor and school psychologist for 15 years before embarking on her doctorate. During her doctorate, she did her pre-doctoral internship with RIT in Rochester, N.Y. where she worked with youth ages 5-17 who had experienced complex developmental trauma. Dr. Hess’s first post-doctoral fellowship was with The Counseling Center of New England where she provided psychotherapy and family therapy to children ages 5-18, their families and young adults. She also trained part-time with a pediatric neuropsychologist conducting neuropsychological evaluations. Currently, Dr. Hess is a second-year post-doctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychological assessment, working with NESCA Londonderry’s Dr. Angela Currie and Dr. Jessica Geragosian.

 

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