social emotional learning

Changing Habits to Become a More Effective Student

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS
Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

In 1989, Stephen Covey wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and it continues to be a book that is still relevant today, used by many Fortune 500 companies. He was a change-agent, a best-selling author, educator, and business leader, and through his down-to-earth approach, he created a wave of change. He helped people think about “being good” and create habits from the human race’s best instincts. He was named one of the 25 most influential people by TIME magazine in 1996 and authored numerous books that highlight his “inside out” approach to change. He thought who you are and how you view the world is at the core of how you engage with the world. This is such a simple view yet so powerful and one that holds much truth. He thought change started internally and by developing those 7 habits was the way to create a world that functioned better and in more of an us/we mentality versus a me/my mentality. He developed programs, led workshops and inspired change in children and adults. There are curriculums that have been developed for use with children through young adults in schools and colleges. These programs created individual change as well as cultural and system change.

His work has been changing the world one person at a time through his books and his programs for years. He believed that organizational behavior was individualized behavior. His 7 habits of being are about taking responsibility for oneself and through this creating a community of mutual goals, trust and more. In schools, the programs include developing behavioral change through the development of new habits and 5 core paradigms. The five paradigms are:

  1. Everyone can be a leader; NOT Leadership is for the few;
  2. Everyone has genius; NOT A few people are gifted;
  3. Change starts with me; NOT To improve schools the system needs to change first;
  4. Educators empower students to lead their own learning; NOT Educators control and direct student learning; and
  5. Develop the whole person; NOT Focus solely on academic achievement.

These paradigm shifts guide administrators and educators to see and think differently about how they see their role, student potential and the school culture. It allows all students whether they have disabilities or not to be valued, included and take ownership for themselves and each other, and change the culture of the class and school. The 7 habits of highly effective people are:

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is as important as academics, if not more important. Many schools have goals related to SEL, and the vision statements of many districts reflect that. Most vision statements express something like, “We prepare students to be life-long learners who contribute to a global world and demonstrate respect and acceptance for the diversity of our humanity.” How do they bring their vision to life and practice it day in and day out in through their policies, conversations, classrooms and schools? There are many different tools, programs, curriculums and approaches that address SEL and help schools meet their visions and prepare students to be contributing and caring members of society. Stephen Covey’s 7 habits are an example of one of these approaches. Think about how you, as a parent or caregiver, can embrace and reinforce these 7 habits at home as they can help family members thrive individually as well as within the family unit.



Covey, Stephen. R. (2020). The 7 habits of highly effective people; 30th anniversary edition. N.Y., N.Y. Simon & Schuster.

Covey, Stephen. R. (2022). The 7 habits of highly effective families Creating a nurturing family in a turbulent world. N.Y., N.Y. St. Martins Publishing Group.

Covey, Sean (2014). The 7 Habits of highly effective teens. N.Y., N.Y. Simon & Schuster.

Covey, S (2008). The 7 Habits of happy kids. N.Y., N.Y.  Simon & Schuster.


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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.


Education for Life: Social Emotional Learning

By | NESCA Notes 2018


By:  Nancy Roosa, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

The agonizing discussion around the tragedy of school shootings – happening on a weekly basis in this country — too often devolves into a polarized argument about whether the main problem is guns OR mental health. The argument seems moot, since BOTH access to a firearm and mental health problems have to come together – in one troubled individual – to result in one of these large-scale school massacres. Therefore, while the discussion about gun control is an important one, I’m going to leave that for another forum. In this blog, in my role as a psychologist, I’d like to focus on how we can improve the mental health of our children.

There is no clear answer as to why some students choose to go on a deadly rampage against members of their own community – the peers and adults they spend time with every day – although clearly something has gone very wrong for them in that community. Some research does link bullying and social isolation to school shootings. The U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education in a 2004 report found that “almost three-quarters of the (school shooting) attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident. In several cases, individual attackers had experienced bullying and harassment that was long-standing and severe. In some cases, the experience of being bullied seemed to have a significant impact on the attacker and appeared to have been a factor in his decision to mount an attack at the school.”

I do not want to blame the victims, by somehow implying that the social environments at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland and Santa Fe – and all the other sites of horrific massacres – were particularly cruel or harsh. We know that some students at every school feel ostracized and alone, and some are also coping with other serious life stresses, i.e. living in families stressed by poverty, addiction, and/or mental health challenges. But just because this is commonplace doesn’t mean we should accept it. Our society needs a stronger safety net, so that all children are safely housed, well fed and emotionally nurtured in their families, outside of school.

In addition, schools are increasingly recognizing their part in raising the next generation of emotionally mature and secure individuals, and many are attempting to include “social-emotional learning (SEL)” in the curriculum. But while everyone might agree that SEL is a good idea, few people seem to know how to teach it. A recent study by the nonprofit organization CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) found that 83% of principals believe that social-emotional learning is important and a full 95% say they are committed to developing their students’ social and emotional skills. However, only 38% of them had a plan for implementing such learning. Clearly the importance of SEL has been recognized, but doing it well – or doing it at all – still leaves many educators at a loss. Implementing an effective SEL program does require substantial resources – time, money and expertise. Teachers and staff must be trained and then spend time and energy every day implementing the plan. How can we expect schools to find those additional resources when they are already underfunded for the many tasks they are currently charged with? Adding SEL effectively will require that we provide adequate funding to our schools.

Yet, some research shows that the resources invested in SEL bring a hefty payback, not just in social emotional health, which is clearly hard to measure, but also in students’ academic achievement. In 2011, a meta-analysis published in the journal Child Development found that students who participated in a well-implemented SEL program showed an 11 percent gain in academic achievement. In 2015, a study in the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis found an $11 benefit for every $1 spent on a rigorous SEL program.

Here in Boston, we have our own success stories involving SEL. One local school, the Mildred Avenue K-8 School in Mattapan, was, 5 years ago, one of the district’s lowest performing schools, at risk of a takeover; now it’s classified as a “level 1” school, the highest category, based on student achievement. Last fall, they were awarded the coveted School on the Move prize by the nonprofit organization Edvestors, which has, for the past 12 years, awarded this prize to a school within the Boston public school district that has made the most progress, based on quantifiable data about student achievement. This school, as well as the other two finalists at this year’s award ceremony in November, highlighted that one important factor was implementing social-emotional learning across the curriculum. They also spoke about the importance of teacher empowerment and creating a sense of an inclusive community in their schools.

Clearly SEL works. Let’s look a bit more closely at what it involves. The cornerstone of SEL learning is gaining five essential skills and competencies, according to CASEL.
1. Self-awareness: recognizing and labeling one’s feelings and accurately identifying one’s strengths and limitations.
2. Self-management: regulating emotions, delaying gratification, managing stress, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving goals.
3. Social awareness: showing empathy, taking others’ perspectives, and recognizing and mobilizing diverse and available supports.
4. Relationship skills: clear communication, active listening, cooperation, nonviolent and constructive conflict resolution, knowing when and how to be a good team player and leader.
5. Responsible decision making: making ethical choices based on consideration of feelings, goals, alternatives and outcomes, and planning and enacting solutions with potential obstacles anticipated.

This is an ambitious list, and we don’t expect these skills to be mastered by 10th grade along with the ability to write a 5-paragraph essay. These are skills that one can—and should!—spend a life time learning. But just pondering this list for a few minutes makes me realize that these are the qualities I value in the people I interact with—my colleagues, friends, and family members—and they are the main qualities that determine whether one lives a productive, satisfying life … much more so than one’s MCAS score.

Will implementing SEL in our schools stop all mass shootings? Sadly, probably not. But will it allow more of the next generation of Americans to grow into socially and emotionally competent individuals? I’d suspect that answer is yes. So let’s start the conversation about this – in every home, in every neighborhood, in every school. Let’s keep our Eyes on this Prize: educating every child for life.

There are a plethora of programs claiming to promote SEL, and a few important guides to distinguish among the programs. Anyone interested in learning how to implement an SEL program could start with one of the following guides. 
· The 2015 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs (CASEL.org). 
· How to Implement Social and Emotional Learning at Your School, by Maurice J. Elias, Edutopia, March 24, 2016.
· Selecting the Right SEL Program, by Leah Shafer, June 20, 2017. Harvard Graduate School of Education.


About the Author:


Nancy Roosa, Psy.D. has been engaged in providing neuropsychological evaluations for children since 1997. She enjoys working with a range of children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorders, as well as children with attentional issues, executive function deficits, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, or other social, emotional or behavioral problems.

Dr. Roosa’s evaluations are highly-individualized and comprehensive, integrating data obtained from a wide range of standardized assessment tools with information gained from history, input from parents, teachers and providers, and important observations gleaned from interacting with the child. Her approach to testing is playful and supportive.

Her evaluations are particularly useful for children with complex profiles and those whose presentations do not fit neatly into any one diagnostic box.


To book a consultation with Dr. Roosa or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.




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