While school may be wrapping up, Summer is an ideal time to embark on transition assessment and services to ensure that your child’s IEP process is preparing them for learning, living, and working after their public education. The ultimate goal of transition assessment is to identify the necessary skills and services to ready a student age 13-21 for transitioning from high school to the next phase of life. To book an intake and consultation appointment, visit: www.nesca-newton.com/intake. Not sure if you need an assessment? You can schedule a one-hour parent/caregiver intake and consultation.

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Building Executive Function Skills over the Summer

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

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

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

Some ways to practice and build these skills might include:

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

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

 

About the Author

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Summer Planning for Teenagers

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS
Director of Transition Services, NESCA

March is an incredibly busy time in my household. Three out of four of our family members celebrate birthdays, winter sports turn into playoffs, and school events seem to pop up every week. March is also the time when we finalize our “summer camp plan” and manage lengthy online registration processes. If you have a teenager in the household, particularly a teen with a disability, you may also be thinking about summer and feeling particular pressure to “make the most” of the time while your child is still in high school. In case you are still scrambling for your own summer plan, I wanted to offer up several activities that are worth considering as part of your teen’s summer plan.

Get a paid summer job! Time and time again, research indicates that individuals who have paid employment in high school are more successful college students and more successful in obtaining employment as adults. If your child is college bound, having a paid work experience among their high school activities is a huge boost to their college applications. And, if not, paid work experiences teach soft skills for employment, help students figure out more about their career interests and preferences, and help to build meaningful resumes. Being able to do work that meets someone else’s standards is a vital life skill, and summer is an optimal time to build that skill.

Gain overnight experience. Students who plan to go to college but have never spent a night away from home need to know how they are going to handle that experience. There are all sorts of summer programs where students can spend time overnight, away from home, among peers. Overnight programs vary in length. Students who are just venturing out for the first time may feel most comfortable in a program that lasts a week or less, whereas other students may want a 3-week or 6-week experience. For college-bound students, I often recommend taking advantage of programs that happen right on college campuses in dorms. But there are also great programs outdoors or even travel programs in the United States or overseas. Knowing that you can spend the night away from family (and knowing what it’s like to “live” among a whole group of young people) is often a critical step in setting post-high school goals.

Use the time to build new executive functioning or emotional regulation skills. Students who struggle with executive functioning or emotional regulation often need coaching or therapy during the school year, just to keep up with school activities. However, students and families often reach out for these resources because they are already in crisis. A student will seek out an executive function coach when a student is already behind with assigned work or grades. Families often seek out therapy when an emotional crisis has occurred. School provides a number of executive functioning and emotional demands, so it can be hard for a coach or therapist to build new skills with a student while the student is also meeting those demands. Summer can be an optimal time to work more intensively to build new skills, strategies, and systems because it is a time when other demands are reduced. If your teen has a therapist, tutor, executive function coach, social pragmatic coach, or other support person who is helping them to tread water during the school year, it’s definitely worth asking whether intensive services over the summer might help the student to build skills that will last long-term and help the student be better prepared for the following school year.

Summer can also be a great time to tackle time-consuming activities, like completing the college application, drafting a college essay or two, cleaning out a bedroom or reorganizing study space, or building a new life skill, like driving, cooking, or mastering a laundry routine.

March is a great time to take stock of what your teenager wants to do after high school, what challenges might impede them smoothly transitioning to those activities, and thinking about how summer might be the perfect time to eliminate some of those challenges!

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college, work, and more independent adult life. Such services include executive function coaching, pre-college coaching, transition planning, and neuropsychological evaluation. To learn more specifically about our coaching services, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/. NESCA also offers postsecondary transition consultation to families who want support identifying the most meaningful ways for their student to spend the summer: https://nesca-newton.com/transition/#planning. To schedule an appointment with one of our expert clinicians or coaches, please complete our intake at: https://nesca-newton.com/intake/.

 

 

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is an expert transition specialist and national speaker who has been engaged in evaluation, development, and direction of transition-focused programming for teenagers and young adults with a wide array of developmental and learning abilities since 2004. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in working with youth with autism, she enjoys working with students with a range of cognitive, learning, communication, social, emotional and/or behavioral needs.

Ms. Challen joined NESCA as Director of Transition Services in 2013. She believes that the transition to postsecondary adulthood activities such as learning, living, and working is an ongoing process–and that there is no age too early or too late to begin planning. Moreover, any transition plan should be person-centered, individualized and include steps beyond the completion of secondary school.

Through her role at NESCA, Ms. Challen provides a wide array of services including individualized transition assessment, planning, consultation, training, and program development services, as well as pre-college coaching. She is particularly skilled in providing transition assessment and consultation aimed at determining optimal timing for a student’s transition to college, technical training, adult learning, and/or employment as well as identifying and developing appropriate programs and services necessary for minimizing critical skill gaps.

Ms. Challen is one of the only professionals in New England who specializes in assisting families in selecting or developing programming as a steppingstone between special education and college participation and has a unique understanding of local postgraduate, pre-college, college support, college transition, postsecondary transition, and 18-22 programs. She is additionally familiar with a great number of approved high school and postsecondary special education placements for students from Massachusetts including public, collaborative, and private programs.

Ms. Challen enjoys the creative and collaborative problem-solving process necessary for successfully transitioning students with complex profiles toward independent adulthood. As such, she is regularly engaged in IEP Team Meetings, program consultations, and case management or student coaching as part of individualized post-12th grade programming. Moreover, she continually works to enhance and expand NESCA’s service offerings in order to meet the growing needs of the families, schools and communities we serve.

When appropriate, Ms. Challen has additionally provided expert witness testimony for families and school districts engaged in due process hearings or engaged in legal proceedings centering on transition assessment, services and/or programming—locally and nationally.

Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Challen began her work with youth with special needs working as a counselor for children and adolescents at Camp Good Times, a former program of Milestones Day School. She then spent several years at the Aspire Program (a Mass General for Children program; formerly YouthCare) where she founded an array of social, life and career skill development programs for teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and related profiles. Also, she worked at the Northeast Arc as Program Director for the Spotlight Program, a drama-based social pragmatics program, serving youth with a wide range of diagnoses and collaborating with several school districts to design in-house social skill and transition programs.

Ms. Challen received her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. While training and obtaining certification as a school guidance counselor, she completed her practicum work at Boston Latin School focusing on competitive college counseling.

Ms. Challen has worked on multiple committees involved in the Massachusetts DESE IEP Improvement Project, served as a Mentor for the Transition Leadership Program at UMass Boston, participated as a member of B-SET Boston Workforce Development Task Force, been an ongoing member of the Program Committee for the Association for Autism and Neurodiversity (AANE), and is a member of the New Hampshire Transition State Community of Practice (COP).

She is also co-author of the chapter, “Technologies to Support Interventions for Social-Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personality Style, and Self-Regulation,” for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism: Innovations that Enhance Independence and Learning.

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

NESCA is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Plainville, and Hingham, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; the greater Burlington, Vermont region; and Brooklyn, NY (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.

Making the Most of Summer – Setting a Few Life Skill Goals (for College and Life in General after High School)

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By: Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS
Director of Transition Services; Transition Specialist, NESCA

Summer in the United States is in full swing. If you have teenagers, they may be working, completing driver’s education, visiting colleges, travelling, or even getting started with their college application this summer. No matter what your teenager is doing, this is great time to sit down and set a few “simple” life skill goals for the summer.

In 2020, I wrote a two-part blog series focused on eight life skills that are critical to build before college:

  1. Getting up “on time” each morning
  2. Washing, drying, and putting away laundry—including sheets
  3. Basic kitchen skills
  4. Using basic tools (e.g., screwdriver, hammer, measuring tape, etc.)
  5. Medication management
  6. Money management
  7. Routine exercise
  8. Using a calendar for scheduling

For teenagers in high school or heading off to college, these are great skills to begin tackling over the summer months. For example, getting up by a certain time is something that can be especially important to work on when consequences are low. For instance, it is hard to let a teen sleep in when they are going to miss an AP exam, but it can be easier to let them practice using an alarm (and possibly oversleeping) when they are going to a movie with a friend or attending a camp. Summer is a great time for teens to be able to experience natural consequences as they practice taking on new risks and responsibilities associated with some of the life skills above.

A challenge when working with, or parenting, teenagers who have a lot of skills to develop is figuring out where to start or how to gain “buy-in.” One of the ways that I like to work with students to set life skill goals is to have the student take a basic life skills inventory, such as the Casey Life Skills Toolkit, Life Skills Inventory, or Adolescent Autonomy Checklist. After a student rates their own skill levels, I ask them to review skills that they cannot already do and identify how important those skills are on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, we go through the list again, and I ask which skills they would like to learn in the next 2 months, 6 months, and year. Once the teenager has identified the importance of a skill and the desire to work on the skill in the near future, it is much easier to set short-term goals. We can work out a skill-building plan for the summer. including how much time to dedicate on a daily or weekly basis. We can also talk about the types of barriers or challenges that might get in the way of the teenager practicing these skills. Additionally, we can set expectations for how often the teen is going to report back to me on the skill so that there is built-in accountability, and the teen knows to expect the check-ins rather than feeling like someone is checking up on them.

Every teenager is different. If you are a parent wanting to help your child make the most of summer, you may find that you can go through the same process that I do to help your child set a few short-term goals. Other teenagers will be able to work on goals themselves—once they have gone through the exercise of setting them. And others, may benefit from having a coach who can build a relationship, support development of executive function and coping skills, and partner with the teen in making the most of summer. If you think your child would benefit from some coaching or an “expert” to work with them, we have a great team of professionals here at NESCA who are ready to help.

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist, executive function coach or real-life skills coach at NESCA for consultation, coaching, planning or evaluation, please complete our online intake form: https://nesca-newton.com/intake-form/.

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is NESCA’s Director of Transition Services, overseeing planning, consultation, evaluation, coaching, case management, training and program development services. Ms. Challen also provides expert witness testimony in legal proceedings related to special education. She is also the Assistant Director of NESCA, working under Dr. Ann Helmus to support day-to-day operations of the practice. Ms. Challen began facilitating programs for children and adolescents with special needs in 2004. After receiving her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ms. Challen spent several years at the MGH Aspire Program where she founded an array of social, life and career skill development programs for teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and related profiles. She additionally worked at the Northeast Arc as Program Director for the Spotlight Program, a drama-based social pragmatics program, serving youth with a wide range of diagnoses and collaborating with several school districts to design in-house social skills and transition programs. Ms. Challen is co-author of the chapter “Technologies to Support Interventions for Social- Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personality Style, and Self-Regulation” for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism. She is also a proud mother of two energetic boys, ages six and three. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, she provides support to individuals with a wide range of developmental and learning abilities, including students with complex medical needs.

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, call 617-658-9800 or complete our online Intake Form.

Why Work Matters for Teens

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By: Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS
Director of Transition Services; Transition Specialist, NESCA

“The share of teens participating in the labor force peaked 40 years ago and has declined ever since.”[1] There are many reasons why employment rates among teens ages 16-19 have declined, such as increased schoolwork and graduations requirements, summer program and extracurricular opportunities, and work competition. Now, roughly only one-third of youth in this age range are part of the workforce. But research tells us that teens who work during high school, whether during the school year or summer months, are more likely to persevere in college (if they choose this academic route) and also more likely to be hired in adulthood. For teenagers with disabilities, a population of young people who face a high risk for unemployment in adulthood, work experience in high school is even more critical.

Some of the benefits of paid employment for all students include:

  1. A new sense of identity—as a worker
  2. Learning workplace norms and expectations
  3. Developing important executive functioning skills, like time and task management
  4. Building social skills by collaborating and negotiating with other workers and/or customers
  5. Improving self-awareness through receiving coworker and employer feedback
  6. Reading a paycheck and learning to manage earned money
  7. Starting to identify learning and career goals (“I never want to do this again, so I am going to need to get a degree or some training.”) and/or gaining experience in a field of interest

Even failed work experiences—and failed application processes—are extremely valuable tools for learning the above skills as well as building coping and problem-solving skills.

And since it is almost summer and teenagers are finishing, or have finished, their classes for the school year, this is a great time to make a plan for summer employment. Teens can look in traditional places such as grocery stores, retailers, and fast-food restaurants, or may want to pursue something non-traditional like doing yard work, dog walking/pet sitting, cleaning/detailing, or odd jobs for family friends and neighbors. Those 18 and over with driver’s licenses may enjoy the flexibility of working with a delivery service like Instacart or Uber Eats.

Because work—whether a summer, part-time, traditional or non-traditional job—is such a critical aspect of transition planning, NESCA has authored many blogs related to career assessment, career planning, and career counseling. Some of these include:

We hope you will enjoy reading these blogs. More importantly, we hope you will help teenagers in your life get out there and work!

Reference:

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/06/why-so-few-teenagers-have-jobs-anymore.html

 

About the Author
Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, is NESCA’s Director of Transition Services, overseeing planning, consultation, evaluation, coaching, case management, training and program development services. Ms. Challen also provides expert witness testimony in legal proceedings related to special education. She is also the Assistant Director of NESCA, working under Dr. Ann Helmus to support day-to-day operations of the practice. Ms. Challen began facilitating programs for children and adolescents with special needs in 2004. After receiving her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Study in Risk and Prevention Counseling from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ms. Challen spent several years at the MGH Aspire Program where she founded an array of social, life and career skill development programs for teens and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and related profiles. She additionally worked at the Northeast Arc as Program Director for the Spotlight Program, a drama-based social pragmatics program, serving youth with a wide range of diagnoses and collaborating with several school districts to design in-house social skills and transition programs. Ms. Challen is co-author of the chapter “Technologies to Support Interventions for Social- Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Personality Style, and Self-Regulation” for the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism. She is also a proud mother of two energetic boys, ages six and three. While Ms. Challen has special expertise in supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, she provides support to individuals with a wide range of developmental and learning abilities, including students with complex medical needs.

 

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, call 617-658-9800 or complete our online Intake Form.