Tag

Transition Planning

Processing Speed Deficits and College – Part 1 – The Dilemma

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

By nature, transition specialists are generalists—professional who support students with a wide range of disabilities in moving toward an even wider range of learning and life outcomes. Working in Massachusetts, with an early background as a guidance counselor in a college preparatory high school, I often support students who are contemplating whether and when they should matriculate to a four-year college program. Many of these students experience processing speed deficits. This means that these students may be capable of reasoning at average or above average levels, and therefore being stimulated and actively engaged by college course content, but these students also need extra time to process visual and verbal information, to make sense of this information, and to produce output.

Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, assembled an assessment for parents and students—A Guide to Assessing College Readiness—that includes five areas considered essential for students with learning disabilities who want to succeed in a traditional college setting. These include academic skills, self-understanding, self-advocacy, executive function and motivation/confidence. Some of the academic items include being able to read up to 200 pages of college level text in a week, writing an organized 10-page paper that cites multiple sources, and being able to complete all of the steps of a long-term project in a timely manner. Within the assessment, it is carefully noted that this is not a diagnostic tool and is intended to inform discussion about the appropriate environment and supports that the student will need to achieve success and struggle less in college. So, when I recently received a question from a parent who was wondering if it actually mattered that her student was not able to read 100 pages in only a few days, the answer I provided was, “it depends.”

While there are many ways that we accommodate and modify instruction for students who have processing speed deficits during high school, some of these methods are easy to replicate across college environments and others are heavily dependent on the environment or only replicable with a good deal of external support provided by people and technologies. For example, in high school, students with significant processing speed deficits may be supported through modifications, such as teachers reducing their pace of instruction, providing copies of instructional materials and/or fill-in-the-blank note-taking templates, actively following up with students to confirm their understanding of material, reducing the amount of work a student is expected to do per quarter or on a test, and actively assisting students in digesting complex reading materials or offering lighter/alternative reading. When all of these modifications are added together, a student has a highly specialized high school experience and may be left with gaps in their academic, executive functioning and self-advocacy skills that need to be carefully bridged when the student aspires to participate in college learning.

While high school accommodations and modifications center on supporting a student to successfully make progress in school, accommodations at the college level focus exclusively on what a student needs to be able to access the instruction that is already available at that college. Rather than individually modifying the curriculum or work load in a college course, a student must be able to keep up with the same instruction provided to every student in the class and the same requirements as every student in the college through a combination of accommodations, self-help strategies and use of supports (tutoring, academic coaching, office hours, study groups, etc.) outside of the classroom. Accommodations are still very individualized, but educational programming is typically not. This makes the college search and selection process complex and important for students with processing speed deficits. Not every college that specializes in supporting students who face learning difficulties is a good choice for a student with slow processing speed. And not every student with a processing speed deficit has the same skills, or faces the exact same challenges, when navigating college.

Stay tuned for our next Transition Thursday blog where I will elaborate on some of the common modifications and accommodations provided to high school students with processing speed deficits and how to think critically about college selection, support and accommodation based on experience with those accommodations.

 

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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Transition Planning Timelines for Students with Disabilities

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

When families come to NESCA for transition support, a common request is to work with a transition specialist to create a detailed step-by-step transition plan with action items and deadlines that will ensure their child makes a successful transition to postsecondary adulthood. As you can imagine, many hours are needed to create an appropriate plan individualized to the student—their goals and their needs—and this plan requires frequent updating as students progress toward adulthood, have new experiences, stumble at new hurdles and make developmental leaps. However, for families who are interested in creating an individualized transition timeline plan for their student at home, there are a number of readymade timelines and checklists that can be used as starting points. While I am presenting several options below, I would encourage picking the one that you like best and that fits your child best, and using that as a foundation for your planning. Please note that even though the resources below that have been assembled by agencies who specifically support individuals with autism and are therefore described as focusing on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), they may still be important for individuals with other disabilities to review.

Transition from School to Adult Life – Time Lines, by The Arc of Massachusetts, is a two-page brochure that includes bulleted timeline recommendations for students ages 13-22

A Resource Guide for Transition Aged Youth and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), by the Autism Commission, is a 12-page pamphlet compiled to help families and individuals in the state of Massachusetts to better understand the resources available for students aged 14-22 with ASD. If viewing this pamphlet online, it is important to closely follow the page numbers. The Transition Timeline starts on page two and continues through page four.

Transitioning teens with autism spectrum disorders: Resources and timeline planning for adult living, by the Autism Consortium, is a 73-page guide intended to provide resources and information for parents and guardians of children with ASDs in Massachusetts. Pages 64-70 outline critical timelines related to education, guardianship, housing, postsecondary education, employment, healthcare, recreation and more for students ranging from age 11-22.

A Family Guide to Transition Services in Massachusetts, published by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) in collaboration with the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN), is a 44-page guide intended to assist parents, students and professionals in understanding the requirements of transition services for all individuals with disabilities that are eligible for special education in Massachusetts. Pages 22-23 offer an easy-to-read timeline covering important steps for youth ages 14-18.

Important Transition Information Every Family Should Know: Transition Information Fact Sheets, by the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, is a 57-page compilation of fact sheets with important information for all families of individuals with developmental disabilities in Massachusetts. The fourth fact sheet, on page 11, is a simple but detailed visual timeline covering steps for students ages 14-22.

Turning 18 Checklist, by Autism Housing Pathways, is not a timeline! But it is a detailed and continually updated three-page document with a checklist of critical steps to take when a student with a disability turns 18 as well as a list of useful transition resources that correlate with the checklist. While the document was created by Autism Housing Pathways, the checklist is applicable for many individuals who are turning 18 and who may be seeking human service supports and disability-related benefits.

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Making Decisions in Adulthood: Some Options

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

As a transition specialist working with students from middle school through young adulthood, one of the biggest transitions that students make is “turning 18” or when they reach the Age of Majority (i.e., the legal age established by state law at which the person is no longer a minor) and gain the rights and responsibilities for making educational, medical, financial and other legal decisions. For students who have had a tremendous amount of support at home and in school, this transition can be challenging. Some students are not ready to make competent decisions for themselves, and other students may never be capable of making competent and informed decisions independently. If your child or a student you are working with needs help making decisions in adulthood, there are several options for organizing decision-making in adulthood. Because I am not a legal agent, I do always suggest that families consult with experts, such as special needs attorneys, financial planners and medical experts, as they work toward determining the best legal decision-making arrangement for their child.

Here are some basic descriptions of decision-making options you may consider for your child:

Power of Attorney (POA): A written authorization that allows a person to represent or act on another’s behalf. There are different types of POAs, and they can be written specific to whatever acts the individual wants the agent to be able to perform (e.g., private affairs, business, financial, medical or some other legal matter).

Health Care Proxy: A legal instrument with which the individual appoints a healthcare agent to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the individual when he or she is incapable of making and executing the healthcare decisions stipulated in the proxy. One way this is different from a POA is that the healthcare agent is only able to make medical decisions for the individual during the time when that individual is incapacitated. However, some healthcare professionals may view a healthcare proxy as a desire to share medical decision-making even though that is not exactly the letter of the law.

Guardianship/Conservatorship: A court-ordered arrangement whereby one or more persons are given legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person. Guardianship and conservatorship are used when the person’s decision-making capacity is so impaired that the person is unable to care for his or her own personal safety or to provide for his or her necessities of life. Guardians and conservators may have limited decision-making power or general broad control. While POAs and health care proxies are arrangements that might be considered mainstream as they can be accessed by any adult with or without a disability, guardianship and conservatorship are more extreme options as a guardian is taking full or partial control over an individual’s affairs and taking away some of that person’s legal and civil rights.

Supported Decision-Making (SDM): SDM is an alternative to guardianship whereby the individual with a disability selects supporters who will assist the individual in making their own decisions. It allows an individual with a disability to make his or her own decisions about life choices with the support of a designated person or team of trusted supporters. This is an alternative to guardianship which is becoming more popular in Massachusetts and many other states across the country. To learn more about SDM, check out the National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making and the Supported Decisions Site from the Center for Public Representation.

If you are looking for more information about special needs legal planning specific to Massachusetts, these are a handful of resources you may want to explore:

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Life Skills for College to Work on Now – Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

In Massachusetts, we are more than five weeks into home-based learning and looking toward another two months (or more) of schools and childcare facilities being closed. Unfortunately, this is taking a particularly large social and emotional toll on our teenagers and young adults. One strategy for coping with current conditions is to focus on concrete ways that we can control our daily lives and to set short-term tangible goals. With that in mind, I am writing a second blog focusing on the opportunity teenagers are being given to build daily living and executive functioning skills that will ultimately help them live away from home and self-direct their lives. Last week, I discussed four important skills that are critical for attending residential colleges: getting up on time each morning, doing laundry, having basic kitchen skills, and using basic tools for assembling and fixing things around home. This week, I am offering another four skills. For any young person, I always suggest letting the student pick the skill(s) they want to work on first. When you have a lot to work on, you may as well pick the starting point that feels most important and motivating!

  • Medications: For students who have been on medication during high school, keeping that medication regimen stable is typically a must during the transition to college. Students need to have the knowledge, preparation and organizational skills needed to maintain their own medication regimen. Often a good way to start this process is to purchase a 7-day pill organizer and have teens be responsible for dispensing their own medication for the week. Certainly, a smartphone or smartwatch with several alarms can be useful for remembering medications at needed times. For more information about medication management expectations in college, check out this article by Rae Jacobson. He makes some useful recommendations, such as using a unique alarm tone for medication reminders and putting pills in highly or frequently visible locations (e.g., next to your toothbrush that you routinely use).
  • Money: Students in early stages of high school may be too young for their own bank accounts and credit cards. However, some banks do offer accounts that are specially tailored for minors. Students can open a joint bank account as a minor with a parent or legal guardian. Teens can also practice managing plastic through use of traditional prepaid debit cards, Amazon.com or store gift cards, or a debit card made especially for minors like Greenlight. From home, teens can practice making necessary online purchases, tracking payments and shipping, checking account balances, and using a software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to keep a record of purchases. There are also plenty of great free web-based financial literacy resources that teens can use to learn about banking and consumer skills from home; a few resources that my colleague Becki Lauzon, M.A., CRC, and I like include:
  • Building an Exercise Routine: Believe it or not, basic fundamentals like healthy eating, sleep hygiene and regular vigorous exercise are strong predictors of college success and satisfaction. As we are living in a period of time where team sports are not accessible, this may be exactly the right time for teenagers to build their own individual exercise routine that can be carried out at home and in one’s local neighborhood. A good baseline to strive for is a routine that includes exercise sessions at least three days per week. With decreased time factors in our lives, students can play around with morning, afternoon or evening exercise to see what feels best for their bodies and brains. If brisk dog-walking, jogging/running or biking activities are not appealing, there are plenty of great YouTube exercise videos (e.g., dance, yoga, strength training, cardio training, etc.) that require no equipment and are calibrated for all kinds of bodies and levels of fitness. Setting a schedule for weekly workouts will help to ensure that exercise becomes more routine and tracking progress with that schedule (e.g., journaling, marking a calendar, using an app like Strava or Aaptiv, etc.) helps to build and sustain motivation. Some teens (and adults) also find that they are more able to stick to an exercise routine if they use a smartwatch to help track, celebrate and prompt their progress.
  • Using a Calendar System for Scheduling: The alarm clock mentioned in last week’s blog is certainly an important time management tool that is vital to master prior to attending college. Another critical time management tool for college (and life beyond) is a calendar system for managing one’s schedule. When starting to build time management skills, simply asking your teen to write down their schedule can be a good place to start. What do they know they have to do each day of the week? What appointments or activities are missing? Teens may have a calendar system that they are already accustomed to using for checking the date, but may not be using that tool to manage their entire schedule. Some common calendar app tools include iCal, Google Calendar and Outlook, but some teens may do better with paper-based systems. If a teen benefits from a paper copy of their schedule, I would still recommend that they learn to use something electronic, then just print off their daily, weekly or monthly schedule based on preference and need. Practice inputting activities that are happening right now, such as assignments, remote classes, meals, therapy, etc. Teens can also play around with reminder settings to see what feels best for prompting participation in activities. Sometimes 15 minutes is too much time, but 5 or 10 is just right. Other times, more than one reminder is needed.

To read more about the Life Skills recommendations from last week’s Transition Thursday blog, click here!

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Life Skills for College to Work on Now – Part 1

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

As a transition specialist working with students who have the cognitive and academic potential for college but have sometimes missed opportunities to develop life skills while keeping up with rigorous academic and extracurricular schedules, I am encouraging families to think of this time as a gift. Students, especially those in 8th-10th grade, have a novel opportunity to build life skills that can help them to live away from home and self-direct their schedules. Without school closures, this opportunity likely would not have come until after 12th grade. With that in mind, here is a list of 4 life skills that are critical for attending residential college that I am recommending some of my students work on:

  • Getting up “on time” each morning: We all know that teenage sleep schedules are rarely in alignment with traditional high school hours. Without transportation time, there is a new opportunity to practice using an alarm clock and build a sleep schedule and that is a little closer to teenage physiological needs. If teens are using a cell phone alarm, it is helpful to put the phone in airplane mode and plug it in away from the bed. With an alarm clock, some experts recommend clocks with blue numbers and facing the clock away from the bed. Good sleep hygiene depends on many factors, such as diet, caffeine intake, exercise, temperature, clothing and electronics use, so teens may want to organize their own “sleep study” to figure out what helps them personally to build a successful sleep routine. Teens can also play around with the sound an app or alarm clock makes to find something that is effective in waking them up without startling.
  • Laundry: When building new skills, I always recommend that students learn and practice the skills to the point of automaticity. Given the amount of time that we are now spending at home, this is the perfect opportunity to learn to do laundry, including reading labels, sorting clothing/linens and running the washer and dryer. If a teen is not interested in learning from a parent, YouTube is a great resource for learning steps to manage laundry and how to operate practically any model of washer or dryer. Teens will learn more quickly if they are practicing the skills multiple times per week, so consider building a schedule that takes into account repeated practice (e.g., clothing is washed midweek, and sheets and towels are washed on the weekend).
  • Basic kitchen skills: While colleges do have meal plans available, many students will still choose to cook a least one meal a day or week for themselves. Being able to cook some basic breakfast, lunch and dinner foods allows students to save money and time, be creative or enjoy a preferred taste/food that they are missing. If a student enjoys cooking and wants to learn to cook for others, that is a great social skill—food is definitely a way to build community (I still have college friends who request I make them grilled cheeses when we get together). I recently came across this parenting piece in The Washington Post highlighting 7 kitchen skills kids need before they leave for college, and now is certainly a good time to work on some of these skills. The article highlights wielding a knife, boiling water, sautéing, baking and roasting, using a slow cooker, planning meals and doing the dishes. But you may want to just start with planning and prepping preferred cold foods or microwave safety. Teens should consider their favorite basic foods and go from there.
  • Using basic tools: You don’t need to know every household maintenance skill to live in a college dorm. But being able to assemble things, fix loose screws and make other basic repairs is important for setting up your dorm or apartment space and saving time (and energy) chasing down maintenance. Some of the basic tools that are useful to be familiar with include a hammer, screwdrivers, measuring tape, pliers, a level, Allen keys and even some wrenches. There are lots of ways to start building familiarity with tools, such as inventorying current household tools, tightening screws on cabinet and drawer handles, hammering down loose nails on a porch, etc. As home repairs need to be tackled, use this as a life skills lesson and include teens in the process. One additional maintenance task that does not require tools is replacing lightbulbs—students should know how to safely remove bulbs from floor and table lamps and check the size, shape and wattage of the bulb, and shop for replacement bulbs.

Stay tuned for additional Life Skills recommendations in next week’s Transition Thursday blog!

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Transition Planning: “Remote” Work-based Learning Experiences

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

In the past three weeks, I have consulted with countless parents of high school students who are worried about how school closures and social distancing are impacting their child’s ability to gain need work experience during high school. Prior to March, I had been working with their teens to plan for summer internship programs, obtain first paid work experiences or finish out volunteer hours needed for senior graduation. Now, many of those plans are moot or uncertain. Instead, we are beginning to create backup plans (and backup plans for our backup plans) for continuing to build skills that will help these students be employable and successful even if internships and competitive work experiences are not accessible.

Fortunately, an unexpected benefit of Covid-19 school closures is the extraordinary educational resource-sharing that is occurring across the country (and even across the globe). We are all able to continue to build resources to help one another and the families that we support remotely. From our couches, we are able to access trainings provided by researchers, providers and educators who are among the top in their fields, often free of cost, and we are able to be part of large active professional networks. One of my favorite resources for transition-related information during this time is the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) who hosted presenters Brenda Simmons, MS, and Michael Stoehr, MS, to speak about Employment Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences in a Virtual World on Tuesday, April 7th. Because of the work I am doing with families, I was particularly appreciative of one model shared by Brenda Simmons, MS, and Michael Stoehr, MS, during a webinar I attended: A Work-Based Learning Continuum.

Work-based learning experiences, including paid employment, are one of the most substantial predictors of postsecondary adult employment for students with disabilities. While paid employment in an integrated setting is a critical work-based learning experience, it is a part of a continuum of activities, many of which are still accessible during the current remote-learning times. Below is a graphic adapted from Simmons and Stoehr to help visualize this continuum.

Work-Based Learning Continuum adapted from Simmons and Stoehr NTACT/WINTAC Training

While Internships, Apprenticeships and Competitive Employment are difficult to participate in remotely (especially because these experiences are now isolated rather than integrated), the other activities highlighted along the continuum offer more opportunities for remote exploration:

  • Job Shadowing and Worksite Tours: Even when students cannot visit worksites in person, employers may be able to provide “virtual” tours to share information about what their company does, show teens around their workplace, explain what different employees do and demonstrate work tasks. There are also many virtual tours of workplaces already readily available online. Consider who is in your network that is still going to their workplace or able to travel to work as an “essential” employee. There is a breakdown from Business Insider about the types of businesses that are considered “essential” in current times, and the range of opportunities are impressive. With job shadowing and worksite tours, it is imperative to remember that the most important component of the experience is for teens to engage in self-reflection about the jobs and worksites. What did I see? What did I learn? Is this a place I can picture myself working? What accommodations might I need to be successful in this workplace?
  • Informational Interviews and Mentoring: Before school closures, I worked with many teens who had success in finding their first internship or job through the process of an informational interview. Rather than going through a traditional application and interview process—which can be particularly difficult for teens with social or emotional vulnerabilities—students engage in a “low-stakes” conversation with an employer simply to learn more about a job of interest. While many working adults across the US are strapped for time given that they are now full-time work-from-home employees, stay-at-home parents and teachers/instructional aides all at once, there are also many employees who have found themselves with extra time and a desire to connect with others socially while giving back to their communities. This is a great time for a teen to reach out and ask for 30 minutes of someone’s time to learn more about their field of work. Here is a nice informational interviewing resource that comes from the UC Berkeley Career Center and can be adapted for these remote times. Career-focused mentoring is a step beyond an informational interview and may be a logical next step in a relationship that starts with an informational interview or might be set up with another adult who is able to assist with career exploration and development. Given current times, you may want to consider early career professionals and retired professionals as individuals who may be more available for a career-focused mentoring relationship.
  • Pre-boarding and Onboarding Training: Looking across the continuum of work-based learning experiences, pre-boarding and onboarding trainings are likely to be most unfamiliar to teens. Pre-boarding typically refers to activities that occur between the time a candidate accepts a job and has their first day, while onboarding activities usually occur on an employee’s first day (or first few days). Many companies have created digital materials, including videos and trainings, that help new hires get a sense of workplace culture and community expectations—they provide a level of information that goes beyond what you learn in an informational interview or job shadow. These training activities make for great work-based learning experiences and can be accessed as a creative resource even if a teen is not currently job searching. This is a blog that offers examples of onboarding and pre-boarding videos. But there are many more available through web-based searching or that can potentially be made available through the human resource department at a company of interest.

In a previous blog, 7 Ways to Build Work Readiness from Your Couch, I shared some useful resources for building job search skills and learning about careers of interest remotely. I would recommend that the interested reader check out that blog for websites offering virtual job shadow and worksite tour videos as well as information about volunteer and paid work opportunities that can be completed remotely.

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

7 Ways to Build Work-readiness from Your Couch

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

With schools across the country closed, special education and transition services are on hold for millions of young people. Fortunately, there are options for teenagers and young adults of all abilities to build important career planning, work readiness and even paid employment experience from home. Here are some suggestions for teens and young adults to build employment skills from the comfort of home:

  1. Use this time to draft your first resume (or edit an existing one). Even students with no work experience have plenty of information to put on a resume. Minimally, your resume should include your contact information, education to date and any volunteer, informal work activities or paid work experiences you have had. It is also appropriate to include skills and personal qualities, school accomplishments, and extracurricular activities that are nonwork related. Learn more about writing a resume for a part-time job at: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/part-time-job-resume-example-for-a-teen-2063248 and https://www.thebalancecareers.com/high-school-resume-examples-and-writing-tips-2063554.
  2. Take an online career interest test (or 10). There are a number of great free career interest tests available online for students with a variety of reading abilities. Some of the most common free tests include O*Net Interest Profiler, The Holland Code Interest Test and CareerOneStop’s Interest Assessment. Residents in Massachusetts can access many assessments online at the MassHire Career Information System. When inventory results are provided, each web site typically includes information about exploring ideas and careers further.
  3. Remotely learn about jobs of interest. Many students learn best experientially and, while current times prevent activities like job shadowing and internships, you can still virtually explore jobs of interest by watching career videos. Some web sites that offer a wide range of employment videos include Career One Stop Career Cluster Video Series, DrKit.org or MassCIS locally.
  4. Practice phone and video skills, including interview skills. While text messaging and social media communications may be better for connecting with friends, phone and video conferencing skills are increasingly important for seeking and maintaining employment. Take this opportunity to pick up the phone and call family members and friends. Build and practice video conference skills with platforms like Facetime, Skype, Google Duo and zoom.us. You can also download apps like Job Interview Question-Answer to work on video interview skills.
  5. Use the time to improve typing and digital literacy skills. Even if you have been taking notes on an iPad, Chromebook or computer for years, you can further improve your typing skills. One free web site that we like is com. To build Google or Microsoft Suite skills, check out other free resources like GFCGlobal and https://usefyi.com/g-suite-training/. You may even want to enroll in certification courses to build your credentials.
  6. Become a virtual volunteer. Whether you are trying to keep moving on your school’s volunteer hours requirement, looking for a meaningful way to spend time or want to beef up your resume, virtual volunteerism offers a great opportunity to use time at home meaningfully. To learn more about virtual volunteerism, check out this blog by GoodWill Industries or this lengthy resource assembled by Jayne Cravens at Finding Online Volunteering.
  7. Apply for a remote job. While employment trends are not clear, there are still companies hiring across the globe. Research and apply for remote and work-from-home positions, such as the examples listed here on The Penny Hoarder.

 

 

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Planning and Preparing for College from Home during Covid-19

By | NESCA Notes 2020

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

While college in the United States is looking quite different for student’s currently enrolled, many (but not all) high school juniors across the country participated in SAT testing yesterday morning in preparation for their college application process. For teenagers–who have natural difficulties thinking ahead and anticipating consequences–being stuck at home may feel particularly tedious and taxing.

Here are some suggestions for teens that may help to use the time productively and get ahead on next year’s college search and admissions process:

  1. Use this time to draft a college application resume that includes information about your co-curricular and extracurricular activities, employment and volunteer experiences, skills, achievements and awards, summer activities, and any hobbies or interests. Try to include all of the experiences you have had throughout the year (ask your parents if you cannot remember everything you have done). You may not end up providing this directly to a college, but it will be useful when you request recommendations, complete applications, and need to put together a resume for employment. Learn more about building a college application resume at The Balance Careers.
  2. Hop on some college search engines and go through a few search processes. Search engines can help you to think about what characteristics matter to you and which selection criteria are less important. If you happen to find a school that you want to research further, even better. Some of the search engines we like include: BigFuture, Cappex, and Collegedata. There are lots of popular engines and you should pick what works for you.
  3. Take virtual college campus tours to explore colleges of interest and to begin to familiarize yourself with college daily life and vocabulary. Look at admissions sites for tour information or join a site like YouVisit. Learn more about virtual tours in this US News Article: How to Make the Most of Virtual College Tours.
  4. Practice your interview skills! There are lots of great web sites with sample interview questions (e.g., ThoughtCo.com, BigFuture). Practice with a friend via video chat (e.g., Facetime, Google, Skype, Messenger) or record yourself.
  5. Write a practice or rough draft college essay. Common App Essay Prompts remain the same from one year to the next and has already announced that first-year essay prompts will remain the same for next application season. Check those out here: https://www.commonapp.org/apply/essay-prompts

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

Transition Planning at IEP Team Meetings – The Good, The Fun and The Beautiful

By | NESCA Notes 2019

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

Transition planning is a complicated process for schools, families and related service professionals. It is not something that can be done well without key ingredients, such as open minds, collaboration and creative brain power… not to mention time. But when good transition planning happens in the context of a team meeting, it is a really powerful and awesome process – and even, dare I say, fun!

I recently worked with a young woman – let us call her Julie – who had spent four years of high school in a small therapeutic program. It took Julie, with great support from her team, a lot of effort to get through the academic demands of high school while simultaneously managing and remediating social and emotional complexities. As Julie progressed through her senior year, her school team recognized that she had not had the time or opportunities to build some critical life skills, including the self-advocacy and executive function skills she would need to manage post-secondary, real-world activities. Everyone agreed that she needed another year to build and generalize the functional skills that are essential for being a student in a post-secondary learning environment and to be deemed employable. With no option available for Julie to continue in her therapeutic school program, the team agreed to set up a meeting to create a new IEP that focused largely on Julie’s remaining transition-focused needs. Due to time constraints, the team meeting occurred at the start of this school year.

I was fortunate to be invited to consult at this meeting. After introductions, we dug in together to review Julie’s most recent transition evaluation. Julie had a thorough evaluation that had been completed by the school district, which provided a lot of information about her disability-related needs as well as her vision and interests. We talked about the most pressing areas to address in developing the IEP goals and debated options for creatively writing the annual goals in the IEP document (i.e. whether to focus annual goals on life, vocational and college participation skills with objectives related to social, emotional, executive functioning and self-advocacy issues in each arena or whether to employ a more traditional IEP format with seven goal areas).

We discussed objectives that would be most useful in the context of Julie’s long-term goals – attaining a college degree and working as a nutritionist. Julie’s mom had done a great deal of work prior to the team meeting, helping Julie apply to Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services, connecting with the local agency contracted to provide Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), and setting up Julie’s first internship experience for the summer. She also helped Julie to sign up for an adaptive driver’s education class to occur on weekends throughout the fall. Julie’s mother had also researched options for college classes that Julie might be able to participate in, even though she had missed the start of many fall classes.

Julie’s Special Education Director had worked equally hard in looking into resources within the school district and community that could provide Julie with meaningful activities and experiences and assist her in making progress with the skills outlined in the transition assessment. One such resource identified by Julie’s Special Education Director was a non-profit social skills group. Another resource was a coach who could provide hands-on support on a college campus and was already in place as part of a postgraduate program run through a nearby district. The Director also identified several staff withing the school district who were experienced in supporting transition-age students – the school social worker and lead teacher within the school’s therapeutic program – who could work with Julie.

We gathered in a room together not to talk about a program that already existed, but to design the individualized, unique transition program that Julie required. We brainstormed options for shoring up her writing skills with such approaches as drafting an independent research paper on being a nutritionist and participating in a dual enrollment college writing class. We thought of ways to build money management skills through an online personal finance class with school support and real-life practice by visiting her local bank and several ATMs with her school’s occupational therapist.

When we left the meeting, we had designed a brand new program for Julie that would satisfy her needs in the areas of social, emotional, self-advocacy, executive functioning, adaptive and vocational skills development through a combination of school-, community- and home-based activities, with defined support from the school district, community agencies and her family. Everyone left the meeting ready to carry out the next steps of planning for Julie, with roles and responsibilities clearly outlined to initiate the activities that would hopefully propel Julie toward greater independence and satisfaction in her adult life.

This is just one example of a great team meeting that I have been a part of this school year. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to many of these meetings as well as some of the more challenging ones. After this meeting, I drove all the way home smiling about how much can be accomplished in a 75-minute team meeting when everyone comes to the table thinking about the student, willing to brainstorm, interested in collaborative problem-solving, thinking outside the box, and eager to share responsibility in supporting the student.

Certainly, there are many times when a school district or local collaborative already has a great program and peer group that will work for a student’s post-12th-grade needs, but, as a Transition Specialist, it is truly a lot of fun when everyone is ready to roll their sleeves up and pitch in to create a new tailored individualized education program that taps into the internal resources available to the student and school, while adding community supports and services as appropriate.

In thinking about what makes transition planning at IEP team meetings, such as Julie’s, notably successful, the following “ingredients” stand out:

  • The meeting focuses on the student, with the student’s vision presented at the start of the meeting (ideally by the student), and the team is in agreement about supporting that vision;
  • Team members come to the table eager to work with one another, willing to problem-solve, ask questions, listen to feedback and build on one another’s ideas;
  • There is good assessment data to inform the team process, whereby the team has a good sense of the student’s strengths, preferences and needs, and works together to prioritize what has to be addressed through the IEP; and
  • Team members come to the table knowing what resources exist inside and outside of the school program, with parents and educators having researched and reached out to invite new team members who may know about internal and external resources.

If you are interested in working with a transition specialist at NESCA for consultation, 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. 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 or call 617-658-9800.

10 Everyday Financial Literacy Activities to Build Skills

By | NESCA Notes 2019

By Kathleen Pignone, M.Ed., CRC
Transition Specialist

Financial Literacy is a much-discussed topic in the field of transition planning and life skills acquisition. Basically, we want our teenagers and young adults to have competence or knowledge in this broad area. Who is responsible for teaching this? Schools, parents, other community providers? The simple answer is all of the above.

Here are 10 quick, easy and hopefully engaging ways to support financial literacy and lots of other life skills in teenagers and young adults while juggling all of our other many parental responsibilities.

  • Plan a preferred meal or dessert and make a budget for ingredients – learn cost comparison and cooking
  • Calculate a tip in a restaurant – teach about tipping habits and budgeting; similarly schedule a haircut and pay adding tip calculation – learn multiplication and practice phone skills
  • Provide a menu of chores and determine prices for duration and frequency – help teens be seen as resources to parents by providing a menu of desired activities and a money value associated with each task
  • Help plan for a vacation – pick an activity in the destination and price it out or cost-compare flight options
  • Cost out weekly snacks – make decisions about healthy spending and healthy eating habits
  • Volunteer at school bake sale with your teen – practice making change for cash purchases while helping fundraise and give back to your school community
  • Purchase birthday card and/or birthday present – model how to budget and cost out how much for a DIY card and birthday present versus buying both from a store
  • Figure out how much it will cost to fill a gas tank – determine how far can you get on one tank of gas versus an hourly salary for entry level competitive job
  • Bus fare or uber fare comparison – great conversation about wants versus needs!
  • Play an online financial game with your teenager, such as Financial Soccer by Visa or Plan It Prom App – learn together how much it costs to attend a prom (and subsequently plan for the expenses) or play a fun game where both parents and teen can learn together

All of these activities teach saving, budgeting, financial goals, wise use of credit, cost comparison and other key executive functioning skills. Hopefully this will make spending time with your teen enjoyable and educational.

About the Author:

Kathleen Pignone, M.Ed. CRC is a deeply knowledgeable and experienced transition specialist. Prior to her tenure at NESCA, Ms. Pignone was the Career Development Director at Bay Cove Academy for 15 years, providing students with classroom and real-world employment skills training, community job placement and on the job employment-training. She has also worked at Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education and privately as a vocational rehabilitation consultant. As a certified rehabilitation counselor, Ms. Pignone brings unique expertise carrying out vocational assessment and employment planning for adolescents and young adults as well as supporting local school programs. In addition to fortifying NESCA’s premier transition assessment services, Ms. Pignone engages in person-centered planning with teens and young adults, consultation and training for parents, providers and schools, and community-based coaching services.

 

To book a transition assessment or consultation with Kathleen or one of NESCA’s expert neuropsychologists and consultants, please 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.