NESCA has unexpected availability for Neuropsychological Evaluations and ASD Diagnostic Clinic assessments in the Plainville, MA office in the next several weeks! Our expert pediatric neuropsychologists in Plainville specialize in children ages 18 months to 26 years, with attentional, communication, learning, or developmental differences, including those with a history or signs of ADHD, ASD, Intellectual Disability, and complex medical histories. To book an evaluation or inquire about our services in Plainville (approx.45 minutes from NESCA Newton), complete our Intake Form.

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transition to adulthood

If My Child Attends a Residential School, Will the State Pay for Housing When They Graduate?

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

The goal of transition services is to help students who are on IEPs to progress toward their measurable postsecondary goals. This includes planning for future learning and work situations, and also planning for future living—as independently as possible. An enormous challenge that comes up in this planning process is that families (and sometimes the professionals supporting them) do not fully understand the realities of housing for adults who have exited public education.

There is a common misconception that if your child has qualified for residential special education programming, that will mean that your child will qualify for residential support as an adult. However, adult human service supports are not an entitlement like special education—these services are voted on by state legislature. The truth is that adult services and benefits are built to fill in the gaps of what you cannot physically or financially do to support your child. If you are alive and you can reasonably take care of your child, even with support, that is what you will be expected to do. If, instead, you want your child to be able to live in their own home or a shared home, then you and your child will be responsible for figuring out how to find and fund that living situation.

Hopefully, this data, shared by Cathy Boyle of Autism Housing Pathways in a January presentation, titled “Thinking About Housing,” will help to hammer home this point. Cathy shared numbers from fiscal year 2021 which quantified some of the residential supports awarded to young adults in Massachusetts who turned 22 during that fiscal year. Specifically, there were 1,233 students turning 22 who were served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) in Massachusetts. Of that number, only 263 received “residential supports.” However, the majority of those “residential supports” were provided in shared living situations where the housing was not being funded by DDS. It was only about 100 individuals statewide who turned 22 and entered into brick-and-mortar homes funded by DDS.

Regarding who is able to secure DDS housing in Massachusetts, it is typically only available to individuals who have an intellectual disability that was diagnosed before age 18 and (1) are a danger to themselves, and/or (2) are a danger to others, and/or (3) have pica (a condition in which a person eats items not usually considered food). There are some other criteria considered, including whether the caregiver can keep the individual healthy and safe (based on caregiver criteria, such as age, health, employment) and the judgment of the evaluator from the state. But, as previously described, housing is reserved for individuals with the most significant needs. Also, while there is funding through DDS for day services for adults with autism in Massachusetts, this budget explicitly does not cover residential services or housing. Only individuals with autism who also meet the intellectual disability criteria are eligible for housing under standard criteria.

If your child has a mental health condition, you may wonder about housing through Department of Mental Health (DMH). While it’s difficult to find current statistics on the number of young adults turning 22 and receiving group home services, there is a limited number of beds, and eligibility criteria for DMH services specifies that you can only be eligible for services if they are actually available. Also, the criterion for housing is quite similar to DDS in that an individual has to be entirely unable to live at home even with intensive in-home support. This often equates to the same variable of whether your child is actively at risk of harming themselves or another person.

While I’m providing data from Massachusetts in order to exemplify these housing challenges, the struggles are similar, if not more difficult, across the United States. The reality is that if you have a child with a disability, you and your child are more than likely going to have to plan for and figure out how to pay for their housing in adulthood. This is one of the ways that our children are treated 100% similarly to nondisabled adults. Although having a disability may help your child to qualify for accommodations in adulthood, living accommodations are most often not part of that right.

Resources:

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college including executive function coaching, pre-college coaching, transition planning, and neuropsychological evaluation. To learn more specifically about our transition planning services, visit https://nesca-newton.com/transition/. To learn about other coaching services, visit: https://nesca-newton.com/coaching-services/. 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.

Preparing for a College Visit

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

With vacation weeks coming up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, many local families—especially those with juniors in high school—are contemplating visits to college campuses. School vacation weeks in the spring are a great time to visit colleges because you can tour the campus at a point in time when students are engaged in a typical flurry of academic and extracurricular activities. Summer may allow for more convenient or peaceful tours, but it is not a time of year when the happenings on campus accurately reflect student life (unless there is a very active summer session). Instead, spring and fall are often considered the optimal seasons for campus visits. For those of you planning upcoming visits, here are a few tips to consider—especially if you are a student with a learning disability, autism, or a mental health diagnosis.

  • Sign up ahead of time for the tour through the college’s web site. Even if a college does not require registration, potential students should go ahead and register for the college tour so that they get “credit” for their visit. There are lots of metrics that count as part of the college admissions process, and one of these important variables is literally the number of times that a potential student makes contact with the college. Things like registering for a tour, emailing admissions, following the college on social media, visiting with college representatives at college fairs, and signing up to receive materials by mail or email can all be considered “points of contact” with the college and may help students to ultimately be accepted.
  • Be prepared to answer a few questions about yourself. Most college information sessions or tours will start with the admissions staff and/or tour guide introducing themself and asking a few questions about the students in the group. Students should be prepared to share things like their name, hometown, grade, potential major, and clubs or activities they might want to participate in during college. Not all of this information will be requested outright, but some will typically be part of introductions and more may be asked during a presentation or tour. For students who have a hard time answering questions on the spot, they will feel much more comfortable if they have thought about—and practiced—answering these questions before the tour. They can also be more actively involved. Terms like undergraduate, graduate, first-year, and transfer may also come up when visiting colleges, and it can be helpful to review some college vocabulary ahead of time so that students are not flustered in the moment.
  • Ask questions of your own! (But make sure you are asking the right people your questions.) Information sessions and college tours are typically facilitated by admissions staff and college students. These are the times when you are learning about the college in general and getting a sense of campus culture, facilities, and services available to all students on the campus. For legal reasons, college admissions and college disability supports are notably separate entities. This means that college information sessions and tours are not typically the time and place for accommodation- and disability-specific questions. So, what questions should you ask? Well, there are plenty of web-based resources that you can look to in order to create your own personal list of tour questions. Here are just a few you might find interesting:

Even if you have done online research about a college, it’s a good idea to ask a few questions about items that are important to you to see if things on campus are really as described. Also, if you are a student with a disability, you might ask some of the questions that get at culture and inclusion: What’s it like to be a new student on campus? How do you see the college demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion? What controversial issues have come up on campus?

  • Don’t panic if you don’t see yourself or your student in the tour guide. College tour guides are typically some of the highest performing, actively involved students at the college and are usually representative of an extreme rather than the “average” student. While these students are certainly a part of the campus and culture, it is important to get a sense of who else is on the campus. Take time to observe and talk with other students you see walking around on campus. If you can, circle back to an academic building in an area of interest and find a student to talk to there. Or just stop a few students around campus and ask informal questions (e.g., Why did you pick this college? What do you wish you could change? What do you do like about being a student here? What do you wish you knew before you started college here?).
  • Take time to eat on campus. Make time before or after your tour to eat in a main cafeteria or campus center. If you are going to be eating three meals a day on campus, its important to know what that experience will be like. Certainly, the food is important. You need to know if there are a variety of food options and that there is something you would be comfortable eating for all meals. Also, you want to get a sense of the atmosphere, including how crowded it is and how easy it is to find a table.
  • If you are just getting started on your college search process and do not have a set list of schools yet, don’t worry. You can still get out and visit schools. I often suggest starting with different college archetypes (e.g., big school, little school, school spread out in a city, school with more defined campus, private, public, community, etc.). It can be good to just pick a few different school types, visit the colleges, and then do some real downloading of information and preferences immediately after the visits. I often ask students to do some ratings of colleges as they leave the schools so that they can quantify their “gut feeling” about a school and use that for comparison even if they aren’t sure exactly what it was that they liked or disliked. Even a bad college visit can help to determine some of the things that are most important about the college search process!

Embarking on college campus visits is a bit of a house hunting process—you are looking at potential academic homes. It can definitely be overwhelming, especially when it’s a process that you have not been through before and you may not know exactly what you want or what’s worth looking at. But you have to start somewhere. Following these suggestions should allow you to get a true sense of campus life and culture while also learning about yourself and your own preferences and values. Be prepared, but also trust yourself, and let each experience help you learn who you want to be as a future college student.

 

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 whether students are ready for college transition, or they may need a step in between or a scaffolded transition: 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.

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.

Technology Tools to Boost Your Productivity Part 2

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

As winter envelops us in its chilly embrace, it’s easy to feel the drag on our productivity. The cold, dark days can sap our motivation, making it challenging to tackle our to-do lists. But fear not! In this second part of our series on technology tools to enhance productivity, we’ll explore five more applications designed to support you through the winter slump.

Before diving into these tools, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s normal to experience dips in productivity, especially during the winter months. These apps are here to provide an extra boost for those who may need it.

  1. Finch: Finch is a self-care app used to build healthy habits and routines. Within this app you will be given a virtual pet bird. As you set, meet, and reach your goals, you will boost your pet’s energy so that it is able to go out on adventures. You will earn coins to buy your pet new outfits, home décor, and flights to new destinations. This app helps gamify the process of building healthy habits by creating fun incentives to get your tasks done.
  2. Forest App: Spending too much time on your phone or computer can contribute to feelings of lethargy and distraction, especially during the winter months. Forest is a clever app that encourages you to put down your device and focus on what’s important. Simply set a timer, plant a virtual tree, and watch it grow while you work. If you succumb to the temptation of checking your phone or browsing the web, your tree will wither and die. With Forest, you can cultivate healthier digital habits and reclaim your productivity.
  3. Cozi: Cozi is a family organizer app designed to streamline your household routines. From managing schedules and appointments to coordinating grocery lists and meal plans, Cozi helps keep your family on track during the hectic winter months. With shared calendars and reminders, everyone stays in sync, reducing stress and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
  4. Streaks: Forming good habits is essential for maintaining productivity, especially when the days are short and the nights are long. Streaks is a habit-tracking app that helps you establish and maintain positive routines. Whether you want to exercise more, drink more water, or practice mindfulness, Streaks makes it easy to track your progress and stay motivated. Streaks empowers you to build habits that stick, even when the winter weather tempts you to hibernate.
  5. Headspace: Taking care of your mental well-being is crucial, especially during the darker days of winter. Headspace is a meditation app that offers guided mindfulness exercises to help you reduce stress, improve focus, and cultivate a sense of calm. Whether you’re struggling with seasonal affective disorder or simply feeling overwhelmed by winter blues, Headspace can provide the support you need to prioritize your mental health and boost your productivity.

The winter months can be challenging, but with the right technology tools at your disposal, you can stay focused, organized, and productive. Whether you’re building healthy habits and routines, reducing screen time, coordinating family schedules, or prioritizing mental health, these apps are here to support you every step of the way. So don’t let the winter blues hold you back—embrace the power of technology and conquer your to-do list!

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

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

 

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

 

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

Why is it so hard to develop Executive Function skills for college as a high school student?

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

Students with disabilities often have challenges with executive function skills. These may include difficulties with organization, planning and prioritization, time management, task initiation, attention and effort, working memory, self-regulation, self-monitoring, and mental flexibility. Being successful as a college student often depends on using and integrating these skills. Therefore, it’s no surprise that most of the IEPs I read when working with teenage and young adult students have goals or objectives aimed at remediating executive function (EF) skills. However, many students on IEPs have these “EF” goals for years and still don’t effectively develop the skills they need to successfully manage executive functioning tasks as college students.

One of the reasons for the remaining skill gap when students matriculate to college is because high school student responsibilities are pretty radically different from college student responsibilities. While research indicates that individuals can continue developing executive function skills throughout the lifespan, this requires a very particular set of activities. Executive function skills develop through a combination of direct instruction and opportunities to practice using the learned skills with and without support. But there often are not opportunities for practicing the skills needed for college as a high school student.

Below is a list of executive function supports that exist in high school, but often disappear in college:

  • Classes are small and always taught by teachers
  • Class material is centralized in books or on the board in the classroom
  • Time is structured by the school
  • Students are told what they need to learn from homework
  • Students are reminded of assignments and due dates
  • Completed homework is checked by teachers
  • Reading is discussed in classes
  • Studying is limited to a few hours per week
  • Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material
  • Teachers approach students who need help
  • Schools are required to find students with disabilities who need specialized instruction and accommodations
  • Parents and teachers will remind students of their responsibilities
  • Parents and teachers will help to set priorities (or simply set them for the student)
  • Parents and teachers will correct students when behavior is unexpected

In college, students may have large classes taught by other students or experts in their fields who aren’t experts on teaching. They have to use syllabi, manage their own schedules (with large swaths of unscheduled time), integrate academic materials from a wide range of sources, and self-direct long hours of reading and studying. They also have to be responsible for advocating for themselves, knowing when they need help, and knowing what they are responsible for (academically, socially, and in their dorms) and getting those things done without parent and teacher reminders. For students who have strengths with executive functioning, often the transition to college still presents a steep learning curve. But for those who have vulnerabilities in these areas, it can be critical to recognize that the gaps are large between these two learning environments, and sometimes additional support and instruction is necessary while students are taking college classes. Some students will still need to build effective academic and executive function skills, and practice and master those executive function skills, while they are in college and managing this new set of demands.

NESCA offers many services designed to help students bridge the transition from high school to college, including 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/ . To schedule an appointment with one of our expert clinicians or coaches, please complete our intake at: https://nesca-newton.com/intake/ .

Reference:

Many of the bulleted items of executive function supports that exist in high school are adapted from this high school versus college comparison by King’s College: https://www.kings.edu/admissions/high_school_vs_college

 

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.

October is Gap Year Exploration Month – Why Should Teens on IEPs Care?

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

On September 12th, I received an email from a colleague with the title May I nominate you? The body of the email described that October is Gap Year Exploration Month (GYEM) and asked if I would be willing to be a GYEM Amplifier, meaning would I be willing to share information with my personal and professional network to create awareness about gap years and increase student consideration of gap years as one of their post-secondary options. This was an easy “YES!” for me because I have spent the majority of my career trying to help students and families who I work with to understand that there are many other options besides college, or before college, for students to pursue after high school. Just last week, I was in an IEP meeting for a 10th grade student recommending that the student have an IEP goal and objectives that would help to enhance his understanding of a variety of post-12th grade options so that he could make an informed and active choice about his post-high school activities.

In the United States, every student who is on an IEP has the right to postsecondary transition planning. This is a process by which a young person is supported in the setting of goals and expectations for themselves and in building the skills and resources that will enable them to reach those goals. This should be a completely individualized process. However, in working with a large number of clients in Massachusetts and other Northeast states, I have observed that most middle and high school students have the same postsecondary vision: College. There is a strong consensus that college is the only goal to reach after high school, rather than an important step that leads to gainful employment in an area of strength, interest, or aptitude. Students with and without disabilities often know that they want to go to college (or that they are expected to go to college), but they have no career goals or sense about whether a college degree will actually benefit them in finding employment related to their aptitudes. Despite the data, most young people (and their parents) simply take as fact that college is what you do after high school. So how do we empower students to better manage the transition process? First and foremost, we need to start discussing career development, and to help our youth to understand the wide range of postsecondary options available to them, at earlier ages. A bachelor’s degree is one academic pursuit that has a place for many students, but for a great number of students, it is not the best immediate option available after high school. There are many other options worth exploring, such as two-year college programs, vocational or certificate programs, apprenticeships, military, employment, and gap year programs. So today, let’s talk about those gap year programs!

What is a gap year? A gap year is a deliberate period of personal growth typically taken by students after high school and before post-secondary education or career. During a gap year, individuals engage in various activities that foster personal growth, skill development, and exploration of different paths before committing to further education or career choices. These activities may include volunteering, interning, traveling, working, learning new skills, or pursuing other forms of experiential learning. The purpose of a gap year is to gain valuable life experiences, expand one’s perspective, and make informed decisions about future educational and career endeavors.

What can you do on a gap year? The options are endless! Gappers can choose from structured programs like service learning or volunteer projects, or pursue independent activities, such as interning, hiking, or working on organic farms. There are opportunities both within the US and abroad.

Is a gap year expensive? A meaningful gap year can be planned on various budgets. Students can offset costs through work, fundraising, scholarships, and financial aid. Some gap year programs accept funds from 529 Plans. Moreover, gap year students often graduate from college in less time, potentially saving families money in the long run. Explore a comprehensive list of scholarships here.

What are the evidence-based benefits of taking a gap year?

  • Academic Success: Recent studies show that gap year students outperform traditional students academically when they enter college.
  • Employability Boost: 88% of gap year graduates report that their experience significantly enhances their employability.
  • Personal Development: 98% of gap year graduates claim that their gap year helped them grow as a person.
  • Career Exploration: 60% of gap year graduates credit their experience with either confirming their choice of career or setting them on their current path.

References for these statistics can be found here.

Can you still attend college after a gap year? According to the best data on this question, 90% of gap year students who intended to go to college enroll within a year of graduating high school.

How can I learn more about planning a gap year?

Seek guidance from your school counselor.

Attend local USA Gap Year Fairs or online events to meet with programs and gather more information.

Check out some of the following Articles/Videos:

Visit the web sites below:

Listen to a Podcast

Read a Book

Is a transition program the same thing as a gap year program? Not exactly. Postsecondary transition programs are typically programs for young adults with disabilities that target skill development in one or more transition planning areas: life skill development, vocational skill development, and/or readiness for college. Often, developing executive function and social skills is a strong emphasis of these programs. Some of these programs are therapeutic and target the mental health needs of the young adult while supporting skill development in transition planning areas. While some students will participate in transition programs or transitional living programs as gap experiences, transition programs are typically a different category of program. At NESCA, we specialize in helping families determine whether transition programming is needed beyond 12th grade and support families to find – or create –

postsecondary transition programs. We also coordinate with local specialists – Gap Year Consultants, College Consultants, and Therapeutic Educational Consultants—when students may need special expert support in any of those areas.

REFERENCE: Several of the FAQs in this blog are copied directly from GYEM: Digital Dispatch materials created by the Gap Year Association of America and distributed to Gap Year Exploration Month Amplifiers throughout the world.

 

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.

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 (coming soon), Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and the greater Burlington, Vermont region, serving clients from infancy through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

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

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

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

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

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

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

 

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

 

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

Building Independence—How Independent Living Centers Can Help Youth with Disabilities

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

Good transition planning is about building a “team” that can outlast special education and using resources wisely. There is often talk of “maximizing benefits” so that private funds can be reserved and made to last. In order to create an effective and individualized transition plan, you have to know what resources are available in your local community as well as on the state and federal levels. One resource that may be overlooked or underused is your local Center for Independent Living (CIL). In Massachusetts, and some other states, these are often named Independent Living Centers (ILC).

Across the United States, CILs are free community-based agencies that provide a range of services designed to help individuals with disabilities build skills for living more independently. The barrier to entry is typically very low as the intake process may sometimes just be a phone call and acknowledgement of having a disability.

At a minimum, each center is charged with providing the following core services:

  • Information and referral: Learning about services, providers, benefits, and programs within your local community that can help you achieve your goals (e.g., advocacy, daily living, housing, recreation, etc.). Also, learning about resources offered through state and national organizations.
  • Skills training: Explicit instruction of self-advocacy and/or life skills that can help you to live, learn, and work more independently. Examples areas for skill development include accommodations, personal care, housing and household management, managing finances, interview preparation, etc.
  • Peer counseling/mentoring: Talking with a peer by phone, video conference, or in person for mutual support, confidence building, and ultimately to make more independent and informed choices.
  • Advocacy: Learning to advocate on both individual and systems levels. Building skills to advocate for oneself, including filing complaints or taking legal action to remove barriers when needed.
  • Transition services: Services to facilitate transition to postsecondary adult life, services to facilitate transition from institutions to the community, and services to assist individuals at risk of needing to be in institutions.

Additionally, ILCs/CILs may have developed services that are specifically useful for consumers in their local community or state. And there is generally no age requirement for accessing services. For example, many ILCs in Massachusetts have specific youth programming or Transition to Adulthood Programs (TAPs) which offer advocacy, skills training, and peer counseling specifically tailored to students.

ILCs/CILs are awesome agencies run by, and for, individuals with disabilities. However, in my experience, they are not talked about or accessed nearly enough as part of transition planning. If you are reading the blog and interested in building independence at home and in the community for yourself, your child, or a youth you work with—I strongly recommend you look up your local Center for Independent Living and call to find out more about accessing services today.

Resources:

Administration for Community Living – What is Independent Living?  https://acl.gov/programs/aging-and-disability-networks/centers-independent-living

ILRU Directory of Centers for Independent Living and Associations – https://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory

Massachusetts Independent Living Centers – https://www.mass.gov/independent-living-centers

 

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.

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 and Plainville, Massachusetts, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

NESCA Offers Vermont-based Transition and Coaching Services

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

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

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

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

What services do you offer?

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

What type of client does NESCA serve in Vermont?

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

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

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

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

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

Does insurance cover your services in Vermont?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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

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

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

By | Nesca Notes 2023

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

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

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Breakfast:

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

 Snack:

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

Lunch:

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

 Snack:

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

 Dinner:

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

 Grocery List:

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

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

 

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Role Play:

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

Classmate: Hi, Jane! I’m Sarah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classmate: Perfect. I’ll see you then!

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

Classmate: See you then, Jane!

 

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Subject: Request for an Extension on Project Submission

Dear Professor [Name],

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

 

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

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

Response from ChatGPT:

Introduction

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

Relevant experience and skills

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

Passion for coffee and the Starbucks brand

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

Availability and willingness to learn

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

Closing

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

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

 

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

 

About Lyndsay Wood, OTD, OTR/L

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

 

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