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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back-to-School: Turning the Morning Blitz into School-Day Bliss

From Raising Happiness
via GreaterGood - The Science of a Meaningful Life

By Christine Carter, Ph.D.
September 3, 2012

Five steps for peace before school.

Moment of truth: My kids and I spent the first part of the last school year without any sort of predictable morning routine, or at least one that worked. If my kids seemed tired, I’d let them sleep in—and feed them breakfast in the car. If I was tired, I’d sleep in—and then find my cranky self snapping at the kids to hurry up.

In my household, there is a vast difference between school mornings that go smoothly and those that involve nagging, missed buses, and tears.

It’s the difference between heaven and hell.

Mornings are important. Will kids arrive at school flustered and distressed from their panicked run to the bus, having barely choked down breakfast? Or will they arrive well-rested and well-fed, bright-eyed and ready to learn? Plenty of research suggests that this difference can influence their school success in a big way.

The good news is that our mornings aren’t simply catastrophes that happen to us; instead, our morning happiness is actually within our power to control, and finding that morning bliss is all about HABIT. Once a routine is established in our brains, it takes very little effort for us, or our kids, to enact that routine.

The bad news is that if we aren’t deliberate in establishing our routines, our families can get into bad habits that become difficult to break. A few examples of the bad habits we got into last year: One of my daughters would always wait to come down for breakfast until I nagged her repeatedly—sometimes to the point of yelling—to do so; the other would routinely change clothes 1,000 times; both never put their PE shoes in the same (findable) place.

I did finally get it together and choreograph a morning routine that worked. It was HARD for the first several weeks: my friends and family thought I was being particularly neurotic and controlling with my detailed checklists and minute-to-minute schedules. The kids started off strong, and then, about 3 weeks in, got bored and annoyed and wanted to have nothing to do with my routines. But I was so glad that I persisted! Turning that crazy morning blitz into morning bliss is SO WORTH IT.

My best advice for establishing a blissful morning routine? Prepare, prepare, prepare. Morning hell is born out of lack of preparation. Know what’s for breakfast (and have that food in the house). Know what needs to be done before bed. Know exactly what the morning schedule is going to be.

More specifically:

1. Make checklists for each person in your household, listing things the night before that need to be done to help prepare for the next morning.

Here’s my kids’ “Night Before” checklist:
  • Run dishwasher or hand wash dishes needed to pack lunch.
  • Pack snacks and water bottles (or whole lunch, if possible).
  • Prep for breakfast: set the table, set out cereal, put smoothie ingredients near the blender.
  • Pack backpack for school, and put it near the kitchen door.
  • Put a jacket, hat, and shoes by your backpack. If you want to look up the weather, do it now.
  • Clean up your room. (This often unearths stuff for school that they would have forgotten.)
  • Pick out clothes for the morning, and commit to wearing those clothes.
2. Get enough sleep. The hard truth is that it is nearly impossible to lead a happy life, or to have a happy childhood, when we’re under-slept. Don’t kid yourself: 99 percent of adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

I need a full eight hours, so I go to bed at 10:00 pm, and wake up at 6:00 am. This makes it possible for me to dawdle a little in the morning, to have some quiet time to myself, without feeling rushed and cranky.

My nine-year-old goes to bed at 8:00 pm and wakes up at 7:00 am. My 11-year-old goes to sleep at 8:30 pm and wakes up at 7:00 am. I know that my kids are getting enough sleep because they wake up without an alarm.

3. Set an alarm—for the same time every day. This may seem obvious, but I get into trouble when I think I can get away with not doing this. We can’t get into a good routine if it changes everyday.

Even though my kids typically wake up without an alarm, they set their alarms for the time when they must be out of bed—they are already awake and reading when it goes off. They also set a second alarm for the time that they need to go downstairs to breakfast. I don’t like to wake my kids up because I think it sets a bad precedent: I don’t like to start the day by nagging them. Better to let the alarm do that.

4. Script your ideal routine. Here’s ours:
  • 7:00 am: My goal is to be totally ready for my day, so that I can head to the kitchen to finish lunch and breakfast prep.
  • 7:00 am: Kids get out of bed and get dressed, brush hair, and make beds.
  • 7:20 am: We all sit down together to eat breakfast.
  • 7:40 am: We clear dishes and clean off the breakfast counter. Put lunchboxes with backpacks.
  • 7:45 am: We brush our teeth and put our shoes on.
  • 8:00 am: We’re out the door!
5. Clear space to be successful. Muster the self-discipline to resist doing things that will derail your routine in the morning, or your mood. For me, this means I can’t turn my computer on or check my email. For my daughters it means they need to eat breakfast first, before they can be expected to be focused or make any real decisions. We don’t leave homework for the morning.

It takes time—more than a month or so, for my family—to really get into a routine like this. And until something like this is laid down as a habit, it takes A LOT of conscious effort to make happen. It is hard, as a parent, to maintain the consistency we need to for mornings to be virtually effortless and blissful. But trust me: It is worth it!


NESCA FAQ: What will an evaluation tell me about my child?

The purpose of neuropsychological evaluation is to provide much deeper knowledge of a child’s inherent strengths and weaknesses, in order to better understand the challenges that the child may experience in meeting developmental demands, and the strengths that he or she may call upon to compensate. Once the child’s learning profile is understood, specific recommendations can be made for direct interventions and supports at home and at school to assist the child in functioning to full potential. Results of the neuropsychological profile are often used to make specific diagnoses and to provide parents with information about their child’s level of functioning relative to same-age peers.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Teacher Training: Simulating Sensory Processing Disorders

From Smart Kids with LD

August 20, 2013

Imagine taking a math test while wearing 3-D glasses, sitting on a bean-filled plastic bag, in a classroom filling up with bubbles. You use crayons to answer the questions, while the teacher and her assistant walk around the room, one banging a tin can and the other rattling a tambourine.

Every now and then they tickle you with feathers, drag a bottle brush across your forearm, and spray you with a light stream of water, all while permeating your space with a stinky chunk of limburger cheese.

Welcome to the world of children with Sensory Processing Disorders.

Training the Trainers

In an effort to educate educators about what it’s like to be among the estimated one in 20 students easily overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by sensory inputs, the South Michigan group Parent to Parent travels the area putting groups of educators through this exercise.

How do educators do? Most flunk the grade-school test. According to an article in the BattleCreekEnquirer.com, those who participated in the Traveling Sensory Classroom at the Calhoun Great Start Collaborative, “expressed frustration at the annoyances. One educator said he just shut down during the onslaught, while another said she was red-hot with anger.”

Jayne Weaver, a Parent-to-Parent trainer and grandparent to a child with autism, explained that during an overload, a child with a sensory disorder is likely to “become anxious and act out. Oftentimes kids will get in trouble for that.”

Weaver provided the group with several techniques to address these issues, which she suggests all children could benefit from—not just those with sensory processing issues:

She told the educators they could help students by remaining calm, whispering in their ear to force them to focus on their voice, and providing reassurance.

She showed them tools they could use, such as a pen that lights up when the right amount of pressure is used during writing, which would help kids who struggle with motor skills because of the disorder.

But, she cautioned, “There’s no magic answer to help the kids that are struggling. Every kid is unique and what works for this kid might not work for that kid.”

New! Light with Laura - Teen Yoga Series

Two 4-Week Sections Starting Sunday, October 6th 

We are pleased to announce the first two sessions of Light with Laura, a creative new program developed by NESCA Yoga Specialist Laura McEvoy, M.Ed., who doubles as a high school guidance counselor.

Each consisting of four hour-long classes, these programs are ideal for student-athletes who would like to learn how yoga can build endurance, strength, balance and flexibility through various postures. But, more importantly, each class will be an hour of self-care that will help participants navigate the ups and downs of life as a teenager, through mind-quieting techniques and meditation.

Some benefits could include increased strength, balance, focus, relaxation, injury-prevention and reduced athletic performance anxiety.

Where:  NESCA, 55 Chapel Street, 2nd Floor
                   Newton, MA 02458

When:   Section I - 12:00 Noon - 1:00pm,
                   October  6, 13, 20 and 27th (All Sundays)

               Section II - 12:00 Noon - 1:00pm,
                    November  3, 10, 17 and 24th (All Sundays)

Cost:      $100 per student per section (4 sessions), in
                   advance. Sessions not available individually.

A minimum of four students must register for a section to take place, and enrollment in each will be limited to six participants. Students who miss a session may take a make-up class in the next section, space permitting.

Other candidates include high-achieving female student-athletes (junior or senior), struggling with perfectionism, anxiety or OCD. As both a guidance counselor and coach, McEvoy has seen many high school girls who would benefit from this "relief" from their draining, competitive, and at times, anxiety-producing schedules. Many sports do not foster body-mind awareness as yoga does. These classes may counterbalance a teen girl's stressful schedule.

To enroll in either section or both, or for additional information, please call 617-658-9800, or email Laura McEvoy at lmcevoy@nesca-newton.com.

About Laura McEvoy, M.Ed., Yoga Specialist

Laura McEvoy earned her Masters of Education in School Counseling from Cambridge College and has been a guidance counselor in both a middle school and high school.

Additionally, she is recently most proud of planning and developing the beginnings of the fourth recovery high school in Massachusetts, where she has had the opportunity to share the gift of yoga.

Ms. McEvoy is hoping her philosophy of healing and strengthening through spirit, mind, and body will resonate with each student she works with. Laura's fitness teaching methodology involves creating space and compassion for each yoga student, and exploring the “whole person."

She started practicing yoga about ten years ago, focusing on Bikram and heated power yoga. A few years ago, Laura became more interested in gentle yoga and meditation, and began her 200-hour training with the Fitness Resource Association. Laura uses alignment principles, breathing techniques, and Vinyasa flow to guide students in a fun practice.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Winning Over Those on the Front Line

From Smart Kids with LD

By Sheryl Knapp
August 27, 2013

Developing collaborative, non-adversarial, mutually respectful relationships with your child’s teachers is fundamental to his success in school. But oftentimes that’s easier said than done. Following are some tried and true strategies to help you establish a parent-teacher relationship that will ensure his success throughout the year.

Be Proactive

Request a get-to-know-each-other meeting. The school year begins with teachers having only rudimentary knowledge of your child, if that. It is critical that his team—general and special education teachers, classroom aides, and other team members—come together early in the school year to discuss pertinent issues, including his learning style, strengths, challenges, temperament, etc.

As the semester goes on, plan, plan, and then plan some more. There will always be unforeseen situations that arise, but you can minimize these surprises—and give teachers the knowledge and tools they need to respond when the unforeseen occurs—if you take the time to proactively plan for them.

Maintain Communication

Establish a vehicle to facilitate regular parent-teacher communication. Options such as email and texting are good for quick check-ins. The more traditional bound notebook (pages can’t be ripped out) that travels in your child’s backpack is a better option for more extensive exchanges that might involve sending materials back and forth.

Agree in advance on the anticipated frequency of exchanges (e.g., twice a week for general and special ed teachers, monthly for related service providers). But also use the communication tool for getting information as needed. This enables you to get valuable feedback, including activities to reinforce at home, progress reports, etc., while also offering you the opportunity to respond to specific situations as they arise.

Allow Space and Time

Give teachers time to work out problems on their own before you intervene. Teachers need time to get to know your child (as well as the other children he interacts with), develop routines, address unforeseen challenges, and seize unexpected opportunities.

The amount of time required depends upon the situation, but typically is at least a few weeks. Resist the urge to intervene immediately. It’s better to err on the side of waiting too long; interjecting yourself before a team member has ample opportunity to work out solutions on her own is likely to result in resentment and jeopardize long-term collaboration.

Address Issues Directly

Never report a teacher to her supervisor without first trying to resolve the situation with her. No one likes to have someone go over their head, and the consequences of doing so may be irreparable.

Support Classroom Efforts

Do not focus exclusively on your child or his disability. Teachers are always in need of parental support—particularly in the earlier school years—and it will not be viewed positively if you always have time to micromanage your child’s program, but rarely volunteer to help with class activities. Moreover, such participation provides an invaluable opportunity to interact on an informal basis with teachers without the pressure of having to discuss your child’s program or performance.

Keep a Professional Distance

Remember that the teachers are not your friends. That is not to say you can’t have a friendly, open relationship, but take care not to cross the professional parent-teacher line. The more friendly you become, the more difficult it is to objectively evaluate your child’s program and to question it or the teacher should the need arise.

Developing a positive, professional relationship with your child’s teacher may take extra time and effort on your part, but the payoff is a parent-teacher collaboration that will serve your child better than if you’re working at cross purposes.

Preparing for A New School Year: 4 Tips for Success

By Eve Kessler, Esq.
August 27, 2013

With school just around the corner, there’s no time like the present to prepare for a new school year. As parents it’s your job to manage your child’s education and secure her rights under the law.

Following are some tips to help you establish a collaborative partnership with your school to achieve those goals:

Talk—and listen—to your child. Find out how she feels about school, as well as her likes and dislikes. Until she settles in to her new environment, she may be nervous or anxious. Encouraging her to verbalize concerns will allow you to allay those you can, and will also help you assess how her adjustment progresses. Recurring issues may signal the need for further action on your part.

Speak with your child’s teachers. Within the first few weeks of a new semester, find out from her teachers if she is having difficulty with homework, is unable to complete work independently, begins but can’t complete assignments, or has difficulty recalling instruction during the school day. Also ask about her social adjustment as that may be impacting her academics.

Observe your child at home. Does she complain about physical illness or invent excuses in order to stay home from school? Does she have friends? Does she talk about or know the names of classmates? Does she use only negative comments when talking about school?

Get organized, Develop a profile of your child’s strengths and concerns, both in and out of school.
  • Keep an ongoing file or journal of meetings, phone calls, letters, etc.
  • Put every concern, request and objection in writing to all involved.
  • Compile a binder with tabs for evaluations, IEPs, samples of current performance (writing samples, tests, projects, activities, homework, etc.) and written communications.
  • Include a chart listing all evaluations by date, evaluator, test given, major areas of concern, and recommendations.
  • Make two copies of all evaluations/reports; keep one as an original and use the other as a working copy.
  • Bring this file/binder with you to all meetings regarding your child.
Eve Kessler, Esq., an attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is President of SPED*NET Wilton (CT) and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.


NESCA (Neuropsychology and Education Services for Children and Adolescents) is a pediatric neuropsychology group practice in Newton, MA whose senior clinicians and allied staff evaluate and treat a wide range of complex learning, developmental, behavioral  and emotional disorders. Seeking to identify and empower the best in each child, they also address special education issues, school placements and post-secondary transition, often observing children in their classrooms and participating in TEAM meetings. NESCA has served clients from throughout the U.S. and more than twenty other countries.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Ups and Downs of the College Application Process

From Smart Kids with LD

By Wyatt G. King
August 20, 2013

Five years ago it didn’t look as if I would make it through high school, let alone get into a major university. But here I am, a recent high-school grad with ADHD heading to Indiana University this fall.

The college application process was one of the most frustrating, yet rewarding experiences of my life. It was a process that had so many moving parts and required constant thought and attention—not strong suits for people with ADHD.

Managing the deadlines and schedules was so challenging that at times I became overwhelmed by the amount of work and effort that went into it.

During that time I would have to remind myself to control my impulsivity. I knew I had to be focused, get everything done, and not choose the first school that accepted me. I had to remind myself constantly that I would have options—and I did! I was accepted to all but one school that I applied to.

Coaching Is Key

I work well when I have a lot to do and am forced to create a plan to accomplish all the tasks at hand. I had five or six essays to write, all on different topics, all due around the same time. It was crucial to devise a plan, overcome my natural inclination to procrastinate, and to complete my tasks punctually. These were skills I learned from executive-functions coaching. Without that coaching I think this story might have had a different ending.

Executive-functions coaching taught me numerous ways to manage time effectively and limit procrastination. Without the ability to draw on what I learned from coaching (and lean on my coach himself), I wouldn’t have made it through the process successfully.

I could’ve ended up in many different places, but because of learning to control my impulsivity I found the perfect school for me. The old saying, “Patience is a virtue” really rings true in my case.

Learning different ways to plan and control my impulsivity undoubtedly led to my success throughout the process. Through coaching I learned to create time sheets to balance work and free time and to effectively plan out my day. I also learned that working while on a medicine ball helped with my impulsivity because it kept me moving around and entertained while working.

Finally came the day I got my IU acceptance letter. I was standing in line at Starbucks with a friend when I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I looked down and saw it was an e-mail from Indiana. I hesitantly opened it and glanced at the first line. “Welcome to the Indiana University class of 2017.”

At that moment I realized that I’m no different than any other student. I may have ADHD… but I was accepted.


NESCA FAQ: How do you protect our privacy?

At NESCA, we take our responsibility for your privacy very seriously! In designing our facilities and information systems, we went to great lengths to comply fully with the privacy provisions of the federal HIPAA statute. Our hard-wired office computer network is secured by unbreakable 128-bit encryption. When clinicians use laptops in our office, they access our network through a secure wireless connection separate from the second, open wireless network we provide for your convenience. When they use their laptops remotely to communicate with our server, where some essential information may be stored, they do so through secure VPN (virtual private network) connections, rather than over the internet. Similarly, clinicians off site may access and transmit email through a secure connection for which an SSL Certificate has been issued. We are equally careful in our handling of files and other documents, which are kept in locked storage.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Social Skills and Behavior in Children with Asperger's Syndrome: An Educational Perspective

From AANE.org
The Asperger's Association of New England

By Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT
August 20, 2013

Children who experience social success are those who are able to accurately assess a situation, recognize what is expected and appropriate, and act in a way that “goes with the flow” of what is going on. Some children seem to be able to do this almost magically. As social dynamics shift subtly from one situation to the next, these children adjust and thrive. For these children, social skills are learned quite naturally through experience and observation.

For children with Asperger's Syndrome, this kind of social “learning by osmosis” does not effectively occur. Children with AS tend to miss much of the information conveyed by non-verbal social cues (body language, tone of voice, etc.). They may simply not attend to this information, and the cues that they do notice are often misinterpreted. This leads to frustratingly awkward social interactions and ineffective behavioral responses.

Effective strategies to teach social skills and address behavior are as varied and diverse as the unique individuals who make up the AS population. The intention of this article is to provide a frame of reference through which to view and respond to the challenges they face.

Several areas of difference in the typical learning profiles of children with AS make learning social skills difficult:
  • Visual spatial processing: Children with AS tend to rely on language as their primary source of information. They are less tuned in to visual information and less able to process it effectively. They do not naturally “watch and learn.”
  • Holistic processing: Children with AS tend to notice details, but miss the big picture. It can be difficult for them to get an accurate read on the situation they are involved in. Holistic processing also involves making connections, applying past experience, generalizing information from one situation to another, and making inferences. Deficits in any of these areas make it difficult for effective social learning to occur in a “natural” way. Children with AS have an especially hard time inferring the intentions of other people. This can lead to inappropriately harsh or defensive reactions, and can also leave these children vulnerable to being manipulated by more savvy peers.
  • Abstract reasoning and problem solving: When a situation becomes problematic, children with AS often have no idea what to do. They may have trouble recognizing what their options are and making a choice. This results in getting “stuck”—locking into an ineffective behavior or becoming frustrated and melting down.
  • Slow processing speed: Despite their generally strong language skills, children with AS can be overwhelmed by the rapid flow of information in a social situation.
  • Emotional vulnerability: Because it is difficult for children with AS to generalize what they have learned from one situation to the next, the world can seem chaotic and overwhelming. Efforts to reach out and connect with peers can be awkward, unsuccessful, and even painful. Children with AS often have difficulty recognizing their own emotional states, and lack effective coping skills to help them deal with overwhelming emotions.

The patterns of behavior that result from these learning differences are familiar to anyone who knows a child with Asperger's Syndrome:

  • S/he misses social cues and misreads a situation.
  • S/he reacts to the situation inappropriately.
  • The result of his/her behavior is something s/he did not anticipate, leading to anxiety and perhaps another inappropriate reaction.
  • The higher her/his anxiety level becomes, the more rigid and emotional s/he is likely to get. S/he has gotten into a difficult situation and now is “stuck”.

Strategies and Interventions

The good news is that children with AS are very capable of learning and developing their social skills. They can make effective progress with appropriate interventions that capitalize on their many strengths. These skills will not be learned by observation as they often are with ‘typical’ peers, so they need to be directly taught. Children with AS often have excellent verbal skills. Their strong language skills, auditory attention, and rote memory for rules and strategies can help them to access social information.

Direct verbal instruction: Skills will need to be taught directly and intentionally, just as academic curriculum is presented. Practical rules and strategies should be presented to the child in a clear, verbally explicit, logically sequenced manner. Once taught, strategies should be reviewed and practiced in a variety of settings.

Parents can find ways to reinforce these skills at home using the many challenges and learning opportunities that daily life presents. Flexible teachers and specialists can take advantage of the time that may be freed up by rapid rote learning. For example, while other students are drilling and practicing spelling words, the student with AS might be studying idioms or reading and responding to social stories.

Specific skills and strategies should be taught based on the most immediate needs of the individual child. Some areas of focus might include:

  • Social cues, including body language, social distance, eye contact, and tone of voice.
  • Speech pragmatics, including introductions, conversational skills, tone of voice.
  • Non-literal language, including slang, idioms and expressions.
  • Problem solving skills, including how to identify a problematic situation and apply specific learned strategies; how to use prior knowledge to make inferences; how to predict the outcome of different possible actions.
  • Emotional coping skills, including learning to identify feelings of anxiety and frustration, manage stress, and apply effective strategies to respond to their emotions.
  • Functional life skills, including taking care of oneself and one’s space, eating at restaurants, going shopping, etc. All of these life skills can be broken down and taught as systems of logically sequenced steps and rules. Remember to teach back-up plans for when things don’t go as expected!

Effective Consequences

While the behavior of children with AS can seem odd at best and downright unmanageable at worst, it is important to keep the perspective that inappropriate behavior is not likely to be intentionally disruptive or defiant.

In fact, children with AS rely heavily on rules and clear expectations in order to feel safe. These children frequently misinterpret situations, resulting in out-of-sync and ineffective behavior. They may become easily overwhelmed or feel threatened by unfamiliar social situations or seemingly chaotic surroundings. Structure and predictability is their safety net, and unexpected glitches in their routines can send them into a tailspin.

Inappropriate behaviors offer important opportunities to help children reframe their understanding and to teach alternative responses. Once the child’s emotional state is defused enough to hear it, the situation and behavior should be processed with an adult in a calm and direct way.

A more appropriate response should be presented verbally, and the child should be given the opportunity to practice this response in a safe setting (such as role-playing with a parent or counselor or with peers in a social skills group).

Punishment without this type of processing is likely to add to the child’s feelings of anxiety and confusion. Punishment involving taking away preferred activities such as computer time or reading is not likely to be effective and can deprive the child of a much needed outlet for stress.

Consequences should be as consistent and predictable as possible. Set clear limits and give warnings to let the child know exactly what the consequence will be if the behavior continues—and follow through! This takes away some of the feelings of unfairness, and also helps the child develop an understanding of cause and effect. Natural consequences should be pointed out whenever possible (e.g. “When you yell at John, he does not want to give you a turn.”).

Communication between home and school is crucial to address behaviors with consistency. Knowing that adults at home and at school are on the same page will also help to alleviate the child’s anxiety.


There are many services available to help children with AS develop their skills and become more successful. Social skill groups, pragmatic speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and special education services may all play a role in meeting the needs of your child. Whatever approach is taken, be clear and consistent in your expectations. Patience, flexibility, and creativity combined with a realistic perspective on the needs of your child will pay off. Parenting or teaching a child with AS is hard work—but remember that our children are working hard too!

About Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT

Hannah Gould directs NESCA's yoga therapy program and consults to the AASC (Anxiety & Attention Skills Coaching) Program.

She was certified as a yoga teacher in 2005, and enjoys bringing yoga to children and adults in a variety of settings. Hannah has developed her yoga teaching technique to service children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, anxiety, and other developmental concerns. Through yoga, she is able to address many specific areas of need, including self-regulation, sensory integration, relaxation, motor-planning, self-awareness, and self-esteem. Hannah uses stories, games and music to make yoga engaging and meaningful to children.

Gould received her M.Ed in the education of children with special needs from Simmons College in 1999. She worked as a special educator in a public middle school for two years. From 2001 to the present, Hannah has worked at Academy MetroWest in Natick, MA, leading activity-based therapeutic groups for children focused on developing social skills and self-esteem.

Hannah has developed a particular interest and expertise in working with students with Asperger’s Syndrome and NLD. She has presented at conferences and has published an article in the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE) newsletter pertaining to the particular educational and social needs of this population. She has also provided educational consulting services and academic tutoring with a particular emphasis on helping these students manage frustration and anxiety related to academic work.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Soft Drinks Linked to Behavioral Problems in Young Children

From ScienceDaily.com

August 16, 2013

"A new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics finds that aggression, attention problems, and withdrawal behavior are all associated with soft drink consumption in young children."

Americans buy more soft drinks per capita than people in any other country. These drinks are consumed by individuals of all ages, including very young children.

Although soft drink consumption is associated with aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, the relationship had not been evaluated in younger children.

A new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics finds that aggression, attention problems, and withdrawal behavior are all associated with soft drink consumption in young children.

Shakira Suglia, Sc.D., and colleagues from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont, and Harvard School of Public Health assessed approximately 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a prospective birth cohort that follows mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities. Mothers reported their child's soft drink consumption and completed the Child Behavior Checklist based on their child's behavior during the previous two months.

The researchers found that 43% of the children consumed at least 1 serving of soft drinks per day, and 4% consumed 4 or more.

Aggression, withdrawal, and attention problems were associated with soda consumption. Even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence, and paternal incarceration, any soft drink consumption was associated with increased aggressive behavior.

Children who drank 4 or more soft drinks per day were more than twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack people. They also had increased attention problems and withdrawal behavior compared with those who did not consume soft drinks,

According to Dr. Suglia, "We found that the child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day." Although this study cannot identify the exact nature of the association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviors, limiting or eliminating a child's soft drink consumption may reduce behavioral problems.

Journal Reference

Shakira F. Suglia, Sara Solnick, and David Hemenway. Soft Drinks Consumption Is Associated with Behavior Problems in 5-Year-Olds. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.06.023

Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Opportunity for Young Adults with ASD: MAC's Young Adult Leaders Fellowship

August 20, 2013

Massachusetts Advocates for Children invites young adults 18-26 on the Autism Spectrum to apply for an innovative "Young Adult Leaders Fellowship," which provides opportunities to learn the professional skills needed to advocate on behalf of other youth with disabilities.

The Fellowship is a partnership between Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston. The Young Adult Leaders Fellowship consists of one year part-time advocacy training under the supervision of the Autism Project Advocate and senior attorney.

A small stipend is provided.

Please help us get the word out to young adults who might be interested in this Fellowship. We would appreciate it if you would forward this information to inform other individuals, families, and organizations. For an application or if you have questions, please feel free to contact me at 617-357-8431 ext. 241, or cmayes@massadvocates.org.

The deadline for return of application materials is September 20, 2013.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Six Ways to Get Your Child Back into the Learning Groove

From NCLD.org - The National Center for Learning Disabilities

By the NCLD Editorial Team
August 19, 2013

"Many children dread going back to school for any number of reasons—but for those with learning disabilities (LD), this transition can be particularly daunting." 

Perhaps you’re familiar with these common symptoms of Back-to-School-itis: rolling eyes, groans, moans, inability to wake up in the morning—it affects children of all ages!

But before you diagnose your child with this seasonal malady, take a moment to reflect on what getting “back into the swing of things” might mean for a student who struggles to learn.

Many children dread going back to school for any number of reasons—but for those with learning disabilities (LD), this transition can be particularly daunting. 

For those with an LD—such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia—going back to school might be a return to the constant reminder that they are “different” from their peers. When school starts, not only must children with LD switch their brains from “relax mode” to “learn mode,” they must meet the challenge of gradually more complicated assignments, getting comfortable with new teachers and classroom environments, and they have to again work harder to complete tasks that their classmates appear to do with ease.

Here are a few ways you can make the transition back to school more manageable and enjoyable for your child.

Reestablish bedtime routines a few weeks before school starts.

Many families allow their children to stay up later and wake up according to their bodies’ natural sleep/wake cycle during the summer. Suddenly waking up three hours earlier than his or her body is used to can be quite the jolt for anyone!

For students in elementary school: To ease this transition, start moving up bedtime in five- to ten-minute increments and wake your child up five- to ten- minutes earlier each day. This subtle time adjustment may decrease your child’s resistance to the new sleep/wake schedule. Keep doing this daily until you return to the bedtime regimen that works best for your child during the school year.

For students in middle school or high school: Allow them to change their own schedules as they see fit, reminding them of how hard it will be to wake up on their first day if they don’t adjust to the new schedule gradually.

Work with your child to prepare a homework schedule and location in advance.

Not only will this ease the tension accompanying those first homework assignments on new, “scary” material, but it can also help with the development of organizational skills and good study habits.

With your child, collect and organize the necessary supplies.

In order to complete school work, such as paper, markers, paper clips, a stapler, a dictionary, pens and pencils. Plastic sweater bins or small baskets are excellent for keeping materials organized and accessible. Let your child decorate the bin with markers and other materials to allow his or her individuality to shine!

For older children, work together using back-to-school catalogues to set up a budget for school supplies. Then, give your child the amount of money that you decide upon and let him or her do the shopping, keeping in mind the budget and adjustments they may have to make when shopping.

Review basic academic material to get your child refocused on learning.

If you haven’t been doing so already, take some time to do some fun, educational activities that help your child practice math, science, history and social studies.

Keep activities short and motivating to prevent stress. Reviewing familiar concepts is a good way to start. Often you can find skill review workbooks for all ages at your local bookstore.

Build excitement about the first week of school!

Emphasize the positive—spend time together organizing school clothes and planning special meals or activities for the first days of school.

Make “welcome back to school” cards for your child’s teachers and friends! Or, for your high school-aged student, practice writing a letter to your child’s teacher explaining his or her accommodations and limitations. This will not only help establish a relationship, but will be helpful for helping your child prepare for college, when he or she must make these connections on his own.

Read books together about going back to school. The following suggestions might be helpful with back-to-school transition.

For children pre-k through kindergarten:

For children in elementary school:

For those entering or continuing through middle school:

For those transitioning to high school:

NESCA FAQ: What's the best way to make an appointment?

The fastest, most convenient way to arrange an appointment at NESCA is to complete our completely confidential online intake form, a brief questionnaire accessed under the Intake Fact Sheet tab at the far right end of the menu bar at the top of our website home page. The information you enter is delivered directly to our administrators via secure email, and helps them to identify the clinician most appropriate for your child given his/her age and your expressed concerns, and available according to your schedule. They will contact you promptly.

Alternatively, you can call NESCA anytime at 617-658-9800 and speak to, or leave a voicemail message for, administrators Amanda Renzi or Melissa Jensen. They generally respond to messages during business hours on the day they are received. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NESCA Neuropsychologists Rock!

Two New Testimonials

August 20, 2013

Kudos and thanks to the clinicians involved in these cases, who consistently go the extra mile for their clients and contribute so much to NESCA's culture and collegiality.

“As I mentioned, y’all may just be the best in the business at identifying students who are great fits for our program. Thanks for writing such detailed reports that help us individualize our approach, so they can make the most of their time here.”
                                            Independent School Administrator

“From the moment I met you, I knew that I had met a professional—and a friend—I could trust.

Someone who would carefully walk with us down this dyslexic path to a better emotional and academic place. While all of your sweeping recommendations were immediately effective, the greatest gift you brought us was your complete ownership of our situation and deep commitment to (our son’s) long-term wellbeing.

Someone else could easily have done a ‘quick fix.’ Instead, you opened your door and your heart to us to listen, and to collaborate. You empowered (our son) to not only understand his dyslexia, but to embrace his gifts as well. I will always be grateful to you for saving our son this year.”
                                          Parent of an Adolescent with Dyslexia

Monday, August 19, 2013

Learning Disabilities and Qualifying for Special Ed Services

From Special-Ism.com

By Michele Hancock, M.S., P.P.S.
August 18, 2013

For many of us, summer vacation is a welcome break from the craziness of the school year. No homework battles, rigid schedules or projects covering the dining room table. However, it can also be a great time to reflect on how your child is progressing in school and to ask yourself some important questions about their performance.

A Learning Disability or Just a Weakness?

All of us obviously have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. As parents, most of us can look back on our own school days and remember classes we loved, along with subjects we struggled with. But, how do we know if our child has an actual learning disability?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) describes a specific learning disability as the following:

“A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematic equations.”

Facts about Learning Disabilities

To help you understand more, here are some basic facts about learning disabilities:
  • Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the brain’s ability to receive and process information. They are not an indicator of your child’s intelligence level. They are also very common. According to the US Department of Education 2010 Report, just under 2.5 million children have some type of learning disability.
  • The most common types of learning disabilities revolve around basic reading skills. 80% of children with learning disabilities have problems with reading.
  • Learning disabilities should not be confused with other disabilities such as mental retardation, autism or behavioral disorders. Also, if a child has frequently changed schools, has attendance problems or is learning how to speak English they may be misdiagnosed with a learning disability.
  • Attention disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities often occur together, but are not the same thing. ADHD is considered a medical condition, not a learning disability.

Early Signs of Learning Disabilities

Often, a child with a learning disability shows signs at an early age. Children with learning disabilities often struggle in school during elementary school or they miss developmental milestones. So, if your child has done well throughout elementary school and upon reaching adolescence, suddenly starts to under perform, it is probably not due to a learning disability.

Some early signs of learning disabilities include the following:
  • Trouble learning the alphabet and rhyming words;
  • Trouble connecting letters to sounds;
  • Making many mistakes when reading aloud;
  • Not understanding what they are reading;
  • Awkward pencil grip and poor handwriting skills;
  • Trouble understanding jokes and sarcasm;
  • Trouble following multiple directions;
  • Trouble organizing thoughts and what they want to say;
  • Not following social rules of conversation;
  • Confusing mathematical symbols and numbers;
  • Not able to tell a story in order;
  • Not knowing where to begin a task;
  • Emotional and/or social issues;
  • Trouble sleeping or getting along with family.

Parts of the Brain Affected by Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities usually affect four areas of the brain. These are input, integration, storage and output.

1.) Input Disability: A child with an input disability has difficulty recognizing shapes, positions or sizes of items. They can also have problems with sequencing. An auditory perception problem means a child has a hard time screening out competing sounds in order to focus on one thing, like a teacher’s voice.

2.) Integration Disability: Integration is the stage where information is interpreted, categorized, placed in a sequence or related to previous learning. A child with problems in this area may be unable to tell a story in the correct sequence, unable to memorize sequences of information such as days of the week, or facts. They may also have a poor vocabulary.

3.) Storage Disability: A child with memory problems has difficulty learning new material and requires more repetitions than is usually needed. This disability can also make it difficult to learn how to spell.

4.) Output Disability: A language output disability results in difficulties with spoken language like the ability to answer a question on demand. It can also cause problems with written language. Difficulties with motor abilities can cause either gross or fine motor problems.

A child with gross motor delay may be clumsy and prone to stumble, fall or bump into things. They may also have issues with running, climbing or learning to ride a bike. A child with fine motor difficulties may struggle with buttoning shirts, tying shoelaces or with handwriting.

Qualifying for Special Ed Services

Learning disabilities cover a wide spectrum and can range from mild to severe. They can include mental, physical, behavioral and emotional disabilities. The law defines thirteen categories of disabilities that qualify a child for special education services. These include:
  • autism;
  • deaf-blindness;
  • deafness;
  • emotional disturbance;
  • hearing impairment;
  • intellectual disability;
  • multiple disabilities;
  • orthopedic impairment;
  • other health impairment;
  • specific learning disability;
  • speech or language impairment;
  • traumatic brain injury; or
  • visual impairment (including blindness).

When Should You Contact the School?

If your child hates school, struggles with grades and assignments, or has behavior problems, ask yourself some questions.
  • Are they regularly putting in effort without seeing any success?
  • Have they always found school to be challenging?
  • Have you tried tutoring programs and received extra help at school without any improvement?
  • Does your child’s teacher(s) express concern about her lack of progress?
  • Are they testing significantly below grade level?

If you think your child might have a learning disability, I encourage you to learn more about special education and the IEP process.


NESCA FAQ: Tell us more about your staff and offices?

Neuropsychologists usually have Ph.D. or Psy.D. degrees, not M.D.s. They don’t wear white coats. Their primary tools are pencils, paper, blocks and keyboards. They are here because they love young people and are practiced at interacting with them in ways that let them learn about how your children and adolescents think without making the process stressful. Our clinicians understand and accommodate some kids' special sensitivities. We try to make our evaluations as low key as possible, and most kids enjoy many parts of the process.

Our facilities bear little resemblance to a typical doctor’s office; the furniture is comfortable, the colors muted. There are no odd aromas or scary-looking medical equipment. We have WiFi, a water cooler and Keurig coffee brewer you're welcome to use; we stock coffees, teas and hot cocoa. There's a nice cafe downstairs just off our building's freshly-renovated lobby, and retail amenities are one long block away in Nonanutm Village. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tips for College Students With ADHD

From About.com

By Keath Low
November 28, 2011

Transitioning to college life and academics can sometimes be a challenge for students with ADHD. Luckily, there are some helpful ways to make this time a little easier...and a lot more productive.

Each year in August or September, thousands and thousands of students move away from the built-in structure and safety net of home to the freedoms and independence of college life. While it can be an exciting time filled with all sorts of possibilities for learning and growth, it can also be a time of anxiety and overwhelm – especially if a student has ADHD.

Not only does this student face greater responsibilities, less structured time, many more distractions, and new social situations, but they do so lacking many of the previous support systems they had in high school.

Sarah D. Wright, ADHD Coach and author of Fidget to Focus - Outwit Your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADD, explains that successful students usually have four main qualities that help them achieve their goals:
  • Sticking with things even when the going gets tough (perseverance);
  • Ability to delay gratification and focus on the big picture;
  • Time management and organizational skills;
  • Striking the right balance between fun and work.

These particular skills, however, don’t come easily to a student with ADHD. “Poor executive function (organizational problems, impulsivity and time management issues) are the hallmarks of ADHD,” notes Wright. “Students with ADHD can't depend on these skills because these are exactly the skills they are weakest in.”

Poor executive function can result in several academic problems for students including disorganization, prioritizing, getting started and completing work, forgetting homework, difficulty memorizing facts, writing essays or reports, working complex math problems, completing long term projects, being on time, preparing and planning for the future, and even regulating and managing emotions.

The good news is that these areas of executive function can be improved. For most students with ADHD, the problem isn’t knowing what to do, it is getting it done. Avoiding sidetracks, keeping focused and on target with the plan – this can be a challenge that can quickly derail a student from accomplishing what he or she has set out to do.

Luckily, there are several strategies you can use to help stay on track. If you are a college student with ADHD, these tips provided by Wright and her staff at the Edge Foundation are for you:

Start the Day On Time

There are three main factors that contribute to being late in the morning: getting up late, getting side tracked, and being disorganized.

If getting out of bed is a problem try these tips:
  • Set two alarms to go off in sequence;
  • Put your alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off;
  • Put the second alarm where you know it will bother your suitemates (which increases the consequences if you don’t get out of bed and turn it off in time!);
  • Set the alarm to go off earlier so you can be pokier in the mornings.

If getting sidetracked is an issue:
  • If certain things tend to derail you (like checking your email or reading the news), make it a rule that that activity has to wait until later in the day.
  • Figure out how much time you need to dress, eat and get organized, and then set alarms or other reminders to cue you that you need to have that task completed.

Three ways to cue yourself to stay on schedule:
  • Although this tip will only work in certain circumstances, some people will find they can use a familiar music mix as a timer. For example, if you have a music mix where each song is 3-4 minutes and you have 30 minutes to get going, the schedule might look like this: wash and dress to songs 1-3, eat to songs 4-6, get your stuff together during song #7, and out the door by song #8. It will work best if you use the same mix every morning.
  • Use your phone or buy a programmable reminder watch so your alarms are always nearby.
  • Put a big wall clock in your room where you can easily see it. If your room is part of a suite with a common room and bathroom, put wall clocks in those spaces as well.

If being disorganized is the issue:
  • Create a “launch pad” by your door. Collect the things you’ll need in the morning the night before (like your backback, keys) and put them on the launch pad.
  • Leave yourself a note at the launch pad so in the morning you can “reprogram” your brain with what you need to remember for that day. Then everything will be ready for you to grab as you run out the door.
Work with Your Urge to Procrastinate

Though this may sound counterproductive, if you feel the urge to procrastinate, go with the feeling. Wright explains that when you have ADHD sometimes the only time something gets done is just before it’s due. At that point nothing has higher priority, increasing the urgency and consequences if you don’t do it NOW. Those qualities are what can finally make the task doable. So, work with that.

Plan to procrastinate, but “stack the deck” so you can pull it off. For example, if you have to write a paper, make sure you’ve already done the reading or research and have some idea of what you want to write. Figure out how many hours you’ll need to write it, block them out in your schedule, and then, with the deadline in sight, sit down and do it.

Study Smarter, Not Harder

Boredom and working memory are both issues for most people with ADHD. Research shows that multi-modal learning helps people learn and remember. So, rather than trying harder to force the information into your head, get creative.

Wright gives these examples of creative ways to study and remember what you studied:
  • As you read highlight the text with different colors;
  • Make notes and doodle them;
  • Make audio notes with iphones or other recorders and review them as you walk across campus;
  • Use mnemonics to create funny ways to remember stuff;
  • Try standing up while you read;
  • Try reading the assignment aloud to yourself using an expressive (not boring) voice;
  • If you can, get the audio version of the book and listen to it while you take notes and/or exercise (a treadmill can help here);
  • Get a study buddy.

Not everything works for every person, but do try mixing it up and see what happens. Wright also points out that taking study breaks every couple of hours and getting enough sleep are part of studying smarter, not harder. Sleep impacts learning in two ways. First, sleep deprivation has a negative impact on short term memory, which is what you’re using to learn the material when you study.

Second, sleep is needed to move short term memories into long term memory, which is what you’ll be relying on come test time. So be sure to get enough sleep if you want to get the most out of your study time.

Schedule Your Study Time

Many students with ADHD are quite smart. They can often pull a passing grade in high school (or even a good one) just cramming the night before the tests. Odds are that strategy won’t work in college. Wright says a good rule of thumb for college is 2-2.5 hours of study time per week for every unit of course credit.

“Basically, you should think of college as a job and plan to spend at least 40 hours a week on classes and class work,” she says. “What works for many students is to actually treat college as a job: for 9 hours a day, five days a week you’re working on school, which means during the day when you’re not in classes you’re somewhere studying or catching a quick bite to eat. Then you get to have the evenings and weekends off. If you like to play sports, you’ll have to make up those study hours spent on sports sometime. As long as you block out the requisite number of hours somewhere in your daily schedule and remember that school is your job, you should be fine.”

Plan Your Time to Keep on Track
  1. Assess and Prioritize. It may sound strange, but it is very important to actively plan time to plan. If you don’t develop this habit, you’ll find yourself always being reactive rather than proactive. Wright suggests doing a high level plan for the week Monday morning, and for the weekend on Friday. Then doing a daily review of that plan over breakfast—possibly adding pertinent details—to make sure you know what’s coming your way that day. When you can assess what you need to do versus all that you could do, then you can prioritize what needs to be done first and take care of it.
  2. Stick to Your Plan. With ADHD, this is always the hard part. If you like rewards, use them. For instance, you can tell yourself, “I’ll read for 2 hours and then go to the coffee house.” You can negotiate rewards for good grades with your parents. If you’re competitive, use that. Pick some other student in your class whom you want to do better than and go for it. If you know you respond to social pressure, make plans with classmates to study together so you won’t let them down. Make appointments with tutors for the same reason. You may not need tutoring, but you may need structured study time. As these tips illustrate, there are all sorts of ways to help you stick with your plan. Sticking to your plan is also where a coach might come in handy.

ADHD Coaching in College

There is growing evidence, both research and anecdotal, that ADHD coaching can be a vital strategy in helping students learn to plan, prioritize and persist (follow the plan). Coaching helps students develop greater self-determination and direction. It reduces the overwhelm and anxiety many ADHD students feel and increases self confidence and self sufficiency.

What is so powerful about ADHD coaching is that through the process of being coached, students “learn how to coach themselves.” They learn the skills they need to be self sufficient and successful and actually strengthen their executive functioning skills in the process. “If you can develop your executive functioning, you can be more successful in more areas all on your own,” explains Wright. This is the strength ADHD coaching brings into an individual’s life.

Another bonus – because many coaches work on the phone, you can "take your coach with you" wherever you go. Unfortunately, it is surprisingly easy for students with ADHD to fall behind quickly without even realizing it. Being proactive and getting strategies in place early on to help ensure success is so much more effective than trying to dig out of a hole or correct failing grades.

Consider getting started with an ADHD coach to help make the transition to college life a happy, successful and productive one.

About ADD - ADHD

Related Articles

NESCA FAQ: What will an evaluation tell me about my child?

The purpose of neuropsychological evaluation is to provide much deeper knowledge of a child’s inherent strengths and weaknesses, in order to better understand the challenges that the child may experience in meeting developmental demands, and the strengths that he or she may call upon to compensate. Once the child’s learning profile is understood, specific recommendations can be made for direct interventions and supports at home and at school to assist the child in functioning to full potential.

Results of the neuropsychological profile are often used to make specific diagnoses and also to provide parents with information about their child’s level of functioning relative to same-age peers.