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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why High School Students Need More Than College Prep

From  nprED
July 10, 2016

The importance of preparing for college AND employment cannot be understated.

I step up to the counter at Willy's Cafe at Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore., and order a latte.

There's a powerful scent of fresh coffee in the air, and a group of juniors and seniors hover over a large espresso machine.

Carrie Gilbert, 17, shows how it's done: "You're going to want to steam the milk first," she explains. "Then once you have the coffee, dump it in and use the rest of the milk to fill the cup."

Young barista in business

She hands over my order. Not bad.

Yes, this is a class, and these students are earning credit. But I can almost hear parents and students, for whom college is the only option, saying: Credit towards what? Isn't this just training for the dead-end, low-wage jobs of the future?'

Gilbert, who helps manage the cafe and train other students, doesn't think so. "Just the overall experience with the cash register and all the different kinds of food preparation and working with money and all that stuff, it prepares you for all kinds of things."

Training as a barista may not seem like a big deal, but Gilbert — and educators here and around the country — say she's learning those all-important "soft skills" that employers expect.

Roughly seven out of 10 high school grads are headed to college every year — but that leaves hundreds of thousands who aren't. And survey after survey shows that employers are demanding — even of college-bound students — some level of job skills and professionalism: punctuality, customer service, managing people and teamwork.

That's the message students at Willamette High hear just about every day over the PA system: You need job skills with real market value. The school's career and technical education program offers courses and training in all kinds of fields; culinary arts, health careers, robotics and welding. Students train as bank tellers with a local credit union, or learn food service and restaurants at Willy's Cafe.

The school is affiliated with DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program, which focuses on merchandizing, retail sales, marketing and entrepeneurship.

The nearly 70-year-old program once seemed a relic of the "vocational education" era — a time when a much larger percentage of high school graduates went right into the workforce. But today, DECA is all about giving kids a taste of the real world and getting your foot in the door, says Dawn Delorfis, an assistant principal at Willamette High.

DECA teachers and administrators don't discourage students from going to college, she says, but they do try to let every student know that, with the right skills and training, there are good entry-level jobs for them out there.

Many of those jobs, "provide a good living for someone coming out of high school," Delorfis adds. "But the thing I think does still exist is the stigma attached: 'Oh, you're not going to college?' "

Luis Sanchez, 18, says college and Starbucks are definitely not for him. But he likes the training at Willy's because it's like running a small business: "My parents own a restaurant, and I want to help run it."

Which brings me back to parents, and that pressure of college as the only option. What happens when your kid comes home from school one day and says she's training as a barista?

"If it were my kid, I wouldn't let it happen," says Anthony Carnevale. He's the head of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. "You don't tell middle-class Americans, 'I'm going to send your kid to trade school.' "

Carnevale and others acknowledge that even good programs like DECA, and career and technical education programs in general, are often viewed as second-rate — a pipeline to low-wage, dead-end jobs.

"These are not dead-end jobs," says John Fistolera, with DECA's corporate office. Fistolera says DECA teaches specific skills that business and industry require for employees to be successful. That's been DECA's mission since the mid-1940s, thanks to its partnerships with local employers and some of the nation's biggest businesses.

It's a message that has broad and growing support, even from the White House. "You can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need," President Obama said in 2014.

But what high school students usually hear is another message the president touts just as often: "College for all."

Carnevale says that's a message that kids and parents need to take with a grain of salt.

"Every year more than 400,000 young people in the top half of their high school class go to college, and at least eight years later, they have not gained either a two- or four-year degree or a certificate," he notes. So, he adds, at some point those people need job skills and a path into the workforce.

Carnevale warns that the high school curriculum has moved to higher and higher levels of abstraction, away from practical and applied learning.

At Willamette High, though, the message to students is simple: Prepare for both work and college. It kind of makes sense, says 18-year-old Kareena Montalvo. The DECA course she fell in love with is graphic design.

"I can't tell you how many posters we've done for upcoming plays, musicals," she says. "It lets me understand how artists need to meet clients' needs."

Montalvo says she's already getting paid for several projects in the community. She sees herself as an entrepeneur and, down the road, a college student.

"I want to get my major in graphic design and a minor in marketing."

But right now, says Kareena, the idea of going into debt at such a young age to pay for college is crazy. So, she says, it's great having marketable skills and pretty good job prospects right out of high school.

NESCA Transition Services

Transition is the process, ideally beginning at age 14 if not sooner and extending through high school graduation and beyond, by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in post-secondary school or the workplace. NESCA offers complete transition assessment (including testing and community-based observation), planning and consultation services, coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tips for Communicating With Your Teen

From Child Mind Institute
Rachel Ehmke

Keeping the parent-child relationship strong during a tricky age

The teenage years have a lot in common with the terrible twos. During both stages our kids are doing exciting new things, but they’re also pushing boundaries (and buttons) and throwing tantrums. The major developmental task facing both age groups is also the same: kids must pull away from parents and begin to assert their own independence. No wonder they sometimes act as if they think they’re the center of the universe.

This makes for complicated parenting, especially because teens are beginning to make decisions about things that that have real consequence, like school and friends and driving, not to speak of substance use and sex. But they aren’t good at regulating their emotions yet, so teens are prone to taking risks and making impulsive decisions.

This means that having a healthy and trusting parent-child relationship during the teenage years is more important than ever. Staying close isn’t easy, though. Teens often aren’t very gracious when they are rejecting what they perceive to be parental interference. While they’re an open book to their friends, who they talk to constantly via text messages and social media, they might become mute when asked by mom how their day went. A request that seemed reasonable to dad may be received as a grievous outrage.

If this sounds familiar, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your child is going through his terrible teens. It is a phase that will pass, and your job as parent is still vitally important, only the role may have changed slightly. Here are some tips for navigating the new terrain:

1. Listen.

  • If you are curious about what’s going on in your teen’s life, asking direct questions might not be as effective as simply sitting back and listening. Kids are more likely to be open with their parents if they don’t feel pressured to share information. Remember even an offhand comment about something that happened during the day is her way of reaching out, and you’re likely to hear more if you stay open and interested — but not prying.

2. Validate their feelings.

  • It is often our tendency to try to solve problems for our kids, or downplay their disappointments. But saying something like “She wasn’t right for you anyway” after a romantic disappointment can feel dismissive. Instead, show kids that you understand and empathize by reflecting the comment back: “Wow, that does sound difficult.”

3. Show trust.

  • Teens want to be taken seriously, especially by their parents. Look for ways to show that you trust your teen. Asking him for a favor shows that you rely on him. Volunteering a privilege shows that you think he can handle it. Letting your kid know you have faith in him will boost his confidence and make him more likely to rise to the occasion.

4. Don’t be a dictator.

  • You still get to set the rules, but be ready to explain them. While pushing the boundaries is natural for teenagers, hearing your thoughtful explanation about why parties on school nights aren’t allowed will make the rule seem more reasonable.

5. Give praise.

  • Parents tend to praise children more when they are younger, but adolescents need the self-esteem boost just as much. Teenagers might act like they’re too cool to care about what their parents think, but the truth is they still want your approval. Also looking for opportunities to be positive and encouraging is good for the relationship, especially when it is feeling strained.

6. Control your emotions.

  • It’s easy for your temper to flare when your teen is being rude, but don’t respond in kind. Remember that you’re the adult and he is less able to control his emotions or think logically when he’s upset. Count to ten or take some deep breaths before responding. If you’re both too upset to talk, hit pause until you’ve had a chance to calm down.

7. Do things together.

  • Talking isn’t the only way to communicate, and during these years it’s great if you can spend time doing things you both enjoy, whether it’s cooking or hiking or going to the movies, without talking about anything personal. It’s important for kids to know that they can be in proximity to you, and share positive experiences, without having to worry that you will pop intrusive questions or call them on the carpet for something.

8. Share regular meals.

  • Sitting down to eat a meal together as a family is another great way to stay close. Dinner conversations give every member of the family a chance to check in and talk casually about sports or television or politics. Kids who feel comfortable talking to parents about everyday things are likely to be more open when harder things come up, too. One rule: no phones allowed.

9. Be observant.

  • It’s normal for kids to go through some changes as they mature, but pay attention if you notice changes to her mood, behavior, energy level, or appetite. Likewise, take note if he stops wanting to do things that used to make him happy, or if you notice him isolating himself. If you see a change in your teen’s daily ability to function, ask her about it and be supportive (without being judgmental). She may need your help and it could be a sign she needs to talk to a mental health professional.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Parent-Driven Group Wields Influence on Dyslexia Concerns

From Education Weekly
By Christina A. Samuels
Published Online: December 7, 2015

Deborah Lynam, a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia, seen with her son Hudson, 11, at their home in Haddon Heights, N.J., has helped build the parent-driven advocacy group into a 50-state movement that presses its concerns nationally. 
Deborah Lynam, a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia, seen with her son Hudson, 11, at their home in Haddon Heights, N.J., has helped build the parent-driven advocacy group into a 50-state movement that presses its concerns nationally.
—Charles Mostoller for Education Week

Four years ago, during a train ride to a luncheon sponsored by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, a group of New Jersey parents found they shared the same frustrating story: Their children were struggling to learn to read.

But they felt the schools' reading interventions—if such supports were even offered to their children—were unfocused efforts overseen by educators without specific training in how to address the problem.

That informal connection among parents has since grown into an influential movement, Decoding Dyslexia. Harnessing the power of social media, the grassroots group now has a presence in all 50 states, as well as sympathetic ears among federal and state lawmakers and administrators in the U.S. Department of Education.

"The influx of energy that the parents have invested in this has really started to raise the tide for a lot of other organizations," said Deborah Lynam, one of the original New Jersey parents and among the more visible faces of Decoding Dyslexia. "The parents have just opened the door on something."'

State and Federal Actions

This year alone, 20 states have passed or proposed dyslexia-related legislation. Decoding Dyslexia does not claim credit for all those state moves, Lynam said, but one of the organization's biggest priorities has been to mobilize parents in support of regulations that would define dyslexia in state law, require student screening for the reading disorder, and offer dyslexia-specific professional development for teachers.

This year, Decoding Dyslexia members supported one of the leaders of a bipartisan congressional dyslexia caucus, then-Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, when he proposed a dyslexia-friendly amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

That amendment, which would have allowed schools to use federal teacher-training funds to support professional development on dyslexia, did not pass. But the proposed revisions to the bill rewriting the ESEA that passed the House of Representatives last week include a federally funded comprehensive literacy program that dyslexia advocates hope will advance further knowledge on early reading.

Pushing the Issue

In October, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used one of the group's social-media hashtags—#saydyslexia—in a Twitter post promoting new dyslexia-related guidance. The "Dear Colleague" letter from the federal department said that individualized education programs, or IEPs, may use the term "dyslexia."

Some school personnel have been reluctant to use the term, saying that dyslexia is a medical diagnosis, or that educators should focus on specific deficits and not a label. But many parent-advocates say that ignoring the term leads to misunderstanding about just what dyslexia is.

And along the way, representatives of the group have shown up frequently on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Decoding Dyslexia members have been particularly active in Washington this year, as the federal government commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

It's not a bad showing for a movement that insists on having no leader and shuns most funding in order to maintain its image as an authentic parent voice.

"What they share in common is a devotion and a concern for their children. That makes them very effective advocates," said Sally Shaywitz, the co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, which hosted the parent-advocates for a conference in 2013.

"This isn't a peripheral issue, it's not a theoretical issue, it's a 'what makes their heart pound' issue," she said.

Dyslexia's Definition

In federal law, dyslexia falls under the category of specific learning disabilities. More than 2 million of the 6.4 million children covered under the IDEA have a specific learning disability, and most of those children are believed to be dyslexic.

Pinning down specific prevalence numbers is difficult, but estimates have are that 5 percent to 17 percent of the student population has dyslexia.

But the disorder is often misunderstood. Dyslexia does not mean that students have poor vision or that they see letters reversed. Rather, dyslexia affects the way people process written and oral language—a common characteristic is difficulty connecting letters to the sounds that those letters represent.

Children with dyslexia often become adept guessers, which happened with Lynam's youngest son, Hudson, now 11. The reading interventions that he was receiving included prompts, cues, and illustrations, but without those crutches, he was lost.

What her son needed, and whatmany other children need, Lynam said, is research-based and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness (the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds), along with instruction in vocabulary and reading comprehension.

But teachers seem to be missing that knowledge, dyslexia advocates say, even though the National Reading Panel, a committee of reading researchers commissioned by Congress, recommended that comprehensive approach in its landmark 2000 report.

Deborah Lynam, a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia NJ, watches her son Hudson, 11, shoot a bow and arrow at their home in Haddon Heights, N.J. The grassroots organization is now active in all 50 states.
Deborah Lynam, a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia NJ, watches her son Hudson, 11, shoot a bow and arrow at their home in Haddon Heights, N.J. The grassroots organization is now active in all 50 states.
—Charles Mostoller for Education Week

'Say Dyslexia'

Robbi Cooper, a parent in Austin, Texas, who is active with the Decoding Dyslexia organization in that state, notes that Texas has had dyslexia laws that mandate screening and appropriate instruction on the books for decades.

But many students in the state are still not receiving the appropriate academic support they need, Cooper said. A recent change in state law now requires districts to report on the percentage of children with dyslexia that they serve.

Not getting appropriate services goes well beyond literacy, Cooper said.

"Kids are ending up being labeled as [having] behavior problems, every kind of label you can imagine [except] the term dyslexia. It's a lot easier to put a behavior program in place for a kid and just call it a day," she said. That's why it's important to clearly identify students who have the disorder, she said.

"We're talking about kids who don't have any other way of being identified except in the schools," Cooper said. "We don't have a greater need [than other children with disabilities]. We have a greater need for teachers to understand how to identify our kids."

Iowa, the only state in the country that does not sort students into disability categories, passed legislation in 2014 that defined dyslexia as an educational diagnosis and requires the state to create teacher professional development that focuses on evidence-based literary programs.

Randy Califf, a parent in West Des Moines, was one of the Decoing Dyslexia parents who worked on that effort. When his son was first evaluated for his reading struggles, the family was told he had a "language-related learning disorder." Learning he had dyslexia—and that dyslexia could be treated with appropriate interventions—was empowering for his son, he said.

"It's important for our kids to know there is a specific path for them," Califf said.

As Decoding Dyslexia has grown more active, its efforts have seen pushback from educational groups and from some disability advocacy organizations.

Cassidy's proposed amendment to the federal education law, for example, was opposed by the National Down Syndrome Society, the National PTA, and the National Education Association, among others.

"I think it gives the impression, whether it's intended or not, that students with certain types of learning disabilities have more pressing needs than other students with disabilities," Barbara R. Trader, the executive director of TASH, said earlier this year when the ESEA revision was first under debate.

TASH, formerly known as The Association for the Severely Handicapped, is a Washington-based support and advocacy group for people with intellectual disabilities.

In California, an advocacy effort to add dyslexia regulations to state law was ultimately successful, but it was opposed by the California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association, and the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Administrators of California, which represents regional agencies that oversee special education in the state.

Concerns From Other Groups

The groups opposed the bill because of concerns that mass screening would be costly and lead to overidentification of dyslexia. The bill's advocates seized on the fact that in a letter of opposition, SELPA officials said that letter reversals—writing "b" for "d," for example—are common in young children and that many children outgrow them.

But letter reversals are not a symptom of dyslexia, and advocates said the assertion from the California group was proof that more teacher training is needed.

The pushback from other groups surprised some Decoding Dyslexia members—and has them recalibrating their message.

Said Cooper: "I think it's a learning experience for our group. Not in a way that changes how I view our mission at all, but one that makes me want to make sure people are aware of what we're asking for and why."

Growing Movement

Decoding Dyslexia started in 2011 with a group of parents in New Jersey. Just four years later, the movement has a presence in all 50 states. A timeline of some of its activities:

  • OCTOBER 2011: Eight New Jersey parents of children with dyslexia meet on a trip to New York to visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
  • NOVEMBER 2011: The first Decoding Dyslexia-New Jersey meeting is held.
  • JUNE 2012: Decoding Dyslexia holds its first “Hill Day,” visiting lawmakers in Washington.
  • OCTOBER 2012: A Decoding Dyslexia promotional video is made at the HBO premiere of the documentary “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.”
  • DECEMBER 2012: New Jersey dyslexia bills are posted.
  • JANUARY 2013: Decoding Dyslexia-New Jersey releases a guide, “How to Start a Grassroots Movement for Dyslexia.”
  • MAY 2013: Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity hosts a conference in New York City for leaders from 23 state movements.
  • MARCH 2014: The Emily Tremaine Foundation provides $45,000 to support the DD Social Media Conference in Princeton NJ with leaders from over 40 state movements.
  • JUNE 2014: The movement launches in Canada. Decoding Dyslexia now has a presence in four provinces.
  • DECEMBER 2014: Decoding Dyslexia-New Mexico becomes the 50th state organization to join the movement.
  • MARCH 2015: Decoding Dyslexia hosts a playground exhibit and panel discussion at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas.
  • JULY 2015: The fourth “Hill Day” features more than 150 in attendance from more than 20 states.
SOURCE: Decoding Dyslexia

Vol. 35, Issue 14, Page 8

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Let's Make Sense of the Neuropsychological Evaluation"

What will I learn about my child as a result of a neuropsychological evaluation?


Presentation will cover:

  • Why should my child get tested?
  • What kind of information will I get from a neuropsychological evaluation about my child’s cognitive functioning?
  • How neuropsychological evaluation results can be used to inform Special Education services?
  • How to understand and interpret the test results
  • How will this evaluation help determine if my child has made progress?

Free of Charge
Thursday, Sept 22, 2016
7:00-8:30 pm
Location: NESCA, 55 Chapel Street, 1st Floor; Newton, MA
RSVP to: info@nesca-newton.com

Presenter: Dr. Reva Tankle, Ph.D.
NESCA , Pediatric and Young Adult Neuropsychologist

Combining her experience and training in both pediatric neuropsychology and educational advocacy, Dr. Reva Tankle has particular expertise in working with families who are navigating the IEP process. Having participated in numerous team meetings over the years, Dr. Tankle is especially knowledgeable about the many ways that schools can support and accommodate students with special learning needs, information that she clearly communicates in her evaluation reports and in team meetings, if needed. She also has a great deal of experience in articulating the reasons that a student may need a program outside of the public school.

Dr. Tankle evaluates students with ADHD, learning disabilities, high functioning autism spectrum disorders, and neurological conditions, as well as children with complex profiles that are not easily captured by a single diagnostic category.

In 2004, Dr. Tankle trained at the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) as a Parent Consultant and Special Needs Advocate. She currently teaches at the FCSN Parent Consultant course on the use of neuropsychological evaluations in the IEP process.

Dr. Tankle joined the NESCA staff in 2013. NESCA staff and clients are tremendously fortunate to benefit from the unique combination of her skills in advocacy and neuropsychological evaluation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What Does OCD Look Like in the Classroom?

How to recognize the signs a child is struggling, even if he is hiding his anxiety

For children who have obsessive-compulsive disorder, functioning in school can be complicated and very difficult. And for a teacher, it can be easy to misread the symptoms of OCD as oppositional behavior on the child’s part, or as ADHD.

But if teachers can recognize the behaviors associated with OCD, especially when a child is embarrassed and trying to hide his anxiety, they can help save him from unnecessary struggle, and clear the way for him to learn successfully.

Here are the kinds of behaviors you might see in kids with OCD:

Frequent requests to go to the bathroom:

This could be to wash hands, if someone near the child was coughing or sneezing, or if she touched something that she perceives as contaminated. She could be washing items—pens, pencils, backpacks, books. It could also be an excuse to get out the classroom and just be away from everyone, and have some respite.

Constant reassurance-seeking.

This takes the form of repetitive questions. “Are you sure that’s the answer? Could you tell me again? Did you hear what I said?” Checking doors, windows, lockers, desks. Over and over and over again.

Getting stuck on tasks.

Sometimes kids with OCD will need to finish something to completion, or understand it to completion, before they’re able to move on. So if a child is working out what he did wrong on a math test, and the teacher says, “Now let’s open the textbook and start a new chapter,” he’s not going to be able to shift gears.


If a child leaves the classroom and worries that she left a pencil behind, she’ll go back into the classroom and go to her desk and check. If she had a bad thought as she went through the doorway, she might have to “fix it” by going back through the doorway again saying a good word. If she had a bad thought when she went down a flight of stairs on the way to class, she might need to go back up that same stairway at the end of the period, even if it means being late to her next class.

Obsessive erasing:

A child could be erasing a lot because the letters have to look perfect. Or he could have used a word that disturbs him. For example, if he has a fear of vomiting and he’s written the word vomit, he might not be able to stand seeing that word, so he erases it. Kids start having erasers worn down to the metal. Teachers start to see holes in the paper. Words will be drawn over on the back of the page. A lot of different areas of writing become problematic.


If a child is busy thinking that if she doesn’t turn the pen cap and count to four the right way then her mom is going to get sick, she’s not going to be paying attention in class. And if her teacher calls on her to answer a question, her distraction might look like ADHD, but it isn’t.

Slowness on exams and papers and tasks:

Sometimes when kids take a long time they’re struggling with the perfectionism of needing to do things the right way. This could look like learning problems, or inattention, but it isn’t.


Teachers might see a child who doesn’t want to sit on the floor, or pick things up that touched the floor, or get his hands dirty in art class. He may avoid a lot of playground activities—kids with germ fears will look at the playground the way some adults look at the subway—it’s gross. Why touch anything there?

Tapping and touching symmetrically:

If a child sits down at her desk and she accidentally kicks the chair of the kid next to her with her right foot, she’s going to have to then kick it with her left foot. That might look like somebody who’s being oppositional, or somebody who’s got too much energy, but actually it’s OCD.

Complaints of anxiety and fatigue.

There’s one interesting theory that kids with OCD are smarter than other kids. And if you consider how much thinking they’re doing, they’re really using their brain more frequently than a lot of other kids are. But when that’s coupled with a lot of anxiety, you can have a lot of fatigue. So it’s common for kids with OCD to want to come home and take a nap after school.

For a guide to what can be done in the classroom to help kids with OCD function better—both for themselves and other kids in the class—check out A Teacher’s Guide To Helping Students With OCD.

For a guide to understanding the anxiety behind OCD, read A Teacher’s Guide to OCD in the Classroom

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Final Assistive Technology Seminar - But It Doesn't Need To Be The End


June 29, 2016

This is the final week of NESCA's Assistive Technology Seminar Series, but  fear not, there are more opportunities to learn about assistive technology...
NESCA's Assistive Technology Tutorials!

The last Seminar is today, August 3rd

Evernote:  An innovative way to organize materials, it can create compilations of notes, images, recordings and more. 

Sessions will include a seminar, relevant demonstrations, and a Q&A.

Registration is preferred but walk-ins are welcome.


NESCA 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA


7:00 PM -8:00 PM


Students and/or parents of students with language based or attention disabilities, teachers, speech-language pathologists, advocates, tutors


$10 Fee can be paid by credit card, check, or cash prior to the session.


Email info@nesca-newton.com

Assistive Technology Tutorials

NESCA is pleased to offer one-on-one tutorials with assistive technology (AT) provider Courtney Rose Dykeman-Bermingham. Participants will walk away confident in how to effectively utilize individualized assistive technologies.

Courtney Rose offers tutorials and guidance for all tools covered in NESCA’s AT Seminar Series: Livescribe Pens, Kurzweil, Evernote, and specific executive functioning, time management & organization apps as well as web-based programs.

Courtney Rose is adept with many additional apps and technologies beyond those offered in the seminar series (such as Bookshare, Ginger, StudyBlue, Read & Write, Mac accessibility features, Google Apps, and more) and can work with students to help them figure out what technologies best fit their needs. Please inquire ahead regarding available support for alternative technologies.

To Register:

Please email info@nesca-newton.com

Include the name and age of the student attending, and the technology of focus during the session.

Also include the desired date and time of the session, as well as the session duration. If you are currently using a certain technology, bring it with you to learn new ways of using it. If you do not have it yet and are using the tutorial to decide if it is a worthwhile purchase, include that information in the registration.


One-hour tutorial: $60
Half-hour tutorial: $30

The fee can be paid by credit card, check, or cash prior to the appointment.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Perfectionism in Students: A Case Study in Coping With Academic Anxiety

From Beyond BookSmart
Brittany Wadbrook
June 27, 2016

Are you worried that your child tends toward perfectionism?

As coaches, we often encounter students with perfectionistic mindsets in combination with other
Executive Function challenges. When students focus on producing “perfect” work, it can not only be counterproductive but research suggests it can even prove harmful. The good news is that the right kind of support can help ensure that such mindsets won't derail your child.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is not simply when a student strives for excellence. In a New York Times magazine article, Melissa Dahl quotes psychologist Thomas S. Greenspoon, explaining that “perfectionistic people typically believe that they can never be good enough, that mistakes are signs of personal flaws, and that the only route to acceptability as a person is to be perfect.” That’s a lot of pressure for a student to handle.

How Does Perfectionism in Students Manifest?

Parents want to see their children achieve good results for their efforts — but when a child is mired in perfectionism, it can lead to hours wasted in ineffective pursuit of the perfect essay, report, or problem set — with very little on paper to show for all that effort. And frequently, there are plenty of tears and meltdowns in the process, as well. It’s easy to imagine the frustration involved in attempting to produce error-free assignments. After all, mistakes are a natural and expected part of the learning process!

The Research and the Risks

Paul Hewitt, PhD and Gordon Flett, PhD have spent nearly three decades researching perfectionism. According to Etienne Benson, of the American Psychological Association, Hewitt and Flett’s work has “found that perfectionism correlates with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems.” It’s no wonder that parents worry when their children spend endless hours perfecting their homework.

The Solution

While it can be a challenging and sometimes slow process, students can surmount the pitfalls of perfectionism with their schoolwork. Helping a child develop self-management skills, as well as gain a more realistic understanding of perceived expectations, can go a long way in easing the stress associated with perfectionism. Below is a glimpse into some of the challenges that our perfectionistic students face and how we, as adults, can help these students become more confident and productive.

A Case Study in Coping with Perfectionism

Jameson was a middle schooler full of energy, eager to please, polite, attentive, diligent … and wracked with academic anxiety. During a coaching session, Jameson described a take-home project he was assigned the week before. As he detailed the elements of the project, the strain spread across his face. When I asked how much he’d done already, he burst into tears. Despite having completed about 75% of the tasks, he was simultaneously stressed about his belief that what he’d done wasn’t good enough, and that there wasn’t enough time to finish the remaining 25%.

One of Jameson’s work patterns was that he would begin an assignment, panic part way through about not having enough time, and end up wasting even more time in that panic zone. Thus, his fear of not having time was self-fulfilled as he squandered a lot of his afternoons stressing out. Knowing this pattern, I gave Jameson 10 minutes of “Worry Time”, during which he focused entirely on listing the specific aspects of this assignment he was stressed about. When the timer went off, “Worry Time” would be over and work would begin.

Once we had the list of fears, I told Jameson it was time to investigate each one. By shifting our attention towards an investigation, Jameson’s tears halted and he became intensely curious about what evidence we might uncover. We started with his biggest fear: that what he had wasn’t good enough. “Well, there’s only one way to find out,” I announced as I handed him the project instructions sheet, “so start reading me the directions.” Thinking like the teacher, I created a scoring rubric based on the criteria Jameson read aloud. Then, we evaluated his work based on the rubric. As it turned out, he was actually about 90% finished, and the pieces he had done scored quite well. “Well, let’s cross that fear off the list, buddy, because it clearly doesn’t exist!” I exclaimed. Jameson faltered at first, but soon realized there wasn’t really any use fighting the point: He’d self-assessed his work using the guidelines of the project and it was looking great.

We moved on to the second fear: that there wasn’t enough time to complete the rest. Now that he knew there was actually only 10% remaining, we made a list of the things he still needed to do, we over estimated how much time each one would take, and then we made a plan for the rest of the evening. Jameson used the 30/30 app to list his tasks and the time each would take. We also included a bonus 10-minutes of “Worry Time” so that Jameson had a chance - and the time for that opportunity - to acknowledge his stress. When we were done inputting our list into the app, it showed us Jameson’s end time if he got started right away: 7:46pm. Not too late at all.

Through our work together, Jameson gradually learned to evaluate his work based on the actual standards of the assignment - those given by the teacher - and not his own standards of what “perfect” meant. In addition, he often began to effectively use his “Worry Time” as a chance to acknowledge his concerns and evaluate their validity. Sometimes, “Worry Time” was followed by this guided meditation app or breathing exercises when Jameson needed an extra boost of emotional regulation. And finally, Jameson began to work with his tendencies by allowing for the actual amount of time different tasks take him (compared to the amount of time he thought it should take him), when planning his work.

These new management habits didn’t completely stop Jameson from ever doubting the quality of his work, or himself. Rather, these tools and strategies armed Jameson with options for coping with perfectionism whenever he struggled to produce an assignment for school.

When a student has perfectionist tendencies that hinder productivity and confidence, it’s important to have the right support on board. Oftentimes, a counselor or therapist working in tandem with an Executive Function coach can form an effective team to keep harmful effects of perfectionism in check.