Executive Functioning Tips

Options for College Success
1515 Maple Ave, Suite 190
Evanston, IL.            60201
847-425-4797, ext.402

Options for Success! Juniors and Seniors in High School-We are here for you too!!!

The pandemic has led Options for College Success to be considered Options for Success! We provide our services to Juniors and Seniors in high school, as well as post-secondary schooling and alternative paths! No matter if you or your student is learning virtually this fall or in a hybrid format, WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU SUCCEED in this new learning landscape. Please check out our most recent email blast with information on how to help your high school student succeed!



Article: “Getting Into College Doesn’t Mean Students Are Ready to Go”

We wanted to share this article by Dr. Lisa Damour from 2015.  The pandemic is leading people to consider other options for post-secondary planning.  In addition, it is important to determine whether your student is ready, and wants to attend college.
At Options for College Success, we talk with families about college readiness and alternative paths for when a student is not ready to go to college right away.  This can include planning a productive “gap year” or certificate-to-career programs.  Call or email our Admissions and Academics Coordinator, Kevin Holbrook,  to find out more!
Phone: 224-616-2831  Email: kholbrook@optionsforcollegesuccess.org


From The New York Times
By Lisa Damour
April 27, 2015

Last October I held a hastily scheduled psychotherapy session with a teenager facing a disastrous start to her college career. When we met, she somberly shared that she was on her university’s radar for her uncontrolled drinking and had a coming court date for a disorderly conduct charge. Her parents wanted her to withdraw right away, but she had just started to make some solid friendships at college and was reluctant to go home. I saw her point, but understood where her parents were coming from: Given that she was clearly struggling, it was hard to imagine how she would handle the additional strain of trying to recover from her faltering start.

Every fall, I find myself in meetings like this one. Sometimes they’re with a teenage who slept through three midterms and is afraid to talk with his professors about how to set things right; sometimes with a student who is doing well academically but terrifying her parents with news that she is cutting herself or feeling suicidal. By the time they’re in my office, these adolescents are in a terrible position. If they haven’t already been sent home from college with heavy conditions for their return, they’re often calculating whether it’s better to drop out midsemester or to try to salvage some credits by taking leave at the end of the term.

When I ask about the events leading up to our meeting, I almost always get the same story: They spent their senior year of high school and usually several years before that hinting, if not sky-writing, that they weren’t ready to go to college. They were already drinking too much, missing due dates, or struggling to care for themselves in any number of ways. While I am sure there are examples out there, I have yet to see a student implode in the first year of college because of difficulties that arrived completely out of the blue.

In these meetings I can’t help but wonder, “Who thought it was a good idea to send you off to school?” But I get it, and not just the part about hindsight being 20/20. It’s not always easy to draw the line between typical teenage mistakes and a building meltdown. And most of us would choose to ride the current of sending our teenager to college over the sheer hassle of making alternate plans and the discomfort of explaining to friends that our child “just isn’t ready.”

Of course, the biggest barrier may well be the teenager’s own resistance to delaying enrollment. High school seniors who have secured and celebrated college admission are rarely eager to push the pause button. The drive for autonomy practically defines adolescence and it’s no small feat to bar that door. When offering counsel to parents in this position, I encourage them to say, “We want to support your plans, but we wouldn’t be doing our job as parents to send you away when you are showing us that you’re not ready to look after yourself.”

I’ve also offered advice on the university side of this problem while meeting with students in office hours as their psychology professor. To lend support without acting as their therapist I’ve developed an empathic, if well-worn, spiel: “There are things more important than school. Can you take some time off to address what’s making it hard for you to be here? The university isn’t going anywhere and you only get to do college once. Perhaps you could take a break and come back when you’re ready to make the most of this opportunity.”

Sitting with the young people who land in my practice, I imagine what one or two years of work or service would have done for them before heading off to college. The upsides of a gap year for all kinds of students have been documented and, to me, teenage years are like dog years: a year of maturation at age 18 is worth at least seven in later life.

Along with the benefits of a gap year we should also consider the stunning costs, both emotional and economic, of sending students to college prematurely. Taking unexpected leave from college can be humiliating and expensive. When it’s time to try again, students who transfer must disclose their dismissal or withdrawal from their first college, and they are almost certainly looking at options that would have been safety schools, at best, in their first round of applications.

Let’s not equate college admission with college readiness. The skills needed to graduate from high school and get into college have surprisingly little in common with those needed to manage, much less thrive, away from home in an undergraduate setting. There should be no shame in “taking time off.” On the contrary, we should admire the parents and teenagers who recognize that getting in isn’t the same as good to go.

Lisa Damour writes the monthly Adolescence column for the New York Times, serves as a regular contributor to CBS News, maintains a private practice, consults and speaks internationally, is a Senior Advisor to the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University, and serves as the Executive Director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls. She is also the author of two New York Times best selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.

https://www.drlisadamour.com/    Follow her on Twitter: @LDamour.

School in the Fall of 2020: What will it look like?

As we continue to navigate the pandemic and enter into summer months, the questions and concerns regarding what the possibilities are when it comes to our students learning continue to grow. Many colleges and universities have not issued statements yet regarding their plans and protocols for the fall semesters and quarters.

This article breaks down four possible scenarios schools may implement to continue our students’ education this fall, while recognizing and respecting the gravity of the pandemic.


At Options for College Success, we can support your student no matter the scenarios we face in the fall!

  • We offer academic, career, financial literacy, independent living skills, groups, and social events virtually!
  • We customize all services to address the unique challenges your student may face as e-learning becomes more of a standard platform!
  • All services are one-on-one (except group and social events, of course:) )!

If school is not in the picture for your student this fall, we can still support them in achieving success! We support individuals exploring gap years, volunteering, employment, and career development!



“People need to stop underestimating us”

Over the past couple of years, many stories have been published in the media about employers becoming more aware of how individuals with autism should not be overlooked in the hiring process, and any personal biases  towards individuals with autism need to be checked at the door.

This morning the Chicago Tribune published an article about a 17 year old with nonverbal autism and how he is raising awareness about not underestimating those with communication challenges.  This young man has a blog and is using this platform to create connections with others who have nonverbal autism.  This blog also opens up the eyes of those who are neuro-typical to the first hand experiences of a teenager with nonverbal autism.

Please click the link below to learn more about his story and to explore his blog!



To Our Founder’s: THANK YOU

Options for College Success was founded in 2009 by two mothers with a mission of supporting post- secondary students with learning challenges to be successful in college.  After working in the education field, both realized there were many students with learning challenges that were not receiving the support needed within the school system and decided they needed to intervene and help those students.  Over the years the mission developed into the more comprehensive program it is today, including finance skill building, independent living skills, social skills, vocational support, and providing social event opportunities.  These women had a vision and worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

As both of our founder’s have now retired, we wanted to highlight these incredible individuals that created this strong community, the Options for College Success family.

Christine Anderson worked in the education field for over 40 years.   She began in an inner-city school in Savannah, Georgia. She then transferred to the Savannah Association for Children with Specific Learning Disabilities. After raising her family in the Chicago area, Christine returned to the workforce, first as a director for an alternative high school and then as a director for a national program for young adults with learning challenges. The drive to advocate and support this population has been a passion of Christine’s.  Christine stepped down from her role as Executive Director in January of 2018.  She continues her dedication to the community, co-creating and launching an app, Glimmer (www.glimmerconnect.com), with her son.

Shoshana Axler, born and raised in Chicago, was a classroom teacher as well as a mentor for many years in the Chicago area.  She earned a master’s degree from Rhode Island College in education.  Her commitment to the success of young adults creates an ongoing connection with all students and families she has served.  Shoshana spent several years fundraising for cancer research and then returned to the field of education.  Shoshana is the mother of 3 grown children and many grandchildren.  Shoshana retired this last week and will be moving to be with her family in Israel. Shoshana’s generosity, dedication to community, and enthusiasm is profound, and it runs deep within the foundation of our organization.

We are forever grateful to our founders! We will always continue the mission set forth by these brilliant women! The Options for College Success family wishes Christine and Shoshana joy and happiness as they embark on their new journey!

On Giving Tuesday, Donate to Organizations that Fill the Gaps

Options for College Success provides services and support to fill the gap for individuals with learning challenges and disabilities aging out of the school system and launching into their next journey. These individuals stop receiving services through the state between 18 and 22 years of age.  Where do they go next?

These individuals may not be ready for post-secondary schooling nor have the skills to be employed. Employment rates for those with disabilities are very low, and educational attainment is essential to the success of young adults with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical training and education. Based on the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, in the U.S. 35.9% of individuals aged 18-64 with disabilities were employed versus 76.6% of those without a disability.

At our organization, we customize an individual’s plan based on where they currently are at in development and what goals they look to achieve. We fill the gaps with hands on, one on one support to provide them with the opportunity to live a healthy, productive and independent life.

Please donate to Options for College Success on this day and as we move into the holiday season.  We want to improve and expand our programming to fit the increasing needs of the population we work with.  Your gift, no matter the size, will directly impact the success of our students.

Please visit www.optionsforcollegesuccess.org and click on our donate button at the bottom of the page or send a check  payable to Options for College Success.

Options for College Success

1515 maple Ave. Suite 190

Evanston, IL 60201

Options for College Success Presents…

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW


Happy Friday y’all!

Options for College Success is proud to inform everyone that we are hosting a free event on planning for now and the future!

We are bringing together Andre Sam from The Special Needs Education and Advocacy Project and Kathryn Jackson from Autism Spectrum Therapies for an evening workshop discussing the logistical and emotional support needs in life transitions for individuals with disabilities. In addition, there will be a special segment presented by staff from Northwestern University’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab regarding their current research studies on autism and Fragile X.

This event is on Wednesday, February 28th 2018 from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Segal Visitor’s Center at Northwestern University.

We will have refreshments!

Please let me know if you plan to attend.  Email: skolkey@optionsforcollegesuccess.org.

I hope to see you there!

special needs education and advocacy project image

There’s an App for that!

By Samantha Kolkey

As we all may know, there are literally applications for our phones, tablets and computers that will help with almost anything.

All of our students, as most people can relate to, are glued to their phones.  If I can help them utilize their phones to support the development of executive functioning skills, to establish a routine or habit, to limit distractions, or provide other ways to study for their classes, then I am open to this technology.

I was recently working with a student who has executive functioning deficits and needed support in establishing a more independent morning routine, including a more effective alarm.  A colleague suggested that I look at the app “Alarmy.”  Alarmy allows the person to set their alarm with a choice of settings: Take a Picture, Solve Math Problems, and Shake Shake (where you must shake the phone a specific number of times for the alarm to turn off).  This app helps decrease one’s tendency to snooze their alarm multiple times, and to not stay in bed for a long period of time. https://alar.my

Other apps to explore:

Streaks:  This app helps in establishing habits.  You can choose up to 12 tasks that you want to turn into daily habits. When it is checked off for the day, it creates a streak.  The visual of the streak creates a sense of accomplishment, aiming to motivate the individual to continue with the task.  If it is not checked off, the streak resets to zero. https://streaksapp.com/

Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present: For those who have trouble stepping away from the internet to complete a task, study session, etc.  This app allows the user to create their own forest.  You begin by planting a seed.  Within the next 30 minutes, the seed will gradually grow into a tree. If you end up going to browse websites, the tree will wither away.  You can even put specific websites that distract you most on a “Blacklist.” This app will help to cultivate effective time management, and can also be used to decrease dependency on the internet. https://www.forestapp.cc/en/

Quizlet:  Supports studying on the go.  You can get gentle reminders to study, see how you’re improving, and work in short study sessions.  This allows you to create a study plan and can guide you through what and when to practice. https://quizlet.com/mobile

AudioNote:  This app combines the function of a notepad and a voice recorder to save time and improve the quality of one’s notes. AudioNote will automatically index lectures, meetings, interviews, or study sessions.  http://luminantsoftware.com/iphone/audionote.html

IntervalMinder:  This app can be used to support one’s therapy and self-monitoring goals. It is very effective for monitoring breaks. https://notchlandlabs.wordpress.com/about-2/interval-minder/


Happy App-ing!




“I feel so anxious right now!” Coping with Finals

By Samantha Kolkey

Around this time of year, our students on academic paths are preparing for and taking their final exams.  They have worked so hard, and must overcome this last obstacle for their semester/quarter/trimester.

Many of our students feel anxious over these finals, no matter if it is a project, portfolio, test–I know most of us can relate to this. I often hear “I’m so anxious right now,”  “I can’t focus enough to study,” or I see our students walking around during study halls, unable to sit for long periods of time to study or finish papers and projects.  Below are a few suggestions that we provide to our students, and some are from students themselves:

  • Implement self-care into your daily routine: Take a walk in the morning or between studying, listen to music, or talk to a friend.  Make sure to get good sleep (especially several days before the exam) and eat as healthy as possible.
  • When preparing for a test, give yourself time.  Time to study, time to get to the testing center or classroom, time to take care of yourself.
  • If you are unable to concentrate while studying, grab an ice pack or drink a cold glass of water.  The cold may help wake you up and snap you out of distraction.
  • Reframe negative thoughts and beliefs.  Turn “I am never going to pass this test,”  “I can’t do this,” “I don’t know anything” into more realistic and positive thoughts. “I will walk into the test confidently,” “I am going to do my best,” and “I do know many things, and I am going to do well on this test.” *Bonus: this can be done during the test!
  • When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, excessively sweating, breathing fast, heart racing:  take slow and deep breaths.  Inhale through the nose slowly until you fill up your lungs, then slowly exhale through your mouth, completely deflating your lungs.  Do this at least 5 times. Closing your eyes for a few moments and imagining a favorite or relaxing place can be added to further decrease any uncomfortable feelings. *Bonus: this can be done during the test!
  • After the test or submission of project/paper, do something you greatly enjoy.  You finished!