NESCA currently enjoys having three pediatric neuropsychology fellows on its roster: Caroline Kleeman, Psy.M., Miriam Dreyer, Ph.D., and Zachary Cottrell, Psy.D, LMHC. NESCA’s postdoctoral positions are two-year engagements allowing clinicians who have completed or are finalizing their doctoral degrees to advance their training and acquire/hone their skills in preparation for their long-term careers.
We recently sat down with two of our fellows to learn more about their postdoctoral experiences now that they have almost reached the one-year mark in their time at NESCA.
By Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach
Tell us about your postdoctoral experience at NESCA so far.
Both: As postdocs, we sit in on every phase of an evaluation – from the intake session to the administering and scoring of the tests, interpretation of the results, feedback session with parents, and writing of the report.
We are always working with a supervising clinician during evaluations, and we participate in a training seminar led by NESCA’s Director of Training Dr. Angela Currie. We get feedback from our supervising clinicians throughout every stage in the testing process.
Caroline: I was fortunate to have worked at NESCA as a practicum student in 2016-2017. It’s been great to be back here in a different role. I’ve had the chance to work closely with Dr. Alissa Talamo during my fellowship.
Miriam: I’ve been on board here at NESCA since September 2018, so almost a year now. I worked closely with Dr. Amity Kulis, and now I am working with Drs. Nancy Roosa and Stephanie Monaghan-Blout.
Based on your experiences at NESCA, have you identified a specialty you would like to focus on?
Caroline: Autism has been and remains my area of interest. I also really enjoy working with children with learning disabilities and collaborating with schools to get the right plans in place for the kids we work with. I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from attending school observations and sitting in on Team meetings.
Miriam: Before I went to graduate school, I was a teacher. My area of interest is the intersection of emotional and learning challenges, including executive functioning difficulties and attentional disorders. In graduate school, my research and therapy training focused on trauma. So, my goal is to combine my clinical and educational experiences to support families in understanding how emotional experiences impact learning in children and adolescents.
Why did you choose to do your postdoctoral work at NESCA?
Caroline: As I mentioned, this is my second time being a part of the NESCA team. I came back to NESCA for my postdoc work because I valued the collegial environment. I also felt I could benefit from the different clinical staff and their various areas of expertise. It’s such a great experience to work in a practice where someone always knows the answer to my most challenging questions. I really appreciate the model of teaching at NESCA. Because of the apprenticeship model, there’s so much in-the-moment teaching with our clinical supervisors that I benefit from.
Miriam: I was really Interested in the apprenticeship model of training at NESCA as well. It’s a unique arrangement in that postdocs are with a supervising clinician every step of the of the evaluation process. We receive a lot of mentoring here, which is very important to me. I also value the integrated nature of the reports NESCA produces, which portray the sometimes complex kids we see in a nuanced way. Again, this is very important to me in my continued learning.
Both: We get to work with different people here who do different things. It’s given us exposure to so many new areas of neuropsychology that we may not have seen elsewhere. There are a lot of experts here to learn from.
What makes NESCA different? What did you find most beneficial?
Miriam: The structure of NESCA’s training program and the emphasis on continued learning throughout the organization are both so valuable. We frequently have seminars where third-party speakers come in to educate our staff on new areas of psychology and treatments so we all stay current with the latest evidence-based approaches. We also have a weekly case conference where all of our clinicians gather to discuss complex cases and to share resources, knowledge, and experiences to benefit the case at hand. There is a heavy emphasis on learning within the practice, so I am constantly getting exposed to new ideas. I think that’s a valuable and unique asset of NESCA.
Caroline: I absolutely agree with the fact that we are really benefiting from the heavy emphasis on learning and the years of experience our clinicians have. Their willingness to share the knowledge they’ve gained with each other and us is a great benefit to our clients and to my own education. I have also learned so much from our clinicians who attend and bring back such good information from conferences as well as the conferences I’ve had the opportunity to attend.
What’s been your favorite and your most challenging experience so far at NESCA?
Miriam: Each case is unique, so I’ve had lots of exposure to new areas of neuropsychology. Every person who walks in the door presents new opportunities for learning. While this is one of my favorite aspects of NESCA, it is also challenging. With the unique caseloads we take on, there is a lot to learn about the different profiles. As fellows, we do not yet specialize in one area, so we are getting a broad education across domains of neuropsychology. For every new case, there are unique recommendations tailored to that individual that require research, which is an important part of our training.
Caroline: Seeing each child who comes to NESCA as a unique individual is probably my most rewarding and challenging part of being in this practice. Getting to work with some of the more complex profiles out there is exciting to me, but is obviously a challenge, too. There’s always a lot to be learned about each child, and that can take some time to do.
What advice can you share with others looking into this field or who are looking for the right place for their postdoc experience?
Miriam: It’s a great opportunity to be here. My advice is to visit NESCA for an interview, see what it’s like here and learn about the different specializations of the practice’s clinicians. In your search, look for a postdoc position where you get varied training and exposure to a lot of different cases, even if they aren’t in your specific area of interest.
Caroline: Neuropsychology is a very fulfilling career. Every day and every child are different, so it never gets boring. Of course, it can also be frustrating in that there are sometimes barriers to kids getting what they need, whether in school or with community resources not being available. In those moments, you have to be creative and problem-solve. That said, the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
About Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow Miriam Dreyer, Ph.D.:
Dr. Dreyer enjoys working with children, adolescents and families who come to her office with a wide range of questions about learning, social and emotional functioning. She is passionate about helping children and parents understand the different, often complex, factors that may be contributing to a presenting problem and providing recommendations that will help break impasses – whether they be academic, therapeutic, social or familial.
Dr. Dreyer joins NESCA after completing her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the City University of New York. She most recently provided psychological assessments and comprehensive evaluations at the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School for children and families with a wide range of presenting problems including trauma, anxiety, psychosis, and depression. During her training in New York, she conducted neuropsychological and psychological testing for children and adolescents presenting with a variety of learning disabilities, as well as attentional and executive functioning challenges. Her research focused on developmental/complex trauma, as well as the etiology of ADHD.
Dr. Dreyer’s experience providing therapy to children, adolescents and adults in a variety of modalities (individual, group, psychodynamic, CBT) and for a wide range of presenting problems including complex trauma/PTSD, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders informs her ability to provide a safe space for individuals to share their concerns, as well as to provide tailored recommendations regarding therapeutic needs.
Before becoming a psychologist, Dr. Dreyer taught elementary and middle school students for nine years in Brooklyn, NY. She also had an individual tutoring practice and specialized in working with children with executive functioning challenges, as well as providing support in writing, reading and math. Her experience in education informs both her understanding of learning challenges, as well as her capacity to make specific and well-informed recommendations.
She received her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College, and her B.A. in International Studies from the University of Chicago.
About Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow Caroline Kleeman, Psy.M.:
Caroline Kleeman comes to NESCA with experience providing evaluations for children with a range of neurodevelopmental profiles. She has focused on assessing children with autism spectrum disorder, including those presentations accompanied by cognitive delays, language impairments, or genetic disorders. She also enjoys evaluating children with academic difficulties stemming from learning disorders or attention/executive function disorders.
Ms. Kleeman’s approach to testing recognizes that children are so much more than a list of scores. Combining her own careful observations with input provided by parents and teachers, Ms. Kleeman strives to differentiate between skill deficits or performance deficits, while also identifying unique strengths. Additionally, drawing on her applied behavior analysis (ABA) background, Ms. Kleeman looks beyond the individual to identify helping and hindering features of the surrounding environment. The result is meaningful, highly individualized educational and therapeutic recommendations.
Ms. Kleeman received her Sc.B. with honors from Brown University, where she studied cognitive science. Focusing on early childhood, she conducted research on the role of sleep (especially naps!) in cognitive development. After college, Ms. Kleeman worked as a therapist at Nashoba Learning Group, using the tenets of ABA to provide instruction across educational, vocational, behavioral, and adaptive domains.
Bridging between psychology and education, Ms. Kleeman is finalizing her doctorate in school psychology at Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. Her dissertation is investigating the role that Sesame Street’s autistic muppet, Julia, could play in early childhood social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at the Center for Children with Special Needs in Connecticut, where, in addition to psychoeducational evaluations, she provided ABA therapy and ABA-based reading intervention for children across the autism spectrum.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.