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Sibling Stress: How to Support the Siblings of a Child with Emotional Needs

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Moira Creedon, Ph.D. 
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

A child with significant mental health or developmental needs impacts the whole family system. The impact is multifaceted – from the way that a child interacts in the home environment to the challenging logistics of coordinating outpatient care and appointments. Families have to make sacrifices with their time, attention, and financial resources to address the mental health needs of one (and sometimes more than one) child. Families may also arrange schedules, including planning vacations or social events, for the family in order to accommodate treatment. It can add more stress when parents stop to consider: how is this impacting the other kids in the family?

To buffer siblings against negative impacts from being in the home with someone struggling with mental health:

  • Create an environment of safety and predictability. Talk in a family meeting about basic safety needs for the household – things like being safe with your body, being safe with property, and maintaining basic travel safety (e.g., staying buckled in the car). It is important that all siblings hear the rules and the consequences for violating the rules. If there is an episode of dysregulation, it can be very helpful to return to this conversation again.
  • Create a plan for when there is dysregulation. Remind your child/children without mental health concerns that the job of the parent is to re-establish safety, and where your other child/children should go while you address a problem. This can be their bedroom, basement playroom, or other identified place in the home. Take a moment to identify Plan B for where the safe place is if the dysregulation is happening in a common space. Talk to your child about what activities may distract and distance them from the commotion.
  • Remind your child what adults are available for them. If you are in a two-parent household, one parent can address dysregulation, and the other can stay with the sibling(s). If you are in a one-parent household (or a partner is not home), remind your child that they can call the other parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or identified friend or neighbor if they need some reassurance.
  • Put on your “oxygen mask” first. After an incident of dysregulation, check in with yourself as a parent to regulate emotionally before approaching your other child/children. Take a few moments for deep breaths or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your own nervous system. Once you are re-regulated, your message that safety has been re-established will be more soothing and believable.
  • Set aside time in each day to connect with each child. The focus can often be on positive connection with the child struggling. But, all children need the positive connection, praise, and child-driven interactions. This can help ensure that all children receive the attention they need to thrive.
  • Hold the frame. It can be easy to relax the rules with a sibling whose struggles and behavior may seem mild by comparison. It’s important to establish standards that work for each child’s unique skills and needs. It’s worth a candid conversation with each child about what the expectations are and why.
  • Use the village. Establishing a support system is critical to buffer the entire family from the overwhelming stress that can accompany emotional health issues. Enlist the support of other family members, neighbors, teammates’ families, or school personnel. If you feel that your support system is small, start with your child’s pediatrician or school to connect to community resources.
  • Reach out for help. It’s important to closely monitor siblings for signs of increased anxiety, stress response, low mood, or atypical behaviors. If you see classic signs of anxiety (fight/flight/freeze), reach out to your child’s school or pediatrician to evaluate symptoms and initiate treatment.

Additional resources to support siblings:

 

About the Author

Dr. Creedon has expertise in evaluating children and teens with a variety of presenting issues. She is interested in uncovering an individual’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses to best formulate a plan for intervention and success. With experiences providing therapy and assessments, Dr. Creedon bridges the gap between testing data and therapeutic services to develop a clear roadmap for change and deeper of understanding of individual needs.

 

If you are interested in booking an evaluation with Dr. Creedon or another NESCA neuropsychologist, please fill out and submit our online intake form

 

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

Going South: NESCA Announces New Hingham, MA Location

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Jane Hauser
Director of Marketing & Outreach, NESCA

NESCA is excited to announce that it is opening a Hingham location to serve clients on the South Shore of Massachusetts. NESCA is currently booking appointments now for Neuropsychological and Psychological Evaluation Services commencing on November 1, 2023. Learn more about what is being offered by our Hingham-based staff from my interview with Hingham Director; Pediatric Neuropsychologist Moira Creedon, Ph.D.

What prompted NESCA’s expansion to the South Shore or Massachusetts, and how can clients benefit from our Hingham location’s services?
NESCA is expanding our in-person services to Hingham on the South Shore to widen the breadth of neuropsychological and educational evaluation and consulting services offered within the state. We know that families have options as they partner with neuropsychologists, and we want to be in close proximity to communities we hope to serve. This is an exciting opportunity to support students in elementary, middle, and high school as well as young adults, as they navigate the complexities of their daily lives. It is our priority to continue providing detailed, client-centered, thorough evaluations that highlight a client’s areas of strength and vulnerability. I am also excited to strengthen relationships with local care providers and schools, and to build new relationships as a new clinician within the South Shore community.

What services do you offer?
At this time, NESCA’s South Shore-based practice will offer Neuropsychological Evaluations and Projective Assessments. The goal of these services is to build a complete picture of a client’s functioning, including their intellectual, academic, and social-emotional profile. Team members are also available to participate in team meetings at school (IEP meetings), conduct school observations, and offer consultation to parents and team members. Sometimes, a child has already participated in evaluations in other settings (schools, hospitals), and a family needs help to review these documents and make meaning of the findings.

What types of clients will NESCA serve in its South Shore location?
NESCA’s South Shore-based practice is similar to our other locations and will serve children, teens, and young adults with a range of presenting issues. The focus is in working with students in elementary, middle, and high school as well as young adults. I can see clients with diagnostic questions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Learning Disorders (e.g., dyslexia, dysgraphia), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and complex psychiatric diagnoses.

A specialty we have at NESCA – including in Hingham – is working with clients who have multiple diagnoses or who don’t fit neatly into a singular diagnostic box. I also see clients who are high functioning and curious about their learning style, how to improve their study skills, and how to plan for their academic future based on their unique profile.

Where are you on the South Shore? Are services in-person or remote?
We are practicing in person in an office at 99 Derby Street, Suite 200, in Hingham, MA. Hingham is uniquely positioned to serve the South Shore/Southcoast, and the Cape and Islands. For those traveling for appointments, most clients schedule testing in two longer (2.5 hour) blocks of time so the commute is reduced for families. I am also available to participate in IEP team meetings and conduct student observations in person on the South Shore, which is an exciting way to collaborate and build strong relationships with families, schools, and organizations.

What is different about what NESCA offers on the South Shore compared to other organizations or services available locally?
NESCA is highly respected in the community for providing detailed, comprehensive evaluations of students that speak to their strengths as well as their needs. Compared to some practices, your child or teen will be assessed directly by a neuropsychologist rather than a technician. You can depend on your neuropsychologist to bring their own expertise as well as the “village” of NESCA, as I am always collaborating with NESCA’s team of innovative neuropsychologists, transition specialists, educational consultants, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and therapists. We work routinely with special education attorneys, advocates, therapists, and school personnel in collaborative relationships to support children and teens. At NESCA, we live our core values everyday: being creative problem solvers, being collaborative and building lasting relationships, and caring deeply for students, their families, and the community.

Does insurance cover your services in Hingham?
Several NESCA providers take both Blue Cross Blue Shield and private pay for services. I am paneled with BCBS. Some families are able to obtain some coverage or reimbursement through other insurance agencies, and we can provide those families with brief billing information to submit to their insurance company. We can never guarantee insurance reimbursement, so it is important that families check with their insurance plan regarding covered services.

What if I am unsure if I should refer my child or client for an evaluation?
Give us a call! Our administrative team is happy to support you in navigating this process. We are also planning some community events to provide information to our community about a variety of topics, including who we are and how to recognize signs that a child or teen may need additional support. There is also a ton of information on our website.

How do people get more information about NESCA’s South Shore services?
You can fill out our online intake form, call 617-658-9800 to speak with an intake coordinator, or reach Hingham-based Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Moira Creedon directly at mcreedon@nesca-newton.com.

 

About the Author

Hingham Director; Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Moira Creedon has expertise in evaluating children and teens with a variety of presenting issues. She is interested in uncovering an individual’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses to best formulate a plan for intervention and success. With experiences providing therapy and assessments, Dr. Creedon bridges the gap between testing data and therapeutic services to develop a clear roadmap for change and deeper of understanding of individual needs.

 

If you are interested in booking an evaluation with Dr. Creedon or another NESCA neuropsychologist, please fill out and submit our online intake form

 

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

What Is Projective Testing and Why Might My Child Need It?

By | NESCA Notes 2022

By: Moira Creedon, Ph.D. 
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

There can be a great deal of confusion about what kind of testing you want for your child. No wonder when we have so many options – neuropsychological testing, psychoeducational testing, speech and language testing, occupational therapy testing, personality testing, and psychological testing. The part that can be incredibly challenging is that these labels often involve overlapping test measures, meaning that the assessor may choose the same specific tasks that might fall into most or all of these categories. Take cognitive assessment using IQ tests which can be used by a psychologist conducting psychological, neuropsychological, or psychoeducational testing. Another layer of confusion is added for parents when one considers that many professionals in schools or medical practices are also confused and interchangeably use these labels. In an effort to demystify the process, I want to tackle a common question: what is projective testing and why might my child need it?

Projective testing provides psychologists with very specific and unique insight about a person’s thinking habits and processing. Unlike cognitive or academic tests, projective tests do not have a “right answer.” So, projective testing is not going to ask a child to solve a math problem or define a word. It is not going to test how quickly they can name vegetables or see how skilled they are at shifting between sets of the rules. The overall goal of projective testing is to figure out how a child, teen, or adult responds to an ambiguous situation. This means, we ask people to project their brain habits (thinking style, way of interpreting the world, way of processing emotions, way of viewing self and others) onto a situation when it is not clear that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer. A person must use their problem-solving and emotion regulation skills in action. Examples of projective tests include the Rorschach inkblot test, story-telling tasks (e.g., the Thematic Apperception Test or the Roberts Apperception Test), drawings, and incomplete sentences. Projective tests take additional time to administer and usually longer to score, so they are scheduled as separate visits at NESCA.

Why might you use a projective test? There are some situations where projective testing is incredibly useful, such as when a diagnosis of a thought disorder (e.g., psychosis) is in question. It is also very useful for questions of trauma, attachment, anxiety, or mood disorder. Projective testing is also incredibly useful when psychiatric symptoms are confusing. Take the example of someone who is a perfectionistic or very guarded about their symptoms. A person with this profile is very likely to read a question that says, “I am very anxious,” and answer no. However, projective testing can see if there are themes of anxiety by considering how a person responds to an ambiguous situation. Take another example of someone who leans in the other direction and reports many symptoms that overlap with many diagnoses. In this case, many symptoms are endorsed as “yes.” Projective testing can help to provide clarity to narrow down the list, especially without an obvious answer. In both of these cases, it is helpful to access a person’s unconscious brain habits as a key to understanding a person’s functioning.

When would you not use projective testing? I do not use projective testing when my referral question does not need it. For example, a question of a learning disability or ADHD does not require projective testing. Using projective measures would be inappropriate, time consuming, and potentially stressful for a person when it is not needed. Similarly, projective testing is not often used in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder as there is little research about how neurodivergent populations respond to the ambiguous stimuli. I also do not use projective testing if neuropsychological testing suggests that a person has an intellectual disability or struggles in their visual processing skills (e.g., NVLD) since many of the projective measures (e.g., Rorschach, story-telling, drawings) use a visual stimulus card. In those cases, it would be inappropriate to assume that a response reflects a person’s emotional processing when it would really be about their visual processing.

Projective testing is incredibly informative and, like other neuropsychological tools, should only be utilized by professionals who are trained to administer and interpret these tests. Since it is not as simple as a correct single answer on an answer key, it is critical that these procedures are administered by psychologists with the advanced training to use and interpret the information. And, like all of our measures, the results gathered using projective measures are data points that are combined with other data points. The performance on one test or demand does not dictate the entire conclusion. A strong and comprehensive assessment will use projective test data as part of a larger understanding of your child. Information gathered in projective testing can highlight important strengths for your child and contribute helpful information to drive treatment.

NESCA has several clinicians who are highly trained and skilled at administering projective testing. If you have questions about projective testing and whether your child needs it, let us know by filling out our online Intake Form.

 

About the Author

Dr. Creedon has expertise in evaluating children and teens with a variety of presenting issues. She is interested in uncovering an individual’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses to best formulate a plan for intervention and success. With experiences providing therapy and assessments, Dr. Creedon bridges the gap between testing data and therapeutic services to develop a clear roadmap for change and deeper of understanding of individual needs.

 

If you are interested in booking an evaluation with Dr. Creedon or another NESCA neuropsychologist, please fill out and submit our online intake form

 

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