NESCA has unexpected availability for Neuropsychological Evaluations and ASD Diagnostic Clinic assessments in the Plainville, MA office in the next several weeks! Our expert pediatric neuropsychologists in Plainville specialize in children ages 18 months to 26 years, with attentional, communication, learning, or developmental differences, including those with a history or signs of ADHD, ASD, Intellectual Disability, and complex medical histories. To book an evaluation or inquire about our services in Plainville (approx.45 minutes from NESCA Newton), complete our Intake Form.

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emotional

Pediatric-onset Multiple Sclerosis

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Ferne Pinard, Ph.D.
NESCA Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Although typically thought of as an “adult illness,” children and adolescents can get diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis (POMS) occurs when MS is diagnosed before age 18.

Approximately 30% of POMS patients show evidence of cognitive impairment. Problems with attention, working memory, processing speed, and language (including word retrieval) are commonly reported. Poorer verbal expression/vocabulary acquisition have also been reported among patients who were diagnosed at younger ages. Overall IQ, memory, complex attention (i.e., shifting attention between competing stimuli) and visual-motor integration skills may also be impacted. These cognitive deficits as well as absences due to illness and fatigue can undermine the student’s academic performance (i.e., grades), leading to feelings of inadequacy and a sense of not being able to “keep up with” their peers academically.

However, POMS can also affect the child’s/adolescent’s social and emotional functioning. Fatigue, depression, bowel/bladder problems and physical limitations can decrease a child’s/adolescent’s interest in socializing. Heat sensitivity can limit participation in physical activities while in a warm environment, which can make them feel even more isolated. They may also feel embarrassed and have lowered self-esteem because they feel different from peers. Children/adolescents with chronic illnesses are also at an increased risk for teasing and bullying from peers. It is no surprise then that children/adolescents with MS are vulnerable to psychiatric disorders. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder occur more often in the MS population than the general population.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease. Symptoms can come and go without apparent reason or warning, and no two people experience MS symptoms in exactly the same way. Some symptoms are clearly visible (like weakness, causing walking problems) or less visible (like fatigue or cognitive concerns). It is not possible to predict when symptoms will occur or what parts of the body will be affected. MS symptoms can change from week to week.

It is important that school officials understand that because symptoms come and go without warning, accommodations need to be in place, even when symptoms seem to diminish for a time. Accommodations can include:

    • Home tutoring when students are not able to attend school
    • Excused absences and a reasonable plan to make up missed work
    • Extended time for tests/exams/projects
    • Second set of books at home
    • Preferential seating for visual, attention, or bladder/bowel issues
    • Bathroom pass/extended bathroom time
    • Portable air conditioner/fan
    • Elevator access
    • Psychotherapeutic support
    • Plan to manage fatigue:
      • Frequent/scheduled breaks
      • Modification of class schedule
      • Workload modifications

A detailed neuropsychological evaluation is essential for objectively measuring any neurocognitive deficits, tracking them over time, and informing treatment recommendations. Speech/language, audiology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy evaluations may also be warranted depending on the severity of symptoms to determine whether these services are needed. Psychologists, psychiatrists, school guidance counselors, teachers, and school administrators as well as support groups with other patients and families facing this disease should also be part of the child’s/adolescent’s care team.

 

About Pediatric Neuropsychologist Ferne Pinard, Ph.D.

Dr. Pinard provides comprehensive evaluation services for children, adolescents, and young adults with learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), and psychiatric disorders as well as complex medical histories and neurological conditions. She has expertise in assessing children and adolescents with childhood cancer as well as neuro-immunological disorders, including opsoclonus-myoclonus-ataxia syndrome (“dancing eyes syndrome”), central nervous system vasculitis, Hashimoto’s encephalopathy, lupus, auto-immune encephalitis, multiple sclerosis (MS), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and acute transverse myelitis (ATM), and optic neuritis.

 

To book a neuropsychological evaluation with Dr. Pinard or another expert neuropsychologist at NESCA, complete NESCA’s 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; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and Coaching and Transition staff in greater Burlington, Vermont, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

When Parents and Kids Have BIG Emotions

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Miriam Dreyer, Ph.D.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow

Brianna Sharpe’s recent essay for the New York Times – Parenting section titled, “I’d Like to Melt Down When My Kids Do,” captures an essential challenge of parenting – managing one’s own emotions when your child is having big and difficult feelings. Ms. Sharpe writes about her own extensive training as a mental health professional and how even with lots of experience working with children, she was not prepared for the emotional demands of parenting. She writes, “. . . like all preschoolers, my son needs an anchor when the waters get rough. But just when he needed me most, I found myself being pulled under by my own emotions. Although I never called him names or outright accused him of being at fault, I would yell in anger when hurt. My irrational response was often, ‘Why would you do that?!’ Once the red haze faded, I knew he was doing just what preschoolers are designed to do – but I had a hard time reconnecting with him.”

Ms. Sharpe beautifully depicts the intricate link between a child and a parent’s emotions. As parents, one of our essential roles throughout our children’s lives is to help them regulate. From birth, our job is to love, soothe, feed, attend and help our kids make sense of their feelings. This is a hard job, made even more complicated by the nuances and complexities of our own emotional lives.

Emotion regulation is a multifaceted process. As defined by Gross (1998), emotion regulation involves conscious and unconscious processes that operate both before an emotional response is generated and after it occurs. He writes that emotion regulation consists of “processes by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express these emotions.” Challenges with emotion regulation are a component of many of the presenting problems we see at our center. Children with ADHD can struggle with emotional impulsivity, shifting and modulating emotional responses. Individuals with depression and anxiety face challenges balancing positive and negative feelings, as well as controlling irrational thoughts and worries. Difficulties with emotion regulation for individuals on the Autism spectrum are also common and intersect with social/emotional and behavioral problems that can arise with symptoms related to rigidity, self-direction and repetitive, self-soothing behaviors.  Symptoms associated with traumatic stress, such as dissociation, mood lability and alexithymia, all interfere with one’s ability to regulate emotionally. Even challenges like communication disorders and other learning disabilities are related to emotion regulation since they generate anxiety and can impede expressing oneself using language, which is a key regulatory process. In fact, theorists are now conceptualizing emotion regulation as a possible unifying, underlying component across psychological disorders (Aldao, Nolen-Hoeksema, & Schweizer, 2010).

What are we, as parents, to do then in the face of our children’s and our own stormy emotions?  How do those of us caring for children who are struggling help them while attending to our own complicated emotional processes? A helpful framework for considering these questions comes from researchers who focus on attachment relationships in parenting, mentalization, as well as the mindfulness and self-compassion literature. 

  • Cultivate self-compassion. Parenting is hard, as is childhood. A stance of self-compassion which acknowledges challenges and encourages kindness to oneself helps move out of cycles of self-blame and anger.
  • Encourage curiosity about your own and your child’s emotions. Developing awareness of our own and our children’s emotional lives helps create a buffer in moments of heightened emotional arousal and can shed light on challenging patterns and interactive cycles.
  • Take a pause. Try breathing and mindfulness exercises to regain calm in difficult moments.
  • Consult with a therapist for parent guidance. There are many different types of parenting programs and support that can help tailor strategies and target complicated dynamics within family systems.

 

References

Aldao, A., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Schweizer, S. (2010). Emotion-regulation strategies across psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical psychology review30(2), 217-237.

Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of general psychology2(3), 271-299.

Sharpe, B. (2019, June 21). I’d like to melt down when my kids do.  The New York Times.

 

About the Author

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.

 

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 info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

To book an appointment with one of our expert neuropsychologists, please complete our Intake Form today. For more information about NESCA, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

What’s Up, Postdocs?

By | NESCA Notes 2019

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 info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

To book an appointment with one of our expert neuropsychologists, please complete our Intake Form today. For more information about NESCA, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.