While school may be wrapping up, Summer is an ideal time to embark on transition assessment and services to ensure that your child’s IEP process is preparing them for learning, living, and working after their public education. The ultimate goal of transition assessment is to identify the necessary skills and services to ready a student age 13-21 for transitioning from high school to the next phase of life. To book an intake and consultation appointment, visit: www.nesca-newton.com/intake. Not sure if you need an assessment? You can schedule a one-hour parent/caregiver intake and consultation.

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How to Use a Neuropsychological Evaluation Report from NESCA

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Erin Gibbons, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

A neuropsychological evaluation is a big investment of your time and financial resources. At the end of the process, you are provided with a lengthy report. You might think, “Now what? How do I use this report?”

At NESCA, we pride ourselves on writing reports that are comprehensive and highly individualized to each client. We always recommend sharing the report with people who work with your student, including pediatricians, schools, and private providers (e.g., therapists, speech-language pathologists, etc.). In many cases, the report includes a clinical diagnosis or diagnoses. Other providers often need to see those diagnoses in writing in order for the student to “qualify” for services.

In the short-term, the report should be used to seek services that the student needs. This often includes working with the student’s school to ensure that the student is receiving any necessary academic, social, or emotional supports. The report includes specific, explicit recommendations, such as the type of classroom the student needs, what interventions should be happening during the school day (e.g., reading instruction, speech/language therapy, occupational therapy), whether or not they need access to counseling services, and so on. By having all of those recommendations laid out in the report, families can then advocate for their student effectively.

Aside from the school setting, NESCA reports can be used to access services privately. This might include academic, therapeutic, or behavioral interventions. Managed care organizations often require specific types of documentation in order to access insurance-based services. By having a written report that includes clinical diagnoses and specific recommendations, this essentially acts as a prescription for services.

NESCA reports can also be useful for long-term planning and progress monitoring over time. The report captures the student’s current profile and provides recommendations for what should be done to address areas of weakness, with the goal of improving the student’s prognosis. An evaluation is typically considered to be valid for the next 2-3 years. At that point, it will be important for the student to be evaluated again to see whether there has been progress and, if not, what changes need to be made to the interventions in order for them to be more effective.

 

About the Author

Erin Gibbons, Ph.D. is a pediatric neuropsychologist with expertise in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological assessment of infants,

children, and adolescents presenting with developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorders. She has a particular interest in assessing students with complex medical histories and/or neurological impairments, including those who are cognitively delayed, nonverbal, or physically disabled. Dr. Gibbons joined NESCA in 2011 after completing a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. She particularly enjoys working with young children, especially those who are transitioning from Early Intervention into preschool. Having been trained in administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Dr. Gibbons has experience diagnosing autism spectrum disorders in children aged 12 months and above.

If you are interested in booking an evaluation with a NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, 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, Hingham, and Plainville, Massachusetts; Londonderry, New Hampshire; and staff in Burlington, Vermont and Brooklyn, NY, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

Supporting Teens: Helping Them Engage in Treatment

By | NESCA Notes 2024

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

I was fortunate to join my colleague, Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, in a recent presentation about fostering self-advocacy and self-determination for young adults. The focus of our conversation was around encouraging teens to participate in the special education process as active members of their IEP team. It got me thinking: what are other ways that teens should be included in decision making? How do we ensure that teens are included in vital treatment decisions? And what do we do about those teens who are reluctant to engage?

There is a robust body of empirical evidence to suggest that the combination of medications and therapy is most effective at reducing symptom severity for emotional health disorders including anxiety and mood disorders. While adults on a treatment team may be well aware of this evidence, teens may look elsewhere to gather information – turning to the less than reliable sources of anecdotal conversations and social media. If we want teens to participate in the treatment planning process armed with greater information, there are a few steps we can follow to support their treatment engagement.

First, when the question relates to medications, I always encourage teens to have very open discussions with their parents and providers about the risks and side effects of medications. It’s incredibly helpful to open conversations by asking teens what they already know or what they have already heard or read about different types of medications. This helps to eliminate any confusion or misperceptions, either about negative side effects or about their unrealistic expectations that things will be “magically cured” in a very short period of time. It is important for teens to understand how long medications may work in their system, how long they need to take the medication to reach the therapeutic dosing, and the risks of not taking it or experimenting with other substances which may interfere with the mechanisms of action. For anxious kids who may not feel comfortable speaking up within an appointment, I encourage families to make a list of their teen’s questions and a plan for who will read the list of questions in the appointment. There are valuable supports that can help with the executive functioning demands needed to remember medications (e.g., daily pill boxes, setting alarms, or reminders on their phone, etc.).

When it comes to therapy, it is relatively common for me to hear a parent state that a child is reluctant or unwilling to attend therapy. There may be many very valid reasons why a teen may feel this way, and it is a sign that they are engaging in the developmental task of individuation when they push back on this recommendation. We don’t need to fear this struggle, and we can use it as an opportunity to invite a conversation. For teens who struggle to explain why they are reluctant about treatment, I might share a few common explanations to see if they resonate with the teen: “Some teens think it’s boring, or it’s too hard, or it’s a waste of time. Some worry their parents will know each thing they say, or feel like they are not in control of the treatment goals.” It may also be as simple as finding virtual sessions to be frustrating and impersonal, or finding the commute to an office for an in-person session to be time consuming. Many of these logistic concerns can be addressed with scheduling. It is also important for teens to know that therapy is not “one size fits all.” There are different forms of therapeutic treatment, and it is important to find a provider with experience delivering evidence-based treatments for the specific diagnosis that your teen carries.

One of the most important factors in treatment adherence is a trusting therapeutic relationship. Those relationships take time to build. If a teen is not feeling well connected to their therapeutic provider, I encourage them to have a discussion either directly with their provider about this or to explore other treatment providers. The same way someone may not wish to be friends with every person they meet, there are certain connections that just “feel right.” Skilled providers also use techniques, such as Motivational Interviewing, to encourage teens to develop their own goals for treatment. This can help to diffuse the argument that a teen is only engaging in a treatment to appease their parent or caregiver. These powerful tactics include important elements of empathy, highlighting discrepancies in thinking (or in conflicting actions and behaviors), accepting (and even expecting) resistance, and promoting self-efficacy.

In helping teens to find their own voice in the treatment process, a power struggle or a demand for engagement from a parent is unlikely to get us very far. Bringing in the support of other trusted people in a teen’s life (e.g., teacher, school counselor, coach, uncle or aunt, older cousin) may also be a useful way to open the discussion about why therapy feels stressful. While teens may wish for things to get better on their own, ignored or avoided struggles do not just go away magically. Treatment can be hard as it does involve facing anxiety-provoking material. However, teens will be facing this content with a trusted adult and armed with new tools to master these triggers. It is important to acknowledge that therapy can be hard work, and they will not be doing it alone. Engaging in special self-care routines after a therapy session, particularly if parents can acknowledge and create space for these, can be a powerful way to encourage commitment to treatment. When teens feel more control in engaging with their treatment, they are far more likely to persist.

For more information on enhancing motivation for treatment engagement, consider the following resources:

 

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.

Mindfulness-based Interventions for Children with ADHD

By | NESCA Notes 2024

By: Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often struggle to sustain attention, follow directions, and appropriately interact with peers when compared to children with typical development. Executive functioning challenges, including difficulties with self-regulation, are also common in individuals with ADHD. Executive functioning refers to the neuropsychological-based functions involved in the regulation of behavioral states and the organization of goal-directed behavior. This can present as difficulty breaking down goals into steps, planning, monitoring the effectiveness of an approach to a task, modulating one’s emotions, etc.

Currently, evidence-based treatment methods for managing ADHD symptomology include medication, behavioral interventions, or the combination of the two. In addition, one domain that has received increased attention from the scientific community over the past several years is the integration of mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) within treatment (Felver & Jennings, 2016).

Mindfulness is the ability to bring one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can allow an individual to consider alternative ways to perceive and react to a situation (Singh et al., 2007). Many MBI curriculums include lessons on focusing one’s attention on the present moment, which can improve individuals’ self-regulation, executive functioning, concentration, and emotional-reactivity, while reducing aggressive behavior, social problems, and anxiety (Keng et al., 2011; Parker et al., 2014).

One such curriculum, originally developed for adults with Intellectual Disabilities and aggressive behaviors, is Soles of the Feet (SoF) (Singh et al., 2003). The purpose of this exercise is to shift the individual’s attention from a typically triggering situation to a neutral stimulus. The SoF intervention involves teaching an individual to recognize situations that trigger an emotional response in real life or through role-play scenarios. Next, the individual is guided through steps in the curriculum that consist of finding a neutral body posture, breathing naturally while thinking about the triggering event, and shifting attention to the soles of the feet. Then the individual is guided to be mindful of their feet on the ground. The goal is for the individual to end this process having appropriately responded to the situation without engaging in behavior that was contrary to expectations. Research suggests that engaging in this intervention significantly improved participants’ ability to regulate their aggressive and disruptive behaviors, and appropriately engage with others (Felver et al., 2013; Singh et al., 2007).

There are several mindfulness-based activities, such as progressive muscle relaxation and focusing on your five senses, that can be modified to support children’s attentional and emotional regulation. For some ideas, please consider visiting the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Magination Press website, where they offer several children’s book titles related to a variety of topics, including mindfulness.

References

Felver, J. C., Doerner, E., Jones, J., Kaye, N., & Merrell, K. M. (2013). Mindfulness in school psychology: Applications for intervention and research. Psychology in the Schools, 50, 531–547

Felver, J. C., Celis-DeHoyos, C., Tezanos, K., & Singh, N. N. (2016) A systematic review of mindfulness-based interventions for youth in school settings. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-015-0389-4

Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 1041-56.

Parker, A. E., Kupersmidt, J. B., Mathis, E. T., Scull, T. M., & Sims, C. (2014). The impact of Mindfulness education on elementary school students: evaluation of the Master Mind program. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 7(3), 184-204. doi:10.1080/1754730x.2014.916497

Singh, N. N., Wahler, R. G., Winton, Adkins, A. D., Myers, R. E., & The Mindfulness Research Group. (2003). Soles of the feet: A mindfulness based self-control intervention for aggression by an individual with mild mental retardation and mental illness. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 24, 158–169.

Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Singh, J., Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., & McAleavey, K. M. (2007). Mindful parenting decreases aggression and increases social behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behavior Modification, 31(6), 749-771. doi:10.1177/0145445507300924

 

About Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.

Dr. Halladay conducts comprehensive evaluations of toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children with a wide range of developmental, behavioral, and emotional concerns. She particularly enjoys working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and complex medical conditions. She has experience working in schools, as well as outpatient and inpatient hospital settings. She is passionate about optimizing outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities by providing evidence-based, family-oriented care.

 

If you are interested in booking an appointment for an evaluation with a Dr. Halladay or another NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, 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, New York (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.

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.

The ABCs of Challenging Behavior

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Erin Gibbons, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

When a child or adolescent is exhibiting challenging behaviors, it is helpful to understand why the behaviors are occurring. The first step is to analyze the situational factors surrounding the behaviors:

A: Antecedent. What is happening right before the behavior occurred?
B: Behavior. What is the specific behavior that the child/adolescent exhibited?
C: Consequence. What happened right after the behavior occurred?

By looking at the ABCs of a particular behavior, we can start to understand the function of the behavior. That is to say, why is the child/adolescent engaging in the behavior? How is the behavior being reinforced?

Let’s look at an example:
Tom is in 6th grade. He arrives to math class, and the teacher distributes a worksheet. Tom rips up the math sheet and throws it on the floor. The teacher sends him to principal’s office.

A: Math class, being given a worksheet
B: Ripping up the paper
C: Being sent to the principal/leaving the class

In this example, the aversive situation might be math class itself, it could be the worksheet, or it could be the specific concept being worked on (e.g., multiplication is hard for Tom). Alternatively, something might have happened right before math class that upset him.

The consequence is that Tom is allowed to avoid the problematic situation. Thus, the teacher is inadvertently reinforcing the behavior. Tom has learned that if he refuses to do the work, he gets to leave class.

The more effective intervention would be to understand why he refused the work. In this case, it would be important to have a conversation with Tom. Was the work too hard? Does he need extra explanation of the concepts being covered in the worksheet? Did something happen before math class that Tom was still upset about? If the teacher is not able to engage him in this type of conversation, perhaps it would be better to send him to the school counselor as opposed to the principal.

As you think about your own children, it might be helpful to consider the ABCs of any challenging behaviors that are occurring. What was happening right before? If you can identify antecedents, you might be able to make some concrete environmental changes in order to avoid the behavior. What happened right afterward? Did your reaction to the behavior somehow reinforce it? Could you do something different next time the behavior occurs that would be more effective?

Resources
The Explosive Child by Ross Greene
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
The Behavior Code Companion by Jessica Minahan

 

About the Author

Erin Gibbons, Ph.D., evaluates children presenting with a range of attentional, learning, and developmental disabilities. She has a particular interest in children with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, and those with complex medical histories.

If you are interested in booking an evaluation with a NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, 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; 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.

Neurodevelopmental Evaluations for Children under Age 5

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Many families are curious about neurodevelopmental testing. Neuropsychologists who specialize in working with young children are often asked about when it is appropriate to pursue an evaluation, what the evaluation process entails, and where to go.

Why Would a Young Child Need an Evaluation?

There are developmental milestones across several domains that children are expected to achieve within certain timeframes. When children are showing delays in achieving those milestones within expected age ranges, seeking an evaluation may be warranted. From birth to 5 years of age, the areas of development that are especially important to monitor include:

  • Speech and Language (e.g., use of single words/phrases, following directions)
  • Social Skills (e.g., eye contact, social smile, interest in others, imaginative play skills)
  • Motor Skills (e.g., crawling, walking, using a pincer grasp)
  • Cognition/Early Problem Solving Skills (e.g., matching shapes and objects, completing simple puzzles)

If delays in any of the areas listed above are observed, pursing an evaluation sooner rather than later is recommended, as research has shown that early diagnosis and intensive treatment are the most important factors in determining rapid progress and long-term prognosis.

What Does a Neurodevelopmental Evaluation Entail?

Within a comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluation, the child is administered tests that look at the developmental areas listed above. Information should also be collected from parents, teachers, and other caregivers who know the child well. These evaluations help to provide a better understanding of the child’s developmental profile, including areas of relative strength and weakness. In other words, the evaluation can provide more information about where the child’s skills currently fall when compared to their same age peers. Such information can provide diagnostic clarification, as well as help to inform recommendations for services if needed.

Where to Go

There are several options for where families can pursue evaluations, each with their benefits and drawbacks:

  • Early Intervention (EI): EI is meant to support families of children birth to three years of age who have developmental delays or are at risk of developmental delays. The goal of the Massachusetts EI program is to collaboratively promote skill acquisition based on the family’s priorities and child’s individual needs. Evaluations are typically conducted within the home setting to determine the child’s eligibility for EI services. While these evaluations can provide valuable information about the child’s strengths and weaknesses, a diagnosis will not be provided.
  • Hospital-based Setting: These evaluations are structured differently depending on the hospital system. In most cases, these evaluations are interdisciplinary, meaning that they involve a team of providers from different disciplines (i.e., psychologist, medical provider (pediatrician, nurse practitioner) speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, etc.). While outcomes of these evaluations can include diagnosis and recommendations for services when appropriate, waitlists are often long, and reports tend to be brief.
  • Independent Setting/Private Practice: Independent evaluations usually involve several visits with a pediatric psychologist or neuropsychologist, rather than with a team of providers. Similar to the hospital-based evaluations, independent evaluations can result in diagnosis when appropriate. Specific recommendations based on the child’s individual profile are offered. These evaluations tend to be more detailed and comprehensive than those conducted by EI and within hospital-based settings. Clinicians also have the option to observe the child in other settings (e.g., daycare, preschool, elementary school), as well as attend school-based meetings.

Relatedly, NESCA is currently providing evaluations for children 12 months to 3 years of age who are showing early signs of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The wait time is 1 month or less – by design –  so children who meet criteria for an ASD diagnosis can access the appropriate interventions for them. If you are interested in learning more about ASD Diagnostic Testing through NESCA’s ASD Diagnostic Clinic, please visit our website at https://nesca-newton.com/asd-diagnostic-clinic-2/ and/or complete our online Intake Form.

Related resources and links to help track developmental milestones:

 

About Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.

Dr. Halladay conducts comprehensive evaluations of toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children with a wide range of developmental, behavioral, and emotional concerns. She particularly enjoys working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and complex medical conditions. She has experience working in schools, as well as outpatient and inpatient hospital settings. She is passionate about optimizing outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities by providing evidence-based, family-oriented care.

 

If you are interested in booking an appointment for an evaluation with a Dr. Halladay or another NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, 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; 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.

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.

Explaining Neuropsychological Testing to Your Child

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Neuropsychological testing can be confusing for adults to understand and explain, let alone children. Some of the most common questions that parents ask our neuropsychologists prior to their in-person appointments include:

  • “How do I explain the evaluation to my child?”
  • “How can I best prepare my child for what to expect when they are in the office?”

The answers vary depending on several factors. To name a few, your child’s age, level of awareness of areas they are struggling, and your child’s language abilities guide decision-making about the best way to discuss their upcoming evaluation experience. It is important to talk with your neuropsychologist to plan the most appropriate approach for your child. However, below is some standard guidance.

When describing the evaluation itself, I advise parents to use language that reduces pressure on the situation. In other words, it is best to frame the evaluation as a low stakes experience. For example, using words like “testing” or “evaluation” can create unnecessary worry. I often recommend describing the evaluation experience as a variety of “activities,” some of which may include looking at pictures, playing with toys, drawing, and answering questions. Other activities may seem similar to what your child is asked to do in school, such as reading stories, completing math problems, and writing.

Oftentimes, when children hear they are going to the “doctor” they may worry about medical exams. For this reason, it can be helpful to reassure your child that they are not going to be getting poked and prodded; and definitely will not be getting any shots!

To explain the reasons for doing the evaluation, some key phrases to use with your child include:

  • We want to understand how you learn, because everyone learns differently. It’s great that everyone learns differently because it keeps life interesting!
  • Everyone has things they are really good at and other things that are more challenging for them. This will help us understand what comes easy to you and what might be a little trickier, so that we can help you with things like schoolwork, completing activities around the house, and play.
  • We can also share this information with your teacher so they can better understand your learning style and support you at school.
  • Some activities might seem easy and others might be hard, but your job is just to try your best!

For more helpful tips, please see Dr. Gibbons’ previous blog posts, “How Do I Prepare My Child for a Neuropsychological Evaluation?” and “Preparing our Kids to Reenter the Community.”

 

About Lauren Halladay, Ph.D.

Dr. Halladay conducts comprehensive evaluations of toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children with a wide range of developmental, behavioral, and emotional concerns. She particularly enjoys working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and complex medical conditions. She has experience working in schools, as well as outpatient and inpatient hospital settings. She is passionate about optimizing outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities by providing evidence-based, family-oriented care.

 

If you are interested in booking an appointment for an evaluation with a Dr. Halladay or another NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, 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, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and 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.

Neuropsychological Evaluations at Different Stages of Childhood & Adolescence

By | Nesca Notes 2023

By: Erin Gibbons, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA

Having been at NESCA for more than 11 years, I have been fortunate enough to follow many clients throughout their childhood. In some cases, I have conducted two or three neuropsychological evaluations on the same student at different points in their life. After their first experience with an evaluation, parents will often ask, “Will we need to do this again?” or “How often should we get evaluations?”. As is the case for most things, the answer is different for every child depending on their needs. When determining how often to seek an evaluation, it might be helpful to think about what information you are trying to gather depending on the child’s age.

Preschool (2-5)

  • Concerns about developmental delays (not meeting milestones)
  • Concerns about autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Transition from Early Intervention into preschool
  • Transition from preschool to kindergarten

Elementary School (5-10)

  • Concerns about academic skills – assess for dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or other specific learning disability
  • Why is the student not making expected progress in school?
  • Concerns about attention and executive functioning (possible attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Concerns about ASD (if not already diagnosed)
  • For children who already have an identified disability – need to monitor progress
  • Plan for transition to middle school

Middle School (10-14)

  • If this is the first neuropsychological evaluation – it is usually because the child did okay in elementary school but is now struggling with increased demands in the areas of academics, executive functioning, and social
  • For students with a previously identified disability – need to monitor progress
  • Plan for transition to high school

Early High School (14-16)

  • Monitor progress – how is the student managing increased demands of high school?
  • Mental health – emerging concerns about anxiety and/or depression
  • Start planning for postsecondary transition
    • Is the student on track to graduate in 4 years?
    • Does the student need programming beyond 12th grade?

Late High School (16-18)

  • Heavy emphasis on postsecondary transition planning
  • Do we need to work on vocational skills?
  • If the student is college-bound – determine whether any accommodations will be needed
  • If the student is not going to college – what is next?
    • Remain at high school with ongoing special education services
    • Gap year
    • Young adult transition program for students with disabilities
  • Consult with transition specialist to help with planning

Early Adulthood (18+)

  • If the student is in college – do they need additional supports?
  • If the student is still accessing special education services – where should we be putting the emphasis?
    • Academics
    • Vocational
    • Life Skills
  • For students with developmental disabilities, need to plan for adult services
    • Should the parents seek guardianship?
    • Is the student eligible for DDS or other adult service agencies?
    • What resources are available to the family?
  • Combine with transition specialists to help navigate adult services

 

About the Author

Erin Gibbons, Ph.D. is a pediatric neuropsychologist with expertise in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychological assessment of infants,

children, and adolescents presenting with developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorders. She has a particular interest in assessing students with complex medical histories and/or neurological impairments, including those who are cognitively delayed, nonverbal, or physically disabled. Dr. Gibbons joined NESCA in 2011 after completing a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. She particularly enjoys working with young children, especially those who are transitioning from Early Intervention into preschool. Having been trained in administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Dr. Gibbons has experience diagnosing autism spectrum disorders in children aged 12 months and above.

If you are interested in booking an evaluation with a NESCA neuropsychologist/clinician, 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, Londonderry, New Hampshire, and 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.

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.