It’s easy to move a child who is struggling with comprehension into a special education class or to prescribe medication for attention deficit disorder if a child is having behavioral problems. But what if your child isn’t being treated for their actual issue?
It’s something that happens often, and while people can be quick to assume the reason a child is struggling at home, with peers or in school, examining why it’s happening can be life-changing for that kid, says Paulina Multhaupt, MS, LLP, a limited licensed clinical psychologist with Shelby Pediatric Associates and Child Lung Center in Shelby Township and Troy.
“Oftentimes what happens is we look at symptoms,” she says. “In my line of work, we look at why the symptoms are occurring.”
Multhaupt conducts pediatric neuropsychological evaluations to understand why a child is struggling to solve problems or behave.
“We want to make sure we’re not making assumptions that would change the course of a child’s life,” Multhaupt says. “More often than not, there is something we need to address like an attention problem or a learning issue. My job is to figure out what it actually is.”
And at Shelby Pediatrics, those evaluations are done right in the office.
“It’s very hard to find someone to do these assessments and often when we do find them, the wait is three to six months,” she says, and often in a hospital setting. “We are right in a pediatric office. I’m an employee of Shelby Pediatrics and it’s not that they are referring out. I am right there.”
What is pediatric neuropsychology?
It’s one thing to treat a child based on behavior but it’s another thing to understand how the brain is involved in that behavior. That’s where pediatric neuropsychology comes in.
“It is a look at how a child thinks, reasons and problem-solves, how they engage in their memory,” Multhaupt says. “We look at their overall intellectual functioning and capacity.”
Fine motor skills, attention, concentration, intellect, memory and reasoning will be evaluated, as well. This evaluation can help determine a child’s diagnosis – or confirm it.
Steps toward a solution
There are three steps involved in the evaluation process: testing, reporting and presenting to parents.
Testing is done in office and begins at 9 a.m. – with snack and lunch breaks provided. Parents or guardians are advised to take the child out of the office for lunch, then return for another couple hours of testing.
During the evaluation, kids will put blocks together, work with pencil and paper, play games, work on matrices and answer questions.
“I’ve had kids say, ‘This is way more fun than school,'” she says.
Once the testing is complete, Multhaupt really digs her heels into the information. “I usually need a couple of weeks to pull in information from parents or caretakers,” along with information from the school.
She starts ruling things out and takes a look at what’s left, along with the pattern of scores for the child. “I study the pattern and study the results and make the appropriate diagnosis.”
The child’s pediatrician then signs off on the report before Multhaupt submits a seven- to nine-page report to the parents.
“It’s a very comprehensive report that gives the parents all the information they need,” she says, including test scores in comparison to peers and a section of strengths and weaknesses, plus a handful of ideas on what to do next.
Parents will then have a feedback session with Multhaupt, which typically lasts an hour and allows her to present her findings and explain things to the parents.
Parents are left with a report of valuable information they can use at their child’s school or with a specialist if they are referred to one.
“Information is so valuable. I think that our goal is to provide parents and the child a full and comprehensive understanding of how that child thinks,” she says. “We give them information on their child’s neurocognitive functions and that information can absolutely make the right diagnosis. The right diagnosis can be life-changing.”
For more information on Shelby Pediatric Associates & Child Lung Center, visit shelbypediatricassociates.com.