The Pediatric Neuropsychology unit of the Division of Clinical Behavioral Neuroscience provides a diagnostic service for children with complex learning and behavioral disorders, both neurological and neurodevelopmental in etiology. Children are referred by schools, clinics, practitioners in the community, and medical staff at this hospital. This unit serves the community, state, five-state area, and for specific disease entities, the entire country. The clinical orientation of the faculty is developmental. Our approach to neuropsychology is to integrate knowledge from neuropsychological testing with data from neurological, imaging, neurophysiological, and laboratory studies to quantity functional deficits in the context of the central nervous system using a developmental framework.
- Clinical and Diagnostic Responsibilities
Our mission is to train pediatric neuropsychologists to be both practitioners and scientists.
As a member in the Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology, we provide training consistent with Houston Conference Guidelines. The program provides rigorous clinical and didactic experiences to form the basis for neuropsychology boarding and specialty certification. Although the training is predominately clinically-based, it is rooted in strong research and academic foundations. Pediatric neuropsychology is an expanding field with a rapidly growing knowledge base that is evolving to reflect advances in technology in imaging, measurement of behavior and cognition, neurophysiology, and genetics. The field of pediatric neuropsychology is particularly challenging because children are dynamic developing organisms, with both an increased vulnerability to environmental effects and an increased capacity to recover from disease conditions. While training scientist-practitioners in this field is especially difficult for these reasons, it is rewarding in terms of the long-term benefits provided to children from the scientific information and clinical interventions we offer.
Clinical experience with a wide range of neurodevelopmental and neurologic disorders and establishment of a research direction for the fellow can only be attained in an intensive two-year program that will enable mastery of this large knowledge base.
Clinical and Diagnostic Responsibilities
In our clinical setting, the fellow is expected to learn to integrate and organize information from multiple sources about the patient, including medical/neurological and allied health data, neuropsychological assessment, educational information, and interview and history. The focus is not only on cognitive, but on behavioral and emotional aspects of the child's functioning. Both environmental and biological factors are considered in the evaluation of the child in this setting. Thus, the fellow is expected not only to learn the techniques of neuropsychological assessment procedure, but also develop efficient data gathering skills through clinical interview and careful observation of the patient in the process of examination. The fellow is directly supervised on every case by a faculty neuropsychologist who is on-site during all aspects of the evaluation process. The fellow always carries out the detailed aspects of the evaluation. The fellow, together with the faculty, will, at the end of the visit, provide verbal feedback to the patient and/or their caregivers. To complete the process, consultation with medical, allied health, and educational professionals is an important role of the fellowship experience as well as follow-up with the family and at times, with school professionals.
Neuropsychological diagnostic services are provided for children and young adults with neurologic, neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. For a diagnostic evaluation, cases are usually scheduled for a single-day of assessment. Occasionally for very complex cases, or cases in which the child is unable to complete an evaluation in a single visit, the child will be seen over two visits. These cases are always staffed and prepared with the supervisor prior to beginning the session. The supervisor also participates in the assessment through clinical interviews and feedback. Throughout the visit the supervising neuropsychologist is available on-site for consultation and immediate supervision. As list of reasons for referral is summarized below:
Current research in our division is extensive. It includes studies of children with metabolic neurodegenerative diseases, cerebral malaria, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, genetic syndromes, prematurity, weight management, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, leukemia, and brain tumors, as well as normally developing populations. Studies in many of these areas include structural and functional neuroimaging as well as specialized approaches such as MR spectroscopy and diffusion tensor imaging. Additional research methods include event related potentials, behavior observation, neuropsychological assessment, and questionnaire development.
We are partners with the Center for Neurobehavioral Development, a collaborative clinical/research center including the Department of Pediatrics and the Institute of Child Development, as well as the Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Educational Psychology. This center offers abundant research opportunities and infrastructure. The fellow is required to be actively engaged in research throughout the fellowship, either independently or as part of a larger protocol. The fellow should expect to spend approximately one day a week working on their project. Most of our fellows have presented abstracts at premier national and international conferences as well as published journal articles and book chapters with faculty members.
Opportunities to learn about brain-behavior relationships from a developmental standpoint are abundant in formal and informal educational opportunities:
- Pediatric, Neurology, and Psychiatry Grand Rounds are offered; attendance is optional according to the interests of the fellow.
- At a monthly Test Conference, critical reviews of the latest measurement techniques are presented by fellows and interns.
- Fellows regularly present at a weekly case conference with all neuropsychology trainees and faculty. This is a teaching conference designed to develop fellows’ critical thinking skills including differential diagnosis, test selection, and neuroanatomical correlates.
- The weekly neuropsychology seminar includes didactic presentations by the neuropsychology faculty and outside speakers, and topical presentations by fellows. This seminar also provides seminars on professional development.
- The Center for Neurobehavioral Development also offers multi-disciplinary colloquia on a monthly basis, which fellows are encouraged to attend.
- Fellows will obtain experience in clinical supervision by supervising graduate practicum students and teaching interns and fellows in Pediatric Neuropsychology.
Applicants are expected to have a PhD or PsyD from an APA-approved program, preferably in clinical or school psychology, and to have completed an APA-approved internship with an assessment component. It is expected that the applicant will have internship level training in child and neuropsychological assessment.
We are currently recruiting for two fellowship slots. The time period is July 1, 2021 to July 31, 2023 or September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2023.
To apply, send a letter of professional goals, current curriculum vitae, two de-identified neuropsychological report samples, graduate transcripts, and three letters of reference (preferably two clinical supervisors and one academic/research mentor). Application deadline is January 4, 2021.
Faculty & Mentorship
The fellow chooses a faculty member for primary mentorship, to monitor and facilitate involvement in clinical and research activities. Often fellows will select a mentor based on shared research interests and have the opportunity to develop some aspect of a faculty member's program of research for themselves. These arrangements may be made prior to starting the fellowship, if it is a position funded by a specific research program that the fellow wants to pursue.
Richard Ziegler, PhD
Co-Training Director and Section Head for Pediatric Neuropsychology
Kelly King, PhD, ABPP-CN
Julie Eisengart, PhD
Alicia Kunin-Batson, PhD, LP
Elizabeth (Rene) Pierpont, PhD
The current fellow salary is $48,426. Benefits include health insurance (a family plan is available for a fee), life insurance, 22 working days of vacation per year, and a $500 a year conference stipend. Fellowship contracts are on a yearly basis, with the expectation that fellows will stay for two years.