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Monday, April 30, 2018

Sit Down with Jessica Geragosian, Pediatric Neuropsychologist

NESCA Marketing and Outreach Coordinator

According to the National Academy of Neuropsychology (www.nanonline.org), a clinical neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology with special expertise in the applied science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists use this knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions, as well as other cognitive and learning disorders. Clinical neuropsychologists work in a wide range of settings and may have varying specialties in terms of who they serve, what challenges they address, and how they work with clients.

We recently sat down with Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Jessica Geragosian to talk about what led her to NESCA and the importance of understanding a child's strengths and vulnerabilities.

What is neuropsychology? How would you describe this field to someone who does not understand much about your profession?
Neuropsychology is a big field. As it pertains to my work, neuropsychology is a tool I use to help children and adolescents to be their most successful selves. In my practice, I am using neuropsychology to evaluate and understand the whole child—what that child's strengths are that we can draw from and what vulnerabilities (developmentally, academically, socially, or emotionally) exist that are causing deficits in their functioning. I believe that all children want to be successful, and my job is to find out what conditions or supports they need to achieve that success.

What do you like about your job?
I feel so lucky to do what I do. The information we can obtain from individualized and comprehensive evaluation is so powerful. At NESCA, I am able to spend however much time I need working with each child so that I have the best understanding of their strengths and vulnerabilities. Really understanding the big picture of who a child is, and not just one challenge or label, is so crucial in intervening when a kid is struggling.

Also, I enjoy the families that I get to work with. And, I love having the opportunity to follow children over the course of their development and see the amazing progress that happens when the right interventions and supports are identified.

Do you have a speciality? What do you specialize in?
For me, I don't really believe in "specializing.” I think it is important to be able to understand a broad range of issues, and to be able to think flexibly and draw from a wide range of knowledge. I would not want having a narrow focus to impact who seeks out my expertise or how I continue to grow and develop professionally. You can't always predict what a child is bringing into the office, and therefore it is important to be able to draw from different skill sets and experience and keep an open mind.

In terms of who tends to seek out my services, I see all sorts of kids with a variety of presentations and needs. Some of my colleagues say that I am particularly skilled at differentiating autism and mood disorders or working with students who are dual diagnosed with intellectual impairments and mood disorders. But I also love working with students with ADHD and specific learning disabilities. Being in private practice, I tend to see kids that have complex learning, social and emotional needs. But I really do like seeing everyone—I never get bored and I strive to stay on top of outcome research for many types of children.

What brought you to NESCA?
I have worked in a variety of settings—schools, hospitals, and private practice. I wanted to work in a group private practice because I felt there were limitations for school based testing (scope of assessment, administrative constraints, large caseload). I liked working in a hospital, but also found that I felt constrained due to insurance coverage; I was unable to do follow up care, go to school meetings or do observations, or really spend the time needed with the child and family to effectively implement recommendations I made.

I specifically wanted to work at NESCA because quite frankly when I was looking for work, I felt it had the best reputation in the area. In my opinion, NESCA is well known for good reason. I wanted to be trained by and work with the best experts. I started after my post doc year to gain additional training as an early career neuropsychologist. It was the best decision I ever made!

What do you enjoy about working at NESCA?
Well you know I love my job. But aside from the actual work, I really value being surrounded by people who are so bright, thoughtful, and skilled—and fun! From a professional standpoint, we have frequent enriching seminars and conferences and we are constantly learning and growing. The commitment to continued personal and professional development is so important in a field that is continuously evolving. Also, it’s a great culture with nice people who enjoy being together. We support each other through tough times and we laugh a lot. That’s important to me.

What do you think sets NESCA apart? Why should a parent bring their child here when there are so many other neuropsychologists in Massachusetts and New Hampshire?
NESCA is well known for providing high quality evaluations, and for continuing to work with families to make sure that necessary recommendations are implemented for each child.

As a psychologist, I can tell you that neuropsychology is a field that is hard to vet. There is no YELP for neuropsychologists. There are a lot of professionals out there, and it is hard to tell what you are actually getting in terms of support, expertise, and report quality. In my work in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it is a common occurrence that I will see a child after they have been recently tested and their family or school found that the assessment was not particularly useful. This commonly occurs for one of several reasons: the tests administered were not thorough enough to provide sufficient information; the diagnostic picture was not well understood; the recommendations were not specific or helpful. It can be heartbreaking to parents who have invested all of this time and energy (and money) in an assessment that is not able to provide the results necessary for their child to make progress.

What advice do you have for parents who are not sure if a neuropsychological evaluation is needed for their child?
Get a consult. Families often do not realize that we offer brief and affordable consultations and it is a great way to get to know a neuropsychologist and gain an understanding as to why testing is needed (or not needed) at this point in their child’s development. Have us review your records and come in and talk to someone about your concerns. Sometimes all you need is to talk things over and formulate a game plan. Other times, an evaluation is necessary to inform educational or therapeutic planning. In either case, it is a huge relief for parents to come in and talk about their concerns—parents know their kids best and I always encourage them to follow their gut when they feel that something is not quite right.

Have more questions regarding neuropsychological evaluations at NESCA?
617-658-9800 - Newton, MA
603-818-8526 - Londonderry, NH

Read more about Neuropsychological Evaluation at NESCA: https://nesca-newton.com/neuro_eval/ 

Ready to schedule a consult or evaluation with one of our veteran neuropsychologists?
Complete an on-line Intake Form: https://nesca-newton.com/intake-form/ 

About the Author

Ashlee Cooper began working at NESCA in April 2018. As Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, Ashlee oversees marketing campaigns and develops community relationships through various programming activities – all of which expand NESCA’s well-respected reputation in New England. Ashlee brings a wide range of marketing, design and communications experience in the social service and non-profit industry. She lives in Newton with her husband and their beloved dog, Winnie. In her free time, she enjoys doing yoga, watching documentaries and promoting her and her husband’s housewares startup.

Get in touch with Ashlee with any questions you may have about NESCA’s programs and events at acooper@nesca-newton.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!

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