What Every Parent Should Know About Our Neuropsychology Services

Ask the Experts

David Chesler, MD, PhD
Pediatric Neurosurgeon
Co-Director, Pediatric Neurosurgery 

Preston Thomas Preston, PhD
Director, Neuropsychology Services
Neuropsychology is an area of psychology that focuses on the relationships between the human brain, behavior and mind. Often, in the aftermath of a life-altering illness or brain injury, a referral to a neuropsychologist is critical in helping a child or adolescent improve their emotional wellbeing and helping to ensure that the right accommodations are in place for school, extracurricular activities, work and home.

What is the role of a neuropsychologist?
Dr. Preston:
Children and adolescents who suffer from a range of problems — brain tumors, brain injuries, congenital conditions, stroke, cancer, genetic disorders, autoimmune conditions — often experience behavioral, cognitive and emotional challenges that don’t go away after surgery or other medical treatment. Using a variety of best-practice assessments of post-illness/brain injury cognitive abilities, the neuropsychologist is trained to: 
• Help determine the nature of a child or adolescent’s neurological condition 
• Provide comprehensive assessment, consultation and support for adaptive change 
• Work with the family and educators to get the child or adolescent the resources they need at school, work or home
• Enhance the quality of a child or adolescent’s education, social experience and general quality of life.

What kind of doctor can refer me to a neuropsychologist?
Dr. Chesler:
Pediatric neurosurgeons as well as pediatric neurologists, hematologistoncologists and their nurses who treat neurologically or medically complex cases in children and adolescents can provide a referral to a neuropsychologist. After I make a referral, the next step is for you to respond to a health questionnaire about your child or adolescent and provide their medical history. Family members or others familiar with your child or adolescent’s difficulties, are also invited to participate in the assessment process.

How will my child’s condition be evaluated? 
Dr. Preston:
A neuropsychological evaluation differs from those of a school psychologist or a clinical psychologist in that the neuropsychologist has specialized training in brain-behavior relationships to make a connection between a specific neurological diagnosis or neurosurgical situation as well as the child’s or adolescent’s real-world challenges. Our evaluations are very comprehensive. We incorporate extensive detail about a person’s medical history, developmental background, cognitive ability, neurological exams, psychiatric mental status, academic and/or employment issues, as well as how they function and adapt emotionally, psychologically and socially to everyday life. We provide a number of different psychological tests and rating scales — some are computerized; others require paper and pencil. We take such a thorough and extensive approach because we intend to make recommendations that are applicable in all major areas of a person’s life. Our evaluations, which generally take between six and eight hours, may also help family or loved ones make decisions about a person’s competency or independence and help validate conditions that qualify for disability benefits.

Once we have a diagnosis, then what?
Dr. Preston:
The results of the assessment tests help us to provide a diagnosis. The results can also provide information about whether a child or adolescent may qualify for extra support in school and what types of interventions may be helpful. Often, when we know the specific challenges faced by a child, there are specific types of intervention we can recommend that can really make a difference over both the short and long term.

What’s the Stony Brook difference?
Dr. Preston:
Our collaborative approach helps ensure that our Stony Brook experts who perform surgery and other medical treatment tailored for children and adolescents can help you connect with a Stony Brook neuropsychologist who can pinpoint the challenges and recommend the appropriate resources. As an academic medical center, we also place a strong focus on training the next generation of neuropsychologists, so we spend more time with and provide more thorough assessments for our patients than the average practice. And our newly expanded staff offers a two-week turnaround on scheduling appointments for medically urgent referrals.

To make an appointment with Stony Brook Neuropsychology Services, call (631) 444-8053. To make an appointment with Stony Brook Children’s Pediatric Neurosurgery, call (631) 444-1213.

All health and health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance, and treatment. The information is intended to offer only general information for individuals to discuss with their healthcare provider. It is not intended to constitute a medical diagnosis or treatment or endorsement of any particular test, treatment, procedure, service, etc. Reliance on information provided is at the user's risk. Your healthcare provider should be consulted regarding matters concerning the medical condition, treatment, and needs of you and your family. Stony Brook University/SUNY is an affirmative action, equal opportunity educator and employer.