What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation, also called neuropsychological testing, is an in-depth assessment of abilities, skills, and behavior for the purpose of diagnosis and to guide treatment. It might conjure up images of patients on gurneys with wires attached to their heads and doctors hovering nearby, that couldn’t be further from reality!  

Neuropsychology looks at the relationship between the brain and behavior. At its core, the goal of assessment is to identify individual strengths and weaknesses. Both standardized tests and behavioral observation are used to measure what is happening with the client. When children and adolescents go for neuropsychological testing, clinicians collect data about the school and home environment. They also provide questionnaires for both parents and teachers. Then the testing data, parent and teacher reports, and behavioral observations are all put together to paint a picture of how the individual is functioning.  

The evaluation measures such areas as cognitive functioning, academic skills, attention, problem solving, memory, language, executive functions, visual-spatial skills, adaptive behavior, and social-emotional functioning. This evaluation is different from tests included in a neurological evaluation (e.g., EEG) or neuroimaging (e.g., CT or MRI scan). 

Who performs a neuropsychological evaluation? 

 A licensed clinical psychologist who has been formally trained in neuropsychology. Psychologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health concerns. They are required to complete intensive coursework in diagnostic assessment and testing when obtaining their doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD), and many of us have sought postdoctoral training in assessment as well. 

Some practices work with bachelor’s or master’s level technicians who administer and score tests, while the supervising psychologist selects the tests that are administered, interprets the findings, and writes the report. Our practice finds tremendous value in the first-hand knowledge we gain from working one-on-one with a child and having a psychologist complete all aspects of the evaluation personally. Not only does it deepen our understanding of your child and our confidence in any resulting diagnosis, it also allows us to give more specific treatment recommendations 

Does my child need a Neuropsychological Evaluation? 

So, does your child truly need neuropsychological testing, or are you over-amplifying the situation in your own mind? That’s the question so many parents grapple with. 

One way to make the decision is to ask yourself: “Is there a persistent problem? Is my child not learning as well as they previously were or as well as peers? Not getting good grades or has there been a change in performance? Having trouble making and keeping friends? Is the teacher making comments about attention or behavior? Is my child overly shy or aggressive?” Answering YES to one of these questions may suggest your child would benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation.  

Additional common behaviors that lead parents to neuropsychological testing are: 

  • Inability to sustain attention 
  • Anxiety/fear or reluctance to engage in developmentally appropriate activities 
  • Atypical social behaviors/inability to establish peer friendships in a manner expected for age 
  • Slow acquisition of academic skills 
  • Obviously bright but inconsistently performing or under-performing academically 

Some parents also come to us with a prior diagnosis, but they are interested in knowing if their child is benefitting from the interventions they’ve received, or they need more knowledge about how their child is currently impacted in order to advocate for accommodations/services. We receive referrals from families, schools, psychiatrists, and pediatricians. 

Can a school provide the same evaluation as psychologist? 

School assessments are usually performed to determine whether a child qualifies for special education programs or therapies. Schools cannot provide a diagnosis. While many of the same tests are given in school and clinical settings, there are likely to be differences in the way that the tests are interpreted. It is rare for school evaluations to include measures of memory, attention/concentration, executive functioning, and other neuropsychological skills. Further, at Rose Assessment & Therapy Center, our approach to assessment gives us a luxury of time with each child. We prioritize quality assessment, and we pride ourselves on providing families with comprehensive information that is very specific to their child and concerns. Your child is our focus! We devote a great deal of time to each child.  

What can I expect testing to tell me about my child? 

Unlike screening measures like you might get at your pediatrician’s office (e.g., a rating scale that asks whether you see certain symptoms and takes less than 5 minutes to complete), psychological tests give us an in-depth understanding of your child’s areas of strength and challenge. They are standardized, meaning they are given in the same manner to all individuals, and they have established validity and reliability (so we are confident in the findings!). An individual’s scores on tests are interpreted by comparing their score to a normative sample of individuals (i.e., children of similar age, education, gender, etc.) and to expected levels of functioning. Although individual scores are important, the psychologist looks at all the data from the evaluation to determine a pattern of strengths and weaknesses. 

The testing results help those involved in your child’s care in several ways. Testing can explain why your child is having school problems. For example, a child may have difficulty reading because of an attention problem, a language disorder, or a reading disability. Additionally, different childhood disorders result in specific patterns of strengths and weaknesses. These profiles of abilities can help identify the origin of a child’s difficulties. For example, testing can help differentiate between an attention deficit and anxiety or determine whether a language delay is due to a problem in producing speech, understanding or expressing language, social shyness, autism, or cognitive delay. These are just a few examples. Most importantly, testing guides the psychologist’s design of interventions. Results identify what skills need further development and what strategies can be helpful. Testing also provides guidance to teachers, therapists, and other professionals to better understand how to help your child reach his or her potential.  

Next Steps: 

Give us a call or send an email! We will happily walk you through the testing process. Typically: 

  • The testing process starts with a one-hour, adults only initial consultation. Parents complete a lengthy developmental history questionnaire that guides the psychologist in gathering additional information. During the consultation, the psychologist will be working to develop the testing battery that best fits your child’s needs. Additionally, this meeting allows you to get to know the psychologist and make sure they seem like the right “fit” for your child. 
  • If it’s determined that testing is warranted, we will offer testing dates (please note we do not assume everyone needs comprehensive assessment – we’ll be honest with you if it seems like your questions or concerns are better answered through another avenue!). You can expect testing to take about 6 hours, divided over two mornings. Testing occurs on particular days from 9am-12pm. We will provide a school excuse note if your child is missing school. Sometimes parents worry beforehand about their child’s effort and/or engagement in testing, but rest assured we are experienced at simultaneously getting good data and making it a positive experience for children! 
  • About two weeks after testing, parents come in for a 90-minute (adults only) feedback session. During this time, we will present the data collected, discuss diagnoses if there are any, and most importantly provide recommendations for intervention. 
  • About one week after the feedback session parents receive the final written report. This report is your property; we will not provide it to anyone without your written consent. 

You can also find additional information on our website: https://www.rosetherapycenter.com/evaluations-2/. Neuropsychological assessment can be a powerful tool for understanding and advocating for your child. Reach out if we can be of help!  

Contact Information: 

Dr. Rose: 972-999-6490 or drrose@rosetherapycenter.com 

Dr. Wurster: 972-827-6023 or drwurster@rosetherapycenter.com 


Questions about assessment services? We’ve got answers!

There are many people who advertise that they provide assessment services. What do I look for in a provider?

Pretty much everyone who seeks out assessment has a question they want answered…and generally it’s not a question simple enough for a Google search!

Learning more about a provider’s background and approach can help you determine whether they are a good fit to answer your question. People can mean many different things when they refer to assessment on a website. You will want someone who:

  • uses science-based, standardized measures with demonstrated validity and reliability;
  • selects the most appropriate tests for your questions, rather than using the same testing battery for everyone;
  • uses up-to-date measures;
  • seeks out multiple sources of information;
  • and has enough knowledge of diagnoses to differentiate between presentations that look similar but have different underlying causes.

Some practices provide assessment that is educational in nature, with staff who have backgrounds in education but who are unable to give mental health diagnoses that might be contributing to or underlying the presenting concern. For example, aspects of ADHD and anxiety can look similar in a young child, and there are also times when both are present and a child will benefit most from receiving both diagnoses and intervention for each.

Why choose a psychologist for assessment?

In short, because training in assessment is one factor that differentiates psychologists from other mental health providers! Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, and psychologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health concerns. Psychologists are required to complete intensive coursework in diagnostic assessment and testing when obtaining their doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD).

Some practices work with bachelor’s or master’s level technicians who administer and score tests, while the supervising psychologist selects the tests that are administered, interprets the findings, and writes the report. Our practice finds value in the first-hand knowledge we gain from working one-on-one with a child and having a psychologist complete all aspects of the evaluation personally.

Why do some practices not take insurance?

Some practices, including ours, choose not to be in-network with insurance companies. Often, this comes from a desire to provide comprehensive assessment where the psychologist and family have autonomy in decision-making based on the family’s presenting concern. This also allows for transparent pricing in the form of a flat fee that covers testing, scoring, interpretation, feedback session, and comprehensive report. Families may be able to receive partial reimbursement from their insurance company. Those interested in this would contact their insurance company and inquire about their out-of-network coverage, deductible, and the percentage they would be reimbursed.

What if my child has a meltdown or doesn’t comply with directions?

Many families who are seeking an evaluation due to behavioral concerns voice this question and our response is…how lovely that we get first-hand knowledge of the challenges you and your child are experiencing! It makes for rich observational data that informs our testing, interpretation, and recommendations. We are skilled clinicians when it comes to working with children and obtaining good, useful data. We genuinely enjoy learning about and connecting with your specific child, and we work hard to make the experience a pleasant one for them.

What happens after I receive the report?

After receiving the report, many families need to take a moment to absorb all the information. Our reports contain information about your child’s strengths as well as areas of challenge or need. Based on your child’s unique ways of thinking and learning, we provide resources and empirically-supported treatment recommendations for how to support your child moving forward. For many families, this serves as a guide that gives them direction in identifying and connecting with professionals who work together to meet their child’s needs.

It is also true that parents/caregivers experience their own emotional reactions to receiving information about their children’s areas of challenge. Some may feel relief to have answers, some may feel guilt for not having sought information earlier, some might need the space and time to grieve aspects of their child’s life that might be harder for them than their peers. Some parents might find themselves eager to connect with resources and implement treatment recommendations, while others might feel overwhelmed. However you feel afterward, know that we are here to support you and make space for that as well. We have a shared goal of seeing your child thrive.

Why are masks provoking anger and division among people?

Why are masks triggering anger and a divide among people?

This is my (a psychologist’s) attempt to explain how masks have come to provoke such strong emotional responses from people. This is not meant to be a debate, but to create space for us to understand the “WHY.” When we understand “why” we are feeling, thinking, or behaving in a certain way, THEN we can create change.

What is it about a seemingly neutral piece of protective gear that can be so inflammatory? Like many points of controversy, it’s not the thing itself but what it represents.

A Political Divide

Face masks have become tied to the political conflict over our national response to the coronavirus. Those who lean left politically tend to see the virus as a more dire threat; those on the right are more likely to downplay its seriousness or compare it to less contagious/deadly viruses like the flu, often following the lead of conservative politicians. Accordingly, masks may be seen as a marker of political loyalty, triggering feelings of us-versus-them. A politically liberal person may assume that someone wearing a mask is “on their team,” while those who don’t wear masks must be Fox News-watching Republicans. The anger they feel is not simply about the mask, but about believing the non-mask wearer is a certain type of person. Similarly, a person who does not wear a mask may assume those who do want to take away their individual freedoms. Being asked to wear a mask then becomes not just a request to protect the health of others, but to give up their worldview and political allegiance. For a lighter example, it may feel like asking a San Antonio Spurs fan to put on a Dallas Mavericks jersey!

We don’t like limits placed on behaviors

Our response to a perceived threat or loss of a behavioral freedom is referred to as “psychological reactance.” This reactance throws a person into a state or desire to regain that freedom. According to reactance theory, when people feel coerced into a certain behavior, they will react against the coercion. They often demonstrate an increased preference for the behavior that is restrained and may perform the behavior opposite to that desired. [proposed in 1966 Jack W. Brehm]

**It should be noted that this goes both ways…if people were “banned” from wearing a mask into a business or any place, they would be as equally upset as those being required to wear a mask. **

Now, cue embarrassment! When people feel embarrassed or humiliated, they really have two main ways to respond…they experience shame and/or guilt OR feel anger. When someone is asked to wear a mask in a building or asked to leave for not wearing a mask, the likely feel judged and embarrassed which can result in an aggressive reaction. Now focus is drawn to the feeling they are experiencing, and it's no longer about the mask. 

Conflicting Information

The amount of miscommunication and inconsistent information is alarming at best. Realistically, it has created a communication disaster! People have not received consistent information about the pandemic in general and specifically mask wearing. 

This is not to say that wearing a mask in public is simply a matter of personal choice. Masks aren’t like seatbelts: wearing a seatbelt is about ensuring your own safety. (Though, just like wearing a helmet on a motorcycle or bike, there is a societal benefit to avoiding serious, costly injuries that tax our medical resources and contribute to higher insurance rates.) While a mask helps protect the wearer, its most important benefit is in preventing the spread of coronavirus to others.

Consider viewing these sites for information about mask wearing:




A Constructive Response

If you’re reluctant to wear a mask when required, question any automatic thoughts you have about others trying to take away your freedom. Try to allow space to be curious about your emotion (what it feels like, where is it coming from, etc.). Most likely their goal is just to keep everyone safe, not to make you buy into a certain worldview.

As a psychologist, I would strongly urge all adults and parents to maintain awareness that children are watching. Whether you are wanting to be a role model or not, children are paying attention to how you talk about others and make decisions! They are watching how we handle conflict, what we do with our emotions, and how we respond to others. Even if you think you are keeping the mask conversation private, children are more perceptive than you think and they are aware of the emotional involved. It's best to talk with then directly about what is happening in a fact based way.

Why do people believe conspiracy theories or become extreme thinkers?

Belief in conspiracy theories and extreme beliefs is rooted in neuroscience and how the brain thinks. 

The brain does not like chaos and seeks to find answers and control. This goes back to what psychologists call the fear network, involving the amygdala, hippocampus, and frontal lobe. See previous post about this at:  https://www.rosetherapycenter.com/anxiety/

We naturally seek an explanation for events. These “answers” typically comfort us or fit into our worldview.

During times of uncertainty, our brain tends to seek explanations that match the intensity of our feelings. When thinking about the coronavirus, the idea that the world came to a screeching halt because a virus jumped from a bat to another animal to a human seems too insignificant an explanation. But a conspiracy theory that has thousands of people in cahoots seems more proportional. Does that make it true? NO, but does the conspiracy theory match the intense feelings we have? Yes!

How do people become susceptible to believing false information? Below is a simplified explanation:

  • Confirmation bias: Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to become attached to our beliefs and to search for or interpret information in ways that confirm our preconceptions. Once we settle in on a conviction, we will search for, remember, and accept only evidence that supports it, while ignoring disconfirming evidence. Here is a generic example, If I have a belief that Sally is a jerk, I then look for information to confirm my thought (Sally interrupted me on purpose, she rolled her eyes when I walked in the room, etc.). Cognitive Behavior Theory works directly to question and reframe thoughts. This is done by focusing on the FACTS! In this case, I don’t know (or have proof) why Sally acted the way she did. Therefore, I cannot hold the belief that her behavior was directly intended for me.
  • Fundamental attribution error: This is our tendency to prefer dispositional explanations (assigning the cause of behavior to an internal characteristic of a person) to situational ones. When we observe an event, we are much more likely to attribute it to some intentional, internal motive than to circumstance or happenstance. Conspiracy theories are naturally dispositional, “Someone planned this for a purpose.”
  • Pattern recognition: This goes back to the fear network. Our brains developed and evolved in a dangerous environment. For survival, the brain developed the ability to “fill in the blanks” rather quickly which led to survival advantages. If you can make out the hidden predator in the bushes, you were more likely to survive. The brain is able to specialize in meaning making and pattern finding. However, without an identifiable pattern, the brain will INVENT one and impose it on the world. The brain seeks order, understanding of cause and effect, and intentionality. Unfortunately, life is filled with unpredictability, chaos, and chance. We, naturally, become stressed during these times. To reduce stress, the brain finds comfort in stories that fit its demands rather than ones that are based on facts.
  • Feeling uniquely knowledgeable: We have all heard the saying, “knowledge is power.” Humans prefer to feel powerful rather than powerless. Having knowledge is satisfying for us because it provides a sense of certainty which makes life feel less overwhelming. When thinking about conspiracy theories or extreme beliefs…having unique knowledge which conspiracy theories provide, makes people feel knowledge and powerful. Unfortunately, this hinders their ability to fact check.  

Why is this important when children are involved?

Remember the cliché saying, “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?” What is being implied? The implication is that as parents, we want our children to be leaders, be able to discern information and make a decision on their own (preferably a “smart” one). This idea should also be applied to other areas of their lives such as political and social views, not just peer pressure.

For instance, we know that children often accept the same beliefs as their parents. We see this all the time, especially now with the presidential election and pandemic. However, we also want our children to learn to use critical thinking skills to make an informed decision or belief…so they don’t jump off that bridge.

How are we, the parents, facilitating this?

Are you encouraging your child/children to question information…perhaps even your own personal views? It is perfectly okay to show children uncertainty, “I don’t know if that is true.” Or “I don’t know why that happened.” Are you talking and demonstrating flexibility in thinking (being able to see both the pros and cons of a situation)? These habits help children develop critical thinking skills so that they can make the “smart or right” decisions in adolescence and ultimately adulthood.

What is critical thinking?

Thinking critically is more than just thinking clearly or rationally; it is about thinking independently. It means formulating your own opinions and drawing your conclusions regardless of outside influence. It is about the discipline of analysis and seeing the connections between ideas. It is being wide open to other viewpoints and opinions.

How to teach critical thinking skills (Dewar, 2009):

  • Young children might not be ready for lessons in formal logic. However, they can be taught to give reasons for their conclusions. Children can evaluate the reasons given by others. Start early by giving examples of cause and effect (using science experiments, etc.)
  • Avoid pushing dogma. When we tell kids to do things in a certain way, we should give reasons.
  • Encourage children to challenge assumptions. An assumption is something that you accept as true without question or proof.
    • Encourage kids to ask questions. Parents should foster curiosity in children. If a rationale doesn’t make sense to a child, he/she should be encouraged to voice their objection or difficulty. This doesn’t mean we allow negotiations…bedtime is still bedtime…and there is good data as to why kids need sleep; a lot of it!
    • Teach kids to fact check. Is there proof for their thought or assumption. If the answer is “no”, then they must consider alternate information (thoughts, information, beliefs, etc.).
    • Ask kids to consider alternative explanations and solutions. It is nice to get the right answer, but many problems yield themselves to more than one solution. When kids consider multiple solutions, they become more flexible thinkers.
  • Get kids to clarify meaning. Kids should practice putting things in their own words (while keeping the meaning intact). Kids should be encouraged to make meaningful distinctions.
  • Talk about biases. Even grade school students can understand how emotions and motives can influence our judgments. 
  • Don’t confine critical thinking to purely factual or academic matters. Encourage kids to reason about ethical, moral, and public policy issues.
  • Get kids to write. As many teachers know, the process of writing helps students clarify their explanations and sharpen their arguments.

Dewar, Gwen. 2009. Teaching critical thinking: An evidence-based guide. https://www.parentingscience.com/teaching-critical-thinking.html

Shpancer, Noam. 2020. Why we love a good cabal: Conspiracy theories are byproducts of how the brain thinks. 

Anxiety: How it develops and how to tame it.

How does Anxiety Develop?

The short answer is…it starts in the brain. There is a tiny, almond shaped part of the brain called the amygdalalocated deep into the limbic system or what is commonly referred to as our “emotional brain.The emotional brain is the oldest, most primitive part of our brain, which was only ever designed to ensure physical survival.

Why would we need this?

Because long ago, physical safety was very important and a real problem. Think about cavemen who had to defend themselves against animals, reptiles, and other cavemenBack then, humans needed a quick, hyper-vigilant brain that functioned automatically and unconsciously 

Now fast forward several centuries…our brains generally no longer need to have a heightened sense of physical safety to surviveAlong the way, likely through evolution, the brain adapted to needs that are different in the modern world. Now, the brain doesn’t have to prepare for physical safety, but more for social or psychological survival.  

So, how does this relate to anxiety?

One belief is that anxiety is related to a hyperactive amygdalaHowever, scientists have found that anxiety is the result of constant chatter between a number of different brain regionsThey refer to this as a fear network (amygdala, hippocampus, and frontal lobe)In short, the frontal lobewhere thoughts and sensations come together, is the “thinking brain.  When that is overridden by the emotional brain, in this case the amygdala, anxiety happens.

Let me try to explain more…

When we sense danger is present (e.g., you hear screeching tires as you are crossing the street), the amygdala reacts automatically and activates the fight, flight, or freeze response. This allows us to quickly get out of harm’s way. While this is extremely helpful, what about when the fear isn’t physical or logical? The modern world is full of psychological stress, from big (traumatic events in the news, social media, natural disasters) to small (getting a shot, talking in front of a group, going to a party, etc.).  

With these examples, we want to let our thinking brain run the show. The thinking brain (frontal lobe) processes information to determine if danger really is present and finds the most logical response to it.  

In scenarios that present mild to moderate threats, the frontal lobe can override the amygdala and allow you to function (i.e., not have an anxiety attack). However, when a threat is perceived as strong, the amygdala acts automatically and can overpower the frontal lobe.  

Remember the fear network? When we have a physiological response (increased heart rate, blood pumping to extremities, increased ability to take in oxygen) to a stimulus (fearful event, etc.), the hippocampus stores that into memory. So later when you feel the same or a similar physiological response, your brain thinks you are in actual danger and responds…sometimes causing a “false alarm."

How do you treat anxiety?

It’s not as simple as saying something positive! Remember, the amygdala fires automatically and unconsciously, meaning you cannot control that it fires or activates. You will experience physiological symptoms. Your goal is not let those symptoms overpower you  

Important note: The amygdala only learns when it is activated! That’s right, you have to feel anxious to be able to “teach” your brain to calm down.  When you feel calm and are thinking about interventions to utilize, your amygdala isn’t learning a thing!

The amygdala isn’t trained by language, it is trained by actions!

Below are some steps to consider: 

  • Acknowledge that you feel threatened or stressed and that your fight, flight, or freeze response has been activated. For kids, you may help label their feeling (scared, nervous, frightened…).   

  • Once you acknowledge the amygdala is activated, then you can work to calm down or control it.  

  • Remind yourself that the feeling is an automatic response, not necessarily the “right” or logical response.  

  • Breathing cannot be underestimated! Take slow and deep breaths (using the diaphragm). It will take more than 3 to calm down! A simple trick to know if you are breaking correctly: when you inhale, your belly should go OUT…and when you exhale through your mouth, your belly should go IN. (You can also try placing a hand on your belly and a hand on your chest. The hand on your chest should not move, while the hand on your belly will go out and in.) 

  • After breathing, now you can activate your thinking brain (frontal lobe). 

  • Remember, the amygdala has to be activated for you to teach it new things! This is a part of exposure therapy. We have to approach the feared situation (meaning the amygdala is activated), stay until the physiological response has subsided, and then leave the situation. If you leave the situation before the body has calmed, you have only strengthened the amygdala’s response to that particular situation.  

  • This is the time to think about the situation, develop logical solutions, change thoughts.  

  • For instance, rather than thinking, “I can’t handle this, it is going to be awful.” Remind yourself “I’ve been here before; I can get through this.” Or “Feelings can’t last forever, this will end.”  

Questions: Please contact Dr. Rose at DrRose@rosetherapycenter.com

Should you talk with your child about racism? Absolutely!

Racism can be a difficult topic to discuss with adults, let alone children. Parents have a natural desire to want to protect their children from harm or the bad parts of the world and steer away from these conversations.

Children are likely already more aware of race, class, and gender differences than you realize.

Howard Stevenson, a clinical psychologist at Penn GSE has found elementary children are acutely aware of racial attitudes. Talking about injustice allows children to make sense of the things that do not go right in the world. At some point, your child will be treated differently. Or one of his/her friends will be. They will be exposed to or have a sense of unfairness or injustice that is rightfully upsetting. Instead of sheltering them, this can be a time to teach your child about social justice, while also helping process how painful these events can be for them, and for you.

While discussing racism can be an uncomfortable topic, it is vital that parents take the lead in teaching their children about this important topic. To begin, adults should take time to understand systemic racism and educate themselves.

Let us quickly define a few terms:

Systemic Racism: Systemic racism is not about an exchange of racial slurs between two individuals. It is about deep-rooted discrimination that has repeated itself again and again and becomes more and more ingrained in society during a span of generations.

Privilege: Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we are taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it.

Everyday examples of privilege:

  •  Being able to walk into a store and find the main displays of shampoo are catered toward your hair type.
  •  Being able to turn on the television and see people of your race widely represented.
  • Being able to move through life without being racially profiled or unfairly stereotyped

Racial Color Blindness: A view that race does not matter, that racism is no longer a problem, and that we all have equal opportunities.  People who subscribe to colorblind explanations claim they do not see the color of people’s skin and believe everyone to be equal.

While this may seem helpful in battling racism, it is counterproductive. 

Colorblindness prevents us from seeing the historical causes of racial inequality and how racial inequalities persist in our society. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are treated differently because of the color of our skin.

Black Lives Matter: Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation., Inc is a global organization in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities.

To say “All lives matter” can be offensive, because the majority race has not experienced racism…this is a form of color blindness. 

How to talk to children: It depends on the age!

Infants and Toddlers: While children younger than three aren't going to understand what is happening on television, they will be able to pick up on the fear, urgency, or anger in people's voices and behaviors. At this age, stress shows up in fussy or unregulated behavior. To keep that from occurring, parents should read, listen to, or watch the news when the baby isn't physically there.

As early as six months, a baby's brain can notice race-based differences, and can internalize racial bias by ages two to four.  Learning racism can happen without parental input, just by the racial stereotypes that are so prevalent in society. While helpful for all races, it's especially important for white children to see brown and black kids in a positive light to fight systemic racism, experts say. Books that profile multi-racial characters are an excellent way for parents to do that. And since it's never too early to read to a baby, start right away.

Preschool and Elementary Age: This is the age when kids begin to ask questions on why other people look different than they do. This is an opportunity for parents to model the behavior they want their kids to follow. Parents who have not already, should proactively engage their kids about this topic. Ask them what they know and what they've seen. Ask them how they are feeling. Validate their feelings. Parents will also need to give their children the broader societal context of racism.  Age appropriate books and videos can be great resources (see resource list below). 

Tweens and Teens: Tweens and teens likely will be seeing all the coverage of police brutality and protests on their personal devices and smartphones. Most teens get comfort by communicating with their friends on social media. Some have even begun participating in online activism.

This age group will be able to think more abstractly about racism, injustice and violent versus peaceful protest and discuss their views with parents. One of the best approaches with teenagers is to be interested in them and ask them questions (not accusatory ones)! Find out what they’ve seen online, have they witnessed unfairness in their schools and friend groups, what do they think, and what is upsetting or motivating them. Have a conversation that allows your child to come to their own understanding and see things in a larger social context.  Parents can also make good use of movies and documentaries that can educate older teens on the history of discrimination.

Some parents feel isolated having these hard conversations with their children. When you have the chance, practice having a hard conversation with your partner or a friend before you must have it with your child.

Remember that other parents are struggling in the same ways that you are. Reach out to like-minded parents in your life at church, at your kids’ games, waiting to pick them up from camp or school. What are we trying to say? What do we think they need to hear? What feelings am I having? Can I model how to share those feelings?

It is okay to not know what to say…there are plenty of wonderful resources available to help educate yourself!


bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES: This document is intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work. If you haven’t engaged in anti-racism work in the past, start now.

www.commonsensemedia.com: Common Sense Media is a non-profit that rates movies, TV shows, books, apps and other media for parents and schools.  You can find almost 80 books and videos for preschoolers and older, some of which could easily be suitable for babies and toddlers.  They also list options for how to jump start conversations about racism and how kids and teenagers can help fight it. 

www.theBrownBookslelf.com The Brown Bookshelf is a website that supplies books that have, brown and black protagonists who deal at times with tough issues. Books are really, really fundamental, especially for younger kids."

http://kirabanks.com/: Kira Banks, a clinical psychologist whose website (Raising Equity) provides free videos and resources on how parents can fight racism and cultivate an open mind in themselves and their kids.

Predictability During Uncertainty:

Tools for parents and children

  • Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time.
  • Get dressed.  Getting dressed really does have an impact on mood, depression in particular. 
    • Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes.
    • wash your face.
    • brush your teeth.
    • Put on some bright colors.
  • Go outside.  Try for at least once a day for thirty minutes.
  • Move.  Find some time to move each day for at least thirty minutes.
    • You can find free exercise classes on YouTube.
    •  Dancing counts too; turn on the music and have a dance party!
  • Stay Connected.  Reach out to others (daily is best).  Try FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, text—connect with other people to seek and provide support.
    • Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!
  • Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food.
  • Self-Care.  In times of stress we tend to neglect our self-care.  Remember the airline safety talk about putting your mask on first and then your child’s…this same concept applies to self-care.  When you take care of yourself you can better help your child!  Self care is not a “one size fits all” strategy.  Find what works for you. 
    • Don’t forget the sensory component.
    • Seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure).
      • An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.
  • Find space. Create a work/school space and a separate retreat space. 
    • Help children identify a place to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”.
  • Expect hiccups and behavioral issues.  We all struggle with disruption in routine, especially children. They rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection. 
  • Limit social media and COVID conversation.  This is especially true when around children. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily).
  • Find the good (the helpers).  There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
  •  Find something you can control.  In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys.
  • Find a project. Now IS the time to learn how to play an instrument, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, have a marathon monopoly game, READ, build something, stream a new show, bakes or try out a new recipe. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
  • Find humor. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: puppy videos on YouTube, memes, or a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
  • Remind yourself this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.
  • Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?

Surviving COVID-19 at Home with Children

Surviving COVID-19 at Home with Your Children

I think it’s relatively safe to say that most of us did not expect to be in this position…schools closed and finding ways to manage work and family at home.  

This can be a very stressful time for parents who cannot easily work from home.  Over the week, I’ve been asked several questions: Why are people buying out toilet paper…how do I talk to my child…what I should do about my own worry…? Here is my attempt to answer these questions and provide support.

Why are people acting crazy?

It’s a valid question… Anxiety and “fear of the unknown” plays a big role.  Here’s why: Our brains are hardwired to sense danger and ultimately protect ourselves.

Unfortunately, emotion sometimes impairs our perception of risk.  In general, we fear unlikely, catastrophic events, more than common deadly events.  In the case of COVID-19, assessing risk has proved difficult because we don’t have enough objective knowledge as the disease is still evolving. 

When humans feel a “perceived lack of control” we start to see people take on more unusual behaviors like stockpiling on toilet paper or panic-buying for months.  Another explanation for this odd behavior is what psychologists call “availability bias” and observational learning.  We (humans) tend to let an example that easily comes to mind affect decision-making or reasoning.  A simple and benign example of observational learning is while out to eat with friends, one person takes a drink of water and shortly after other people at the table pick up their drinks and take a sip.  To us, this happens unconsciously, but our brains have been simultaneously processing the conversation at the table and observing behavior. 

Complicating matters, we are uniquely bad at spotting misinformation online, in part because we don’t take the time, or don’t know how, to properly fact-check.  Our memories play tricks on us, encouraging us to believe things we read repeatedly, to look for information that validates our thoughts, and to remember things that elicit strong emotions.  The non-stop media coverage certainly isn’t helping our brains take a break.    

What can adults do?

*Facts minimize fear: Get information from reputable resources, not necessarily posts being passed around on social media.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are good places to start. 

* Take a break from media (news channels and social media).

*Attempt to reframe how you are thinking about this event.  Instead of viewing it as an inconvenience, think of it as a sort of “pause” button that may allow you to connect with your child or spouse in a way you haven’t been able to in a while.  Pay attention to the "good" and how people are working together to support each other.

* Use HUMOR: Humor is a wonderful gift and reduces worry. 

* Practice healthy hygiene.

*Enjoy your child/children.  This is easier said than done when simultaneously managing work from home.  However, even 5-10 minutes of quality time goes a long way with kids.  Create new memories, teach them a new skill, let them help in the kitchen, get outside, etc. 

Ask yourself, “When this is all over, how do I want to remember this event.”  Let that question dictate your feelings and behaviors!!

How to talk to children?

Most importantly, parents set the tone for how children will respond to this event.  It is very important for you to find ways to control your worry and fear so that it is not placed on children.  Too much information can be a bad thing when it comes to kids.  Here is a great resource for how to talk with children about the virus:


Below is a Google doc listing with an enormous amount of educational activities for children.  Remember, there is a lot of good happening in this time of crisis…someone has already worked super hard to compile this list!!


As always, if you need to talk, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.  It is available!

Kristin Rose, PsyD.



Does my child need testing?

Hearing the word "testing" can leave people feeling intimidated. 

However, the purpose of testing is to provide clarity and be helpful.  What’s confusing is the many different types of tests, evaluations, or assessments available.  Testing can be provided within your school district or privately with a psychologist.  This article will provide information about types of testing and what they can and cannot tell you. 

Should Testing Be Separate From School Evaluations?

When a school provides an evaluation, they typically have a specific area of concern.  These evaluations are usually focused on your child’s academic performance or needs at school.  For instance, if your child is struggling with reading, you will receive a “dyslexia evaluation.” This is the same for concern with mathematics and written expression.  

This type of focused testing will provide information about your child’s academic performance and if they meet criteria to receive help at school through a 504 Plan or Individual Education Plan (IEP).  Another important detail about school evaluations is that they are free. 

Private evaluations are generally provided by a psychologist for a fee.  Licensed clinical psychologists are expertly trained to administer assessments and tests and interpret the results.  There are several types of evaluations or assessments offered.  The overall goal of testing it to provide data on the individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

Below is a list of evaluations offered by psychologists:

  • Neuropsychological Evaluation - Neuropsychological assessment has at its core the goal of identifying individual cognitive strengths and weaknesses. A good neuropsychological assessment tailors the evaluation to the child’s needs as well as being comprehensive. Thus, not all children will be administered the same measures. It is designed to provide parents, educators, and medical personnel not only with what the child knows, but how the child thinks and arrives at solutions. Children can have difficulty for many different reasons and a neuropsychological evaluation provides a window into understanding what is problematic, what is a strength, and what are the treatment recommendations. The main areas that are evaluated in a neuropsychological assessment include the following: Cognitive functioning, academic achievement, attention, executive functions, learning and memory, language, visual-spatial skills, adaptive behavior, social and emotional functioning. 
  • Psychological Evaluation - A psychological evaluation can include numerous components such as norm-referenced psychological tests, informal tests and surveys, interview information, school or medical records, medical evaluation and observational data. A psychologist determines what information to use based on the specific questions being asked. This is a formal way of making accurate conceptualizations and formal diagnoses.
  • Attentional Evaluation - There is no "one test" to diagnosis ADHD. Rather, a diagnosis is often made as part of a neuropsychological evaluation. This is the most objective and ethical method for diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Autism Evaluation – Developmental screenings can detect signs of an autism spectrum disorder as early as 9 months.  These tests help medical professionals track developmental milestones.  When a child is older, the use of formal measures is indicated.  Professionals like developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, and child psychologists provide testing to make a formal diagnosis.  Like an attentional evaluation, a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is reached through a neuropsychological evaluation. 
  • Gifted and Talented Evaluation - Testing provides an objective and systematic way for identifying gifted children. This evaluation includes a formal measure of cognitive (intellectual) functioning. In additional to intellect, a variety of characteristics are considered to identify gifted children (creative, artistic, leadership, and specific academic fields) which often require more than one test to identify.
Hopefully this article provided a bit of clarity into the types of testing offered and providers.  If you have additional questions or would like to discuss testing please contact Dr. Kristin Rose at drrose@rosetherapycenter.com 

What Causes The “Know-It-All” Syndrome… And How To Fix It!

"Ugh, I Already Know That!"

Have you heard your child say this before?

Don't worry. Most of us have, and it's not too late to get it under control.

But first...

Very Few Things Are More Frustrating Than When Your Child Thinks He/She Is An Expert at Everything!  

These are the kids that say “I know” when being offered advice or guidance, that blame others for their mistakes, or attempt to control play with friends (“That’s not how you kick the ball, this is how you do it.”).  

At school, they may have trouble receiving constructive feedback.

If not corrected these children end up being labeled as "know-it-all" kids and "un-coachable athletes".  

The worst part about these kids is that they put themselves in the position to NOT learn. 

What Causes This Type of Behavior?

There is one common theme over the rest...

It’s likely that this child has been over praised.  

When children are young, parents tend to dote on every little accomplishment (eating their first peas, catching a ball, or reading their first book). 

While it’s exciting to watch your child learn and achieve new things, praising too much sets the precedent that they are worthy when they are “right” rather than when they have worked to solve a problem or learn a new skill.

These kids quickly learn to seek out praise and sometimes grow up thinking they should be catered to and accommodated.  Unfortunately, this type of thinking pattern won’t get them far in the “real world.”   

It’s Okay To Compliment But Take It Down A Notch

For instance, instead of praising every correct answer on their homework, focus on your child’s overall effort. If you do so less often, you'll teach your child to be happy about the work he/she did rather than your praise.

Then, when they are at school or with friends, he/she won't be shocked when their knowledge doesn't elicit a big reaction from others. 

On the field (or gym, dance or music studio):  Let the coaches coach and teachers teach!  When a coach or teacher is working with your child to accomplish a task or skill, don’t interfere.  

Undermining a coach or teacher by stepping in can cause the child to disregard their comments and only focus on your praise. 

Let the adult manage the situation and afterwards you can acknowledge the hard work and effort your child was applying.   

Be Cautious With Praising "Intelligence"

We run into trouble when someone’s sense of value comes from how smart they are, especially if “smart” means “right.”  Too much emphasis on intellect can really mess up developing minds. 

As parents it’s on us to convey that being smart doesn’t mean being right, it means wanting to know when you’re wrong.  

Parents of successful kids learn to praise in a way that encourages positive lifelong habits. 

This means praising children for the strategies and processes they use to solve problems, rather than praising them for their innate abilities

Developing a growth mindset is key for success and researcher Carol Dweck has devoted her energy into this topic.  Rather than praising the “smart” or “right” answer, consider praising the process.  

For example:

  • Don't praise a child for getting a high grade on a test; praise him/her for the studying he/she did, which led to the result. 
  • Don't praise for winning a race or a game; instead, offer praise for all the sweat he/she put in during practice--again, which led to the result. 
  • Don't say, "You're so smart!" or "You're such a talented singer!" Instead, you want to find a way to say things like, "You did a great job figuring out that problem," or, "You sound so great--all those hours of practice paid off!" 
  • Encourage your child to focus on a challenge.  Ask the question, “What was a challenge for you today?”  This allows them to develop a growth mindset and to focus on the effort they used.  If a child responds with “Nothing, I did everything right today!” or “There was nothing challenging.” Respond with “It sounds like ___ was too easy for you, let’s find something harder.” 
  • Don’t be afraid to point out something your child can do better or work harder at!  Try, “It looks like you haven’t mastered ____ yet, keep working on it.”  After a game or practice ask, “What do you want to work on for next time?” 

Last But Not Least... He or She May Be Overcompensating

Kids who feel insecure in one area may overdo it in another to make up for what they think they are lacking.  

For instance, if your child is telling a friend how much he knows about race cars (or whatever he is interested in) he may feel like he’s coming up short in another area.  

For instance, maybe his/her friend knows how to ride a bike without training wheels…and your child doesn’t. 

In this case, parents can intervene by telling their child that it is okay for people to have different areas of talent.  

His/her friends may always be better at something than your child is, but this is an okay and even needed experience.  Share some personal examples about different strengths and weakness you’ve experienced. 

To learn more about a growth mindset, consider visiting www.mindsetworks.com

For additional concerns or questions contact Dr. Kristin Rose at DrRose@RoseTherapyCenter.com