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McLean’s Child and Adolescent Testing Service (CATS) serves about 80 students each year, providing neuropsychological, psychological and academic testing to children and adolescents who are having problems at school, home or with peers.
In many cases, the students who come to the program have seen numerous mental health professionals and may have already been diagnosed with a neuropsychological condition such as attention deficit disorder or a psychological condition such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.
“But just having a diagnosis or having seen a clinician doesn’t mean you really understand what is going on or what to do about it,” says Jennifer White, director of the program. “We try to get underneath the diagnosis. We try to understand the conditions that are driving the difficulties and then in a practical way talk about how these difficulties can be targeted by interventions.”
Child and adolescents seen at CATS, usually between the ages of 5 and 22, are tested for two days and then a report with recommendations is issued to their parents. The report is intended to be brought to the child’s school and personal mental health clinician.
In many cases, the report will urge schools to take specific actions to help the child, including giving them an individualized education plan. The recommendations may include special teaching methods, tutoring or modifying the curriculum for that student.
“Schools don’t always understand the impact of certain conditions on school performance,” White says. “And they can impact performance in many ways. We are trying to get the schools to better understand these kids and their needs. We sometimes even visit the schools to explain our results and recommendations.”
The students’ own clinicians can also use the recommendations in their work. Often, the personal clinicians refer the students to the testing program, hoping to get help where their own work with the students is not getting the desired results, she says.
In addition to testing and making recommendations for the students, CATS also trains post-doctoral students on the testing and recommendation process.
CATS, which was founded in 1992, recently moved off of McLean’s Belmont campus and into the Sancta Maria Nursing Facility in Cambridge.