Tag Archives: neuropsychology

Brain-Based Assessment: An Interview with Steven G. Feifer (Part 1)

We recently sat down with Steven G. Feifer, DEd, author of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and Feifer Assessment of Mathematics™ (FAM™) for an interview to discuss how to use cognitive neuroscience to better understand why students struggle in school. This is the first part of a two-part interview. Come back next week for the conclusion.

 

What influence did neuroscience and research in this area have on your work in test development?

Steven Feifer: I have spent most of my career as a school psychologist trying to coalesce the fields of neuropsychology and education. I suppose it stemmed from my utter frustration in trying to explain learning simply through the lens of an IQ test score. After all, when was the last time somebody wrote a meaningful goal and objective on an IEP because a psychologist said a child’s Full Scale IQ was 94?

Why was an instrument like the FAR needed?

SF: The FAR was created for a number of reasons. First, I am especially grateful to PAR for recognizing the need for an educational assessment tool based upon a neuropsychological theory: the gradiental model of brain functioning. Second, I think the FAR represents a new wave of assessment instruments that does not simply document where a student is achieving, but explains why. This allows practitioners to better inform intervention decision making. Third, with the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004, school psychologists and educational diagnosticians no longer have to use a discrepancy model to identify a learning disability. However, most examiners are a bit leery about switching to a processing strengths and weaknesses model because of the sheer complexity and loose structure of this approach. The FAR identifies the direct processes involved with reading and makes the process easy without having to rely on a cross battery approach. Lastly, many states have now required schools to screen for dyslexia in grades K-2. The FAR Screening Form is ideal to function in this regard.

How did using a brain-based perspective guide you when developing the subtests and subtypes for the FAR and the FAM?

SF: I have conducted more than 600 professional workshops worldwide to both educators and psychologists. Most educators readily understand that there are different kinds of reading disorders, and therefore different kinds of interventions are necessary.

By discussing reading, math, or written language from a brain-based educational perspective, I try to point out specific pathways in the brain that support phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and other attributes inherent in the reading process. I also illustrate what a dyslexic brain looks like before an intervention and then after an intervention.

Cognitive neuroscience greatly validates the work of our educators and reading specialists. In addition, cognitive neuroscience also provides the foundation for various subtypes of reading disorders based upon the integrity of targeted neurodevelopmental pathways.

Come back next week for the second part of this interview!

 

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Using cognitive neuroscience to understand why kids struggle in school

The term dyslexia has been a part of the education lexicon for decades. When it was first “discovered” in the 1970s, there were no technological processes yet in place to prove it was a brain-based condition.

However, writes Martha Burns, PhD, in a Science of Learning blog, “psychologists, neurologists, and special educators …. assumed dyslexia [had] a neurological basis. In fact, the term ‘dyslexia’ actually stems from the Greek ‘alexia,’ which literally means ‘loss of the word’ and was the diagnostic term used when adults lost the ability to read after suffering a brain injury.”

At the time, the cause, “was deemed not important,” continues Burns. “Rather, the goal was to develop and test interventions and measure their outcomes without an effort to relate the interventions to the underlying causation.”

However, using neuroscience to pinpoint exactly why a student struggles in reading or math can help educators come up with specific and effective interventions.

School psychologist Steven G. Feifer, DEd, ABSNP, became interested in neuroscience as it relates to reading when, early in his career, he had an opportunity to evaluate a very impaired student named Jason.

“His IQ was 36,” recalls Dr. Feifer, “but he was an incredible reader.   This was pretty difficult to explain using a discrepancy model paradigm, which falsely implies that an IQ score represents a student’s potential.  I made a concerted paradigm shift, and tried to find a more scientifically rigorous explanation for Jason’s amazing skills.  This quickly led me to the research library at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“As it turned out, Jason was quite easy to explain,” he continues. “He had a condition called hyperlexia. After much research, I presented information about the neural mechanisms underscoring hyperlexia at Jason’s IEP meeting.  The IEP team was incredibly receptive to the information and immediately amended Jason’s IEP so he received inclusionary services in a regular fifth-grade classroom.

“Jason turned out to be the single highest speller in fifth grade. I was convinced that discussing how a child learns from a brain-based educational perspective, and not solely an IQ perspective, was the best way to understanding the dynamics of learning and inform intervention decision making.

“The following year, I enrolled in a neuropsychology training program and was fortunate enough to study with the top neuropsychologists in the country.”

Dr. Feifer, who has 19 years of experience as a school psychologist, was voted the Maryland School Psychologist of the Year in 2008 and the National School Psychologist of the Year in 2009. He is a diplomate in school neuropsychology and currently works as a faculty instructor in the American Board of School Neuropsychology (ABSNP) school neuropsychology training program.  He continues to evaluate children in private practice at the Monocacy Neurodevelopmental Center in Frederick, Maryland, and consults with numerous school districts throughout the country.

Dr. Feifer has written several books and two assessments that examine learning disabilities from a neurodevelopmental perspective—the Feifer Assessment of Reading (FAR) and the Feifer Assessment of Mathematics (FAM).

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PAR is on the way to Boston for INS!

bostonWill we see you at the INS Annual Meeting? If you are attending INS, make sure to stop by the PAR booth to see our newest products, get a demo of PARiConnect, or check out our free online Training Portal. Don’t miss this chance to learn from PAR authors:

Plus, all orders placed at the PAR booth during INS will receive 15% off as well as free shipping and handling!

Follow PAR on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the conference!

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PAR is on the way to Austin! Will we see you there?

Are you attending the National Academy of Neuropsychology Annual Conference? Make sure to stop by the PAR booth (104, 106, and 108) to check out some of our new and upcoming releases. We will have copies of the new Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales™, Second Edition (RIAS™-2), the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™), and more on hand. Plus, preview and preorder your copy of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function®, Second Edition (BRIEF®2)!

Don’t miss a presentation by Brian L. Brooks, PhD, co-author of the ChAMP and the upcoming Memory Validity Profile™ (MVP), who will be presenting a CE workshop, Advanced Pediatric Assessment, Thursday, November 5 at 1 p.m.

Remember, all orders placed at the PAR booth during NAN, including preorders, will receive 15% off as well as free ground shipping and handling!

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Meet the Authors of the ChAMP, PAR’s New Memory Assessment

ChAMP coverBased on the latest advancements in memory research, the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile (ChAMP) is a fast, easy-to-administer measure that covers both verbal and visual memory domains for young examinees ages 5 to 21 years. Recently we had a chance to catch up with Elisabeth M. S. Sherman, PhD, and Brian L. Brooks, PhD, pediatric neuropsychology experts and authors of the ChAMP.

PAR: What compelled you to want to develop a memory test?

Sherman and Brooks: At the heart of it, we’re primarily clinicians who work with kids, some of whom have severe cognitive problems. Most can’t sit through lengthy tests. We could not find a memory test for kids that was easy to give, accurate, and also quick. We really developed the ChAMP because there wasn’t anything else like it out there. We hope other users like using the ChAMP, too.

PAR: How have you used memory testing in your clinical work?

Sherman and Brooks: Memory is such an important part of success in school and life. As clinicians, we evolved from giving memory tests selectively, to giving them to most children we assess. Children may have different reasons for having memory problems (i.e., developmental or acquired), but capturing their memory strengths and weaknesses allows us to better understand how to help them. Interestingly, in working with very severely affected children with neurological conditions, we realized that some kids have intact memory despite devastating cognitive conditions. The ability to detect an isolated strength in memory really gives educators and parents something tangible to use in helping those children.

PAR: How has the experience of developing a memory test been different from your other projects?

Sherman and Brooks: Developing the ChAMP was an amazing opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty of test design, planning, and execution. A lot of our other work so far has focused on reviewing, evaluating, or critiquing tests (e.g., Elisabeth is a co-author of the Compendium of Neuropsychological Tests from Oxford University Press). In the development of the ChAMP, we realized quickly that it is much easier to critique tests than to create good tests. Creating the ChAMP was a humbling but exciting process for us. It was a great opportunity to put theory into practice, with all the challenges and benefits that brings. We are excited about the ChAMP, and hope other clinicians will be, too.

To learn more about the ChAMP, please visit www.parinc.com or call 1.800.331.8378.

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Feed your head: Reading a good book improves brain function

Most of us can remember reading a book that changed our lives. Whether it was a comforting childhood favorite, a college assignment that surprised or shocked us, or a novel that resonated at a particular stage in our adult lives, books clearly have the power to change our thinking and expand our points of view.

Taking it a step further, recent research from Emory University suggests that the act of reading a novel produces measurable changes in the brain itself, specifically, improvements in resting-state connectivity that can persist for days after reading.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically,” said neuroscientist and lead author Gregory Berns in a recent interview with Emory University’s eScience Commons online newsletter.

The study was published last month in the journal Brain Connectivity. Emory students—twelve women and nine men—participated in the experiment, which was conducted over a 19-day period. The students read Pompeii, a novel by Robert Harris based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy. For the first five days, participants came in each morning for a baseline scan of their brains using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) device. Starting on the sixth day, they were asked to read a section of the novel each evening and come in the following morning for another fMRI scan. After completing all nine sections of the novel, the participants returned for five more mornings to undergo additional scans in a resting state. On the mornings following the reading assignments, the participants showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area associated with receptivity for language, and in the central sulcus, the primary sensory motor region of the brain. “Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity,” Berns says. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.” The neural changes persisted not only in the morning after the reading but also for five days after participants completed the novel. “It remains an open question how long these neural changes might last,” Berns says. “But the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.”

This study may have implications for counselors and educators who work with developing readers; the benefits of focused reading time may extend to the brain itself, helping to improve a student’s “wiring” and therefore his or her receptivity to other learning.

What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 

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PAR Is Headed to Denver!

The International Neuropsychological Society (INS) annual conference is taking place in Denver, Colorado, February 4-7 this week. Founded in 1967, the organization now has more than 4,700 members, whose mission is to study the relationship between the brain and behavior throughout the life span.

PAR has a booth at the conference, and we would love to see you! Stop by to check out some of our top neuropsychological assessments like the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function® (BRIEF®), which assesses executive function in children and adolescents and provides multiple perspectives by getting feedback from both parents and teachers.

In addition, get a first peek at our newest memory assessment, the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™), specifically designed for children, adolescents, and young adults. It uses common, real-life scenarios and colorful, developmentally appropriate stimuli that are engaging and relevant to young examinees.

If you place an order at the conference, we’ll give you 15% off plus free shipping and handling.

We can’t wait to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones, so please stop by and say hello!

 

 

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Meet the Author: Robert M. Roth, Ph.D.

1. Why did you choose to enter the field of psychology?

I was 8 years old when I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist. I had come across a series of books my sister had about human nature in which the term was often mentioned. While I did not really understand what being a psychologist meant at the time, things in the books such as pictures of the brain and visual illusions made a lasting impression on me. During high school I developed an interest in the etiology and treatment of substance abuse in adolescents. While my career path eventually led largely away from that topic, it cemented my dedication to a career in psychology.

 2. What made you decide initially to develop the TEC?

During the development of the BRIEF-A, Peter Isquith, Gerry Gioia, and I had engaged in discussions about assessment and functional neuroimaging of executive functions. We became interested in the idea of developing an instrument that would involve executive function tasks often used in neuroimaging studies but that had not been standardized for use as a clinical measure.

 3. What would you like to tell people about the TEC that they may not know?

It took 7 years from the initial discussion about developing a new measure to publication of the TEC. A great deal of time was spent developing the measure, trying different parameters, selecting stimuli, making other adjustments and changes to the task and reports based on pilot testing, analyzing data, and writing and editing the manual. It was a true labor of love.

 4. What would you like to tell people about yourself that they may not know?

I have been studying executive functions, using a variety of methods (neuropsychological measures, ERPs, fMRI, questionnaires) for the past 20 years. I love writing and mentoring scientific papers. I am a trilingual Canadian from Montreal Quebec who speaks English, French, and Hungarian (the latter being my parents’ native language).

 5. How do you spend your free time? (hobbies, books are you reading, movies you enjoy, pets, etc.)

I most enjoy spending time with my two sons and other family members. Other than that, reading history and historical fiction related to Europe, tourism, watching movies (lots of kid-friendly fare, but also romantic comedies and sci-fi, as well as just about anything that has to do with historical events pre-1919), listening to hard rock and heavy metal music, and following the National Hockey League (go Habs!).

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TCN/AACN 2010 Survey

In January, The Clinical Neuropsychologist (TCN) and the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) released the results of the TCN/AACN 2010 Salary Survey. Doctoral-level members of the AACN, members of Division 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology) of the American Psychological Association (APA), members of the National Academy of Neuropsychology, and other neuropsychologists were invited to participate in a web-based survey to learn more about their beliefs, their income, and their practice.

The following are just some of the findings that were released in the January issue of The Clinical Neuropsychologist.

  • The field of neuropsychology continues to see increasing numbers of women joining the profession – 7 out of 10 current postdoctoral residents are women. Furthermore, for the first time ever, more than half of the total respondents to the TCN/AACN survey were female.
  • Substantial numbers of young psychologists are entering the field of neuropsychology. The median age of APA members has been above 50 since the early 1990s, while the current median age of clinical neuropsychologists remains at 47 and has stayed relatively unchanged since 1989.
  • Neuropsychologists are preferring to use flexible battery assessments rather than fixed or standardized batteries. The flexible battery approach is continuing to see an upswing in popularity while the use of fixed batteries are on the decline.
  • Clinical neuropsychologists specializing in pediatrics are more likely than others to work part time, are more likely to be women, are more likely to work in institution settings, and also report lower incomes than respondents who see only adult clients or a combination of adult and pediatric clients.
  • Incomes are dependent on number of years in clinical practice, work setting, amount of forensic practice, and location (state and/or region of the country), and can vary considerably. However, according to survey data, job satisfaction has little relationship to income and is comparable across the variables of work setting, professional identity, and amount of forensic activity.
  • Neuropsychologists report higher job satisfaction than that reported for other jobs in the U.S. Fewer than 5% of respondents are considering changing job position.

Are you a neuropsychologist? Do you agree or disagree with these findings? Comment on this posting and let us know!

For the full results of this survey, see: Sweet, J. , Meyer, D., Giuffre , N., Nathaniel W., and Moberg, P. J. (2011). The TCN/AACN 2010 “Salary Survey”: Professional Practices, Beliefs, and Incomes of U.S. Neuropsychologists. The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 25, 12-61.

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Meet the Author – Dr. Sarah Raskin

Why did you choose to enter the field of psychology?
I was first interested in biology and especially in the brain. In my first behavioral neuroscience class, I felt that this field took on many of the questions that had always been interesting to me. Then I was given the chance to spend a summer as an undergraduate working on a study of people with aphasia. I realized then that I was really interested in neuropsychology.

What made you decide initially to develop the Memory for Intentions Test™ (MIST™)?
In working with people who have brain injury and asking them to set goals for rehabilitation, the problem of prospective memory, or memory for intentions, kept coming up. I wanted to understand what it was about completing an intention that was difficult for people with brain injury. At the time, there was no standardized measure available.

What would you like to tell people about your product that they may not know?
I think it is very useful as a clinical measure and has the ability to discriminate between different types of prospective memory failures in different populations; the alternate form makes it useful to measure efficacy of rehabilitation. But it is also a useful research measure and has been published in a number of studies with people with different disorders.

What would you like to tell people about yourself that they may not know?
I love the theater and one of my jobs during graduate school in New York City was sewing costumes. My kids got interested in theater, and my son even convinced me to be in a community theater production with him. My daughter still does plays, but my son is now focused on playing guitar.

How do you spend your free time?
I spend as much time as I can with my two children, ages 10 and 14, and my husband. We had the wonderful experience of spending six weeks together as a family in Rome this summer while I taught a course titled “The Arts and the Brain.” I spend time volunteering in my kids’ schools or in other community activities. I love to read novels, the more tragic the better.

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