Pediatric Neuropsychology Service

The Pediatric Neuropsychology Service is a clinical, training, and research program within the Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

The Service provides assessment and diagnostic services for infants, toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents with neurodevelopmental, learning, emotion regulation, and medical disorders and conditions. The Service is also involved in collaborative clinical research, examining the neurocognitive and behavioral sequelae of such disorders as Epilepsy, Neurofibromatosis, Childhood Cancers and their treatment, and HIV/AIDS and its treatment.  An additional emphasis is training; graduate students in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Chicago-area graduate programs, Pritzker Medical School students, and residents and fellows in Child Psychiatry, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and Pediatric Neurology rotate with the Service, learning about assessment and diagnosis.

Referrals for evaluation and consultation are accepted from University of Chicago physicians and clinicians, working across Comer Children’s Hospital and the broader Medical Center pediatrics clinics, as well as from pediatricians, child psychiatrists, pediatric neurologists, and other pediatric specialists across the Chicagoland area.  Additionally, school professionals, private practice clinical psychologists and clinical social workers, and other mental health and educational consultants frequently refer children and adolescents and their families to the Service. 

The Pediatric Neuropsychology Service works collaboratively with a patient’s referral source, and is available to provide support concerning rehabilitation, educational, and behavioral programming as part of a school district’s multidisciplinary case conference. 

Evaluations conducted by the Service are comprehensive and address multiple areas of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning.  The Service utilizes a flexible, empirically supported approach to assessment, in order to effectively address the referral question and patient’s concerns. Patients are administered standardized tests that assess cognitive development, with particular focus on language, motor, visuoperceptual, attention, memory and learning, and executive capabilities. Current emotional and behavioral functioning is also assessed. Interpretation of data obtained from the evaluation addresses the “whole child,” identifying areas of strength and weakness, and providing research supported recommendations for accommodation, remediation, and elaboration of skill.

Following an evaluation, referrals for recommended treatments and programming are offered to the family. These may be to University of Chicago physicians and clinicians, or to outside resources as requested or required.

Service Structure

The Pediatric Neuropsychology Service is directed by Scott J. Hunter, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago. 

Dr. Hunter specializes in the evaluation and treatment of infants, children, and adolescents with medical, neurodevelopmental, and behavioral disorders.  He is nationally known for his work, both clinically and in his research, with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, brain injuries and developmental anomalies, attention and learning disorders, Intellectual Disability syndromes, Pediatric Movement Disorders, Epilepsy, Cancer, Neurofibromatosis and other neurocutaneous disorders, and HIV/AIDS. Dr. Hunter’s particular expertise is in identifying and remediating learning and developmental disorders, and he is retained as an expert by many school districts, private schools, and regional and national law firms to provide consultation and support regarding these issues.

In Fall 2011, Megan Scott, Ph.D. will join the Service as a member of the faculty team.  Dr. Scott will focus on issues secondary to attentional and learning disorders, as well as building a broader consultation practice.  Dr. Scott brings expertise in pediatric neuropsychological assessment and diagnosis, as well as a strong background in the cognitive development of individuals born premature and low birth weight.

The Service is staffed by Krissy Washington, M.A., a psychometrist who assists Dr. Hunter with running the program and supporting evaluations conducted during weekly clinics. Krissy is often the “first-line” contact parents and referral sources have with the Service, and she works to ensure that the appointment scheduling, evaluation, and clinical follow-up flow smoothly. Krissy also serves as the principal research assistant for the Service, coordinating ongoing studies.  An additional psychometrist will be joining the program this Fall, following Dr. Scott’s start.

Because the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service is part of the University of Chicago’s Pritzker Medical School and Biological Sciences Division, it is a teaching service. As such, it is important to recognize that, on a yearly and rotating basis, advanced graduate students in Clinical Child Psychology and Pediatric Neuropsychology, predoctoral Clinical Psychology Interns, Postdoctoral Fellows in Pediatric Neuropsychology, and advanced fellows and residents in Psychiatry, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Pediatric Neurology, and other specialties serve as part of the clinical team. Patients evaluated by the Service will be seen by Dr. Hunter or Dr. Scott; a member of the team of clinician trainees; and one of the psychometrists, working together in the weekly clinics. The Service utilizes a technician model: testing of patients is done by the psychometrist and the graduate student trainees, who serve as technicians, under the direct supervision of Dr. Hunter.

Research

Clinical research is an integral component of the day-to-day practice of the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service. Patients are often requested to participate in neuropsychological evaluation as part of ongoing clinical research studies at Comer Children’s Hospital; as such, a child may be referred by the pediatric specialist to the Service as part of his or her participation in a treatment study. Additionally, a number of patients seen by the service are identified as potential research subjects for ongoing projects; a parent and child may be asked to consider participating in research at the time of the evaluation.  While participation in a research study may be discussed with you when appropriate, and is well appreciated, it is not expected or required in order to receive services.

Current funded research projects being conducted in the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service include:

Neurocognitive and psychiatric functioning in homeless youth. PI: S.J. Hunter, Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience, & Pediatrics; Co-PI’s: N. Karnik & J. Edidin, University of Chicago; R. Garofalo, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago.

Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS-II): Adolescent Master Protocol (AMP). University of Chicago Sub-Contract Site PI: K. Alexander, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Infectious Disease. Primary Site: Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, PI: R. Yogev.  Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS-II): SMARTT Protocol. University of Chicago Sub-Contract Site PI: K. Alexander, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Infectious Disease. Primary Site: Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, PI: R. Yogev. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Early signs of learning and attention vulnerability in Neurofibromatosis-1. PI: B. Klein-Tasman, Child Neurodevelopment Research Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  S. Hunter: Co-PI for University of Chicago subaward. Funded by NF Incorporated-Midwest.

Additional studies are often underway, and include doctoral dissertation research being conducted by Service graduate student trainees. Recent dissertations conducted with the Service include an examination of the relationship between executive function development and risk for disruptive behavior disorders in homeless youth; differential patterns of executive dysfunction and inattention in children with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and comorbid ADHD and ASD; the relationship between executive function and seizure type and treatment in children with epilepsy; an evaluation of the predictive validity of a set of parent questionnaires for children with complex neurodevelopmental disorders; and the diagnostic validity of a screening battery developed for assessing reading disorders.

Scheduling a Clinical Appointment:

Patients are evaluated by the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service by appointment only. To schedule an appointment for your child to be evaluated by the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service, please contact our INTAKE OFFICE at 773-702-3858.

Direct physician or school system referrals can be made to the service, but a parent or legal guardian must schedule the appointment. Insurance coverage will be verified before an appointment can be offered, unless the evaluation is to be paid “out of pocket.” The intake coordinator can assist with this process.

The Pediatric Neuropsychology Service sees patients in weekly clinics, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM, and Wednesday afternoons, between 1 and 5 PM. The intake coordinator will inform you when an appointment opening is available, and will assist you in registering for that appointment.  We require all appointments be re-verified within 48 hours of their scheduled dateCancellations must be made at a minimum of 24 hours in advance or a cancellation charge will incur.

Children younger than 12 years of age are typically scheduled for two separate “half-day” (3 hour) appointments, held one week apart.  Children aged 12 and older are seen for one “full day” (6-7 hour) appointment, with a lunch break.  A parent or legal guardian must accompany the child to the appointment. The parent/guardian will be interviewed during the first hour of the appointment.  Results are provided in a feedback session, held typically two weeks after the initial appointment. This will be scheduled at the completion of the evaluation.  A written report is then provided, discussing the results, diagnostic impressions, and recommendations; this is typically made available one-month following completion of the evaluation.

All evaluations are conducted by the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service in the Section of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, at the University of Chicago Medical Center, which is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, approximately five miles south of the downtown “Loop.”  The Medical Center is easily accessible by car or public transportation. Parking is available at the Medical Center for a fee.

Who is who in the Pediatric Neuropsychology Service

  • Scott J. Hunter, Ph.D., Director
  • Megan Scott, Ph.D., Pediatric Neuropsychologist
  • Krissy Washington, M.A., Psychometrician
  • Jennifer Edidin, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow (Research)
  • Cynthia Kane, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Examiner, Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics
  • Jillian Schuh, M.A., Predoctoral Intern

Questions concerning the scheduling of an appointment should be directed to Krissy Washington at 773-702-9692.