Brain injury can affect every function of the body, whether physical, emotional or cognitive. Although physical issues are usually easily recognized, the average person doesn’t appreciate the extent and nature of cognitive deficits that may occur following a brain injury, even a relatively mild one. In fact, most people do not have an understanding of how the different cognitive processes or domains in the brain work, and how injury may impact them.
After a brain injury, a physician may recommend a neuropsychological evaluation to identify both the
exact nature of the problem and to inform the treatment plan. Testing may be appropriate even for a
mild brain injury such as a concussion if the symptoms persist. However, the average person is not
familiar with the “neuropsych” testing process, and even after testing is completed, many families still have no idea what to do with the results.
When it comes to children with cognitive deficits, the situation is even more complicated by educational demands or issues. A child may be tested at the recommendation of therapists at a rehab facility or the administration or teaching staff of a school. However, the staff is often unequipped to take the necessary steps to implement the educational plan as formulated in the report.
BINA and the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center co-sponsored a fascinating and informative event
entitled “The Neurologically Impacted Child in the Educational System,” to educate parents, teachers, therapists and other professionals about this critical area. Topics included how to understand a neuropsych evaluation, when and why it may be necessary, and what you can do, particularly in the yeshiva school system, to maximize the benefit of the testing results.
The presenters were Dr. Kenneth Perrine and Dr. Samuel Mandelman of the Weill Cornell Brain and
Spine Center, who are both highly regarded in their field. With their extensive experience in evaluating members of the Orthodox community and as experts in culturally appropriate evaluations, they offer uniquely suitable services to all segments of the community including the Yiddish speaking population.
As a neuropsychologist for top New York hospitals, Dr. Perrine has over thirty years of experience
working in the field of traumatic brain injury. He evaluates patients prior to surgery for epilepsy,
Parkinson's disease, and tumor resection and sees patients in the Concussion Clinic as a leading
authority and researcher on concussion. Dr. Perrine is the consulting neuropsychologist for the NY Jets and the NY Islanders where he evaluates players with concussions.
Dr. Mandelman holds a PhD in educational psychology from Columbia University in addition to his
degree in neuropsychology. As a product of the Yeshiva system who is also Ivy League educated and
trained, Dr. Mandelman embodies a rare combination that enables him to evaluate a child’s abilities in all subjects and conduct evaluations in Yiddish when required. He enjoys close relationships with leading Yeshiva deans and principals and is able to draw from his background in educational psychology to understand complex cognitive profiles and devise implementable recommendations to schools.
The program opened with remarks by Elchanan Schwarz, LMHC, BINA’s Director of Crisis Intervention
who welcomed the crowd and thanked Weill-Cornell for their sponsorship and the distinguished
presenters for sharing their expertise before introducing the first speaker.
Dr. Perrine began with a definition of neuropsychology and explained the difference between a
“regular” psychologist and a neuropsychologist, in that the latter sees patients with neurological rather than mental health disorders. He expressed his great pride in the unique work that he and Dr.
Mandelman are doing with students in the Yeshiva system.
The presentation began with a detailed and comprehensive outline of the brain’s anatomy and the
function of its various parts, followed by an overview of neurologic conditions and disorders and their effects on cognitive abilities in children. Dr. Perrine concluded by introducing Dr. Mandelman to speak about specific categories of childhood cognition and how they are assessed in a neuropsychological evaluation.
Dr. Mandelman then began a fascinating presentation on “Effectively Using Neuropsychological Test
Results in Our Schools”. He discussed in detail why a child should be tested, the testing process and the areas covered in the evaluation, and how a neuropsych evaluation can actually be used to benefit a student. The reasons for referral may include neurological conditions such as stroke, epilepsy, or brain tumors, head trauma of various severities including concussions, and other factors including learning disorders, cognitive changes, behavioral problems and developmental and psychiatric factors.
After expounding on the evaluation and the areas tested, Dr. Mandelman came to the core of the
presentation, which he summarized with a question that he is frequently asked: “I Got a Neuropsych,
Now What??” Parents often complain that they saw no practical benefits from previous evaluations
after a long and difficult testing process.
Dr. Mandelman explained that the power of a neuropsych evaluation is the cognitive profile that
emerges, which, when interpreted appropriately, is invaluable for the purpose of both treatment and
educational planning. The information provided can be used to understand the child and show how they
operate, making a real difference in their lives. He offered a wealth of practical advice on how parents can effectively advocate and gain maximum benefit for their child within the educational system, particularly regarding critical accommodations when re-entering school following an illness or injury.
In conclusion, Dr. Mandelman stated a child with any challenge – especially of a more complex nature – who does not feel safe in the classroom, meaning they don’t feel their basic needs are being met, will not learn appropriately. It is the job of all involved professionals to support the whole child and make sure they are getting the necessary environmental support and organizational structure.
The program ended with a Q&A session, allowing participants to ask follow-up questions on the material presented and other areas of interest. Both parents and professionals were thrilled with the presentations and several approached Drs. Perrine and Mandelman after the event to avail themselves of the opportunity to speak to them privately.
“What impresses me most about this team at Cornell is that they really know how to use the
neuropsych within the Yeshiva system to the max,” commented Elchanan Schwarz. “There is nothing
more frustrating to me than seeing a family go for an eval for their son or daughter and end up with a long list of recommendations that are of no practical use because the neuropsychologist doesn’t
understand our community or its educational system. Tonight’s event will go a long way in ensuring that children with various neurological disorders receive the help they need to succeed.”
A video of the event can be viewed at https://binausa.org/videos/.