Most of my knowledge of child psychology and neuropsychology was gained within a paediatric hospital settings: Tygerberg hospital (SA), Birmingham Children’s Hospital and University College London Hospital (UK). Here I worked with both acute and chronic conditions affecting child health and mental well-being.
Many medical conditions, such as epilepsy, meningitis, encephalitis, cystic fibrosis, leukemia, traumatic brain injuries (head-injuries) and some cancers can impact on emotional well-being and school-based learning.
My research in the UK was on the impact of neurotoxic treatments (such as radiation and chemotherapy) on neurodevelopment, and specifically the changes to the white matter structures in the brain. This research is applicable to many paediatric conditions such as prematurity, sensory processing difficulties, head-injury or encephalitis for example.
Early developmental milestones can often be maintained in children with white matter disruption or subtle neurodevelopmental signs,but often these children develop learning problems during middle childhood or early adolescence. This is because the disruption in white matter structures are often “hidden” in early childhood when fundamental skills are acquired, but may become more visible later on, when learning requires the integration of complex information. Behavioural and emotional problems may then emerge as a way to compensate or manage these difficulties.
Through careful assessment it may be possible to identify problems early to prevent relatively small issues becoming larger problems which may affect not only learning, but also coping and personality.
I work closely with paediatricians, neurologists and psychiatrists. MRI-scans, hospital and clinical information obtained from other professionals are important to allow us to form a holistic picture of your child. In addition, where children have survived a serious medical health condition, the possibility of underlying trauma and how this may interact with anomalous brain functioning also needs careful consideration . For me, the integration of the physical, emotional and neurological worlds within my therapeutic work is truly interesting and highly rewarding.