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Rebecca Resnik, PsyD  
Female
Bethesda, MD

Specialties: ADHD, dyslexia, developmental delays

Interests: Developmental Disabilities
MindWell Clinical Psychology
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301-581-1120
Bethesda, MD
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Lynn and William’s story: Having a Son with Learning Disabilities

Sep 10, 2012 - 0 comments
Tags:

Learning Disabilities

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psychological testing

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dyslexia

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testing for dyslexia

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Dysgraphia




“She said our son had multiple learning disabilities . . . It was devastating”---Lynne


Lynn and William looked forward to their son, Jonathan, going to a wonderful independent school for gifted and talented children. They were proud and excited when Jonathan scored in the 98th percentile during his entrance testing. For the first six weeks he was at the top of his class. Jonathan was thrilled to finally be a new kindergartner at Indian Creek School, as his big sisters had been before him. One day, Lynn they got the call every parent dreads. Mrs. Randolph, the principal, called them in to have a chat. Jonathan could not do the written work, she said. He not seem to hear what the teacher said. William and Lynn took their son to the physician, and sure enough he had fluid in his inner ears. He was scheduled for surgery to place ear tubes right away. “We were very relieved” said Lynn, who thought that this would solve the problem.


The problem did not go away. Even when he could hear again, Jonathan could not do the work. There was another meeting with Mrs. Randolph, who recommended that he be tested immediately. Lynn and William didn’t hesitate, because as William said, “We trusted her completely.” She referred them to Dr. Jane Snider for an assessment. Since William had a solo dental practice, and Lynn a full time parent, the fee for testing shocked them. But they were impressed by Dr. Snider’s expertise, and decided to move forward. Dr. Snider did extensive testing with Jonathan. They waited for the results.


When William and Lynn met with Dr. Snider, they learned their son had multiple learning disabilities, including reading disability, sequencing problems, and deficits in hand-eye coordination. “It was devastating” said Lynn. Indian Creek recommended that he “not come back.” Jonathan’s grandfather began to refer to him as ‘sickly’ and withdrew affection. Another relative said, “Well, he can always be a farmer.” His grandmother recommended that he get glasses.


William and Lynn began the search. They had no experience with special education, but now they understood what kind of instruction their son needed. Dr. Snider recommended a school where Jonathan could get that help, but it meant that he would be the only child in his class who did not have autism or an intellectual disability. William and Lynn decided to try it for a year. The teacher, Ms. B, understood Jonathan and how he learned. She understood that he was bright enough to get big ideas, but struggled to do his classwork. After a year, he was ready for another school. He needed to make friends again. William and Lynn toured schools. They saw things like kids with learning disabilities in desks facing the wall and out of control classrooms. They arranged for Jonathan to attend a public school near his grandmother’s house, hoping for the best.



Lynn soon learned that, even though Jonathan had an IEP, she had to fight every day for her son to get the help he needed. While the reading specialist understood Jonathan, his classroom teacher, Mrs. R, was “very hard on him.” Mrs. R punished him when he could not do the work. She insisted that he “wouldn’t” do his assignments. No matter how hard Jonathan worked, he was never allowed to take part in the school plays or earn an honor roll reward because of his low grades. Jonathan was humiliated. He was now old enough to realize that he could not do what his friends were doing. At his birthday party, his friends knew he couldn’t read, and took turns reading his birthday cards to him. “I wish I was just normal” Jonathan said.



Lynn began volunteering in the school so that she could intervene on her son’s behalf. “It was not my personality then” said Lynn. She had never been the type to make waves. “I had to read and learn a lot . . I became the expert on special education” she said. “I got materials from Dr. Snider and I had to take over for the classroom teacher.” The reading specialist at the school helped Lynn learn to provide multisensory instruction at home for Jonathan. Lynn spent all of her free time making puzzles, games, and coming up with new ideas for him to practice forming letters. The family spent their leisure time in cub scouts, art classes, soccer, and any other activity where Jonathan could experience success. At one point, when his sister went to Center for Talented Youth classes, Jonathan turned to his father and said, “I’m never going to get to do that, am I?”



After elementary school, the struggle continued. Every year, Lynn had to educate teachers about learning disabilities, and watch every day to make sure her son’s IEP was implemented to the letter. Every year they faced school staff who said things like, “I don’t see how he can be bright when he scores so low.” “It was a daily, yearly struggle” said Lynn, “I was fighting the system all the time.” At one meeting the school psychologist said, “I think Jonathan’s doing very well. He’s learned to accept failure.” Lynn lost her temper and yelled, “Its not your job to help him fail!” “They saw me as a pain in the ***” Lynn said ruefully. “They fought me every inch of the way.”



When he finally graduated from high school, Jonathan told his mother that if she had not been there, he “probably wouldn’t have made it.” It would be great if the story ended there, with all the struggles evaporating right after high school, but of course they did not. Professors at college refused to grant Jonathan his 504 plan accommodations no matter what Lynn did. Jonathan became tired of banging his head against the wall and stopped college.



Despite the twists and turns in the road, this story does have a happy ending. Today, Jonathan has a wonderful wife, beautiful child, and is well respected in his community. Lynn and William went on to endow a foundation for students with learning disabilities, so that the path would be different for other families in the future. They told their story for this article because they know other families are fighting the same fight.



The good news is that this story began in the early 80s, and times have changed. Though parents today still struggle to get their kids the help they need, more and more people understand that having a learning disability is not the same as being stupid or lazy. Many independent schools (like Indian Creek in Maryland) now recognize that they can support kids with LD, and some are now providing special education services.  There are whole schools dedicated to meeting the needs of children with different learning needs. Just like the motto of the Council for Exceptional Children says, “Ignorance is the true disability.” So pass this along if you know a family like Lynn and William, or a great kid like Jonathan, who needs to remember that they are not alone, and it does get better.

Dr. Rebecca Resnik

How to shop for a great psychological assessment

Sep 10, 2012 - 0 comments
Tags:

child

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Kids

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psychological testing

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neuropsychological testing

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how?



We all want the very best for our sons and daughters. Most of us find 'shopping' for a psychologist pretty nerve racking, because we are not sure how to make an informed choice. Finding the right psychologist is a lot like finding a great attorney, architect, or surgeon. All of these professionals help us during times when we REALLY need a job done right, but unless you actually are an attorney, architect, or surgeon, it is hard to know how to judge their work until its all done. As with these other professionals, its best to do your homework ahead of time when selecting a psychologist.

So here is a quick 'how to' guide to finding an exceptional psychologist for your assessment:

1. Don't assume the best choice is a person who works for your insurance company. Insurance companies reimburse for assessment at extremely low rates--giving the psychologist no choice but to do 'quick and dirty' assessments so they don't lose money (the exception to this rule is teaching hospitals/medical centers). When it comes to assessment, you often get what you pay for. Just as you wouldn't skimp on an attorney, architect, or surgeon, don't settle for bargain basement assessment. Call the psychologist you want, and ask them if they do sliding scale, testing where the school system pays for it (Independent Educational Evaluations) or offer payment plans. They may be able to refer you to a place that does good reduced fee assessments as well.

2. Check credentials. Make sure the person is a licensed, doctoral level psychologist (or holds a doctoral degree in education, educational psychology, or human development). Professionals with masters degrees can not perform as extensive an assessment as a licensed psychologist, and may not have the training to fully understand complex cases.

3. Ask who will perform the assessment. Is it a grad student? Tech? A trainee? Find out ahead of time if the psychologist will actually be the one working with you, or just signing his name to the report at the end.

4. Ask about time frame. Make sure to ask not only when you can be seen, but how long you will have to wait to receive your report (not just when you will have your feedback session!). The practice should have a policy about timelines.

5. Check that the psychologist will spend enough time with you and your child to fully understand your case. You should have at least an hour of diagnostic interview, at least 4 hours for the assessment, and an in-person feedback session to discuss your results.

6. Ask how long the report will be. You can learn a lot about a practice just by asking this question!

7. If you have a specific goal in mind, (e.g. getting SAT accommodations, appealing a DDA ruling, or diagnosing dyslexia), ask the psychologist if he or she has experience in this area.

8. Ask if you can schedule a phone call or brief consultation to speak with the psychologist, especially if you are looking for an assessment for a child or adolescent. Check if the doctor is 'kid friendly' or will be able to put your teen at ease.

9. Check the psychologist's reputation. Ask people who regularly read psychological evaluations (attorneys, physicians, teachers, tutors, your school guidance counselor/principal). Check online review sites like DC Urban Moms, Angie's list, or your community list serv.

10. For children and adolescents, make sure the psychologist can accommodate any special needs or preferences. For example, for a very anxious child, could the psychologist do the testing over several days? Or if your child has limited verbal language, does the psychologist have nonverbal assessment tools?

In the words of Edna Mode from the Incredibles--"Luck favors the prepared", so do your homework!

Best wishes,

Dr. Rebecca Resnik


Fear of needles and shots? Life just got better!

Sep 06, 2012 - 3 comments
Tags:

Fear

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needles

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shots

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Diabetes

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dealing with anxiety

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Autism

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Autism/PDD

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Allergies

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Chronic Illness

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Depression

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Pain

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injections

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blood draws



Children and parents, and everyone in the world, dread shots. We have all held our little ones, feeling their heart pounding, as they cry in shock and pain when the nice nurse suddenly surprises them with a painful shot (of course saying “This won’t hurt!”). Its awful enough for routine check-ups, but for some families, coping with injections is a major issue. If you child has an autistic spectrum disorder, sensory regulation difficulties, anxiety, or has been through a traumatic experience, getting shots can be a nightmare.

For the child who has chronic illnesses that require frequent or even daily injections, enduring shots can lead to severe stress. How rotten for a child first diagnosed with diabetes—not only do you have to give up eating your favorite treats (and trick or treating will never be the same), you suddenly have a lifetime of shots and finger sticks to look forward to! And the child with allergies? He could be getting a shot a week for months.

Pain management is an aspect of medical care that is often a lower priority than treating the presenting problem. But its important to know that pain puts us at higher risk for mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. I spent my internship year at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, a rehabilitation hospital for children. Though we psychologists would try as hard as we could to use distraction and to teach pain management techniques, the pain and fear of shots did not go away. Lots of children cry their way though injections every day.

So I was thrilled to hear about the work of Dr. Amy Baxter, a pediatric emergency physician and researcher whose work focuses on alleviating pain. Dr. Baxter has invented a little device called ‘Buzzy’ that significantly reduces, or even removes, needle pain. Buzzy works by desensitizing nerves though vibration and cold. It can even be used at the dentist or for blood draws. I’m hoping that advances in pain relief like Buzzy will make life better for everyone out there who dreads needle pain. So check out this website www.buzzy4shots.com to learn more.


What is a psychologist?

Sep 07, 2011 - 0 comments

What is a Psychologist?

Until we go through a tough time, most of us only see psychologists on television dramas. So it is only natural that many people are not exactly sure what a psychologist is and what they have to offer. People are often confused about how a psychologist is different from a psychiatrist or counselor. Here’s a short article to help you figure out if a psychologist is the health care provider who can help you. At the end is a list of ways to find a psychologist in your area.

A psychologist is a licensed health care provider who is an expert in human behavior, emotion, learning, and development. Psychologists are generally trained as ‘scientist practitioners’—meaning that they learn to conduct and interpret research. This means that a psychologist applies scientific findings to provide effective treatments. Psychologists diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders (like depression or anxiety).  Psychologists are trained to diagnose psychiatric disorders using assessment tools called psychological tests. These tests measure how well a person is thinking, learning, and processing information as compared to other people his age. Psychologists also provide psychotherapy. Psychotherapy and behavior modification are treatments that help people become healthier by changing their behavior. Psychotherapy can be used to treat mental and physical health conditions.

Education and Training
A Licensed Psychologist has earned a doctoral degree in Psychology, Education, or Human Development. No one without a doctoral degree and license can call himself a Psychologist. Most psychologists have earned master’s degrees as well as their doctorates. In most states, psychologists complete a year or two of post doctoral residency training. Finally, the psychologist takes the national psychology exam, a state exam, and then applies for the professional license. By the time he gets his license, a psychologist has completed five to seven years of graduate training before being able to finally call himself a psychologist.

Diagnosis
Psychologists diagnose psychiatric disorders through testing. Testing is a systematic process of data collection and formal observation. Testing can be done for many reasons. Common ones include: to determine if a child has learning disabilities, if an older adult is just depressed or has dementia, and to help with court decisions. Testing is often needed after a head injury or stroke. Psychologists also do testing to determine if a student qualifies for special education services. Every student who is eligible for special education services must be assessed through psychological testing. Testing results are used to plan treatment and interventions for the patient.  

Psychotherapy
Though psychologists are not the only professionals who use psychotherapy, psychologists generally have more extensive training in this area than other mental health care providers. Psychiatrists, Licensed Professional Counselors, Clinical Social Workers, and Psychiatric Nurses are among the other licensed professionals trained in psychotherapy techniques. Effective psychotherapy is based on the science of human development and behavior change. It is not just talking to a person and being a good listener! It is very important to seek psychotherapy only from a licensed professional (just ask if the person holds a professional license before scheduling an appointment). A license guarantees you that the person has the proper credentials and has to follow a code of ethics.

There are a lot of myths about psychotherapy. Most people still think of laying on a couch with the distant doctor scribbling on a notepad. Modern therapy is an active process-it takes work! At its core, psychotherapy is about learning to change your behavior, thoughts, and feelings. Good psychotherapy depends heavily on the quality of the relationship between the patient and therapist. It also depends on the therapist being well trained to assess the needs of the patient and to select evidence based treatment approaches. Psychotherapy has been shown to be as effective as psychiatric drugs for many disorders. It comes with no health risks or nasty side-effects. Unlike medication based treatments alone, the effects of well done therapy can last forever. Psychotherapy and medication together is often the best supported treatment course for conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Psychologists can help with :
* Needing to change unhealthy behavior (smoking, overeating, drinking, cutting)
* Healing interpersonal relationships (couples, parent-child, families)
* Improving quality of life (changing destructive behavior patterns, improving self-esteem, assisting with life transitions)
* Helping you through painful times (grief, loss, trauma, anxiety, depression, stress, divorce)
* Needing to learn new skills (managing children’s behavior, teaching social skills, anger management, improving a manager’s ability to motivate his workers)
* Treating psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, eating disorders, anxiety/panic disorders)

How do I find a psychologist?
If you are not sure a psychologist is the provider you need, just call one and ask. The psychologist should be happy to have a brief phone call or consultation session. The doctor will be able to tell you if he can help you, or if another professional would be the best choice. Though you should consult your primary care doctor first, not all physicians have had much opportunity to learn about psychology or work with a psychologist, so they may not be sure how to advise you. I always recommend you ask your friends—you would be surprised how many people have needed a psychologist but won’t tell you unless you bring it up! It can be hard to find a psychologist, especially in small towns or rural areas. You may need to be persistent in your search.

Here are some other places to look:
* Your state psychological association (google your state + psychological association), either call or check their website for a ‘find a psychologist’ link
* The American Psychological Association maintains a searchable database at
http://locator.apa.org/
* Hospitals (look for the Behavioral Health or Psychiatry departments on the website)
* Community Mental Health Centers (look up your county’s website, they are listed there)
* Psychology Today’s website has a searchable database of local psychologists
* Your child’s school guidance counselor
* Your college campus Counseling or Mental Health Center
* Your insurance company (though many of the providers listed may not be accepting new patients, you may be able to get on the wait list)

Final thoughts
Don’t suffer in silence, and don’t wait for your problems to go away. If you are hurting, please seek care. Just as you would not ignore a broken bone or chest pain, it’s a bad idea to ignore emotional pain. The spirit is no less worthy of treatment than the body! It is ok to take good care of your self, even if the problem is not a physical ailment, and there are people out there trained to help you do just that.

Good luck and best wishes
Dr. Rebecca Resnik