Rehabilitation Psychology

At Seattle Children’s, our Rehabilitation Psychology program helps young people who have learning, emotional or behavioral problems due to an injury or illness.

We take into account your child’s medical and physical conditions and help them cope with changes in how their bodies or minds work. Our aim is to help your child live a fuller life. We evaluate how your child does in terms of thinking, feeling and interacting with other people.

We also carefully consider your child’s situation at home and school, with friends and in the community. We work with children, teens and young adults, from 3 to 21 years old.

Why choose Seattle Children’s Rehabilitation Psychology program?

Seattle Children’s is a national leader in rehabilitation for children. Our rehabilitation psychologists and neuropsychologists are part of the Rehabilitation Medicine program. Rehabilitation psychologists have special training to evaluate your child’s needs related to social skills, emotions and behavior and to provide counseling to help them cope with and adjust to an injury or illness.

Neuropsychologists are licensed psychologists specializing in the relationship between the brain, learning and behavior. Our team of neuropsychologists is experienced in determining whether certain medical conditions affect your child’s brain and developing treatment recommendations based on your child’s needs.

Our rehabilitation psychologists and neuropsychologists work closely with specialists in other fields, including Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Medicine, to provide the best experience for patients and families.

People with such training and experience are found mostly at advanced medical centers like Seattle Children’s. Few professionals in the community have that expertise.

Conditions We Treat

We assess and treat cognitive, psychological, behavioral and emotional problems caused by an illness or injury. We do not see children with only developmental learning or behavioral disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities.

Many children we see have had a traumatic brain injury or concussion.

  • When a child has a severe head injury, the brain can be damaged. Our team evaluates children with traumatic brain injuries to check their language and thinking skills. We make recommendations to help children recover as much function as possible and plan for their return to school and their community.

  • Cells in the brain need oxygen to survive. Hypoxic/anoxic brain injuries happen when the brain does not get enough oxygen. An example of a hypoxic/anoxic brain injury is a near-drowning event.

  • Brain tumors are growths of cells in the skull that are not normal. Some brain tumors are cancerous (malignant), whereas others are not (benign). Many different types of brain tumors affect children. They range from tumors that can be cured with minimal therapy to those that cannot be cured even with aggressive therapy. Read more.

  • Neuromuscular illnesses affect the nerves and muscles. They often cause muscle weakness. Sometimes they lead to problems with controlling muscles. Muscular dystrophy (MD), for example, refers to a group of diseases that gradually cause muscles to weaken. MD sometimes affects the heart, eyes, brain and other organs.

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-lasting disease caused by damage to the protective coating on nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. It can cause problems with your vision, balance, muscle control, speech and other functions of the body.

  • Neurological infections happen when disease-causing viruses or bacteria invade the central nervous system. The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord, and is responsible for coordinating the body’s activities.

    Some of the most common neurological infections are encephalitis, meningitis and HIV.

  • Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nervous system. This part of the nervous system is the network that sends information from the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the body. It also carries information back to the brain. When the system is damaged, this vital information can be changed or stopped. In Guillain-Barré syndrome, for example, the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. This causes muscle weakness, tingling and sometimes loss of muscle use in part of the body (paralysis). Most people recover from Guillain-Barré syndrome, but others continue to have some weakness.

  • The body’s immune system usually defends against illness. But sometimes the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. In lupus, this damages joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. There are many types of lupus, but most often the term refers to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE can cause different problems in different people. The symptoms may be like those of other rheumatic conditions, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This makes it difficult to diagnose.

  • A stroke happens in two ways. Sometimes, the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. In other cases, a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds into the spaces around brain cells. Either way, brain cells do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive. Strokes can cause loss of muscle use in parts of the body (paralysis). A stroke may also cause problems with memory, learning and thinking. Some strokes occur when a child has an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). An AVM is a tangle of arteries and veins that develops in a baby during pregnancy. As the child grows, it changes and can cause problems.

Services We Offer

A large part of our work is doing neuropsychological evaluations, both for children who are inpatients and those who visit our outpatient clinic. Our other services depend on whether or not your child is staying in the hospital.

  • When an injury or illness causes problems with your child’s thinking, feelings, language or behavior, they may be referred for neuropsychological evaluation. The purpose is to assess your child’s thinking skills, school performance, emotions and behavioral functioning. Based on evaluation results, we provide expert opinions and tailored treatment recommendations for school, home and the community through a follow-up appointment and a comprehensive report.

    The evaluation typically includes in-depth interviews with parents or caregivers, feedback from school officials and other healthcare providers, and formal tests of intelligence (IQ), memory, learning, attention, problem solving and academic achievement. During testing, your child will be asked to complete hands-on activities, answer questions and sometimes use a computer. You and your child may also fill in paper-and-pencil questionnaires. If needed, a speech-language pathologist will also evaluate your child on a separate day.

Outpatient Services

In addition to neuropsychological evaluations, our services for children at outpatient clinics include:

  • If your child has had a concussion or moderate traumatic brain injury, we discuss your concerns about their language, thinking skills, mood and behavior. We work as a team with doctors and other providers of the Rehabilitation Medicine Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic and the Seattle Sports Concussion Program. The specialists your child will see and the number of visits needed depends on their situation. For example, some children benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation or outpatient counseling. We make recommendations to help your child recover as much of their ability as possible. We help plan for your child’s return to school and community.

  • After a hospital stay related to conditions such as brain injury, spinal cord injury or stroke, your child may benefit from being seen in the Rehabilitation Medicine Follow-Up Clinic. A rehabilitation psychologist and/or neuropsychologist on your child’s team can advise you on services to help your child cope with their disabilities and learn in school. We can also recommend ways to deal with any emotional or behavior issues your child may have in adjusting to their illness or injury.

Inpatient Services

For children staying in the hospital at Seattle Children’s, we work as part of the rehabilitation treatment team. We help your child adjust to their illness or injury by developing coping strategies. We also assist with getting support services and going back to school. Our team works with your child, your family and, when needed, your child’s school.

In addition to neuropsychological assessments, our services for children in the hospital include:

  • We offer pain management strategies that do not need medicine. These include imagery and relaxation techniques.

  • We help your child deal with difficulties they may have with thinking, reasoning, learning and remembering. We teach them ways to improve their attention, memory and learning.

  • We teach your child and family members about changes in thinking skills, emotions and behavior related to your child’s medical condition. We also give you information about how to help your child cope.

  • We provide individual and family psychotherapy to help your child and family. Dealing with an illness or injury can take a toll on a child or teen’s emotional and mental well-being. Your child may need help coping with their illness or injury itself. They may have stress from living with a serious health problem. Our team provides help with emotions, behaviors and developing coping skills.

  • With Seattle Children’s certified teachers, we help tailor teaching to your child’s needs. When it’s time for your child to go back to school, we work closely with you and your child’s teachers to make sure the return is successful.

  • We offer support for your child’s brothers and sisters. We also support you, as your child’s parent or guardian.

Scheduling an Appointment with Rehabilitation Psychology

  • If you would like a referral to Rehabilitation Psychology, talk to your primary care provider. If you already have a referral, please call 206-987-2219 to schedule an appointment.
  • If you already have an appointment, learn more about how to prepare.
  • Learn about Rehabilitation Psychology resources, such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.

Telemedicine at Seattle Children’s

You may be offered a telehealth (virtual) appointment. Learn more.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, such as insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.

Access additional resources

Get resources for patients and families, including information on food, housing, transportation, financial assistance, mental health and more.