Rehabilitation Psychology

What is Rehabilitation Psychology?

Seattle Children’s Rehabilitation Psychology program helps young people who have problems with learning, emotions or behavior due to an injury or medical illness. Our aim is to help your child live a fuller life.

We work with babies to young adults. If you would like a rehabilitation psychology appointment for your child’s medical illness or injury, ask their healthcare provider to refer you. If you have a referral, call 206-987-2219 for an appointment.

Providers, see how to refer a patient for rehabilitation psychology services.

Why choose Seattle Children’s Rehabilitation Psychology program?

Seattle Children’s is a national leader in rehabilitation for children. Our team is part of the Rehabilitation Medicine program.

    • Our neuropsychologists are licensed psychologists focused on the relationship between the brain, learning and behavior. We are experienced in figuring out if a medical condition affects your child’s brain and the best treatment options for them.
    • Our rehabilitation psychologists have special training to assess your child’s social skills, emotions and behavior.
    • 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.
    • Our rehabilitation psychologists and neuropsychologists work closely with experts in other fields to give your child and family the best care. These include Neurosciences, Psychiatry and Rehabilitation Medicine.
    • While your child is in our hospital, we provide counseling as needed to help them cope with and adjust to an injury or illness that affects their brain.
  • Our experience with a wide range of medical conditions gives us the skills and knowledge to help your child. We have worked with children, teens and young adults with traumatic brain injuries, stroke, cerebral palsy, brain infections and many other conditions.

    We assess how your child thinks, feels and interacts with others at home and school, with friends and in the community. After a careful assessment, we give expert advice to help your child:

    • Recover as much of their ability as possible
    • Adjust to changes in how their bodies or minds work
    • Return successfully to school and their community
    • Cope with emotional or behavior issues as they adjust to their illness or injury

Conditions We Treat

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

  • The body’s immune system usually defends against illness. But sometimes the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. This may cause conditions that affect a child’s brain. Read about Seattle Children’s Inflammatory Brain Disorders Clinic.

  • Many children we see have had a traumatic brain injury or concussion. A severe head injury can harm the brain. Our team will check your child’s language and thinking skills. We recommend ways to help them recover as much function as possible and plan for their return to school and their community.

  • Cells in the brain need oxygen to survive. Brain injuries can happen when the brain does not get enough oxygen (hypoxic) or no oxygen at all (anoxic). A near-drowning event is 1 way this happens.

  • Brain tumors are growths of cells in the skull that are not normal. Many types of brain tumors affect children. Some are cancer (malignant), while others are not (benign). Read more.

  • Cerebral palsy (CP) is a general term for permanent differences in how a person moves and controls their muscles. The differences are caused by an injury to a child’s brain as it develops. The brain injury can happen before, during or after birth. CP affects a child’s strength, muscle tone and motor control

  • Neuromuscular illnesses affect the nerves and muscles. They often cause muscle weakness and may lead to problems with muscle control. For instance, muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of diseases that cause muscles to weaken over time. 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 child’s vision, balance, muscle control, speech and other functions of the body.

  • Sometimes disease-causing viruses or bacteria invade the central nervous system (CNS) and cause infections. The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord. It controls the body’s activities.

    Encephalitis, meningitis and HIV are the most common types.

  • A stroke can happen in 2 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)
    • Problems with memory, learning and thinking

Services We Offer

A large part of our work is doing neuropsychological evaluations, both for children who are staying in our hospital (inpatient) and those who visit our clinic (outpatient). We also offer a wide range of other services for hospital patients.

  • Your child may be referred for a neuropsychological evaluation if an injury or illness causes problems with their thinking, feelings, language or behavior. We assess your child’s thinking skills, school performance, emotions and behavior.

    Based on the results, we provide expert opinions and recommend treatment options to help your child at school, at home and in the community. We tell you our findings and recommendations during a follow-up appointment and in a complete report.

    The evaluation often includes:

    • In-depth interviews with parents or caregivers
    • Feedback from school officials and healthcare providers
    • Formal tests of IQ (intelligence quotient), memory, learning, attention, problem solving and academic achievement

    During testing, your child will do hands-on activities, answer questions and sometimes use a computer. You and your child may also fill in paper-and-pencil questionnaires. If needed, your child may visit a speech and language pathologist (SLP).

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 Concussion Program.

    We tailor services to your child. Some children benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation. We make recommendations to help your child recover as much of their ability as possible. We help plan for their return to school and the community.

  • After a hospital stay related to conditions such as brain injury, spinal cord injury or stroke, your child may benefit from our Rehabilitation Medicine Follow-Up Clinic.

    A rehabilitation psychologist or neuropsychologist on your child’s team can advise you about services to help your child learn in school and cope with their disabilities. We can also recommend ways to deal with emotional or behavior issues your child may have as they adjust to their illness or injury.

Inpatient Services

For children staying at Seattle Children’s Hospital, we work as part of the rehabilitation treatment team. We help your child cope and adjust to their illness or injury. 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 such as imagery and relaxation.

  • We help your child deal with problems 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 suggest ways to help your child cope.

  • We provide individual and family therapy to help your child and family. Your child may have challenges with their emotions and mental health when dealing with an injury or illness. We help your child handle their feelings and behaviors. We build your child’s ability to cope with illness or injury and related stress.

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

  • We offer support for other children in your family. We also support you, as your child’s parent or guardian.

Scheduling an Appointment with Rehabilitation Psychology

Participate in Research

You can help us answer questions about childhood health and illness and help other children in the future. Learn more about clinical trials and research studies at Seattle Children’s.

Contact Us

For more information, contact Rehabilitation Psychology at 206-987-2219. If you would like a rehabilitation neuropsychology appointment for your child’s medical illness or injury, ask their healthcare provider to refer you.

We accept referrals from providers at Seattle Children’s and in the community. Providers, see how to refer a patient.

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, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.

For Healthcare Professionals