Explore This Treatment Program

The clinical professionals in the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital have devoted their training, research and clinical practice to acquiring the specialized skills needed to assess children with learning disabilities, psychological disorders and developmental disorders. Our team loves working with children and has a natural ability to put them at ease.

The Department of Psychiatry at Mass General offers a depth and breadth of resources available at few other hospitals or psychiatric centers, meaning your child receives comprehensive, state-of-the-art care without leaving our campus. Services available through the MassGeneral Hospital for Children include:

  • Speech, voice and language therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Pediatric neurology services
  • Psychological and psychiatric care within the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

MassGeneral Hospital for Children also has several locations in Greater Boston. For example, we collaborate with our colleagues at the hospital's Lurie Center for Autism in Lexington, MA, to help children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disorders.

A First-of-Its-Kind Program

After publishing the book Straight Talk About Psychological Testing for Kids with her colleague Gretchen Felopulos, PhD, in 2004, Ellen Braaten, PhD, was overwhelmed by parents seeking help for their children's developmental difficulties. To address this vital and growing health care need, the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital was founded in 2008. Within a year, the program’s professional resources were doubled.

What to Expect

We have designed our clinical assessments to be a comfortable and often fascinating experience, and we find that many children enjoy the warm, one-on-one attention they receive. In addition, our professionals are adept at discussing the benefits of assessments with even the most skeptical of adolescents.

Depending on your child's particular challenge, the assessment may take a few hours, or a few days. We'll then make an appointment for a confidential parent conference at a later date to present our results and make recommendations. This appointment often takes a few hours.

Our Services

LEAP evaluations incorporate a collaborative assessment method to actively engage the patient, his or her family and the referring clinician. Following this evaluation, we make recommendations for treatment or counseling. In particular, LEAP offers the following evaluation and assessment services:

  • Neuropsychological Testing - Neuropsychological tests are specifically designed to measure psychological functions that are linked to particular brain pathways. These tests are often used to measure deficits. A complete neuropsychological assessment requires gathering and analyzing information about various aspects of your child’s development. Sources of information include observations by parents and teachers and behavior during scheduled appointments. We also administer standardized testing of intellectual, academic, language, visual-motor, memory and executive-function skills, as well as emotional functioning.
  • Parent Conferences - After testing a child and analyzing the results, a feedback session is held to review the comprehensive report, which includes recommendations and treatment strategies to help your child achieve greater success at school and at home.
  • Collaborations with Educators - As needed, we report our findings to the child's school teachers, administrators and/or therapists and discuss effective treatment strategies. Depending on the situation, we can meet with these professionals in person or via conference call.
  • In-school Observations - Sometimes gaining the clearest picture of a child's learning or emotional challenges requires observing him or her at school. We are available to spend a day (or more) in a classroom setting watching your child interact with peers and teachers, and then analyze and write a report on our findings. (Please note: A charge in addition to the cost of the neuropsychological evaluation applies to observation services. Insurance plans do not cover these services.)
  • Reevaluations - We also are available to reevaluate a child as recommended by his or her psychologist

Our Research

Research is an important component of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program's (LEAP) mission. Each clinical evaluation yields valuable information, which patient can choose to share to help further LEAP's mission. These data can be used to answer scientific questions that have implications for the patients we see and are always privacy protected to ensure anonymity.

LOGIC Study

The cornerstone of LEAP's research initiative, led by Alysa Doyle, PhD, is the Longitudinal Study of Genetic Influences on Cognition (LOGIC). This project has allowed us to build a permanent but flexible research infrastructure at LEAP, including a database to organize our enormous repository of information and a mechanism that allows patients to contribute to research.

Through this study, patients allow us to use information collected from their assessments. Patients can also fill out additional questionnaires and provide DNA for genetic analyses. The fluidity between the clinical and research realms that LOGIC represents resulted in this project winning the 2014 hospital-wide Clinical Research Day Team Award at Massachusetts General Hospital.

To date, LOGIC has collected data from over 1,000 children and adolescents. We have used this information to publish papers and garner grants from various foundations and the National Institutes of Health. The questions we are interested in answering include:

  • What factors contribute to risk for further difficulties versus resilience/positive outcomes in children with learning and emotional concerns?
    • How does neuropsychological functioning play a role in risk and resilience?
    • Does neuropsychological functioning contribute to social, emotional and behavioral problems?
    • Does social functioning contribute to emotional and behavioral problems?
  • What are the patterns of overlapping and distinct neuropsychological impairments across different learning and emotional disorders?
  • Can we capitalize on discoveries in the field of genetics to help future generations of patients?
    • Can emerging genetic information contribute to better models of how neuropsychological impairment and psychopathology develop?
    • Can understanding genetics help us better identify and support children and adolescents at risk for further difficulties?

This research infrastructure has also allowed us to develop collaborations across the hospital, including:

  • Understanding neuropsychological functioning in children with pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis
  • Developing a new measure to assess processing speed difficulties in youth

Research Plans

Our team aims to grow the baseline sample of LOGIC to data from 3,000 youth. A data set of this size with information about genetics, neuropsychology, learning and emotional problems will allow us to answer the questions above and learn more about conditions like autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and psychosis.

We also aim to launch the longitudinal follow-up of the LOGIC study. In this arm of the project, we will meet with youth enrolled in the study over time. This follow-up will allow us to learn more about why some children do well while others continue to struggle. Understanding different trajectories should also create new opportunities for early identification of those at risk.

Finally, we are using our database to train a new generation of clinical researchers. The Fellows who rotate through LEAP can develop or contribute to research projects relevant to the LEAP population. Papers currently under development include understanding sensory processing and social difficulties across a range of conditions.


Staff Psychologists

  • Michael Capawana, PhD
  • Cara Cordeaux, PhD
  • Gina Forchelli, PhD, NCSP
  • Jennifer A. Murphy, PhD
  • Kaycee Reese, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Carolyn Cassill, PhD
  • Agnes Chung, PhD
  • Charles Cederberg, PhD

Administrative Staff

  • Megan Murray, Administrative Staff Assistant
  • Kylie Patrick, Administrative & Psychometrician
  • Manuela Quintero Balbin, Psychometrician

Media & Publications

See publications

Ellen Braaten, PhD

Selected publications:
  • Cook N, Braaten EB, Surman C. Clinical and functional correlates of processing speed in pediatric attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Child Neuropsychol 2018; 24(5): 598-616.
  • Doyle AE, Vuijk PJ, Doty ND, McGrath LM, Willoughby BL, O’Donnell EH, Wilson HK, Colvin M, Toner DC, Hudson KE, Blais JE, Ditmars HL, Faraone SV, Seidman LJ, Braaten, EB.  Cross-disorder cognitive impairments in youth referred for neuropsychiatric evaluation. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 2018; 24(1): 91-103.
  • Ptacek R, Weissenberger S, Braaten EB, Klicperova-Baker M, Goetz M, Raboch J, Vnukova M, Stefano GB. The relation between time perception and ADHD: Findings and clinical implications. Medical Science Monitor 2019; 25:3918-3924.
  • Cook NE, Braaten EB, Vuijk PJ, Lee BA, Samkavitz AR, Doyle AE, Surman CBH. Slow processing speed and sluggish cognitive tempo in pediatric attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence for differentiation of functional correlates. Child Psychiatry & Human Development. (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-019-00904-6.
  • Vuijk PV, McGuinness PS, O’Keefe S, Lee BA, Ditmars HL, Samkavitz AR, Lind HS, Braaten EB, Doyle AE. Characteristics of child psychiatric outpatients at highest risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, (In press).
  • Braaten EB, Ward AK, Forchelli G, Vuijk PJ, Cook NE, McGuinness P, Doyle AE. Characteristics of child psychiatric outpatients with slow processing speed and potential mechanisms of academic impact. Euro Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2020; doi: 10.1007/s00787-019-01455-w
  • Vnukova M. Ptacek R, Dechterenko F, Weissenberger S, Ptackova H, Braaten E, Raboch J, Anders M, Klicperova-Baker M, Goetz M. Prevalence of ADHD Symptomatology in Adult Population in the Czech Republic-A National Study. J Atten Disorders 2020 https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1087054720934042 
  • Weissenberger S, Děchtěrenko F, Klicperova-Baker M, Vnukova M, Zimbardo PG, Raboch J, Anders M, Braaten EB, Ptacek R. ADHD Symptoms in Adults and Time Perspectives - Findings From a Czech National Sample. Front Psychol. 2020;11:950. Published 2020 May 28. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00950
  • Forchelli, GA, Colvin, M, Vuijk, PJ, Dews, A, Ward, AK, Doyle, AE, & Braaten, EB. What is a processing speed weakness? Importance of cognitive ability when defining processing speed in a child psychiatric population. Child Neuropsychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/09297049.2021.1972957
Selected books:
  • Braaten EB. (2011). How to find the right mental health care for your child. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association Press.
  • Braaten EB and Willoughby B. (2013).  Bright kids who can’t keep up:  How to help your child overcome slow processing speed and succeed in a fast-paced world.  New York: Guilford Press.
  • Braaten EB.  (Ed.). (2018). The Sage encyclopedia of intellectual and developmental disorders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Wilson, HK & Braaten EB (Ed.). (2019). Massachusetts General Hospital Guide to Learning Disabilities: Assessing Learning Needs of Children and Adolescents. Cham, Switzerland: Humana Press.
 
Recent material for the General Public:
  • 2021   How to Support Children with Language Processing Disorders: A Parents’ Guide    Author    Additude Magazine
  • 2021   How Will We Know if the Covid Pandemic is Really Over? And How Will We Feel When It Is?  Author   THINK, NBC News
  • 2021   How to Support Children with Language Processing Disorders: A Parents’ Guide    Author  Additude Magazine
  • 2021   The role of slow processing speed in language disorders and ADHD       Interviewee   ADHD Focus Podcast

Molly Colvin, PhD

Selected Publications:
  • Colvin MK, Stern TA: Diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Clin Psychiatry, 2015; 76(9): e1148.
  • Colvin MK, Marinsek NL, Miller MB, Gazzaniga MS: Split-brain cases. In: Velmans M, Schneider S. (Eds.) The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness (2nd Ed), 2017: 634-647.
  • Colvin MK, Poysky J, Kinnett K, Damiani M, Gibbons M, Hoskin J, Moreland S, Trout CJ, Weidner N: Psychosocial management of the patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Pediatrics, 2018 Oct; 142 (Suppl 2): S99-S109.
  • Colvin MK, Sherman JC: Hemispheric asymmetries. In: Braaten E, (Ed.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intellectual and Developmental Disorders, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications; 2018: 749-453.
  • Sherman JC, Colvin MK: Dyslexia. In: Braaten E, (Ed.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intellectual and Developmental Disorders, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications; 2018: 455-459.
  • O’Donnell E, Colvin MK: Disorders of Written Expression. In: E. Braaten and K. Wilson (Eds.) The Massachusetts General Hospital Guide to Learning Disabilities: Assessing Learning Needs of Children and Adolescents, Cham, Switzerland, Springer Nature; 2018: 59-78.
  • Colvin MK, Sherman JC: Considering learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when assessing for neurodegenerative disease. Neurology: Clin Practice, 2019; doi: 10.1212/CPJ.0000000000000799.
  • Colvin MK, Erwin S, Alluri P, Laffer A, Pasquariello K, Williams K: Cognitive, graphomotor, and psychosocial challenges in pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS). J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci, 2020; doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.200300065.
  • Colvin MK, Reesman J, Glen T. The impact of COVID-19 related educational disruption on children and adolescents: An interim data summary and commentary on ten considerations for neuropsychological practice. 2021, The Clinical Neuropsychologist.
  • Colvin MK, Forchelli GA, Reese KL, Capawana MR, Murphy JA, Beery CS, Doyle AE, O’Keefe SM, Braaten EB: Neuropsychology consultation to identify learning disorders in children and adolescents: A proposal based on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. In press, Child Neuropsychology.
Presentations
  • 2017  Persistent ADHD and executive dysfunction in a 9-year-old girl with sudden-onset OCD following infection, Pediatric Grand Rounds at National Academy of Neuropsychology Annual Meeting, Boston, MA
  • 2019  Thoughts, Feelings, Action! Understanding Psychosocial Functioning in OCD and Tic Disorders through Neuropsychological Evaluations / American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL
  • 2019  Psychosocial Care in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, American Academy of Pediatrics CME course 
  • 2019  Psychosocial Standards of Care in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, European Neuromuscular Conference Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2021  Understanding psychosocial functioning in tic disorders through neuropsychological evaluation, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA (virtual due to COVID-19)
  • 2021  Dystrophinopathy and the Brain (conference co-chair), Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) Clinician Meeting, New York, NY
  • 2021  How to account for the impact of COVID-19 in the assessment of learning disabilities, 6th Annual Pacific Rim Conference (Mid-Year Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society) Melbourne, Australia (virtual due to COVID-19)
  • 2021  Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Surge of Learning and School- Related Concerns in Children and Adolescents, American Psychological Association (APA) 
Media

Gina Forchelli

Selected Publications:
  • Forchelli, G.A., Vuijk, P.J., Colvin, M., Dews, A., Doyle, A.E., & Braaten, E. B. (2021). What is processing speed weakness? Importance of normative and relative weakness in processing speed in outpatient pediatric population. Child Neuropsychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/09297049.2021.1972957
  • Braaten EB, Ward AK, Forchelli G, Vuijk P.J., Cook N.E., McGuinness P., Lee B.A., Samkavitz A., Lind, H., O'Keefe S.M., and Doyle A.E. (2020). Characteristics of child psychiatric outpatients with slow processing speed and potential mechanisms of academic impact. European Child Adolescent Psychiatry. PMID: 31980930.

Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Information
The Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) within the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) seeks candidates annually for a two-year, full-time post-doctoral fellowship in pediatric neuropsychology. 
 
LEAP provides outpatient neuropsychological evaluations to children and adolescents ages 2 to 22 years. We specialize in the assessment of neurodevelopmental, psychiatric, and learning difficulties, emphasizing a collaborative approach that engages the child, family, and referring provider. Referral populations include but are not limited to those referred from pediatricians, child psychiatrists and psychologists, and child neurologists.
 
Fellows receive clinical training in assessment and the provision of feedback to schools, parents, and referring physicians. There are extensive didactic opportunities, such that fellowships can be tailored to conform with Houston Conference/Division 40 training requirements to support eventual board certification (ABPP) in clinical neuropsychology. While clinical care and training will be the primary responsibilities, LEAP has a well-developed and integrated clinical research program. Postdoctoral fellows will have the opportunity to collaborate on research projects without the need to secure their own research funding. Fellows also have the opportunity to provide tiered training and supervision to clinical interns and psychometrists. Fellows hold clinical appointments in the MGH Department of Psychiatry and academic appointments in the Harvard Medical School. Salary is competitive and fellows are provided with standard benefits package and vacation.  MGH is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer.
 
Applicants should have a doctoral degree from an APA/CPA-approved program in psychology, preferably in Clinical Psychology, although applicants from other programs will be accepted. Successful applicants will have prior experience in assessment and working with children/adolescents. Completion of the doctoral degree and an APA/CPA-approved predoctoral internship are required before the fellowship start date. 

Application and supporting materials, include:
  1. A cover letter addressing goodness of fit
  2. A certified doctoral transcript
  3. Two sample assessment reports
  4. CV
  5. Three professional references

Documentation should be directly emailed to: Dr. Gina Forchelli, PhD, NCSP, GFORCHELLI@mgh.harvard.edu.

Internship

coming soon 

Funding

We are grateful for the funding that has allowed us to grow our research program. We are particularly indebted to the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT for their ongoing support, as well as to the David Judah Foundation for helping us to launch our research program and to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

If you would like to support the work of the LEAP program, please visit our giving site to make a donation.

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