Since 1997, Rush Neurobehavioral Center (RNBC) has been assessing children with brain-based disabilities, with an emphasis on social-emotional learning impairments, and creating treatment plans that build on and celebrate each child’s strengths and produce results. Time and again we have seen children, once dismissed as lazy or badly behaved, build on their strengths and achieve their full potential.
Over the past 14 years, RNBC has worked directly with more than 10,000 children and helped them overcome the challenges presented by such problems as Tourette’s syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and language-based and non-verbal learning disabilities. Their educational programs through local schools have reached an additional 70,000 children.
The thoroughness and accuracy of RNBC’s assessments, the success of our treatment programs, the effectiveness of our educational programs, and the importance of our research are nationally acknowledged.
RNBC excels in treating children with social-emotional learning difficulties—recognizing, processing, and responding to the non-verbal cues that make up nearly 80% of the information available in human interactions. “We find out what’s blocking a child’s success and sculpt an environment at home, at school, and socially where a child is going to blossom,” says Dr. Meryl Lipton, Medical Director of RNBC. “Our work is about creating a process within a child. It’s not getting an 'A' that matters; it’s learning to use your abilities in pursuit of a goal.”
Children who have had problems academically or socially may have lived with enormous frustration and unhappiness. For that reason, RNBC also provides psychological counseling. “A child makes better life choices when they’re not on the basis of shame, hiding, or avoidance,” says Dr. Lipton.
Essentially, RNBC works to reveal the true nature of the child, which has been obscured by the child’s problems. “Parents come to us initially so overwhelmed by the impact of what their child is struggling with, that when I ask them about their children’s strengths, they sometimes can’t name one. But every person has strengths. By building on them we end up with children with a solid basis for self-esteem. And parents who can look at their child and be thrilled that they have that child.”
For additional information about Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, to set up an interview or to solicit an expert opinion, please contact Clark McKown, RNBC Executive Director, via email to Clark_McKown@rush.edu or by calling (847) 763-7957.
RNBC Quick Facts
Executive Director: Clark McKown, PhD
Dr. Meryl Lipton, Medical Director
Dr. Georgia Bozeday, Education Director
Dr. Nicole Russo-Ponsaran, Associate Research Director
Mission: Rush NeuroBehavioral Center serves the medical, psychological and educational needs of children with neurobehavioral issues with a special emphasis on social-emotional learning impairments.
Vision: Rush NeuroBehavioral Center provides the best care to children, teens, or young adults who have difficulty forming relationships, regulating behavior, or functioning effectively because of differences in the way their brains process information. Through research, clinical practice, and education, we continually strive to enhance our ability to understand children’s needs, build on their strengths, and help them achieve their full potential.
Affiliation: Rush University Medical Center, Department of Behavioral Sciences
Patients: More than 10,000 children assessed and treated in clinical setting
Students: More than 70,000 children reached through education programs
Location: 4711 Golf Road, Suite 1100, Skokie, Illinois 60076
Phone: (847) 933-9339
The Challenges Kids Face
At Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, we treat children with brain-based problems that arise when a child has trouble processing certain kinds of information or because of the way their brain works. These problems can cause social, emotional, academic, and behavioral difficulties. Some of the issues that we frequently uncover in the assessment process include:
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Children with Autism are known to have trouble relating to people or interacting with them, and may appear uninterested in other people altogether. Autistic children typically have language delays. Often an autistic child will have a repertoire of ritualistic movements—arm-flapping, body-rocking, or shifting weight from foot to foot. This is called stereotypic behavior and is usually made worse when a child is tired or under stress.
The term Autism Spectrum was developed because many children show these behaviors with varying degrees of severity. These particularly include children with normal-to-above-average intelligence, who may appear to lack social interest or not understand the feelings of others.
Children who have some social behaviors characteristic of Autism, but possess early language skills, may have Asperger’s Syndrome. Behaviors associated with Asperger’s, such as obsessive interest in a particular subject or topic, the habit of carrying on long monologues on a favorite topic without noticing or caring whether the listener is interested, and a lack of ability to read non-verbal cues, can lead to social difficulties.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
A child with ADHD has a constellation of problems that can interfere with completing tasks, managing time, and interacting socially. These can include inattention, impulsiveness, distractibility, and a
lack of behavioral inhibition. Such children can seem dreamy, or blurt things out, or act without regard for the consequences of their actions.
Executive Function Disorder
The skills that allow a person to think out a plan and carry it through are diminished when a child has an executive function problem. Executive functions include planning, organization, mental flexibility, focused attention, and self-monitoring (“Am I doing what I need to be doing?”). The disorder often overlaps with ADHD, and children who have it are similarly forgetful, disorganized, or impulsive and may act or speak without thinking.
Language-Based Learning Disability
Children with Language-Based Learning Disability have difficulty processing oral or written language. They might have a hard time reading, writing or spelling. Dyslexia, which occurs when a child has trouble processing the sounds that make up words, is only one of several kinds of language-based learning problems.
Tourette’s syndrome is a movement disorder characterized by physical and vocal tics—a child may repeat a word or string of words or make a meaningless movement or gesture repeatedly. Additionally, many children with Tourette’s may have other neurobehavioral issues as well. These can include ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, behavior regulation problems, or learning difficulties.
Visual-Spatial Learning Disability
Some children have trouble processing information that they see. Their vision may be perfect, but the brain fails to register or to organize the information about faces, places, or objects that it receives. Some of these children may seem clumsy or disorganized: much of what other people notice may be virtually invisible to them.
Pertinent Biographical Information
Executive Director: Dr. Clark McKown, Ph.D.
A clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkley, Dr. McKown currently leads Rush NeuroBehavioral Center and serves as Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center.
The five research projects currently underway at RNBC constitute a program of inquiry focused on the nature, assessment, and treatment of social-emotional learning impairments in childhood.
Says Dr. McKown, “Friendship, academic success, marriage, good citizenship, life success—virtually everything parents hope for their children is influenced greatly by the child’s ability to develop healthy relationships.”
The research conducted under Dr. McKown’s direction is designed to understand how friendships work and children’s ability to form relationships, assess their social-emotional strengths and weaknesses, and intervene to improve their social development and their chances of building better social relationships.
Medical Director: Dr. Meryl Lipton, M.D., Ph.D.
Meryl Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., is a behavioral pediatric neurologist, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center, and Medical Director of Rush Neurobehavioral Center. She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota and her M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Recognized as one of the most effective practitioners for both assessment and treatment of childhood neurobehavioral problems, Dr. Lipton is also skilled in pediatric pharmacology. She continually strives to refine her methods of evaluation, treatment, and intervention based on research conducted at RNBC.
While Dr. Lipton works with children with every form of neurobehavioral disorder and academic learning disability, her particular area of expertise is in the treatment of children with social-emotional learning disorders. These are the children who have difficulty picking up on subtle, non-verbal information that constitutes much of the data we all receive in social settings—gestures, facial expressions, tones of voice. Such children struggle to take in such information, or have difficulty interpreting it, responding appropriately, or managing their own behavior.
Dr. Lipton is working to develop a set of diagnostic tools for social-emotional learning disabilities that are as accurate, easy to use, and specific as those currently used to diagnose reading and other academic learning problems.
Because social-emotional learning disabilities often go undiagnosed for a long period of time, children with these problems may become unhappy and frustrated, and have secondary symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Dr. Lipton is also adept at treating these problems.
“Children don’t choose not to make it,” says Dr. Lipton. “When a child struggles academically or socially our first effort is to find out what’s blocking success, then to create environments—at home, in school, and with friends—in which a child will thrive.”
Education Director: Georgia Bozeday, Ed.D.
Georgia Bozeday, director of our educational services team, received her doctorate in Education from National-Louis University and also serves as an adjunct professor there. With more than thirty years of experience as an educator, most recently as Assistant Superintendent at Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, IL, prior to joining RNBC, Dr. Bozeday understands how to develop programs that help teachers help students.
She focuses on Executive Function tutoring, programs, and training, addressing the issues of students’ ability to manage time, break tasks into simple steps, assemble materials or information as required, and stay on task. Not surprisingly, such organizational skills are a better predictor of academic success than I.Q.
Dr. Bozeday is deeply involved in both the presentation of seminars to teachers and trainers to address executive function issues and the direction of in-school programs designed to help children manage their time and resources efficiently, develop organizational skills, and manage their own behavior in ways that will make them more successful.
“We help children realize that the first task is to understand what is being asked of them,” says Dr. Bozeday. “The skills they develop through RNBC training—problem solving, planning, decision making, managing time and materials, and setting goals—are abilities that will serve them well in almost any context throughout life.”
Dr. Bozeday is also responsible for developing curricula and classroom materials for Executive Function programs and conducting research to determine the efficacy of the programs implemented in schools.