When children begin to struggle at home, in school, or in social settings, their parents typically jump online seeking answers but can quickly become frustrated with the onslaught of psychological jargon about neurodevelopmental disorders, potential co-existing emotional issues, and the best way to find professional help for their kids.
Karen Wilson, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and credentialed health service provider, has experienced many families’ frustrations firsthand as an academic researcher, neuropsychologist, and owner of West LA Neuropsychology, PC, a clinic that specializes in the neuropsychological assessment of children and adults.
“Over the past 10 years, I have seen the disconnect between research, the application of that research, and the dissemination of information to those who need it,” said Wilson, who serves as chair of CSUDH’s Department of Psychology. “Parents whose children struggle with neurodevelopmental issues need the information that we teach in our developmental psychology, and child psychology and assessment classes. They need information about evidence-based interventions, but most are not going to read peer-reviewed journals. So, my mission is to educate and disseminate information so that families, educators, and communities are better informed.”
To better deliver that information to parents, Wilson has created ChildNEXUS.com, a new web portal that addresses the concerns of parents’ seeking help for their children and adolescents. Currently in beta form, the website also assists families in making informed decisions when seeking mental health and educational services for their children, and an easy to navigate way for them to start the process online.
“There are a lot of sites for attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and dyslexia, but it’s hard to get started if you don’t know what your child is struggling with. So we have made our online platform multi-disciplinary, both in content and among our child service providers,” said Wilson. “Today, we know that you can’t look at child development just from a psychologist’s perspective. A lot of kids are struggling with multiple issues—for example, it’s not just dyslexia; it’s dyslexia with depression, or ADHD with anxiety.”
ChildNEXUS’ list of providers are highly respected and thoroughly vetted clinicians, according to Wilson, with years of experience assessing, treating, and supporting children and adolescents. Some also contribute informational content, such as Elizabeth Laugeson, a leading researcher on autism and social functioning and founder and director of the UCLA PEERS Clinic, who penned the piece “Bully Proofing Strategies for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Social Challenges.”
Wilson’s students have also written articles for ChildNEXUS.com, including Angelica Rivera, a clinical psychology graduate student who will graduate in spring 2019 with a Master of Arts in Psychology.
Rivera authored the article, “Bond, Learn and Be Active with Your Child,” and she contributed to the article, “8 Ways Teenagers Suffer When They Don’t Get Enough Sleep,” which she repurposed from her thesis research on sleep and sleep disturbance and how it impacts cognitive-emotional functioning.
“My goal with the article was to try to get the information out to parents in a way that could be easily absorbed and used because there are a lot of emotions that come with mental health services in regards to family and children, and I believe that the terminology is one of the most difficult parts to understand,” said Rivera.
A student researcher in Wilson’s lab, Rivera also worked on the development of the website to help determine what kind of topics users were interested in. “While drafting the article, I tended to focus on the researcher in some parts and the consumer in others. I wanted to find the in-between so it would make sense for parents, and so they could better connect the information with other articles on the site.”
After graduating from CSUDH, Rivera plans to become licensed in California to practice therapy and work with children, from birth to 5 years old. She will then move to Texas and pursue Ph.D. in education, with the ultimate goal of becoming a college professor. She is also interested in group relations and the study of group dynamics.
Rivera also hopes to contribute more content to ChildNEXUS as Wilson and her team continue to collect data and make tweaks in preparation for the website’s formal launch, slated for fall 2019.
“We are getting a lot of great feedback and our provider membership is growing. We’re fine-tuning the site to make sure it’s useful for parents, educators, and providers before we launch,” said Wilson. “That process is dynamic and will likely continue post-launch to meet the needs of parents and professionals.”