The recent volume Pediatric Neuropsychology: Medical Advances and Lifespan Outcomes, edited by two established leaders in the field of pediatric neuropsychology, Ida Sue Baron and Celiane Rey-Casserly, is an accessible and informative work that not only provides substantive reviews of current research on various medical disorders, but also advances a timely and underemphasized theme: that as improvements in the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of many childhood medical disorders have reduced the mortality and morbidity for these conditions, the long-term impact upon neurocognitive functioning is becoming more evident. As children with these conditions are increasingly surviving into adulthood, meeting their complex needs presents challenges for medical, educational, and vocational systems. The focus on this theme distinguishes this volume from other recent pediatric neuropsychology books, and makes it a unique and valuable resource for practitioners across settings.
The first section of the book reviews 15 neurodevelopmental and acquired medical conditions. These chapters are all well written, and concisely review both early and more recent psychological and neuropsychological research. One strength of this section is that many of these disorders have not been reviewed at length in recent neuropsychology books, so these chapters serve as key resources on understudied conditions. Examples include chapters on neonatal encephalopathy (Alex Kline, Katherine Ann Leonberger, and Ida Sue Baron), chronic kidney disease (Stephen Hooper and Arlene Gerson), and outcomes of pediatric liver disease and transplantation (Lisa Sorenson). Even chapters on disorders that have a more extensive research base such as cerebral palsy (Seth Warschausky, Jacqueline Kaufman, and Lindsey Felix), spina bifida (T. Andrew Zabel, Lisa Jacobson, and E. Mark Mahone), and traumatic brain injury (Michael Kirkwood, Robin Peterson, and Keith Owen Yeates) emphasize current research on how the decreased morbidity for these conditions affects the child's medical and educational needs, especially during the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Another strength of this section is its timeliness. The chapters uniformly cite current research literature, and several of these conditions are emerging areas of focus for pediatric neuropsychologists. For example, although the impact of congenital heart defects upon neurocognitive functioning has been investigated for many years (as reviewed by David Bellinger and Jane Newburger), cardiac neurodevelopmental programs have only recently been established at several major pediatric medical centers, and the importance of monitoring long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes has only recently been addressed in a position statement by the American Heart Association (Marino et al., 2012).
The reviews in this section also highlight research about the adult outcomes of these conditions. This is especially pertinent in chapters on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Kevin Krull and Tara Brinkman) and childhood brain tumors (Celiane Rey-Casserly), conditions that now have several decades of research on the late effects of chemotherapy and radiation. These chapters review data on how these treatments affect cognitive functioning, academic achievement, and vocational attainment in adult survivors of these diseases.
The second section of the book addresses how the increased survival of children with these conditions imposes challenges upon the education system, both in the primary and secondary grades, as well as in post-secondary settings. The chapter on the challenges of the transition to college (Lorraine Wolf and Sarah Kroesser) is a particularly strong reference, as the authors describe recent trends in the provision of educational accommodations under disability law, as well as details of the process of applying for accommodations in college, where the burden of identifying a disability shifts from school to student. Their discussion of assistive technologies is also informative, and would warrant more extensive treatment in a future edition of this volume.
The final section of the book addresses methodological considerations, such as current approaches to interpreting statistical significance tests (Brandi Weiss) and critical issues in longitudinal research including cognitive reserve and the Flynn Effect (M. Douglas Ris and Merrill Hiscock). However, the chapter that is most central to the theme of this book discusses the challenges of the transition from child to adult healthcare systems (Jane Holmes Bernstein and Celiane Rey-Casserly). These authors describe differences between the pediatric or “developmental” healthcare system, which is often child and family centered, and the adult healthcare system, which has traditionally been disease centered. The authors propose that in order to better serve the survivors of childhood medical disorders, these systems must recognize that disruptions to a child's health, even those that do not affect the brain or central nervous system directly, can alter the child's developmental trajectory and impact learning and adaptation throughout the lifespan. To best support these individuals, this developmental perspective must be acknowledged and incorporated into models of intervention and care.
The focus on this theme distinguishes this collection from other recent edited volumes, some of which overlap both in the content and also with the authors represented in this book. For example, Pediatric Neuropsychology, Second Edition: Research, Theory, and Practice (Yeates, Ris, Taylor, & Pennington, 2009) reviews many medical disorders of childhood but does not emphasize this lifespan perspective. A recent textbook that does share a lifespan focus, Principles and Practice of Lifespan Developmental Neuropsychology (Donders & Hunter, 2010), overlaps with much of the content in this book; however, Baron and Rey-Casserly focus more narrowly on conditions for which there have been recent advances in diagnosis and treatment, and provide broader reflections on the implications of these advances.
Because the content of this book is fairly selective, it will not replace introductory textbooks, and does not cover the breadth of conditions treated by pediatric practitioners. For example, there is no specific chapter on epilepsy, and common developmental disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities are not included as there have been fewer recent changes to diagnosis and treatments. However, because of its focused theme, Baron and Rey-Casserly's book provides a unique approach to examining trends in pediatric neuropsychology and their implications for neuropsychology as a whole. For any professionals who work with children with complex medical conditions, or who wish to understand the influence of these conditions upon the lifelong development of these individuals, this book will be a valuable resource.