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NICU-Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program: Child & Adolescent Clinic

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Research shows that high-risk neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) graduates and children with complex heart conditions are at a greater risk for neurodevelopmental issues when compared to healthy children. Many of these children experience one or more mild to severe deficits across a range of areas.

The NICU-Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program (NCNP): Child & Adolescent Clinic at Lurie Children's is one of only a few programs in the country that provides individualized care designed to help these children reach their full potential.

To ensure the highest-quality care based on your child’s developmental stage, the NCNP is comprised of two different teams – one focused on the care of infants and young children through the NICU-Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program: Early Childhood Clinic and one dedicated to the school-aged sector.


How Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Care Can Help Your Child

The NCNP works with families to: 

  • Offer developmental assessment of infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers to maximize school readiness 
  • Identify school difficulties, such as problems with reading, writing, and math 
  • Address speech and language difficulties experienced by infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and school-age children 
  • Detect feeding or nutritional problems
  • Attend to attention, behavioral, and emotional problems 
  • Provide intervention for difficulties with social relationships with peers and family members
  • Recognize challenges with task management and organization 
  • Diagnose delayed fine and gross motor skills ​

Distinguishing between normal and abnormal development in children can be a difficult task. Identifying potential problems as early as possible allows children to gain access to beneficial supports while they are young, and builds a solid foundation for later learning and future success.

Our multidisciplinary team of experts will assess and identify your child’s developmental assets and vulnerabilities. Some challenges may not emerge until later in childhood or adolescence. Our providers will work with you and your child to perform periodic assessments at key points in their development. At each NCNP evaluation, our staff will partner with you to develop an appropriate plan of support. The NCNP is committed to partnering with families to help children reach their full potential by optimizing their experiences inside and outside of school.

What to Expect

The care providers in the NCNP look forward to partnering with families to help children reach their fullest potential. Our partnership will involve a process that includes the following steps:

Step 1: The Initial Neurodevelopmental Clinic Visit

This screening visit will include: 1) the completion of several questionnaires by you and your child; 2) appointments with our specialists to assess your child for any developmental concerns that need further evaluation.

​Step 2: Follow-up Consultations

Our program coordinator will work with you to set up the testing and follow-up appointments that were recommended during your initial visit.

​Step 3: Case Conference   

After your child’s recommended follow-up consultations have been completed, the results of these evaluations will be discussed at our monthly case conference meeting with our entire clinic team. Once this conference has taken place, you will receive a phone call from one of our providers to discuss results and an updated plan. You will also receive a letter summarizing this information.

Step 4: Support in School   

If your child is currently in school or preparing to enter school, our education liaison will partner with you to share the results of the comprehensive evaluation with your child’s school. Sharing this information will help to access the educational support that your child needs. The education liaison is available to support school-aged children and travel up to 90 miles away from the hospital. If you live beyond that distance, school support may be provided through teleconference.

Step 5: Long-term follow-up   

As your child grows and develops, the NICU-Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program will provide continuous monitoring and offer age-appropriate support, follow-up screening, reevaluation, and assist with recommended treatments.

Our Neurodevelopmental Team

The NCNP offers specialized neurodevelopmental care to high-risk NICU graduates and children with complex heart conditions by providing the appropriate screening, evaluation, treatment and resources needed to ensure the best outcome possible.

Depending on your child’s needs, some of the neurodevelopmental experts that may evaluate your child include:

Pediatric Specialists

A pediatrician, pediatric cardiologist or nurse practitioner who specializes in neurodevelopmental outcomes in high-risk NICU graduates and children with complex heart conditions will assess your child’s history for factors that put them at higher risk for neurodevelopmental issues.

Kiona Y. Allen, MD

Attending Physician, Cardiology; Interim Medical Director, Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit; Medical Director, Single Ventricle Center of Excellence; Associate Medical Director, NICU-Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Amy O'Connor, DO, MSCI

Cardiac Intensivist, Cardiology

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrician

A developmental-behavioral pediatrician will evaluate your child’s developmental abilities (including physical, cognitive, communication and social development). Your child’s learning capabilities, emotional and behavioral functioning will be assessed.

Rachel K. Follmer, MD

Attending Physician, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Advanced Practice Nurses

Carrie Alden, APRN-NP

Director, Advanced Practice Providers and Nursing, Heart Center

Kaitlyn M. Cowan, APRN-NP, DNP, PNP

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Physician Assistant

Laura O'Halloran, PA-C

Physician Assistant, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Physical Therapists

A physical therapist will look at your child’s motor skills, strength, balance, coordination and endurance.

Katherine Denlinger, DPT

Kristin Leonhardt, DPT

Casey Vogel, DPT

Social Worker

A social worker will complete a psychosocial assessment and identify community resources that may address your or your child’s specific needs.

Fallon Weatherspoon, LSW

Education Liaison

An education liaison will review your child’s educational history and records along with current academic functioning to better understand your child’s educational needs. These assessments will help determine if a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation is necessary.  

Sarah Johnson

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

A pediatric neuropsychologist will evaluate your child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, including attention, memory, language, visual reasoning, and thinking speed. A child’s mood and emotional functioning can also impact how they think or complete activities. Therefore, neuropsychological evaluations will also evaluate how a child is feeling and managing any current stress and provide individualized recommendations for educational and/or psychological interventions to ensure that they have appropriate supports and services.

Clayton D. Hinkle, PhD, ABPP

Pediatric Neuropsychologist, The Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Neuropsychology Psychometrist

A psychometrist will support the neuropsychologist in conducting evaluations by administering neuropsychological tests in a standardized manner and providing behavioral observations during testing.

Pooja Parikh

Registered Nurses

Elizabeth Colla, BSN, RN, CPN

Program Coordinator

Crystal Ruiz, MS

Administrative Assistant

Sorsha Urquiza

The NCNP also refers to other specialized pediatric clinicians on an as needed basis, including, but not limited to:

Insurance Coverage

Your insurance plan may cover the services provided during the visit. Since you will be seeing multiple clinicians at one time, you may have several co-pays for the NCNP. 

Please visit luriechildrens.org/insurance for insurances in our network, or call Lurie Children’s business office at 312.227.1230 for information on insurance plans. 

Follow-up Services Close to Home

Many follow-up services (such as physical therapy or occupational therapy) can be provided at one of Lurie Children's outpatient centers around metropolitan Chicago.

Contact Us

Please contact us with questions or to schedule an appointment at NCNP@LurieChildrens.org or at 312.227.1552.​

In addition to in-person visits, we now offer telemedicine visits via video or phone. Some appointments will still require you to be seen in-person, but your physician and care team will let you know if a telemedicine appointment is available.