Meet Sophie Foss, PhD, HI Center Neuropsychologist

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HI Hope

Sophie Foss, PhD When the Congenital Hyperinsulinism Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia contacted neuropsychologist Sophie Foss, PhD, about joining the center’s team, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I’ve been in several hospitals during my training, and there’s something special about CHOP,” says Dr. Foss, who was a predoctoral intern on the pediatric neuropsychology track at CHOP. “CHOP is very team oriented. People are warm, and there’s a collaborative spirit. That makes it stand out from other places.

“The HI Center team exemplifies that. Everyone works together to support the children and families when they are going through difficult times. I was thrilled to be able to join this cutting-edge team.”

As the center’s neuropsychologist, Dr. Foss will perform thorough evaluations of children’s and adolescents’ neurodevelopmental, behavioral and cognitive development. A child can be referred to Dr. Foss for a neuropsychological evaluation by their HI endocrinologist, nurse practitioner or the center’s psychologist, Leela Morrow, PhD. The in-depth evaluations can take anywhere from two to six hours, depending on which tests are appropriate for the child, and also incorporate standardized ratings of behavior and daily functioning from the child or adolescent themselves, parents or caregivers, and teachers.

How does their brain work?

“My role is to better understand how their brain works, to build a profile of a child’s strengths and challenges,” she says. “I’ll explain the results to parents and child and create a recommended treatment plan for helping the child overcome any needs, which can be a guide for further treatment, either at CHOP or in their home communities.”

Many of the treatment recommendations include school or community-based interventions. “A big part of the evaluation covers how kids learn, how they make sense of the world, how they think,” Dr. Foss says. The recommendations guide schools to provide education that is in synch with the child’s learning needs.

For older adolescents, recommendations include skill building to prepare the teen to maneuver adult independence while successfully managing a chronic condition. “It can be hard to move on to independence with HI, which requires constant monitoring, planning ahead and impulse control,” Dr. Foss says. “They have to remember all their doctors, for example, and made smart choices on eating. It can be a lot.”

Striking a balance

Foss says there is a fine line between awareness of a child’s deficits and using that knowledge as an excuse for underperformance or not taking responsibility for one’s actions. This holds true for the parents or the child themselves, especially older kids.

“We realize that we need to strike a balance between knowing where the challenges are and not letting the challenges be the full picture of the child,” Dr. Foss says. “I also stress what the child is good at and that they can use those strengths to get around the challenges they have.”

HI research also a draw

The HI Center’s research into neurodevelopmental issues that children with HI may experience also attracted Dr. Foss to return to Philadelphia. Earlier CHOP research revealed that many HI patients have been diagnosed with developmental delays and learning differences.

“We will be able to use clinical data on neurocognitive outcomes to develop a typical profile that can guide us on what to look for in this population of patients,” Dr. Foss says. “The more we know, the better we can monitor children to get them the help they need sooner.”


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