A clinic at the University of Colorado Boulder is helping lower-income families determine why their children have trouble learning and is assisting those families as they seek the right treatment.
In addition to helping children, the Attention, Behavior Learning (ABL) Clinic, established in 2004 by Nomita Chhabildas, a clinical faculty member in psychology, also provides graduate students in clinical psychology critical, hands-on experience.
The “Smith” family, whose real surname is not being used to protect its privacy, found help at the clinic. The family realized that its bright and charismatic son was having difficulty concentrating while in class. While he seemed joyful, “There was always a degree of frustration, irritability and anxiety … simmering below his cheerful and charming exterior,” his mother said.
“He was struggling and suffering in silence,”
After trying to pinpoint the cause of their son’s academic challenges, the Smiths contacted the ABL Clinic and found the answer: severe dyslexia.
For families like the Smiths, the ABL clinic helps children relate to their families and others around them, and gives graduate students applied practice with these children.
The ABL clinic completes a psychoanalytical assessment to identify children’s emotional, social, or educational challenges. The clinic sees children between 4 and 18 and diagnoses issues including anxiety, autism or learning disabilities.
“We do these evaluations to learn how to help them thrive, both in using their strengths, and supporting their needs,” Chhabildas said.
A diagnosis, or even just further understanding the special qualities of a child’s personality, allows the clinic, and the families of these children, to understand how to seek the support they need. With this information in hand, the ABL Clinic directs families to other resources in the Denver area.
We do these evaluations to learn how to help them thrive, both in using their strengths, and supporting their needs."
Diagnostic sessions can be prohibitively expensive for lower-income families. Through a scholarship program, however, the ABL Clinic takes some of these families for little to no cost.
The CU Boulder Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is one of only a few university programs to offer child-focused clinical experience, and under Chhabildas’ supervision, these graduate students work with the children one on one and learn how to conduct testing measures.
Rebecca Schneider, a former graduate student in the ABL Clinic who earned her master’s in psychology in 2015, explained that the program allows students increased independence “in their thinking and their interaction with families over time.”
With the real-life practice of working with children and writing reports for families, graduate students leave with a thorough understanding of these skills.
Daniel Leopold, a graduate student in clinical psychology, explains that Chhabildas has been “an exemplar of the knowledgeable, compassionate, and kind instructor I hope to become.”
Although the Smiths’ son still deals with dyslexia, the family now recognizes the difficulties that their son faces daily, and he now has the “support and understanding of his mom, teachers and an entire network of professionals” who understand him.
The Smiths said Chhabildas and her team are “like family.”
The ABL Clinic is supported by a CU Boulder Outreach Award.