In 2001, Dr. Souweidane performed shunt surgery on a child born with spastic quadriplegia, the most severe form of cerebral palsy. Now 15, with limited physical ability and verbal skills, the boy recently underwent a neuropsychological evaluation with Dr. Jessica Spat-Lemus of the Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatric Brain and Spine Center. After the first evaluation session, his mother provided the following reflection.
"I have had time recently to reflect on the unique talents of Dr. Jessica Spat-Lemus at Weill Cornell Medicine. I watched in utter amazement as she opened doors into my son’s abilities in a refreshingly unique manner that came as a pleasant shock to my husband and me.
"Dr. Spat-Lemus possesses the unusual combination of professionalism, clarity that comes with intelligence, and core intuitive abilities/desire to connect with my son in a manner that I have never witnessed in a child psychologist working with my son.
"With her stamina, focus, enthusiasm, and, well, 'coolness,' Dr. Spat-Lemus reminded me of some of my son’s most dynamic teachers.
"As parent of a child with special needs, it hasn’t been easy dealing with the many types of people who have low expectations and/or trivialize my son — the most insulting for me has been enduring alleged professionals who “pretend educate” and/or speak to him in baby talk.
"Before the appointment, my son asked repeatedly 'What is a neuropsych evaluation?' 'Are they going to do blood work?' To calm him down, we told him that it was kind of like a career counseling session to find out what he wanted to do in life, and to identify the ways to reach his goals. Within 10 minutes, we realized that this doctor is here to prove that children with disabilities have a place as contributors to their society in meaningful ways.
"During the four-hour interview, I experienced great happiness/relief to know that there is finally someone from her field who can reach my son — and then I felt bad for the children who don’t have the privilege of this kind of access.
"I strongly recommend that a meeting with Dr. Jessica Spat-Lemus should be a mandatory part of testing for our special needs children, as she has the talent to open up opportunity for the future of those who represent our most vulnerable population."