As the former director of Lenox Hill Hospital’s Center for Attention and Learning, Dr. Kay significantly expanded testing and advocacy services for low-income children with learning disabilities.
Jamie Kay, Ph.D. ’92, knows from personal and professional experience the hurdles New York City families—especially those with low incomes—face in finding appropriate school settings for children with learning disabilities. Obtaining the right school placement typically requires expensive neuropsychological testing and legal advocacy. Lenox Hill Hospital’s Center for Attention and Learning provides those services exclusively for low-income families, and, as the center’s director for seven years, Dr. Kay set out to serve even more children.
Of course, helping people is the heart of any psychologist’s work, but Dr. Kay credits Adelphi University’s Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies with showing students what that might look like in practice. “The relationship that you build with your patient was extremely important at Derner—really understanding and empathizing,” she said, adding that it was just as crucial as the theories that informed therapeutic decisions. “I don’t think you get the combination everywhere.”
At Lenox Hill, Dr. Kay put those lessons into practice—and met her goals too. She tripled the program’s staff and went from testing about 50 children to 250 children a year. Dr. Kay found new funding sources, including the Robin Hood Foundation—New York City’s largest and arguably most prestigious poverty-fighting organization.
“I said that if we make the program Robin Hood-acceptable, then we know that we are doing very good work,” she recalled. “They are extremely demanding when it comes to metrics and keeping track of what you are doing. Within eight months we had a grant, and they renewed it every year.”
To keep those grants coming, Dr. Kay tracked the children who came through the program to show they’d been helped. Graduation rates were one metric, and the numbers were high. “Of the kids who were eligible for high school graduation, 85 percent of them graduated, and that’s great,” she said.
Last November, Dr. Kay decided it was time to move on. “I had achieved everything I wanted to achieve there, and there was no more room for expanding the program, which had been a big part of my job,” she said. Seeing a need among parents of children with learning issues, she decided to take on a consulting role to guide them through the system.
“Too often, parents receive poor advice with regard to their choices and options, such as what kind of tutoring is best, do they need a subject tutor, do they need somebody who knows about executive functioning skills,” she said.
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