One of Us: Dr. Katherine Falwell

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Dr. Katherine Falwell is a clinical child psychologist and the chief executive officer of Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics and Keystone Child Development Center. She lives in Ponte Vedra with her husband Breon and three children.

What services do Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics and Keystone Child Development Center provide?

Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics offers integrated healthcare by a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of 130 child psychologists, mental health counselors, social workers, behavior analysts and technicians, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, teachers, and pediatrician working in 17 specialized clinics. We focus on health and wellness, the whole child, and all issues that affect a child’s potential for success including physical, developmental, learning, behavioral and social-emotional issues. We believe that early identification, intervention and treatment are the most effective ways to maximize potential and prevent major challenges throughout a child’s life. To accomplish these goals, we offer a wide spectrum of care, including outpatient, day treatment, educational, community and home-based programs.      

 Keystone Child Development Center offers safe, nurturing and stimulating preschool and early intervention services from infancy through kindergarten. We have a minimum of two teachers in each classroom and a child development team that works with the teachers to focus on intellectual, social and behavioral success for each child. With maximum class sizes of 12, we are able to create individualized learning plans. We also offer a Before and After School Enrichment Membership Program open to all children in the community.

How did you come to focus on behavioral pediatrics?

After I completed my postdoctoral residency at the University of Florida, I became part of the faculty at University of Florida in the Department of Behavior Analysis. I became aware that Northeast Florida needed more comprehensive pediatric services than it had available at the time to meet the growing numbers of children with unique needs. I took the opportunity to open Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics in 2008 and develop my idea of collaborative, integrated healthcare. In 2013, I opened Keystone Child Development Center because I believe passionately in research that supports the importance of providing individualized instruction and support as early as possible in a young child’s life. I designed KCDC to focus on all aspects of a child – mind, body and soul – to offer children the best opportunity for success in elementary school and throughout life.

What sort of behavioral disorders does Keystone address?

We work with children from one month old to 22 years old on all types of behavioral, developmental, socio-emotional, physical and learning issues in four types of clinics: assessment clinics (Neuropsychological, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Health and Wellness and Educational and Learning), developmental clinics (Autism and Developmental, Right from the Start, Early Intervention and Day Treatment); Rehabilitative Clinics (Feeding, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language); and Treatment Clinics (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD), Disruptive Behavior and Mood).

Why is early intervention important for pediatric behavioral issues?

 All children learn and grow at different rates. These first five years of a child’s life are filled with major developmental milestones that prepare them for lifelong learning; in fact, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 5. Research confirms that getting help early can lead to the best outcomes for kids. Developmental, learning, behavioral and social-emotional issues are estimated to affect one in every six children. Because these issues are often very subtle in young children, only 20 to 30 percent are identified as needing help before kindergarten. 

What advice would you give parents who may have concerns about their children’s behavior?

Keep in mind that there is a lot of variation in how kids develop, and a broad range of behavior that’s typical and healthy (even if sometimes troublesome) as children grow up. We don’t want to overreact. But when the behaviors you worry about are seriously interfering with your child’s ability to do things that are age-appropriate, or your family’s ability to be comfortable and nurturing, it’s important to get help.

Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics developed the Right from the Start Clinic to help parents know whether their baby would benefit from early intervention to solve or alleviate any issues before they become problematic. The Right from the Start clinic is a free screening clinic for children between the ages of one month and 51/2 years old. Parents can complete a questionnaire online by clicking on the ASQ logo on our website (www.keystonebehavioral.com). The questionnaire gives us an idea of areas of a child’s development that are of concern to the child’s parents. We contact the parents after we receive their completed survey and invite them to visit Keystone for a free multidisciplinary screening evaluation to assess their child’s developmental progress. Parents will meet with clinicians from our psychology, occupational therapy, and speech language departments, as well as our pediatrician. At the end of the visit, they will receive information on how their child is doing developmentally, with suggestions to target any areas of need that have been identified.

What do you enjoy most about living on the First Coast?

Our family enjoys all aspects of coastal living. We love boating, skiing, beach combing, and biking. We love the luxury of the sun and outdoor living that Florida offers.

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