Episode 19 Interview with Dr. Christine Salinas

Podcast Coverart featuring a headshot of Dr. Christine Salinas

Dr. Christine Salinas, call her Dr. Christi, is a neuropsychologist. In this episode, she explains the field of neuropsychology and drops value bombs about things like Traumatic Brain Injury and learning disabilities. While her topic may be deeply scientific, Dr. Christi discusses it in a way that’s accessible to anyone.

Along with her clinic, Space Coast Neuropsychology, Dr. Christi has started a not for profit agency called Ninos Health. When she learned that over 50% of the children in Brevard County were on medicaid or health plans that didn’t provide mental health services, she decided to do something about it.

Listen to My Interview with Dr. Christine Salinas

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Links and Images from My Interview with Dr. Christine Salinas

Headshot of Dr. Christine Salinas

Space Coast Neuropsychology – https://neuropsychconcierge.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/neuropsychconcierge

Ninos Health Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ninoshealth/

Takeaways from My Interview with Dr. Christine Salinas

This episode had so many takeaways for me. I especially loved all of her information on Traumatic Brain Injuries, in particular. I have several friends and family members who have been affected by these, and her tips on what to look for concerning memory issues or emotional changes are something I’ll take into consideration in the future.

As an instructor, learning styles have always interested me. Her recommendations for creating a book report, if you’re a visual/spacial learner were fascinating. Unfortunately, school systems are not created to take into account different styles of learning, so students and parents have to serve as their own advocates to make sure that they can succeed in school.

Complete Transcript of My Interview with Dr. Christine Salinas

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Kim:                             00:01                You’re listening to Space Coast Stories, a podcast with interviews and stories from people and businesses on Florida’s Space Coast. I’m your host, Kim Shivler. Thanks for joining me.

Kim:                             00:16                Hey everybody on the Space Coast. Welcome back to Space Coast Stories. I am your host Kim Shivler and today I’ve got another exciting guest for you. I’m really excited to introduce you to Dr Christine Salinas. She’s a neuropsychologist and for those of you who think psychologist and you’re thinking about some guy with a couch, it has nothing to do with that and I’m so happy to be able to share that with you that this is something really advanced and we actually have that right here in our backyard. Welcome Doctor Salinas.

Dr. Salinas:                   00:50                Thank you so much for having me.

Kim:                             00:51                So let’s start with it. What is neuropsychology?

Dr. Salinas:                   00:55                Neuropsychology is a specialty of psychology where we specialize in how the brain works and how different conditions might affect how you think, feel, or act every day.

Kim:                             01:07                And what might some of those conditions be so people can be cluing into what does a neuropsychologist actually do?

Dr. Salinas:                   01:13                A neuropsychologist can help with the evaluation and treatment of different kinds of neurological medical conditions or psychological conditions. So it can be something in the brain, but it can also be something in the body that also impacts how you’re thinking or maybe even a treatment or medication as well. We also do focus on how people feel and how these conditions impact families or your everyday relationships.

Kim:                             01:42                So it sounds like you’re tying together a lot of what might actually be happening in the brain as well as from the mental side, how we’re feeling and pulling that together a little more holistically.

Dr. Salinas:                   01:55                Yeah, definitely. Well, I really believe in the neural developmental systems model, which is really looking at a person and the context of which they live. We don’t live by ourselves, but with friends, relationships, family within our neighborhood, you know, Space Coast, we have our own culture.

Dr. Salinas:                   02:13                And so, you know, understanding those contexts, work school also influenced the demands that we experience and how potentially these weaknesses that we might have, whether it be focusing or our memory, how they play out and how they interfere potentially with what we’re trying to accomplish.

Kim:                             02:32                And for you, you actually take this and work with children a lot here locally, correct?

Dr. Salinas:                   02:38                Yes, I work with the full lifespan, but I have been trained and have an expertise with children from infants all the way through 90 here I have really focused on seeing many children with complex neural developmental conditions. So anything from ADHD or trouble in school with their learning, like a learning disability, autism spectrum conditions. From a neurological standpoint, you know, I often see kids that have seizures. Epilepsy is one of the most common conditions from a brain perspective, but it also could be a brain injury or even something that happened perinatally when a child was born and then maybe it’s playing out later in their development, late talking or having trouble walking or even with their reading later on.

Kim:                             03:26                So if a parent definitely has a child who has a learning disability or ADHD, autism, this would be something that you would be able to help with?

Dr. Salinas:                   03:35                Yes, I can help with, you know, uh, picking up the warning signs. I do comprehensive evaluations where we can see not only you know, whether a child has a diagnosis, you know from a behavioral standpoint, do they have these characteristics that meet a certain criteria that gives you this diagnosis but also looking for strengths. So part of neuropsychology is to be able to find tune, you know, what someone’s intellectual functioning is like what their language functioning, their memory, reading academics. But more importantly it’s coming up with a roadmap, knowing what a child’s strengths are so that they can try to work around the areas of growth as I say. And then working with their schools, getting input from them.

Dr. Salinas:                   04:23                Because obviously a child might present a certain way here in the clinic and that’s not the same as, you know, out on the soccer field or in the classroom with 20 other children.

Kim:                             04:34                And different even at home. Correct.

Dr. Salinas:                   04:35                Exactly. Or what their siblings. So we want to get a sense of what is this child like in different multiple environments and then come up with a very personalized plan or roadmap so that they’re functioning better and these environments and that they’re happy while doing it.

Kim:                             04:52                And if I am a parent and I, I have a child that maybe that hasn’t been diagnosed, but it feels like something might be right, what are some things I should look for to maybe come have them evaluated?

Dr. Salinas:                   05:05                I’ll kind of speak to a few of the most common conditions. ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders. It’s about anywhere from seven to 12% of children, which actually translates to about 10,000 children in Space Coast to give you an idea.

Dr. Salinas:                   05:20                So oftentimes you’ll notice that your child is, you know, you’re just kind of having to remind them multiple times to get through a simple routine to get their homework done, focused, how organized they are. Maybe they’re kind of scattered, they’re forgetting their homework, they completed it, but it’s lost and they didn’t turn it in. So now it’s impacting their grades. Maybe they’re having trouble sitting still, they’re blurting out over others. It could impact social skills as well.

Dr. Salinas:                   05:49                Typically, we’re going to be thinking somewhere by eight years old that we’re seeing these types of symptoms. We can start to diagnose even early on in preschool years. So if you’re noticing that, you know, your child is at circle time, just, you know, very disruptive. I always say in kindergarten that the job of a kindergartner is keeping yourself in aligned and um, you know, just not hitting everybody in front of you and behind you.

Dr. Salinas:                   06:14                So these types of signs, whether they’re a good sport, when they’re playing games, um, and they can, you know, lose a board game or are in sports. So for ADHD, those would be some of the signs for autism spectrum. It is a spectrum and so there’s lots of red flags to look for. But if you have a younger child, they might have trouble with language, just maybe they’re quieter, maybe not making eye contact, playing by themselves or even when they are playing, maybe they’re not there. There’s either, um, you know, either playing on their own or they’re kind of in everyone’s face. They’re not understanding the boundaries that we kind of say what my family is actually from Spain. And I always say, you know, we have culture dictates what our cultural rules are. So, you know, I’ve lived in Boston, so you know, if you get into an elevator you have to have arm’s distance from everyone.

Dr. Salinas:                   07:10                But in Spain, you know, it’s normal to just kind of be packed in there like sardines. We have these unwritten rules that nobody tells us, but we kind of learned them. If you think that your child isn’t picking up on these social nuances, they’re not getting the jokes. They could have a milder case of autism. They might even be verbal. But again, they’re just getting bullied, not really making friends, maybe not having the same motivation to have the friends. Those would be definitely some red flags. Other things that we think of for a learning disability, for example. That’s also common would be, you know, that your child is maybe not picking up on reading. It’s taking longer. It’s laborious, they’re getting frustrated. Maybe they’re even becoming avoidant of it as a humans. I think in our society, especially in adults, you know, I’m a neuropsychologist, so we’re, we’re all very super specialized.

Dr. Salinas:                   08:02                But one of the things is I think a breeding, a culture of humility. If we see children that you know are trying to avoid things, it might be a sign that they’re telling you they don’t know. And there it’s very important that we have a home where kids and ourselves we’re modeling that we can say we don’t know. And if you’re feeling like, man, I’m just getting that math homework is just such a chore, it might be a sign of a learning disability. And not that they’re lazy or not trying or don’t care. Actually it might be just they don’t understand if their grades are dropping in school and um, you know, they’re having trouble with their spelling or just getting their ideas out onto paper, they might have actual trouble with the written expression. So, you know, I think that’s where home and school communication is so important.

Dr. Salinas:                   08:53                And I think in general, if you think something’s not right with your child, parents usually know. And I think it’s important that if you feel that you’re not being heard from whoever it is, you know, whether it’s a friend, a pediatrician, school personnel, that you can get objective evaluations about that. And I often time do diagnose children, you know, many years after and you know, the kind of looking retrospectively the parents did see warning signs earlier on. So I’m a big proponent for early intervention. The earlier we can identify problems, obviously everybody, it goes a lot smoother. We have interventions that we are optimized and can lead to a better outcome, but also it’s usually less time intensive for the treatment and you could see the outcomes faster. And the other thing from a pediatric standpoint is if you do have any of these conditions that I kind of mentioned, obviously that’s going to have a big impact on the parents and the child.

Dr. Salinas:                   09:56                Children could lose their self esteem. They basically don’t want to go to school. They could start to get pretty anxious or even depressed. And so believe it or not, anxiety can start and children that are seven years old and uh, we can see that children that then become adults actually starts to show these signs. And first and second grade, oftentimes it’s not just psychological or emotional, it’s actually the root cause is something cognitive or what their learning style. So if we can identify that we can then prevent, you know, a long lasting emotional consequences too. So by intervening early, particularly with a child who maybe has a slight learning disability, you can overcome that and then they can catch up with their peers. And exactly. That’s the goal. That’s why I, you know, started working with pediatrics because I, I really believe that they’ll have a better prognosis when they become teenagers and adults.

Kim:                             10:54                I think that’s a fabulous way to look at it to go ahead and let’s get that help initially. And you mentioned something that I don’t know that all parents understand and, and that’s maybe they have a different type of learning style and if you can identify that perhaps you can work with them to either adjust or have the teacher adjust because we don’t all learn the same way.

Dr. Salinas:                   11:19                Right, exactly. Um, you know, I think that that is the benefit of objective testing. If you know that your strengths are actually more visual, spacial or nonverbal, and maybe you are a little bit more introverted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you, you know, have autism spectrum or Asperger, it’s important that we don’t just take one symptom and label it as well. It might actually be that there’s a lot of strengths behind that. And this person would be an amazing engineer and an amazing graphic designer, amazing at, you know, a lot of these visual spatial tools or even building mechanics, building with these airplanes and even space x.

Dr. Salinas:                   12:01                And so I think knowing your strengths, especially if you know them when you’re young, helps you know how best you learn, how best you should study. And it’s not always the way that you’re being taught, but when you’re then at home, if you have to do that book report instead of making a linear outline, maybe you can draw your own icons for the sequence of the story as a blueprint for yourself and then number it, and then write your book report. And so just thinking outside the box and thinking whether you’re more verbal or nonverbal learner or you know, maybe your strengths are in language and you have trouble with your memory. There’s ways then that you can have tools so that you can be successful. Absolutely. And it’s so nice to be able to identify that, you know, we don’t all have to get there the same direction and that by identifying or by finding out how it works best for you, you’ve got a chance for much more success in school, in life.

Kim:                             13:07                Because I think a lot of times in schools and know you mentioned that the introverts and we almost, we so reward everyone who’s an extrovert or gregarious, etc. And some of those really quiet people. My sister was one, was something wrong with them. Nothing was wrong with her. She just was very shy, very quiet. I spoke for her until she was four years old, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her. So it’s one of those, I think if you can identify that and understand there’s a strength to that they could help you get through all the rest of your school year much more successfully.

Dr. Salinas:                   13:46                Oh definitely. Uh, that I could tell you that that would probably be a very important and employment settings or relationships versus, um, potentially someone that’s very verbal but impulsive at the, they’re trying to retract a lot of the words that they just said.

Dr. Salinas:                   14:01                So, you know, it could be a very good coping strategy. Sometimes, you know, silence and just a deep breathing is, is the best thing we could do.

Kim:                             14:10                Absolutely. Listening and thinking about what you’re going to say before you say it is a real skill. Yes, definitely. I don’t always have it, but it is a real, so let’s talk about just a couple more things. When I did want to hit on something that we hear a lot sensationally but we wanted to bring it down to reality and that’s TBIs or traumatic brain injuries. We hear so much about this when it comes to the NFL and these kinds of things. What’s the reality of what we should be concerned about and what should be treated as opposed to something that we’re not scared of. All address the pediatric and then I’ll dress a traumatic brain injury as a whole.

Dr. Salinas:                   14:55                Anybody that hit their head and had symptoms, whether that’s physiological, it could be headache, dizziness, feeling confused might be a cognitive symptom. Trouble focusing trouble with their memory could be emotional changes in your mood, mood swings, and it could be also a physiological from an energy standpoint, trouble with sleep and things like that. Any of these types of symptoms, it sounds like then you’ve had a head injury, you should be checked out, go to your local physician, hopefully come to a neuropsychologist if you’re, if this is a ongoing or you’re not getting managed for your care. But from a pediatric standpoint, for sports concussion particular, I have a passion about sports concussion. I was a college basketball player. Definitely sports have more pros than cons. And I would say if you’re considering whether you’re, you know, it’s the new year, your child should, you know, get enrolled with one of these sports teams locally.

Dr. Salinas:                   15:55                I’d say go ahead and do it within reason and manage. Most people that have a concussion get better within a couple weeks, 90% or more. What’s becomes very important as the education first, the prevention first. We want to prevent these concussions from happening, have appropriate helmet, use appropriate when you’re practicing the types of what the coaches drills are. And then after prevention it’s actually being managed and having the right education so that you know what you should be doing and the time not going out into the dark room and staying away. Isolating yourself from everyone. We know the appropriate type of rest is important, but we know if we have too much rest we still need some exertion or even cognitive exertion to also help. So this is where you know, going to someone like a sports concussion program can give you tools to know what type of concussion are you still having symptoms and most importantly what you should do.

Dr. Salinas:                   16:57                So you can be managed within a short amount of time from that injury. And then hopefully then you have less lingering symptoms over time. And this area here, you know, we do have, you know, many people that have been in a car accident or have had a fall and they might have experienced a concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury or it could be even moderate to severe and this person, this individual might have some issues with focusing or memory. Those are kind of the most common symptoms. The other thing is a processing speed. I often say, you know, something like a land line versus 5g just not dialing up as fast as you used to. It’s taking you longer to get things done or so those are typically the most common things. If you feel that those things are happening, you could definitely benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation.

Dr. Salinas:                   17:53                Oftentimes I see people here in the clinic for that. That’s something that I think is important, not only from a identify what are the areas that you’re struggling with, but most importantly what to do about them and, and to also help, for example, maybe family members understand so that they can gain insight and awareness that this is something not in your head as people say. But you know, literally is part of your brain and at the recovery phase. And that’s true. Even if you were not diagnosed with a concussion, if you have those ongoing symptoms, it would be good to see someone like you to, to really explore that. This is not just imagined. It really can be physiological. Yeah. I think, you know, often times somebody had a head injury and maybe they didn’t quite get the appropriate education or management or they didn’t seek it at the time, didn’t think that they needed help.

Dr. Salinas:                   18:53                And then later they start to notice these things and they put two and two together and realize, oh, that was related to this incident that occurred. And oftentimes these milder two traumatic brain injuries do go. You know, so people are struggling in silence with them and it’s very important that you get help and identify that this is something that’s going on. Because obviously patients, what my experience has been is that they haven’t been heard or they have higher degree of insight, an awareness of the changes that have happened and other people are not quite noticing them. And then this becomes a negative feedback loop for them at work or in their home with their family. Their family is, you know, noticing that maybe they’re just a little bit more agitated or frustrated but not really tying that to a true memory issue or an attention problem.

Dr. Salinas:                   19:49                And so that person then becomes so overwhelmed by that that again, anxiety or kind of helplessness or depression can ensue. And so again, that’s where that early intervention is critical.

Kim:                             20:02                I very much appreciate all this information. It’s so valuable. Before we wrap up, you know, one other really exciting thing I’d like you to share with us and that’s a nonprofit that you’ve created.

Dr. Salinas:                   20:13                Yes. So it’s called Nino’s health. And um, I’ve, for a long time, probably most of my life I’ve been very passionate about healthcare disparities in the United States and I’ve done most of my training and work in Florida and Medicaid has been reduced in terms of the services and expansion for care for children. And for those that don’t speak Spanish, Nino’s health is basically “children’s health”. And I used to work at Florida hospital for many years and served probably about percent of our patients were Medicaid.

Dr. Salinas:                   20:49                And what happened is it restricted the mental health services that could be delivered even at a major hospital unless children were referred for brain surgery or something where that was medically necessary. Would I be able to see them? When I moved, uh, fast forward to Brevard County, I realized I was not able to serve CMS patients, which are basically title 19 children that have chronic medical conditions. So they might have epilepsy, brain tumors, cancer, known over 50% of them to have comorbid ADHD, learning disabilities and cognitive issues don’t have access to my services. And you know, I thought this isn’t right. And you know, I opened my practice, I talked to all the patients, I, you know, took all the calls the first year I was committed to learn what’s on the minds and what are the struggles of Space Coast families. And that’s how I learned that over 50% of the patients that call my practice Space Coast Neuropsychology Center don’t have the funding to be able to be seen because they’re Medicaid patients. And I felt that it was my commitment to give back, to start a non for profit and leverage the community that we have to take care of one another.

Dr. Salinas:                   22:11                Every child that has significant medical or even ADHD and autism should be getting identified and having access to early intervention as well. And again, uh, we know that that’s how they’re going to have the best outcome. And so Nino’s Health, uh, we have a board, we’re planning some very exciting events coming up. We had our first grand opening in October. I was invited to do a part of pop up and, uh, to share the story of Nino’s Health and that 50% of children and Brevard have Medicaid or state or government insurance that does not provide these services. So we have a clinic here, we’re going to be having occupational therapy as well.

Dr. Salinas:                   23:00                And I’m also a leveraging some of my relationships with some physicians across central Florida to think about a concussion clinic and a neurodevelopmental clinic for the Space Coast.

Kim:                             23:13                Thank you so much for coming on the show. Tell everyone how they can get in touch with you.

Kim:                   23:18                Since the recording of this episode, Dr. Salinas has some exciting new contact information and rebranding. You can find her on Facebook at: Dr. Christi Salinas, Neuropsychology Concierge, and Ninos Health. You can find her on the Internet at https://neuropsychconcierge.com and https://ninoshealth.org. You can also call Dr. Christi at (321) 373-1303. She is happy to talk with you and see how she can help.

Kim:                             23:59                And as always, all of those links will be in the show notes. You can find them at https://spacecoaststories.com I look forward to seeing you next time where I’ll interview someone else. Interesting on Florida’s Space Coast

Kim:                             24:12                Join us next time for another episode of Space Coast Stories. You can find the show notes and other information at SpaceCoastStories.com. The views of the guests on this show are their own and don’t necessarily represent the views of the show owners, host or company. Thanks for listening to Space Coast Stories.

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