Compassionate Care for Kids Who Think and Learn Differently

Dr Laura Kentworthy

Growing up, Lauren Kenworthy, Ph.D., imagined being a child psychologist one day. She kept a diary to remember what it was like to be a kid. She felt the adults around her didn’t understand. Her empathy informs the care she provides as chief of Neuropsychology and director of our Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Kenworthy thinks of psychology as a tool to support patients with their underlying cognitive strengths and challenges and improve their lives.

Years ago she treated a 7-year-old patient who refused to write in school. He had an extensive vocabulary and excelled at math, but teachers labeled him stubborn and uncooperative. “We discovered he had cognitive challenges around executive functioning and fine motor skills,” Dr. Kenworthy says. “Writing was difficult in ways that his teacher and parents didn’t recognize. Explaining this to them shifted the dynamic and helped get him the right support. That child grew up to be a math professor who now helps many others.”

In 2022, the U.S. National Institutes of Health named Children’s National as one of its nine Autism Centers of Excellence, a testament to Dr. Kenworthy’s leadership. “We want to put children, especially neurodiverse (neurologically different) kids, on the best possible trajectory for their development as well as their mental and physical health.”

A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.