P.L.A.N. Assessment Center



The Help Group’s P.L.A.N. Assessment Center is an assessment center dedicated to providing diagnostic and developmental assessments to individuals with suspected neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Intellectual Disability), social-emotional issues (e.g., anxiety, depression, self-esteem), and learning difficulties (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics, underachievement, anxiety, low self-esteem).  Our assessments are comprehensive and are tailored to answer families’ and other professionals’ specific questions. We provide families with an understanding of a child’s overall development, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations. Our team includes experienced licensed Neuropsychologists, Clinical Psychologists, Postdoctoral Psychology Fellows, Doctoral Psychology Interns, and Doctoral Psychology Practicum Trainees who work directly with each client and family to provide individualized care.


Laurie Stephens, Ph.D., Senior Director of Autism and LGBTQ+ Programs

Dr. Stephens is a developmental psychologist who has been working with children, teens, and young adults on the autism spectrum for nearly 30 years. She currently serves as The Help Group’s Senior Director of Autism and LGBTQ+ Programs and oversees the Help Group’s PLAN Center. Previously, Dr. Stephens was the Director of Testing and Diagnostic Services at SUNY Stony Brook’s Division of Developmental Disabilities. She has been conducting Psycho-Ed and Diagnostic Testing spanning her entire career. She was one of the first psychologists to be research-level trained to administer and score the Autism Diagnostic Observations Scale (ADOS). Stephens has been instrumental in establishing a specialized diagnostic clinic for LGBTQ+ children, teens, and young adults who may suspect they have an autism spectrum disorder.


Priscilla Barajas, Ph.D., Senior Director of Psychology Training

Dr. Barajas directs and oversees the agency’s formal doctoral psychology training programs which includes an APA-accredited internship and APPIC member post-doctoral fellowship in Autism Spectrum Disorder. She provides clinical and assessment supervision to interns as well as oversees program development and evaluation projects. Dr. Barajas’ commitment to serving diverse and underserved populations is reflected in her experience in community mental health settings for over 15 years. Dr. Barajas has been involved in the PLAN Center since it was first established, providing her expertise in program development and client care.



Jamie Barstein, Ph.D., PLAN Center Coordinator, Supervising Psychologist

Dr. Barstein serves as the PLAN Center Coordinator. She has received extensive training in multidisciplinary and evidence-based assessment and treatment through her doctoral program at Northwestern University, doctoral internship at JFK Partners – the University of Colorado’s Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program, and finally her post-doctoral fellowship at The Help Group and UCLA’s Semel Institute. Dr. Barstein has expertise in the assessment of neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) throughout the lifespan and is trained in the use of evidence-based measures including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R). In addition to conducting independent assessments, Dr. Barstein supervises the autism post-doctoral fellow on their assessment cases. Dr. Barstein also works with Dr. Stephens in the specialty diagnostic clinic for LGBTQ+ children, teens, and young adults who suspect they have ASD.


Rachel Kavanaugh, Psy.D., Supervising Psychologist

Dr. Kavanaugh is a clinical and school psychologist and provides assessment supervision to doctoral interns and post-doctoral fellows. As part of The Help Group’s APA-accredited doctoral internship program, she also facilitates the psychodiagnostic seminar to interns. Dr. Kavanaugh works with children, adolescents, and young adults with neurodevelopmental, mood, and/or related disorders, including autism spectrum, learning, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, and trauma. In addition, she is trained in the use of evidence-based psychodiagnostic measures, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2), and is a certified Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT-International) therapist. Prior to becoming a supervising psychologist in The Help Group’s Department of Psychology Training, Dr. Kavanaugh completed both her doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship at The Help Group.


Megan Beardmore, Ph.D., Supervising Psychologist

As a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Dr. Beardmore has extensive training in school-based psychoeducational assessment for children in all grade levels, including preschool and post-secondary students. While on internship in a school setting in New Orleans, Dr. Beardmore served as an evaluation coordinator in determining student eligibility for special education services. Dr. Beardmore also has expertise in assessing children for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – primarily in multidisciplinary testing through Louisiana State University’s Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program, as well as postdoctoral experiences through The Help Group and UCLA’s Semel Institute. Dr. Beardmore is well-versed in using “gold-standard” ASD assessment tools including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) and other semi-structured informant-based measures.


Lidia Michel, Psy.D., Supervising Psychologist

Dr. Michel supervises predoctoral practicum trainees and interns on the assessment of children and adolescents. She completed her graduate degrees at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology- Chicago campus, and her doctoral internship at The Help Group. Her areas of expertise include bilingual assessment (Spanish), early childhood (0-5), trauma, and educational issues.



Claudia L. Kernan, PhD., Clinical Neuropsychologist

Dr. Kernan is a clinical neuropsychologist and Director of The Help Group-UCLA Neuropsychology Program. Populations with which she works include children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities, attention problems, emotional and behavioral issues, developmental disabilities, head injuries, and other neurological and medical conditions.  She received her B.A. in anthropology from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA, where she minored in developmental psychology.  Dr. Kernan completed her predoctoral internship in pediatric neuropsychology at New York University and her postdoctoral residency in clinical neuropsychology at the UCLA Semel Institute.  She is currently an active research scientist and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.   Topics on which she has published and presented at scientific conferences include traumatic brain injury and concussions, epilepsy, hormones and cognition, childhood schizophrenia, and ethnic identity and multiculturalism in school settings.

The Help Group-UCLA Neuropsychology Program was established in 1997 and began under the partnership of The Help Group and UCLA’s Medical Psychology Assessment Center. The program specializes in helping families and educational teams understand the student’s learning patterns. Our goal is to help explain what advances a child’s learning and what inhibits their development, as well as providing individualized recommendations to maximize a student’s learning potential. Neuropsychology Fellows have Doctoral Degrees in Psychology and specialize in Pediatric Neuropsychology. They work in close collaboration with and are supervised by a Licensed Neuropsychologist.


Services and Assessments


Psychoeducational Assessments measure an individual’s cognitive, academic, and social-emotional functioning in order to answer questions about diagnosis (such as ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, etc), highlight strengths, and provide treatment recommendations.

The Assessment Process

The clinician will meet with you and your child to determine your goals for the assessment, and will tailor the testing battery to answer questions about your child’s diagnosis, strengths, and needs. These assessments typically include measures of:

  • Academic ability
  • Academic achievement
  • Social-Emotional functioning
  • Executive Functioning

Common diagnoses include:

  • ADHD
  • Mood Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders (GAD, Social Anxiety)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Adjustment Disorder

Learning Assessments evaluate an individual’s academic functioning and ability and are specifically related to classroom based and standardized test based performances.

The Assessment Process

These assessments are typically less time-intensive, but will provide you with a wealth of information regarding your child’s academic achievement (the level at which they are currently functioning) and academic abilities (the level at which they could or should be functioning).

Common Diagnoses Include:

  • Specific Learning Disability, with impairments in reading, writing, and/or math


Autism Assessments are tailored to aid in an initial diagnosis of Autism or to re-clarify an Autism diagnosis or other developmental delays.

The Assessment Process

The clinician can provide an initial diagnosis of Autism, a second opinion, or an updated diagnosis. Clinicians use measures such as the ADOS-2 and ADI-R, but might also use the Vineland or other developmental measures to help you ascertain your child’s current level of functioning and needs.

Common Diagnoses Include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (including severity)
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Communication Disorders


Neuropsychological Assessments consist of evaluations across multiple domains to understand complex conditions. These assessments are especially beneficial for individuals with medical conditions and impairments in multiple domains.

The Assessment Process

During each evaluation, a pediatric neuropsychologist examines a wide range of functions:

  • Academic skills
  • Attention and concentration
  • Executive functioning
  • Intellectual abilities
  • Language processing and speech
  • Learning and memory capacities
  • Motor functioning
  • Sensory capacities
  • Visual and nonverbal functions

Common diagnoses include:

  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Birth injury / Anoxia
  • Brain injury or stroke
  • Brain tumors
  • Epilepsy
  • Genetic anomalies
  • Infectious diseases
  • Learning disabilities
  • Lead poisoning
  • Tourette’s Syndrome


The Report

The clinician will generate a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation report. This report will consist of the child’s relevant history, the results of the testing in narrative and data formats, a diagnosis section, and recommendations for further treatment. The child will meet with his or her clinician for a one-hour feedback session, during which he or she will be able to go over the information contained in the report, as well as receive his or her own copy of the report.



 We offer a set fee for each type of assessment.  The Help Group is a Medi-Cal provider and can also accept payment by check, credit card, and cash.