What is diagnostic testing?
The purpose of a neuropsychological evaluation is to help identify strengths and challenges with children’s cognitive functioning. The goal of the testing is not only to help determine specific diagnoses that a child might have, but more importantly, to help determine and develop appropriate accommodations and interventions that would make the child’s life easier.
Who can benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation?
In reality, any child could benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation. The main goal is not to diagnosis a child, but more importantly, to help determine how a child learns best and what his/her social/emotional strengths are. Typical diagnostic questions that are presented to a neuropsychologist include:
- Does my child have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
- Is this an auditory processing disorder?
- Does my child have Autism or a Pervasive Developmental Disorder?
- Does my child have a learning disorder?
- Does my child have any emotional concerns (anxiety, depression)?
- How can I get my child to learn more effectively?
Areas of a neuropsychological evaluation:
Testing batteries are individualized to address specific presenting problems. However, a neuropsychological evaluation will always address, in some form, a child’s:
- Cognitive ability
- Academic achievement in reading, mathematics, and written expression
- Visualspatial, visual-motor, and graphomotor integration
- Executive functioning (organization, planning, problem solving)
- Language functioning
- Social/emotional/behavioral functioning
What does the evaluation process entail?
The evaluation process is individually based and dependent upon the age of the child. What is included for every child, no matter age or need is:
- A parent intake session in which the child’s parents meet with the neuropsychologist prior to the testing in order to better determine the child’s concerns and needs
- Phone or personal contact with the child’s therapists and teachers
- A comprehensive evaluation, which is age based
- A parent feedback in which the parents meet with the neuropsychologist in order to go over results from the evaluation as well as appropriate recommendations and accommodations
- A child feedback (dependent upon the child’s age) in which the child is presented with important information from the evaluation
- A school feedback in which the neuropsychologist meets with important school staff and personnel to help determine appropriate academic accommodations
What are the benefits of being tested by a neuropsychologist?
Many children can receive some form of psychological testing through the school system. The testing that is conducted by the schools is limited. School psychologists are not able to make diagnoses and typically only administer cognitive and academic testing. Even if a child has had a recent school psychological evaluation, it is recommended to have a partial evaluation with a neuropsychologist. The neuropsychologist would be able to add onto the school evaluation and help determine if there are any concerns regarding the child’s social/emotional/behavioral functioning as well as various domains not assessed within the school environment (e.g., attention, executive functioning, memory, visualspatial functioning).
When do parents get the report from the evaluation?
Typically, the parent will get a copy of the report within a week following the feedback session (or sooner if needed). The initial report is usually a draft and edits might be done based upon the findings from the feedback session.
What happens after the testing?
The process is by no means over when the testing is completed and the parents have met for a feedback session. The neuropsychologist would serve as a means to help co-ordinate services for the child by contacting therapists and important school personnel. In addition, the neuropsychologist would help work with the parents and child’s school to establish an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), 504 Plan, or other needed academic accommodations.
Even if the child does not meet the necessary criteria for a particular diagnosis, the parents do not leave empty handed. The goal of the neuropsychologist is to help develop appropriate interventions for the parent’s concerns. Just because a child does not meet criteria for a given diagnosis, there are still issues regarding his or her behavior. The same process applies in that the neuropsychologist will evaluate results from the assessment in order to determine strengths and weaknesses and then develop appropriate accommodations for the child.
What ages are tested/diagnosed/treated?
Typically, a neuropsychological evaluation would be conducted for children ages 2 and older.