How is a neuropsychological evaluation different from a school assessment?
School assessments are usually performed to determine whether a child qualifies for special education programs or therapies to enhance school performance. They focus on achievement and skills needed for academic success and are often limited in scope. Generally, school-based evaluations do not diagnose learning or behavior disorders caused by altered brain function or development, such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism.
What will the test results tell me?
By comparing your child’s test scores to scores of children of similar ages, the neuropsychologist can create a profile of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. The results help those involved in your child’s care in a number of ways.
- Testing can explain why your child is having school problems. For example, a child may have difficulty reading because of an attention problem, a language disorder, an auditory processing problem, or a reading disability. Testing also guides the pediatric neuropsychologist’s design of interventions to draw upon your child’s strengths.
- Testing can help detect the effects of developmental, neurological, and medical problems, such as epilepsy, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or a genetic disorder. Testing may be done to obtain a baseline against which to measure the outcome of treatment or the child’s development over time.
- Different childhood disorders result in specific patterns of strengths and weaknesses. These profiles of abilities can help identify a child’s disorder and the brain areas that are involved. For example, testing can help differentiate between an attention deficit and depression or determine whether a language delay is due to a problem in producing speech, understanding or expressing language, social shyness, autism, or cognitive delay.
- Most importantly, testing provides a better understanding of the child’s behavior and learning in school, at home, and in the community. The evaluation can guide teachers, therapists, and you to better help your child achieve his or her potential.
What do I need to do before the evaluation day?
Before your child’s appointment, I will ask you to complete three forms: a Child-Adolescent History Form, an Informed Consent, and an Insurance Form (if using insurance) with a copy of any recent school testing and/or Individual Education Plans prior to scheduling an appointment, so that I can plan some of what I will do with your child.
I will also also ask you to have one or more of your child’s teachers complete a Teacher Questionnaire to gather information about your child in the school setting.
What should I tell my child about his or her evaluation before we come in?
Many children who are coming in for an evaluation will be curious about what it is and what they will be doing. You can tell your child that I work with children of all different ages, that we will be doing some fun activities, games, and tests together, and that my job is to work with children to help me and their parents and teachers understand the way they learn best in school to make learning as easy as possible for them. Many of the things we do together will be like things he or she does in school. I have a waiting room and office with magazines and books, and your child will sit at a table (just like school) for most of the evaluation.
Because everything I do is meant for children of all ages, from preschool through college, some things your child will do will seem very easy and some things will seem hard. Ask your child to try to do his/her best during the evaluation but explain that no one expects him/her to know all the answers. You may find it helpful to tell your child that a lot of the evaluation will be fun, and that an important part of my job is to help children feel comfortable and at ease during our time together. Most children are understandably a little nervous when they come in, but many feel relaxed and interested in what we are doing soon after we begin.
Should my child take his or her medication on the day of the evaluation?
Yes. If your child takes any prescribed medication, please have them take their medication as they would on a school day.
What is the schedule like on the day of the evaluation?
The evaluation itself will usually last between 3-5 hours total, though testing is sometimes shorter than this depending on the referral question. I will begin by meeting with you first for a few minutes to review again your referral questions for the evaluation and to gather other relevant history. Following our discussion, I work with your child for approximately 90 minutes. I recommend that you bring some snacks and/or water to have for your child during the evaluation.
We typically have a 45-minute lunch break after the initial morning testing, and there are several local restaurants located near my office. After lunch, testing with your child will be completed and I will meet with you to talk about my initial impressions of the testing, or we will arrange a time to speak by phone or in person after the evaluation date. On rare occasions, a return visit may be required to complete testing due to time constraints.
What Happens After The Evaluation?
In addition to in-depth feedback of the results and their meaning, follow-up includes:
- A comprehensive written report, within 3-4 weeks
- Specific and practical recommendations to improve functioning in all settings
- Feedback to a client’s therapists and physicians as needed
- Referrals to appropriate community resources (social skills groups, tutors, etc.)