In addition to services for adults, two of our doctors (Dr. Rob Davis and Dr. John Largen) provide pediatric neuropsychological services. Pediatric neuropsychology is a professional specialty concerned with learning and behavior in relationship to a child’s brain. Formal testing of abilities such as memory and language skills assesses brain functioning. The neuropsychologist conducts the evaluation, interprets the test results, and makes recommendations.
Why are children referred for neuropsychological assessment?
Children are referred by a doctor, teacher, school psychologist, or other professional because of one or more problems, such as:
- A disease that affects the brain in some way; or
- A brain injury from an accident, birth trauma, or other physical stress.
A neuropsychological evaluation assists in better understanding your child’s functioning in areas such as memory, attention, perception, coordination, language, and personality. This information will help you and your child’s teacher, therapists, and physician provide treatments and interventions for your child that will meet his or her unique needs.
What is assessed?
A typical neuropsychological evaluation of a school-age child may assess these areas:
- General intellect
- Academic skills, such as reading and math
- Executive skills, such as organization, planning, inhibition, and flexibility
- Learning and memory
- Visual-spatial skills
- Motor coordination
- Behavioral and emotional functioning
Some abilities may be measured in more detail than others, depending on the child’s particular issues. A detailed developmental history and data from the child’s teacher may also be obtained. Observing your child to understand his or her motivation, cooperation, and behavior is a very important part of the evaluation.
What will the results tell me about my child?
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 may help explain why your child is having school problems. For example, a child may have difficulty reading because of an attention problem, a language disorder, or a reading disability. Testing also guides the neuropsychologist’s recommendations of interventions to draw upon your child’s strengths. The results identify what skills to work on, as well as which strategies to use to help your child.
Testing can help detect the effects of developmental, neurological, and medical problems, such as epilepsy, dyslexia, or a brain injury. 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.
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 should I expect?
A neuropsychological evaluation usually includes an interview with parents about the child’s history, observation of and interview with the child, and testing. Testing involves paper and pencil and hands-on activities, answering questions, and sometimes using a computer. Parents may be asked to fill out questionnaires about their child’s development and behavior. Our neuropsychologists employ trained technicians to assist with the administration and scoring of tests, so your child may see more than one person during the evaluation. Parents are usually not in the room during testing, although they may be present with very young children. The time required depends on the child’s age and problem.
Make sure your child has a good night’s sleep before the testing. If your child wears glasses or a hearing aid or any other device, make sure to bring it. If your child has special language needs, please alert the neuropsychologist to these. If your child is on stimulant medication, such as Adderall, or other medication, check with the neuropsychologist beforehand about coordinating dosage time with testing. If your child has had previous school testing, an individual educational plan, or has related medical records, please bring or send this information and records to the neuropsychologist for review.
What you tell your child about this evaluation depends on how much he or she can understand. Be simple and brief and relate your explanation to a problem that your child knows about such as “trouble with spelling,” “problems following directions.” Reassure a worried child that testing involves no shots. Tell your child that you are trying to understand his or her problem to make things better. You may also tell the child that “nobody gets every question right,” and that the important thing is to “try your best.” Your child will probably find the neuropsychological evaluation interesting, and the detailed information that is gathered will contribute to your child’s care.
Are there any childhood conditions that you do not evaluate?
At this time, we do not conduct evaluations for autistic spectrum disorders (also known as pervasive developmental disorders). We do not perform testing for AD/HD if the only purpose is diagnostic. We also do not perform evaluations for which the primary or only suspected problem is emotional, such as depression, anxiety, or disruptive behavior. Fortunately, though, there is an excellent clinical psychologist, Dr. Leah Clionsky, whom we recommend for these types of evaluations. For more information about Dr. Clionsky and her services, please visit her web site.
On the other hand, we do perform evaluations when referral questions involve possible effects of already-diagnosed AD/HD on academic functioning (e.g., for consideration of accommodations at school or on standardized tests), or workplace functioning (including pilots).
As neuropsychologists, we are best suited to evaluate conditions that primarily involve disturbances of brain functioning and cognition. Such conditions include, but are not limited to, childhood brain tumors, head injuries, epilepsy, and medical illnesses with cognitive effects.