Pediatric Neuropsychological Evaluations

pediatric nueropsychological evaluations madison psychiatric associates

By Karen Kane, PhD

This is some information about why a child might benefit from an evaluation, as well as some details about the process. If you would like more details, there is a brochure that can be downloaded from our website.

What is Pediatric Neuropsychology?

Pediatric neuropsychology is a professional specialty concerned with learning and behavior in relationship to a child’s brain. The pediatric neuropsychologist conducts the evaluation, interprets the test results, places the results in a report, and makes recommendations

How Does a Neuropsychological Evaluation Differ From a School Psychological 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. A neuropsychological evaluation is broad; it is designed to understand and promote a child’s functioning across settings.

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:

  • Difficulty in learning, attention, behavior, socialization, or emotional control;
  • A disease or inborn developmental problem that affects the brain in some way; or
  • A brain injury from an accident, birth trauma, or other physical stress.

What is Assessed?

A typical neuropsychological evaluation of a school-age child may assess these areas:

  • General intellect
  • Achievement skills, such as reading and math
  • Executive skills, such as organization, planning, inhibition, and flexibility
  • Attention
  • Learning and memory
  • Language
  • Visual–motor skills
  • Behavioral and emotional functioning
  • Social skills

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 can explain why your child is having school problems.
  • Testing can help detect the effects of developmental, neurological, and medical problems
  • Testing provides a better understanding of the child’s behavior and learning in school, at home, and in the community

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 and teachers will likely be asked to fill out rating forms. 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.

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,” or “feeling upset.” Avoid the word “testing” and let your child know he or she will complete a variety of activities. Tell your child that you are trying to understand how he or she thinks and learns so that you can make life easier for him or her.

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