Pediatric neuropsychology is a professional specialty concerned with learning and behavior in relationship to a child’s brain. A pediatric neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how learning and behavior are associated with the development of brain structures and systems. Formal testing of intellectual functioning, academic levels, memory and executive function skills is conducted to assesses brain functioning. The pediatric neuropsychologist conducts the evaluation, interprets the test results, and makes recommendations for intervention.
How does a neuropsychological evaluation differ from a school evaluation?
School assessments are usually performed to determine whether a child qualifies for special education programs or therapies to enhance school performance, and are typically limited to measures of IQ and achievement without comprehensive measures of learning and memory or executive function skills. Generally, they do not diagnose behavior disorders caused by altered brain function or development.
Why are children referred for a neuropsychological evaluation?
Children are referred by a doctor, teacher, school psychologist, or other professional because of one or more concerns, such as:
A neuropsychological evaluation assists in better understanding your child’s functioning in areas such as cognitive strengths and differences, memory, attention/executive function skills, perception, 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 aged child may assess these areas:
Some abilities may be measured in more detail than others, depending on the child’s needs. 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 differences. 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. 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, 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 differences. 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.
Adapted from: Division 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology), American Psychological Association © 2001 Division 40, APA