By the time children start school, they find themselves having to interact with all kinds of people. They interact with their parents, teachers, friends, siblings, parents of friends, doctors, babysitters, and various types of therapists when necessary. Through all of these interactions, there is a possibility someone from one of these groups might have a concern regarding something about your child’s disposition or behavior.
People showing concern about your child or your child’s behavior is nothing to get yourself worked up over. In most cases, it’s just a genuine sense of care. In particular, your pediatrician or child’s teachers might notice something that’s not usual. That could lead them to recommend you schedule your child for a neuropsychological evaluation.
What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
Not to be confused with a neurological exam, which is an evaluation of brain function, a neuropsychological evaluation is one that assesses a child’s skills and abilities that are linked to brain function. It’s essentially an evaluation that measures things like a child’s attention span, problem-solving, memory, language capabilities and ability to communicate, I.Q., visual-spatial skills, academic skills, and social-emotional functioning.
As you can see, these are all very important things parents should know about their children. It’s not about a parent trying to figure out how special their child is but instead, this type of evaluation should be seen in terms of the information it can provide. This information is something concrete that treating professionals, teachers, and parents can use to better guide a child.
Who Performs Neuropsychological Evaluations
As you might have anticipated, neuropsychological evaluations fall under the responsibility of a specialist. In this case, it would a licensed neuropsychologist who specializes in child development, like our founder Dr. Amy Serin.
As for credentials, a neuropsychologist is a licensed clinical or school psychologist who has also completed a two-year fellowship in the field of neuropsychology. They have advanced degrees such as a Psy.D. or Ph.D. degree. They typically specialize in providing comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations for preschool children up until young adulthood (18 to 21). These evaluations can provide a lot of insight into a child’s strengths and weaknesses.
If you wanted to locate a neuropsychologist to provide you with a neuropsychological evaluation of your child, you might be able to get solid recommendations from your pediatrician or a school counselor. It’s also possible your health insurance plan covers such testing in which case your insurance company may be able to steer you towards a good neuropsychologist.
The Goal of a Neuropsychological Evaluation
As was stated above, a neuropsychological evaluation aims to provide critical developmental information of a child or young adult’s capacity in a lot of different areas. That information can be used to make a wide range of psychological and mental health diagnoses. These diagnoses can be used by other specialists to initiate specialized therapy and treatment. In some cases, treatment might be unnecessary. Still, the information about a child’s capabilities and skill level can be very useful in terms of guiding a child.
At the end of the day, your responsibility as a parent is to get your child successfully through childhood into adulthood. As you likely know by now, that’s not always an easy thing to do. That would especially be true if your child is starting to show signs of developmental problems. That’s where a neuropsychological evaluation is going to give you the most value.
By the way, a neuropsychological evaluation can also point out good things about your child. If your child were to show signs of a high I.Q., that would certainly indicate to you that your child should be given an opportunity to cultivate their intelligence to the highest level possible.
Areas of Concern That a Neuropsychological Evaluation Could Point Out
Above, we kind of touched on some of the areas where a neuropsychological evaluation could be helpful. At this point, we would like to provide an actual list of areas of concern you might get information on with such an exam:
- The presence of learning disorders or disabilities
- Identifying problems with personal management skills like planning and organizing
- Identifying issues related to hyperactivity, which might cause attention span issues
- Mental processing capacity
- Visual-spatial, visual-motor, fine motor deficits
- Identifying the presence of Autism
- Identifying potential issues with anxiety and depression
- Find root cause of behavioral problems at school or home
- Identifying physical disorders like seizure disorders, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury
The Evaluation Process
As the parent, you would start the evaluation process by going through an intake process with the neuropsychologist. This would be your opportunity to meet with them and share your questions and concerns.
The neuropsychologist will then have an initial meeting with your child. The initial meeting is your child’s opportunity to get comfortable with the doctor and the testing environment.
As long as your child is feeling safe and comfortable, the testing can begin. The testing could run over several appointments. That would especially be true with smaller children who lack an adequate attention span. Based on your child’s disposition, the neuropsychologist will set the appropriate testing schedule.
After testing is complete, there might be some additional information the doctor wants to gather. If school behavioral issues are evident, they might want to actually observe the child in the class to get a sense of what is happening.
Once the evaluation process is complete, you would be called in for a feedback meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to provide you with results as well as explanations regarding those results. With the results, the neuropsychologist might make referrals to other specialists who can help address specific developmental problems.
If you believe your child might be experiencing developmental problems, you should certainly consider having them go through the neuropsychological evaluation process. If you have already been through the process, you might want to consider having another one done every couple of years to track progress.
If you live in the Metro Phoenix area, the Serin Center has 2 locations to choose from. Our Peoria, AZ office is located just off of Deer Valley Road on 77th Ave, and our Scottsdale Office is located at the corner of East Pinnacle Peak and N Pima Rd.
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Neuropsychological Assessments combine developmental history with in-office and computerized testing. They typically assess intellectual, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, academic, and personality functioning to determine strengths and areas for growth for educational planning, treatment recommendations, and to answer forensic questions.