12 Aug A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Neuropsychological Assessment
When Is a Child Referred for a Pediatric Neuropsychological Assessment?
Pediatric neuropsychology is an area of specialty that studies the connections between the brain and behavior in children and adolescents.
A pediatric neuropsychologist is a medical professional that specializes in child development and brain function. They may evaluate your child’s cognitive, language, emotional, and behavioral performance and explain how these factors affect developing brain structures and systems.
When is a Child Referred for a Pediatric Neuropsychological Assessment?
A neuropsychological evaluation is not required for every child having difficulties at school or with their conduct. If a child has the following conditions, a neuropsychological assessment may be beneficial:
- ADD/ADHD, brain tumors, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury/concussions, sleep difficulties, and other neurological conditions
- Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and other pervasive developmental problems
- Presence of teratogenic chemicals, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, radiation, and others, during pregnancy
- Diabetes, persistent heart and respiratory difficulties, genetic abnormalities, childhood cancer therapy, and other medical illnesses that might influence brain function.
- Learning difficulties that were not resolved by the school’s initiatives.
Your doctor may recommend a neuropsychological evaluation to:
Assist in the Diagnostic Process
Before a scheduled medical intervention, such as surgery or a change in drug regimen before chemotherapy or radiation, document your child’s existing abilities. “Baseline testing” is a term used to describe initial testing.
After the medical intervention, testing can be done to see how the therapy altered physical and mental functioning.
Document your child’s cognitive growth throughout time so that medical treatments, family expectations, and school programming may be changed to meet the changing requirements of the child.
What Are the Functions that are Evaluated?
The evaluator will need a thorough grasp of your child’s growth before the exam to get a complete picture of your child. The evaluator frequently asks about your child’s birth history, developmental history, medical history, academic history, social/emotional history, and family history.
Information about your child’s strengths and shortcomings and areas of concern—and when they first became areas of concern—will be evaluated.
Capabilities Evaluation (Cognitive Functioning)
The examiner uses a series of tests to identify how your child learns and examines how they process information.
Verbal and visual tests that analyze verbal thinking, nonverbal reasoning, and memory, such as working and short-term memory, and the processing speed at which your child absorbs information and formulates answers are frequently used in these assessments.
Examiners receive considerable information on how students approach and solve issues and the scores these measures provide.
When attempting to tackle complicated problems:
- Do they speak aloud?
- What’s their working cadence?
- Are they aware when they make mistakes?
- Is your child impulsive?
- Do they have trouble following complicated directions and instructions?
- Do they grow agitated if they are aware they are timed?
- Do they get overwhelmed when they think the work is too big to handle?
Evaluation of the Processing
Speech and language processing and other types of memory, attention, organization, and visual-motor processing batteries can be added to a cognitive assessment.
Evaluation of Academic Performance
Achievement or academic evaluation aims to help you understand your child’s academic strengths and shortcomings.
If an evaluator notices that a child is struggling in a particular area, they will typically augment broad academic tests. If a child has difficulty reading single words, phonological processing and reading efficiency tests may be used to find the problem.
The Ability to Operate Socially and Emotionally
It’s critical to look at a child’s social and emotional functioning and cognitive and academic performance when determining their strengths and shortcomings. Depending on the child’s age and the examiner’s approach, neuropsychological assessments can vary.
Parent surveys are frequently used to measure children’s social/emotional and behavioral development. Teachers may also be required to complete questionnaires to gauge the child’s academic and behavioral performance at school.
As children become older, they may be asked to complete questionnaires about their feelings, and tests may be given to determine how they cope with and view social connections.
What to Expect When You Visit a Neuropsychologist
The neuropsychological evaluation may require numerous sessions. The first meeting is with parents to go through the family history.
After that, your child will be tested for four to six hours per session. These assessments are graded and analyzed. Once the assessment is completed, you will receive a report explaining the findings.
How to Get Ready for a Visit
There are a few things parents can do to make the process go more smoothly:
- Inform your child about the appointment and how it will benefit them.
- Make sure your child gets a full night’s sleep the night before the evaluation and eats breakfast the morning of the assessment.
- Give your child their usual meds on the day of the examination (unless instructed otherwise by our staff).
- If you haven’t already done so, bring any previous testing records.
What Will My Child’s Test Results Tell Me?
The pediatric neuropsychologist will construct a narrative of your child’s strengths and weaknesses by comparing your child’s test scores to children of comparable ages.
The outcomes benefit everyone involved in your child’s care in various ways. These results are not public without your written consent to be shared with anyone unless you offer written consent.
Testing might help you figure out why your child is struggling in school. The pediatric neuropsychologist uses the testing results to create programs that capitalize on your child’s abilities.
The findings show which abilities to improve and techniques to employ to assist your child. Epilepsy, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, language disorder, learning disabilities, and genetic disorders can all be detected through testing.
Testing can be done to establish a baseline so the child’s development can be measured over time.
Specific patterns of strengths and weaknesses may emerge due to various developmental illnesses.
These profiles can aid in identifying a child’s difficulties and best guess which brain regions are implicated neurodevelopmentally.
Testing can assist in distinguishing between an attention deficit and depression or determine whether a cognitive delay causes a language delay or if a language delay is causing a learning disability.
With your consent, the pediatric neuropsychologist may collaborate with the physician to integrate data from medical procedures such as brain imaging or blood testing to identify your child’s condition.
Most importantly, testing allows teachers, parents, and community members to best understand a child’s behavior and how to make modifications to help the child learn at school, at home, and in the community.
The evaluation can help teachers, therapists, and parents better assist a child in reaching their full potential.
After the Evaluation
Ensure that the special educator or administrator conducting the team meeting has access to any independent neuropsychological reports in advance. The school psychologist should attend the meeting.
If no one on the team is qualified to interpret the report for the teachers, it is up to the parents to do it. This is when parents might request that the neuropsychologist talk with team members ahead of time or be there in person or over the phone to communicate results successfully. Sometimes schools have parent advocates who can assist parents during the IEP meetings.
Educators are less likely to reject the results or misinterpret the suggestions when a neuropsychologist is present to address their questions (and listen respectfully to their thoughts and concerns).
The neuropsychologist’s remarks and reactions will be the most helpful for converting the results into appropriate IEP goals and 504 plans.
What Should I Tell my Child to Help Them Prepare for a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
Explain the purpose of the evaluation to your child in simple terms. Relate your explanation to an issue that your youngster is aware of, such as “spelling difficulty,” “memory challenges,” etc. Tell your child that you’re trying to figure out how we can help you remember or learn best.
You can also let your child know that no one gets all the questions or assignments correctly the first time. Therefore the most important thing is for them to do their best.
Check out our other blogs:
Chad C. Nelson. (2013, December). A Parent’s Guide to Psychoeducational Evaluations. Retrieved from: https://afsa.org/parents-guide-psychoeducational-evaluations
A Parent’s Guide to Neuropsychological Evaluations. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.kidsneuropsych.com/about-neuropsychology/parent-s-guide/
Berrington, L. (n.d.). Guidelines for Neuropsychological Evaluations for Children and Teens. Retrieved from: https://www.aane.org/guidelines-neuropsychological-evaluations-children-teens/