Neuropsychological Evaluation FAQs
Frequently asked questions about neuropsychological evaluations
What's a Pediatric Neuropsychological Evaluation?
It's a process to look at the relationships between your child's brain and his behavior.
Ever wish you could get a scan of your child's brain to know exactly what her strengths and weaknesses are? Advances in brain imaging are being made every day, so one day that may be possible! For now, we can't just look at an MRI or CT scan of a person's brain and link that with how she thinks and feels.
That's why neuropsychologists use paper-and-pencil, interactive, and computerized tests to figure out how your child or teen uses his brain to process information. The test scores give us insight into the links between how your child sees the world and how she learns, thinks, relates to others, and manages her feelings.
How Do I Know If My Child Needs an Evaluation?
When is an evaluation the right next step?
You might consider getting an evaluation if you need a thorough profile of your child's thinking skills and social-emotional development to pinpoint why a specific difficulty is happening and what to do next.
If your child is struggling but he has help and things are getting better, you might not need an evaluation. For example, if your child has trouble reading, and services at school are helping, an evaluation is not necessary. If your child has a social or emotional challenge and she is getting therapy and making steady gains, an evaluation isn't necessary.
You might consider testing if you don't know what is wrong or you're not sure how to help. You will find an evaluation helpful if:
Your child has problems with learning or processing that do not seem to be getting better
You are not sure if your child is getting the right services at school
Your child's therapist or medical doctor needs more information about what's going on
You have tried everything, and just don't know what to do
The problem is affecting your child's self-esteem, his friendships, his mood, or family life
You thought your child would grow out of the issue, but it doesn't seem to be "just a phase"
Your child is doing "okay" for now, but you're worried about what lies ahead -- maybe you're thinking ahead to middle school, high school, or college
Your child just got a new diagnosis and you don't know what it means
Many children with medical or developmental issues also benefit from regular re-evaluations to see what kind of progress they have made and how their needs have changed.
What Happens During an Evaluation?
The first step in an evaluation is a parent consultation, where we discuss your concerns you have about your child. Based on the information you provide and the questions you want answered, a specific plan is designed for your child's evaluation.
The next step is testing, which is a day-long event during which your child completes many different kinds of tasks. These interactive tasks are designed to find out the unique ways that your child thinks, processes, and learns.
The day of testing is a lot like a day of school for your child. He or she will be asked to do many different activities, depending on your child's age and your questions.
Test day activities might include:
Hands-on tasks like drawing, looking at pictures, solving puzzles, and building
Verbal activities like listening, answering questions, and sharing what she knows
Problem-solving tasks like discovering a pattern, or figuring out how two things are alike
Learning and memory activities like retelling a story or learning a list of words
Giving me his perspective by telling me about school, talking about his family and friends, sharing his favorite activities and what he is good at, and filling out paper-and-pencil questionnaires
Technology activities like completing a test on a computer
Academic tasks like reading, writing, and math problems
If he or she is a young child, we might play together with using specific toys designed to assess play skills and social skills
If your child wants to know more about what the day is going to be like, click here. If you click on that link, your child can see pictures of me and my office in advance, so they can visualize what to expect.
What Happens after the Testing?
After testing, we'll have a feedback session. During this face-to-face conversation, you will be given personalized information about your child's profile and specific recommendations to maximize her potential. You'll have ample time to ask questions.
During our meeting, I'll give you a "road map" of where you are now, where you're headed, and how to best get there.
When you come in for the feedback you also receive a brief written summary of your child's strengths and weaknesses and the other things we talked about. Later, I will mail you a full, written report detailing all the test results and recommendations.
Children can also receive in-person and written results, geared towards their developmental level, if that makes sense for your family. If I will be meeting with a child or teen to talk to them about the results, we'll set up a separate appointment.
Want more information? Head over to the Contact Me page and shoot me a message to get a copy of my handout: "What to Expect During a Neuropsychological Evaluation."
What Training Does a Pediatric Neuropsychologist Have?
Pediatric neuropsychologists first train to be psychologists. They complete a 5-6 year program to achieve a doctorate (usually a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.) in psychology, including a year-long clinical internship.
Psychologists who train to be neuropsychologists go on complete a 2 year post-doctoral fellowship in neuropsychology, where they specialize in brain-behavior relationships. The training can be in geriatrics (older adults), pediatrics (children), or lifespan (all ages). Pediatric neuropsychologists specialize in working with children.
What Does It Mean to Be Board-Certified?
Some neuropsychologists go on to become board-certified. This is a rigorous process similar to the board certification process that medical doctors go through. There are written and oral tests, and work samples are reviewed by other doctors.
Neuropsychologists do not have to become board-certified. Many talented evaluators are not certified. If you choose to work with a board-certified neuropsychologist, rest assured that your provider has the highest level of training and certification available. Board-certified neuropsychologists have been thoroughly trained and evaluated to make sure they are exceptionally well-qualified and skilled at assessment.