Neuropsychology is a field of psychology that focuses on the relationship between learning, behavior, and brain functioning. A child may be referred for a neuropsychological evaluation when there are concerns about one or more areas of their development. This can include a child’s cognitive, academic, memory, language, social, self-regulatory, emotional, behavioral, motor, visual-spatial, and adaptive functioning.
This type of evaluation can help rule out diagnoses such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Disorder, Language Disorder, as well as various emotional and behavioral disorders. A neuropsychological evaluation can also be helpful if your child has been diagnosed with a medical condition such as Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury, or Epilepsy. The purpose of the evaluation is to identify a child’s patterns of strengths and challenges in order to provide parents, schools, and other providers with strategies to help them succeed across contexts. It can also be used to track a child’s progress and response to targeted interventions.
In order to assess whether a neuropsychological evaluation may be helpful for a child, a family may identify concerns in the following areas:
- Difficulties with verbal and nonverbal reasoning and problem solving
- Requiring a significant amount of repetition and/or additional time when learning
- Delays in adaptive functioning
- Grades below peers
- Concerns with reading (phonetic development, fluency, comprehension), mathematics (calculation, word problems), or writing (spelling, content, organization)
- Needing additional time to complete schoolwork, homework, or tests
- Frustration with academic work
- Expressive (output of language) or receptive (understanding of language) difficulties
- Challenges initiating or maintaining a conversation
- Difficulties with sarcasm or non-literal language (e.g, “It’s raining cats and dogs”)
- Repetitive or odd language usage (e.g., repeating lengthy scripts heard from television or news programs)
- Pronoun reversals or odd use of language
- Difficulty paying attention or sitting still
- Needing frequent prompts or reminders to complete tasks
- Difficulty with multiple-step commands
- Losing or misplacing items
- Forgetting to turn in completed assignments
- Poor peer relations
- Inappropriate response when approached by peers
- Difficulty with imaginative, functional, or reciprocal play
- Limited interest in peers or preference for solitary play
- Repetitive Behaviors
- Repetitive vocalizations
- Repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand flapping, finger flicking, body rocking)
- Lining up toys, spinning wheels of cars, sorting objects for prolonged periods of time
- Behavioral Dysregulation
- Physical or verbal aggression
- Defiance or non-compliance
- Difficulties with transitions or changes in routine
- Self-injury (e.g., head banging)
- Poor frustration tolerance
- Irritability or easily upset
- Eating or sleeping difficulties
- Somatic complaints
- Negative self-statements
- Lack of interest in things he/she used to enjoy
- Visual-Spatial, Visual-Motor, and Motor
- Poor handwriting
- Trouble with fine motor tasks (e.g., unwrapping small items, buttoning or zipping clothing, tying shoe laces)
- Difficulty transferring information from the classroom board to a notepad, or transferring information from a test booklet to a scantron/bubble sheet
- Difficulty with overwhelming visual displays (e.g., computer screen with several icons; homework with several problems on one sheet; a book with several colors and pictures)
Should a child demonstrate difficulties in some of the areas listed above, he/she may benefit from further consultation or a subsequent neuropsychological evaluation. Through this process, areas of difficulty can be identified, and targeted interventions will be suggested to enhance a child’s development.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!
One question that I have parents asking me all the time about coming in for testing is this: “What do I tell my child?” There really is no universal answer to this question. The answer has to be based upon what the child can handle. How old is the child? What is the child’s cognitive functioning? Just to name a couple…
The goal is to speak to the child at a level that he or she can understand. It is important to not lie or cover up the reasons for the visit. Many times parents attend an intake session because of concerns regarding the child’s academic performance. It is important to be upfront with the child. Children are quite intuitive and know a lot more than we often give them credit for. I would first have parents ask the child general questions (it is important to do this, even if they already know the answers since this serves to prime the child’s memory): any combination of the below questions might serve to help guide the child.
Questions to Ask Your Child Before a Neuropsychology Evaluation:
- “Do you like going to school?”
- “What is hard about school?”
- “Are you happy with your grades?”
- “Is it hard to listen and pay attention to the teacher?”
- “Does it bother you to have to play alone?”
Once the child admits to one or more of the questions, it is then appropriate to explain that the purpose of testing or therapy is to help address the specific issues and make school more enjoyable.
After the child understands the purpose for the testing or therapy, it is always important to explain to him or her what the actual session will look like. I always advise parents to ask the individual that will be working with your child lots of questions. Find out who will be doing the work, where will the work take place, how long would the child be there, are there breaks available, and what will the child actually be doing. The goal is that the child will be ready for testing or therapy and have a basic idea of what to expect.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!
It is important to understand that the neuropsychological evaluation is really the start of the process.
The focus of the evaluation is to provide information and diagnostic clarification about what is going on with a child’s behavior or learning. Once the evaluation is completed, the entire process of help and change begins. Read more
A neuropsychological evaluation can help a child in multiple ways. The focus of the evaluation is to provide information for parents about why a child is struggling with regards to his or her academic achievement, social engagement, and/or emotional regulation. Parents will bring their children in for a neuropsychological evaluation when they have concerns about their performance in any of the above domains.
What is the goal of a neuropsychological evaluation?
The goal of the evaluation is to provide diagnostic clarification based upon a set of symptoms that the child exhibits. This information is attained through the following ways:
- Parental interview
- Parental and teacher report
- Behavioral observation Read more