What is a neuropsychological assessment?
Clinical neuropsychology is a specialization within psychology that focuses on brain function and its impact on behaviour and learning. A neuropsychological evaluation assesses learning skills in relation to brain function. A pediatric neuropsychologist is a psychologist who has extra training and experience in understanding and clarifying how a child/adolescent’s behaviour and learning skills are related to brain networks and structures. This is most important when there is a medical history that can impact brain development and function.
When is a neuropsychological assessment needed?
If your child or adolescent has a medical history that impacts brain function (and therefore learning), then a neuropsychological evaluation can be very helpful.
A neuropsychological assessment is frequently recommended for children and adolescents with these medical histories/conditions:
- A neurologic condition (e.g., strokes or seizure disorders, brain injuries, cerebral palsy)
- Medical conditions that affect brain function (e.g., diabetes, chronic kidney problems, chronic heart and respiratory problems, certain genetic disorders, treatment for brain tumours and leukemia)
- Acquired disorders from neurotoxicity (e.g., pre-natal alcohol or drug exposure)
- Complex histories (e.g., a combination of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning disabilities)
How can a Neuropsychological Assessment assessment help my child?
A Neuropsychological Assessment can:
- Explain your child’s learning, cognitive, social and emotional strengths and challenges and communicate this information to the child’s parents, school staff and treatment team.
- Recommend appropriate academic, socio-emotional and behavioural interventions, working from a strengths-based perspective.
- Diagnose learning and behavioural challenges as they relate to a medical or neurologic condition (e.g., genetic disorders, brain injury or trauma, encephalitis, seizures) or medical treatment or interventions the child may have had (e.g. cranial radiation, chemotherapy, neurosurgery).
- Provide a baseline and monitor outcome of treatment and/or changes in development.
- Provide documentation needed to obtain school services through the B.C. Ministry of Education (e.g., via the Chronic Health Designation).
What is involved in a neuropsychological assessment?
A neuropsychological assessment consists of a detailed history taking with one/both parents (including the child’s developmental, medical, psychiatric and educational histories as well as relevant family history) followed by comprehensive assessment of a variety of skills (see below). Information from the child’s formal testing is integrated with a review of his/her medical history, report cards, and other information provided by parents and school staff. When the conclusions are ready, parents are invited back to the office for a feedback session to learn about the results of the assessment and to discuss recommendations. When appropriate, adolescents may attend too. A written report is then sent out after the feedback session, allowing for additional input from parents as appropriate. Each assessment, report and recommendation is tailor-made for the child/adolescent.
An evaluation will include an assessment of a wide range of cognitive domains, including some or all of the following:
- Cognitive or intellectual skills (including working memory and processing speed)
- Learning and memory (including working memory, language-based and visual memory)
- Executive skills (e.g., cognitive flexibility, planning, problem-solving)
- Expressive (i.e., spoken) and receptive (i.e., listening) language skills
- Visuospatial skills, visuomotor skills, motor and sensory skills
- Academic skills (e.g., reading, writing, math, listening and oral expression)
- An evaluation will also carefully consider the child or adolescent’s mood and behaviour
For additional information, please see: http://www.div40.org/pdf/NeuropscyhBroch2.pdf
Dr. McConnell is the only psychologist in our clinic who provides neuropsychological assessments. She is happy to discuss with you whether a psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment is more appropriate for your child or adolescent.