The Significance of Neuropsychological Testing

            Ally (Pseudonym) was a patient that called due to significant difficulties that arose in school. She was sweet and kind and constantly described by her parents as bright. Nonetheless, Ally was failing most of her classes. Her ability to follow the teacher along with her severe anxiety caused her to be unsuccessful academically. This trickled down into her social abilities as well, lowering Ally's self-esteem and causing her to feel embarrassed in front of her friends. Ally reached the point where she dropped out of school due to her belief that she is incompetent and unable to succeed no matter what she tries. Ally's is an example of a patient that would benefit vastly from a neuropsychological evaluation.

            A Neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions that uses a set of standardized tests and procedures. Neuropsychological assessments consist of an amalgamation between psychometrics and behavioral neurology. Due to a growing need for supplying answers to specific questions, neuropsychological evaluations developed and grew, becoming one of the leading assessment tools. Neuropsychological testing can provide information about individual's difficulties and the severity of these difficulties, the specific areas in which this may arise and distinguish between organic and functional harm.

            Neuropsychological evaluations can differentiate and attend to specific mental functions that may be impaired such as: Attention; Memory and Learning; Intelligence; Problem solving and Conceptualization; Planning and Organization; Language; Academic Skills; Perceptual and Motor Abilities; Emotions; Behavior and Personality.

            While every child is different and has to deal with various issues, there are quite a lot of indications that may be prominent and can signify a need to undergo neuropsychological testing. The following are just a short list of indicators for neuropsychological testing:

· Attention Issues
· Difficulties in School
· Difficulty Planning and Completing Homework assignments
· School Complaints
· Trouble maintaining focus
· Qualifications for Services such as ABA
· Differential Diagnoses
· Executive Functions
· Identification of emotional vs. cognitive impact on learning
· School and class assignments
             These issues may manifest primarily in school and cause your child's school success rates to drop along with a decrease in their self-esteem due to feelings of inadequacy or difficulties in school. In addition to getting testing done in order to assist your child and accommodate them in school, it is crucial for them to know and feel that these issues do not indicate that they are "dumb" or inadequate, but specify issues that are out of their control and require additional assistance. This often times causes children or adolescents to feel better about themselves and their potential.

            Neuropsychological testing is also crucial to allow for diagnoses and thus services offered to the child. As the years go by, we have noticed increases in insurance companies primarily requesting Neuropsychological testing that diagnose children with Autism. Without this, many insurance companies are denying ABA therapy. Districts also require neuropsychological testing to identify whether certain services are required and offered should be offered to children. Therefore, it is crucial not to wait and to test children that are suspected of requiring services.

            We get many requests for neuropsychological testing for adolescents that feel that they are unable to reach their potential. The timing with this is crucial, as issues pertaining to their grades or their academic success can impact their college acceptance as well as their self-esteem. These failures in school can also lead to depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses that may arise due to low self-esteem and negative cognitions about their academic success. Thus, it is important to attend to these difficulties and understand their origin and how to address them in school and at home.

            What does a neuropsychological evaluation look like? This is lengthy and detailed process where the parents and children meet with the psychologist. The psychologist starts off by gathering various information about the client, such as historical facts, developmental milestones, cognitive and social information, family history and many more. After this process is done, the psychologist meets with the child or adolescent to begin the testing process. A full neuropsychological battery consists of various tests that attend to different issues that relate to the child's presenting problem. The tests can look at executive functioning, IQ, working memory, personality, behaviors, emotional complexity and many more. The numerous tests are required to both assure reliability and validity and to strengthen the test outcomes with evidence from additional tests. This process can take a couple of hours spread out over a few days. After the testing is complete a full report is written, identifying the issues that came up in the scoring of the tests. The psychologist always incorporates goals and recommendations to ensure the parents will know how to attend to these difficulties and help strengthen their child to allow him or her to reach their potential.

            Despite the high costs for neuropsychological testing, it can often end up saving thousands of dollars in the long run and provide the proper accommodations for children and adolescents that will most likely suffer without it. If you would like more information on this or would like support for a child that may be in need of neuropsychological testing, please do not hesitate to contact us! 

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