At this point, you may have read about the various Benefits of Obtaining a Neuropsychological Evaluation, but all of those benefits come after the process is over, so what can you expect in the lead-up to and on the day(s) of the Neuropsychological Evaluation.
What to Expect from a Neuropsychological Evaluation
No disability can be meaningfully diagnosed using a single tool, or even a series of assessments. Good evaluators rely on multiple tools to develop a complete picture of a child’s capabilities. Dynamic assessment — that is, seeing how a child learns as opposed to what she already knows — as well as caregiver observations and clinical judgment are essential for accurate evaluations.
Additionally, great evaluations include “differential diagnoses,” meaning that they rule out possible disorders over the course of the diagnostic process. For example, a child’s hearing ought to be evaluated as part of an accurate speech and language assessment to understand if there is a physical basis for a child’s struggles. In the absence of a hearing impairment, a child may still have a speech or language-learning disability — but it’s important to rule out hearing problems as a possible root cause of speech struggles.
All evaluations of your child’s present level of functioning should include:
- A complete history of her developmental milestones (these can sometimes offer early signs of a learning disability)
- A family history to understand if there may be a genetic component to a learning disability
- Teacher checklists and school work, including work from prior years or previous classes
- Whenever possible, observations or interviews with people who care for your child in a variety of contexts
Often, the family history and “primary concerns” are obtained prior to the day of testing. On the day of, you will likely be separated from your child during the evaluation, for most if not all of the testing. This is to emulate a schooling environment, and to minimize your child turning to you for help, or feeling the need to impress you as their caregiver. Some psychologists have a two-way mirror in their offices so that you can still observe what is happening during the testing, which can have the benefit of seeing if your child performs in a representative manner (although children can behave differently at home and at school).
It is essential that you prepare your child before the testing day. Some psychologists may give you materials about what to tell your child, in which that should take precedence. Otherwise, tell your child that:
- he/she is encouraged to try her best so the evaluator can see how he/she thinks, but nobody is expected to know all of the answers in the questions the evaluator asks (and in fact, some of the questions are written for older students; they are asked merely to see how much the evaluator can challenge him/her)
- if you don’t know something, it’s usually okay to guess (the evaluator will likely remind your child of this)
- if your child doesn’t understand something, he/she should say something. Sometimes, the evaluator won’t be able to re-explain or repeat a test item, and that’s okay!
- your child may get tired because it will be a long day of thinking
- if your child has questions at the end of the day, the evaluator will be happy to answer those questions
Many psychologists provide rewards or have a series of breaks built into the evaluation day. However, do not promise these to your child without understanding how the psychologist will structure the day.
Read on to learn about the Benefits of Obtaining a Neuropsychological Evaluation and Discussing the Results with your Child.