Comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations are available, or more focused and abbreviated evaluations for those with established or mild difficulties can be conducted. Record reviews for Independent Medical Evaluation are also available. The following is a guide to evaluations for specific diagnoses or purposes.
All diagnostic evaluations include:
- Clinical interview with the patient
- Information from spouses, parents, caregivers or teachers
- Medical, developmental, educational, and social history
- Individualized procedures tailored to the child and family' needs
- Standardized and validated symptom checklists
- Standardized and validated tests of skills and abilities
- Differential Diagnosis
- Identification of strengths, limitations and prognosis
- Recommendations for intervention, treatment, and accommodations
- Comprehensive written report detailing procedures, tests, scores, interpretation, conclusions and recommendations
- Interpretive follow-up visit to review and discuss findings
Comprehensive Neuropsychological Evaluation
This type of evaluation is recommended for children with medical disorders affecting learning and development (e.g., epilepsy, genetic disorders, congenital heart defects, low birth weight, complicated concussion, brain injury); and those with persisting developmental or learning difficulties. Multiple domains of processing are assessed, including intellectual, verbal, visual-spatial, motor, attention, working memory, learning and long-term memory, sensory functioning, and academic skills. See the American Psychological Association, Division of Neuropsychology for more information on pediatric neuropsychological evaluation.
Accommodations for High Stakes Testing
Children and adults with documented learning, attention, or psychiatric problems are eligible for accommodations on standardized college entrance, medical school, law school, and licensing examinations with appropriate diagnostic evaluation and documentation from a qualified evaluator and formal application for accommodations. Documentation often requires testing multiple domains of cognitive ability, academic achievement, emotional functioning; interpretation; establishment of the need for specific accommodations; and appropriate credentials for diagnosis and interpretation. Neuropsychologists are uniquely qualified for selecting tests sensitive to attentional, learning, and neurologic or psychiatric difficulties. Your local Student Disability Services office can direct you to the necessary requirements and documentation for evaluation to determine the need for accommodations for the specific test you are planning on taking.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Evaluations for new diagnosis of Autism and Asperger Disorder are appropriate for children 18 months through 8 years. Measures of developmental or intellectual functioning, social and behavioral functioning, adaptive behavior, and observational ratings of symptoms are recommended as part of a core testing plan. For intervention planning or progress monitoring of those already diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or developmental disability, comprehensive neuropsychological or educational evaluation may be more appropriate. See Autism Speaks for information about autism diagnosis and the AANE for diagnosis of Asperger Disorder.
Evaluations for problems with attention, concentration, and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity are for new diagnoses. It is essential to rule out other potential causes of apparent inattention and hyperactivity, such as learning disabilities, working memory deficits and mood or behavioral disorders. While neuropsychological evaluation is not necessary to make a diagnosis of ADHD, it will provide more accurate diagnosis of the underlying problems with attention. Measures of intellectual functioning, attention, working memory, behavioral functioning and academic achievement are recommended. See the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders for more information on the diagnosis of ADHD
Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
Evaluations for children and adolescents in the acute, recovery, or long-term phase of recovery from concussion or traumatic brain injury are important in determining baseline cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning, determining severity of deficits, identifying treatment interventions, obtaining educational accommodations, managing return to school and sports, and monitoring recovery over time.
Children with Special Health Care Needs
Children with congenital or acquired genetic, cardiac, medical (prematurity with very low birth weight) neurologic (epilepsy, tumor), physical (cerebral palsy) disorders and toxin exposure (lead, fetal alcohol) often experience early and late effects on cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems. Comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can assist with developing a specific pattern of weaknesses, identifying treatment strategies, and determining appropriate educational accommodations.
Neurodevelopmental evaluations are appropriate for children as young as 6 months through early elementary school age with no previous diagnosis. Evaluation of an infant or toddler’s language, social, motor, and self-help skills are important in identifying areas of single or multiple delays to target for early intervention services. Evaluation for intellectual disability is recommended for older children, adolescents, and adults. This will aid in identifying their level of progress and growth, eligibility for educational and community-based services; and documentation for entitlements or conservatorship as adults. For intervention planning or progress monitoring of those already diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability, comprehensive neuropsychological or educational evaluation may be more appropriate.
Psychoeducational evaluation for entry into Gifted and Talented Programs is often necessary. This typically involves standardized assessment using comprehensive intellectual and achievement testing specific to the program to which one is applying. See also Hoagie's Gifted Education Page for more information on the evaluation of gifted children.
Verbal and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
Psychoeducational evaluations are helpful for diagnosing new learning disabilities and qualifying a student (elementary, middle school, high school, college, professional) for special education services and accommodations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to meeting eligibility criteria, recommendations specific to the patient’s learning style, strengths and limitations are made for purposes of an Individual Education Program (IEP). Learning Disability evaluations are appropriate for children 6 years and older, through adulthood. Learning disability evaluations are aimed at meeting the stringent criteria employed in public school districts, Educational Testing Services, and the United States Medical Licensing Examinations. Learning Disability evaluations are comprehensive in nature, with at minimum, comprehensive intellectual and educational testing. Evaluations are designed to comply with the standards set forth by specific testing agencies. While neuropsychological tests are not considered necessary components of a basic psychoeducational assessment to diagnose learning disorders, neuropsychological tests are helpful for identifying underlying processes that contribute to learning disabilities and problems processing information. This is helpful for suggesting appropriate remediation strategies and effective accommodations.
For more information see:
The Importance of Neuropsychological Assessment for the Evaluation of Childhood Learning Disorders (PDF)
Educational Testing Service and accommodations (ACT)
College Board Exams, Services for Students with Disabilities (SAT)
American Psychological Association Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Psychological evaluations for diagnosing emotional and behavioral disorders include direct evaluation of the child through individual interview, symptom checklists, and psychological tests. These are appropriate for children ages 4 through adulthood and those with no neurodevelopmental, learning, or medical risk factors. Evaluations are focused on identifying the proper diagnosis to direct medication intervention, educational accommodations, individual therapy, and family support.