Neuropsychology is a specialty within the field of Psychology that focuses on brain-behavior relationships. The pediatric neuropsychological evaluation will commonly include tests of intellectual functioning (IQ test), academic achievement, and psychological functioning, as are frequently included in a psychological or psychoeducational evaluation. However, a neuropsychological assessment may also include administration of tests in the following domains: verbal reasoning, perceptual and spatial reasoning, attention and concentration, visual-motor precision and speed, memory, speed of information processing, and executive functioning (e.g. problem solving). The neuropsychologist is interested in how a child obtains a specific test score as well as in the pattern of test scores. For example, a child may have problems following directions because he/she does not pay attention to the direction, does not comprehend the direction, or has difficulty remembering the direction. The pediatric neuropsychologist endeavors to understand the areas in which a child is having difficulty and why.
Neuropsychological assessment can be helpful if a child demonstrates significant behavioral difficulties and/or academic performance deficits and has:
- A neurological condition such as hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizures), neurofibromatosis, or a brain tumor.
- A brain injury as a result of an accident, a stroke, or an infection of the brain.
- Other medical problems that place him/her at an increased risk of brain injury such as diabetes, chronic heart or respiratory problems, certain genetic disorders, or treatment of childhood cancer.
- Been chronically exposed to toxins such as lead, street drugs, inhalants or was exposed to these substances or to alcohol prior to birth.
- Had an assessment by a clinical psychologist or a school psychologist, but the interventions resulting from that assessment did not result in the expected behavioral and/or academic performance improvements.
The information that a neuropsychological assessment can provide includes:
- A description of the child’s pattern of performance relative to peers, identification of cognitive strengths and weaknesses.
- Suggested strategies and interventions for remediation of weaknesses or to compensate for weakness.
- Assessment of the functional effects of medical treatment.
- Depiction of the child’s developmental pattern so that caregivers and educational and treatment professionals can set appropriate expectations for the child and help maximize the child’s strengths.
- Recommendations for educational and clinical/behavioral programming.