What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation is comprehensive battery of tests that provides a detailed picture of a person’s aptitude, achievement, and social and emotional status as compared to others at the same stage of development. Only a trained neuropsychologist administers such assessments. The evaluation involves a clinical history and interview, completion of standardized checklists, completion of paper and pencil tasks, hands-on activities, and computer-based tasks.
Why Have an Evaluation?
Many children and adults do not perform at a level commensurate with their potential and known abilities. A neuropsychological evaluation is a tool educators, psychologists, and physicians recommend when an explanation for a performance gap is not clear from other assessment tools.
People with achievement problems are confused and frustrated because their difficulties do not make sense to them. For example, the bright student who fails math or doesn’t finish tests may attribute this to laziness and not consider that there could be another explanation. Often it is only with a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation that the subtle yet complicated problems causing the achievement problem can be uncovered. Additionally, many people have several disabilities that coexist (i.e., ADHD, learning disabilities, and depression). Only in-depth evaluation of special areas, including attention, learning, memory, visual-spatial skills, organization, and emotional status, can identify such problems.
What Do You Learn From a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
An evaluation report provides critical information about:
Optimal learning style
Rate of processing information
Memory or retention
Interactions between learning and emotional problems,
Attention and organizational skills
How can the Results Help?
Once people understand how their performance on assessment may account for the difficulties they experience, they can move toward:
Understanding reasons for academic problems
Establishing a framework for collaboration with school personnel and family
Providing a differential diagnosis. Are there an attention deficit, a learning disability and/or an emotional problem?
Dealing with longstanding, complex and difficult problems
Reducing anxiety about problems and developing realistic expectations
Recommending appropriate accommodations or remediation
Providing references and resources
What are Attitudinal Barriers to Evaluation?
Some people react negatively to the suggestion of having an evaluation. The following are comments that people often make and responses to them.
“I’ve never heard of it.”
Just because you have never heard of it does not mean that it is not valuable.
“I don’t want to find out if something is wrong.”
It is not uncommon to want to avoid “BAD NEWS”. There is always good news about strengths along with recommendations on ways to cope and improve.
“I already know what’s wrong.”
You might know that something is wrong, but you probably do not know the degree of severity of these difficulties or whether you meet guidelines for accommodations at school or work. In addition, you lack the tools to take positive next steps. By getting an in-depth evaluation, you gain necessary information to develop an efficient action plan. Studies have shown that individuals are unreliable reporters of their own performance difficulties.
”It won’t make any difference in the long run.”
Having an evaluation does make a difference, both in the short- and long term. You sit with an expert and become aware of why problems occur, your strengths, and how you can manage your difficulties more effectively. Hope becomes a reality.
“The testing is too expensive.”
First, an evaluation is often a covered benefit. Second, not understanding why you are failing or frustrated costs you time and energy.
“If an evaluation is so helpful, why doesn’t the school do it?
Elementary and secondary schools are responsible under the law for screening for disabilities. They do administer basic psychological evaluations, but often they do not administer neuropsychological evaluations. Many students need more comprehensive evaluations. Additionally, college students and adults are responsible for arranging for their own evaluations.
Additional information can be gained from the American Psychological Association, Division 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology) www.div40.org
Geraldine Markel, Ph.D., is an educational psychologist and principal of Managing Your Mind Coaching & Seminars. She served as faculty at the School of Education, University of Michigan and was the Director of the Reading and Learning Skills Center. She is coauthor of Helping Adolescents with ADHD & Learning Disabilities: Ready-to-Use Tips, Techniques, and Checklists for School Success and Solving the College Admissions Puzzle: A Guide for Students and Families about College Selection, Essay Writing, and High-Stakes Testing. www.managingyourmind.com firstname.lastname@example.org