Pediatric Neuropsychological Services of Alaska, PC
Facts About Assessment
What is a neuropsychological assessment? A neuropsychological assessment is a means of determining a child's overall thinking, memory, attention and output abilities. It provides information on how a child's brain works. It involves a detailed analysis of the child's behavior in different settings and the administration of a variety of psychological tasks. The neuropsychologist uses these to evaluate general cognitive ability, communicative and language skills, visuospatial processing, executive (thinking, reasoning) skills, learning and memory abilities, attentional capacities, sensory and motor skills, social cognition, emotional adjustment, and academic achievement. Which specific tasks are chosen depends on  the referral questions,  the child's age, and  the availability of previous evaluations.
What is involved in a neuropsychological assessment? At our clinic, neuropsychological assessment typically involves a full day evaluation session and a feedback or informing conference. In some cases, an initial diagnostic interview session may be scheduled separately, before the evaluation sessions. An additional evaluation session may be needed if a child is very young, needs time to become familiar with what is required, or has limited stamina secondary to a medical condition. The feedback session is an integral and very important component of the overall assessment. Every effort is made to schedule it at a time convenient for parents/guardians, usually within two weeks of the last evaluation session.
How much time do assessments take? The evaluation sessions usually take from 5 to 6 hours. They may be shorter for a young child or one who gets tired quickly. They may be longer if the child needs extra time to work - and is not too tired or overwhelmed to do so. The feedback session takes approximately 90 minutes but may be shorter or longer depending on parents' previous understanding of the child's needs and/or on the issues that need to be discussed in order to provide a comprehensive plan for the child. Both parents are expected to attend the feedback session. Depending on the age of the child, s/he may wish to attend also.
Who should be present at the sessions? Only one parent or caretaker need attend the initial evaluation sessions with the child, although all those involved with the child are welcome. For the feedback session we strongly encourage both parents, step-parents, guardians, etc. who have responsibility for the child on a regular basis. We do not typically invite non-family professionals to the first feedback discussion - to allow private concerns to be discussed where necessary. We are available to meet at an additional session, to conference on the telephone, and/or to attend school meetings as necessary. (Attendance at school meetings must be agreed on in advance and requires a written contract for reimbursement.)
As a general rule, we expect that an adolescent who is competent to understand the discussion will attend the feedback session. Pre-adolescents are invited to attend, but may not wish to and should not be pushed to do so. Children younger than about 8 to 9 years are not typically interested in sitting around while they are discussed by adults. Whether or not a child should be invited/encouraged to attend can be discussed with the neuropsychologist at the end of the evaluation session if parents are unsure as to the value of having the child present.
How will I find out about the results? You will meet with the neuropsychologist in a feedback session in which the findings of the evaluation will be discussed with you in detail. This will be followed by a written report that presents the child's history, behavioral observations, test findings, diagnostic formulation, management plan, and recommendations.
Who will get a copy of the report? One copy of the report will be sent to you, one will be placed in your child's Medical Record, one will be forwarded to the referring physician, with your written permission.
If you wish, we will provide you with copies of the report for your child's school team, pediatrician/ primary care provider, psychotherapist, etc. You will then be able to distribute the copies of the report to the relevant professionals. No copies of the report will be distributed to anyone without your express written permission.
You should know that, if the assessment is paid for by your child's school, you have contracted to provide them with a copy of the report. We will still need your written permission to forward a copy to them - or you can provide them with a copy yourself.
What happens in the evaluation sessions? On the day of testing (or, in some cases, at the initial diagnostic interview session) an interview is held with both the child and the parent(s). This is to review the reason for the assessment and to obtain details of the developmental, medical and educational history. Then, the evaluation proceeds with the child working with the neuropsychologist on the various tasks. The parent usually waits for the child in the waiting room. Parents are often asked to complete questionnaires while they wait. There is a break for lunch and then the child again works with the neuropsychologist completing the remainder of the activities.