What is a neuropsychological evaluation?

By Gail Belsky

Neuropsychological Evaluations: What You Need to Know, evaluation with a child

At a glance

  • Neuropsychological evaluations look at a wide range of brain functions and skills using low-tech tools like puzzles.

  • School evaluations use many of the same tests.

  • One difference is neuropsychological evaluations can diagnose kids. Most school evaluations don’t do this.

If you have a child or student who is struggling in school, you might have heard about neuropsychological evaluations. But you may not know what they are or how they work. You may also wonder how this type of private testing is different from the free evaluations at public schools.

A neuropsychological exam looks at a wide range of brain functions and skills. The term can sound a little scary. But the tests are just a series of questions and activities like putting puzzles together and naming pictures.

The testing measures things like attention span and memory. It looks at other areas too, like language and thinking skills. These evaluations can pinpoint problem areas and also show strengths. The testing results also include recommendations for support at school.

Some families choose to get a private evaluation instead of or in addition to an evaluation at school. Schools don’t have to agree with the results of a private evaluation. But schools have to at least look at those testing results when deciding if a child is eligible for special education.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.