The world of school evaluations can be confusing. But if you suspect your child has learning and attention issues, it’s important to know what types of tests are available. A neuropsychological evaluation is one of these tests.
What Neuropsychological Evaluations Are
A neuropsychological evaluation is used to discover your child’s strengths and weaknesses as a learner. It can determine if the way your child’s brain functions affects his ability to learn.
Neuropsychological evaluations are far more comprehensive than the evaluations typically given by school psychologists. School evaluations, officially known as psycho-educational evaluations, are free. They can help determine whether your child has a learning disability and is eligible for special education services.
But a school evaluation might not tell the whole story. Parents have a legal right to request further testing. This might include an independent educational evaluation (IEE), which is considered a “second opinion.” Parents usually request an IEE when the evaluation done by the school leaves questions unanswered. A neuropsychological evaluation is one type of IEE.
Unlike school evaluations, IEEs aren’t done by anyone affiliated with the school district. Because they’re done by a private neuropsychologist, they can be very expensive. A neuropsychological evaluation can determine your child’s:
- Executive functioning skills
- Language skills
- Visual-spatial, visual-motor and fine motor skills
- Social emotional functioning
- Academic skills in reading, math and writing
What Neuropsychological Evaluations Are For
The goal of a neuropsychological evaluation is to find the underlying reasons for your child’s learning and attention issues. For example, it may help you discover whether your child has ADHD or dyslexia. This assessment can also uncover any developmental, neurological or medical problems that might interfere with your child’s ability to learn.
A neuropsychological exam can determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses. If the school accepts the test results, this can help you and the school figure out what kind of classroom interventions and accommodations would be most helpful.
Few school districts pay for neuropsychological evaluations. So you may have to pay for it. In some cases, health insurance will cover it.
How Neuropsychological Evaluations Work
Neuropsychological evaluations can give you and the school a more complete understanding of your child’s learning and attention issues. It can explain what’s going on—and why.
Testing is usually:
- Prompted by a parent or teacher concerned that a child isn’t keeping up with peers
- Done as a follow-up to the standard school evaluation
- Conducted over a couple of days, for up to six hours total
- Administered in a doctor’s office by a neuropsychologist
A neuropsychologist will meet with you to go over your child’s personal history, medical and school records and observations. He might meet with you before and after testing and could possibly refer your child for additional tests and to meet with school officials.
What to Watch Out For
Because of the evaluation’s high cost, some parents opt to stick with the standard psycho-educational testing schools provide. But the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) requires school districts to let parents know they have the right to seek an IEE, including a neuropsychological evaluation.
Neuropsychological evaluations offer a view of the whole child. However, depending on your child’s particular learning and attention issues, he may also benefit from other evaluations. For example, your child may benefit from targeted evaluations such as those for speech and language problems. Explore more information about different types of tests.