Our Blog

Frequently Asked Questions: Pediatric Neuropsychological Evaluation

Lauren R. Bangert, MS, Amanda Platner, PsyD, and Fatima Watt, PsyD, are providers in the Outpatient Mental Health department at Franciscan Children’s. Our multidisciplinary Outpatient Mental Health team provides comprehensive and integrated services to our community and local schools with the goal of creating a meaningful therapeutic environment for each child and family. To learn more about our Outpatient Mental Health services, please click here. To make a referral, please call us at 617-254-3800 x3141.

At Franciscan Children’s, we offer neuropsychological evaluations as part of our Multidisciplinary Evaluation Program. These comprehensive outpatient evaluations are intended to assist children who are experiencing developmental, learning, behavioral, and emotional problems.

We receive many questions from families and referring providers about neuropsychological evaluations – what they are, their purpose, how they differ from other evaluations, and more. This post is intended to answer some of those questions, and shed light on how these evaluations can help a child who might be struggling at home, in the classroom, or in the community.

What is the purpose of a pediatric neuropsychological evaluation?

The purpose of a pediatric neuropsychological evaluation is to gain a comprehensive understanding of a child’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Children who benefit from neuropsychological evaluations often have one or more of the following:

  • Neurological/medical illness
  • Genetic disorders
  • Psychiatric illness or behavior disorders
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Complex learning issues.

How are referrals for neuropsychological evaluations made?

Children are referred for an assessment from a variety of sources, including medical providers, mental health providers, local school systems, and their own parents.

What does a neuropsychological evaluation assess?

Neuropsychological assessments aim to describe brain-behavior relationships by assessing multiple cognitive domains and relating an individual’s performance on tasks within these domains to expectations given their age and developmental level.

A typical pediatric neuropsychological evaluation may assess the following domains of functioning:

  • Cognitive Ability (IQ)
  • Visual-Spatial Processing
  • Motor Coordination
  • Executive Functioning (Inhibition, Planning, Organization, Working Memory, etc.)
  • Attention
  • Memory and Learning
  • Language Skills
  • Achievement (Reading, Writing, Math)
  • Social Skills
  • Adaptive Functioning
  • Behavioral/ Emotional Functioning

At Franciscan Children’s, we tailor assessments to address specific concerns and questions that you and the referring provider have about your child’s functioning.

How is a neuropsychological evaluation different from an evaluation done by my child’s or patient’s school?

A neuropsychological evaluation may differ from an evaluation done by your child’s school by:

  • Emphasizing brain-behavior relationships to explain why your child or patient might be struggling at school or at home
  • Recording changes in functioning before and after medical treatment or surgery
  • Making or confirming a neurodevelopmental or psychiatric diagnosis

How is a neuropsychological evaluation different from a diagnostic or psychological evaluation?

  • Diagnostic evaluations are typically shorter and aim to determine if a child meets criteria for a specific diagnosis. Neuropsychological evaluations are more comprehensive and explore a wide range of functions in order to obtain information about cognitive and social/emotional functioning. If necessary, results of these evaluations can provide diagnostic information for a wide range of diagnoses.
  • Psychological evaluations focus less on multiple cognitive domains and focus more on academic and/or emotional functioning.

How will this type of evaluation help my child or patient?

A primary goal of this type of assessment is to use the results of the evaluation to collaborate with you, your child, and your child’s teachers and medical team to develop an appropriate treatment plan and school recommendations that best fit your child’s specific needs.

Results from this evaluation may help to:*

  • Understand how neurocognitive functioning may relate to problems seen at home, school, or with peers
  • Understand how your child learns best
  • Identify behavioral or emotional problems
  • Identify your child’s specific strengths and weaknesses

How should I help my child prepare for the appointment?

Your child will be best prepared for the evaluation day if they get a full night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, take all their normal medications, and wear any visual, hearing, or motor aids they usually use.

As your child’s caregiver, you are an essential part of our assessment team! In addition to our developmental interview with you about your child, we will ask that you bring the following documents with you, if you have them:

  • Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan from school
  • Any previous evaluations your child has had (developmental, psychological, speech/language, OT, PT, etc.) – these may have been through your child’s school or another facility
  • Any other relevant school or medical records

If you have additional questions, or to refer a child for neuropsychological evaluation at Franciscan Children’s, please contact us at Info@FranciscanChildrens.org or call 617-254-3800 x3141.

*Some information has been adapted from the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology

View All Blog Stories