Neuropsychological assessment, when done well, is much more than the administration of a set of tests. It is a process of information gathering that addresses the child as a whole. Its purpose is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the child’s cognitive, executive, and social emotional strengths and vulnerabilities, in order to provide very specific guidance for parents and other advocates.
It differs from a psychoeducational evaluation, done by the school district, which has the limited purpose of guiding the child’s educational program – determining whether they qualify for educational support, and if so, what type of support is needed.
While the neuropsychological assessment does result in a set of test scores, these are not the most important information. The neuropsychologist must, in administering the tests, pay careful attention to every aspect of the child’s behavior – their attitude, interpersonal style, body language, comments and questions, emotional response to novelty and challenge, problem solving strategies, the timing and quality of their verbal and motor responses, and much more, because this is what provides insight into the child.
Equally important, the neuropsychologist must provide the opportunity, the safe space, for the child to demonstrate their true self. Patience, warmth, acceptance, objectivity and positivity are critical skills in getting deep and accurate information. Input from parents is another essential source of insight. All facets of the child are considered.
This is a time consuming (and as such, expensive) process, but it can enormously valuable when done with loving attention to and respect for the unique individual that the child – and each one of us – is.