To test or not to test? Has your child had a neuropsych?

pencil copyBy Donna Shea & Nadine Briggs

We consult to many parents who bring their children to us with the goal of helping those children become more socially successful. Sometimes the reasons and barriers behind a child’s struggles are clear. Most of the time, we find that our young clients bring a host of complexities into the picture. Beyond social challenges, these children also may present with academic or learning challenges and behavioral issues that go far and beyond the more typical situation. The first question that we will ask the parents is if a neuropsychological evaluation has been completed. More times than not, a parent may not know what that is. If you do, you can skip the blog today. If you don’t, we encourage you to read on!

You may have had your child evaluated through your school system. These evaluations are typically quite good and comprehensive when it comes to assessing your child’s learning abilities. If your child turns up with a specific learning disability, such as dyslexia, this testing can guide everyone to providing what your child needs. Where these things become murky, is when your child’s foremost problem areas lie within the social, emotional or behavioral realm. Sometimes these are caused by the impact of the learning disabilities. Sometimes they are your child’s neurological make-up. Schools cannot diagnose your child, but a neuropsychologist can.  A neuropsych evaluation takes a look at how the brain functions, which indirectly yields a wealth of information about how your child processes information and where his or her strengths and weaknesses lie. We can then use that information and recommendations to accommodate your child’s social-emotional needs as well as his or her academic ones. A neuropsych evaluation involves an interview and the administration of tests (typically pencil and paper) over a couple of sessions. You and your child’s teacher(s) may be asked to fill out rating scales for a picture of how your child is functioning at home and school. This is a shortened example of what your report would entail: Sample Neuropsych Report (source:

Waiting too long to have a comprehensive assessment of a child can have a long-term and potentially life-long impact. Donna’s younger son struggled for years in school and finally gave up in the 7th grade because all he ever heard from educators was that he was lazy and all he needed to do was buckle down and put pen to paper. Donna home-schooled him in 8th grade while having a neuropsych evaluation done for the first time when he was 14 years old. The results uncovered many hidden disabilities, including a significant visual-motor disability which is directly connected to the ability to write. Fortunately, in the day of keyboards, computers, and talk-to-text, being able to accommodate for this issue has been easier as an adult. He is even now completing an Associates Degree at a local community college, but still does, and probably will always, carry the internal damage done by not knowing early on what the problems were.

Neuropsychological evaluations are expensive, but there are a couple of hints that we can give you that may help that we have learned along the way.

Your medical insurance may cover the evaluation as long as it is deemed medically necessary and not for educational purposes. Due to the nature of so many of these kids having complex ADHD, executive function challenges, mood and behavior problems, you might be able to find coverage by having your pediatrician refer for this type of evaluation. Just make sure that you ask for medical reasons.

Depending on your school system and the laws of your particular state, you may be able to ask for an Independent Evaluation through the school system. This boils down to a neuropsych done independently outside of the school. This can be asked for (in writing) if you feel that even though all the testing has been done through the school, you still feel that there is a part of the puzzle that is missing. Most school systems have a list of providers and a cap on how much can be spent on this type of testing. It is possible in some instances, to choose your own provider. The school will pay up to their cap and then you would be responsible for any additional fees above and beyond that figure.

In choosing a neuropsychologist, the waiting lists can be excruciatingly long at the big city hubs. You may be told that the wait is a year or more. There are many independent practices who might be able to perform the evaluation in a much more timely manner and without sacrificing quality.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating for all of us to have a neuropsych done so we could understand how our brains work? We can only guess at what is going on and what makes us all tick. Knowing for sure where our particular strengths are, and how to use them to overcome those weaker areas and fully understanding our own particular cognitive profile could make a tremendous difference in how we live our lives. It can make all the difference in the world for your child.