Who should seek services from a neuropsychologist?
The types of concerns for which children may benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation include:
Neurological conditions such as hydrocephalus, autism/Asperger’s Disorder, meningitis, brain tumors, genetic disorders, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, epilepsy. In each of these disorders there is damage or potential damage to the brain and the neuropsychological information can help determine which areas of functioning have been impacted.
Brain injury that occurs as a result of a motor vehicle accident, sports injury (concussion), stroke, or infection. When the brain is injured there is usually at least a brief period of time during which the person is not functioning at a level that is consistent with pre-injury abilities. In such instances, the purpose of the neuropsychological evaluation is to determine if and how the child or adolescent’s function has been affected.
Exposure to toxins such as lead, mercury, inhalants, cancer treatment with radiation or chemotherapy, exposure to alcohol in utero, and substance abuse. Toxic chemicals have both short- and long-term impacts on the developing brain. The neuropsychological evaluation can help determine how the level of functioning has been impacted by these neurotoxins. For example, it is often helpful for a child who is about to undergo chemo or radiation therapy for cancery treatment to be evaluated prior to the treatment and again following treatment. The first evaluation establishes a baseline of functioning prior to treatment while the second provides us with a detailed outline of how the treatment affected the child’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning.
Attention and learning-related problems are the two most common reasons for obtaining a neuropsychological evaluation. In each of these instances the purpose of the evaluation is to determine what is causing problems with attention or learning, whether it is ADHD, a specific learning disorder or other factors that are impacting the student. The evaluation will also outline the steps necessary to deal with the problems including recommendations for the patient and family, for other treatment providers and for the school. For adults, attention and learning issues have their most significant impact on relationships and at work, including making errors, social issues, limiting opportunity for promotion and resulting in job loss. The neuropsychological evaluation will help uncover the reason for the person’s struggles and come up with interventions geared toward improving functioning at home and work.
Many children and adolescents have already been evaluated by the school system or another clinician (e.g., through an educational or psycho-educational assessment), but the interventions have not been effective. The neuropsychological evaluation is often able to make finer distinctions in ability and functioning than either clinical psychological evaluations or educational assessments, which can lead to more effective treatment planning and services from the school.
Adults may seek a neuropsychological evaluation for the following reasons:
- Accommodations for college and graduate school entrance exams including the need for extended time, use of a scribe or to have questions and answers read to the test taker. The following links will provide you with additional information about the various entrance examinations and requirements for determination of disability and need for accommodations:
- SAT, AP, PSAT –http://www.collegeboard.com/ssd/student/index.html
- LSAT –http://www.lsac.org/LSAC.asp?url=/lsac/accommodated-testing.asp
- GRE –http://www.ets.org/
- MCAT –
- The cognitive and psychological effects of neurological and medical disorders, head trauma and stroke including the impact on interpersonal relationships, emotional and behavioral functioning, speech and language, memory and attention.
- The cause and impact of dementia and memory loss in the elderly.
- Objective determination of: Disability, Competency, Need for Guardianship, Ability to return to work.
- Determination of treatment needs including making a distinction between medical and mental health causes of dysfunction.