Neuropsychological & Educational Testing for Children and Adolescents
First, we’ll get you answers. Then we’ll give you hope.
At the Curry Psychology Group, our board-certified pediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Sharon O’Neil, PhD, MHA, ABPdN offers expert neuropsychological evaluations (NPE) for children, teens, and young adults aged 0 to 22. Dr. O’Neil is the Director of the hospital-wide Neuropsychology Research Core at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at the USC Keck School of Medicine. To find out if neuropsychological testing is right for your child, view our answers to frequently asked questions below…
What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
A NPE assesses a variety of neurological processes including attention, problem-solving, learning, memory, motor skills, language, visual-spatial command, academic achievement and social-emotional development. The results of testing provide valuable insight into the underlying causes of developmental and learning concerns so that families can better understand their child’s needs. NPE is also useful in providing diagnostic clarification when a developmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is suspected but uncertain. If unaddressed, the symptoms and behaviors related to these diagnoses can significantly diminish a child’s self-esteem and development.
What is a Pediatric Neuropsychologist?
A pediatric neuropsychologist is someone who has obtained education and training in the following core areas: child development, functional neuroanatomy, neuropathology, psychological assessment, neuropsychological assessment, and intervention. A neuropsychologist holds a doctoral degree and licensure in psychology (PhD or PsyD) in addition to completing multiple part-time pre-doctoral practicums, a one-year full-time American Psychological Association (APA) internship and a two-year full-time post-doctoral fellowship focused solely on neuropsychology. Most neuropsychologists (including Dr. O’Neil) have obtained board-certification to prove their competence.
What Neuropsych Evaluation Services Do You Provide?
Dr. O’Neil offers several different types of evaluations depending on the age of the client and the presenting concerns. The most appropriate evaluation will be determined during the initial consultation.
- Neuropsychological/Psychoeducational Evaluations – Depending on the reason for referral, psychometric measures may include intellectual functioning, attention, executive function, processing speed, language, fine motor, visual-spatial, learning and memory, academic achievement, and social-emotional functioning. The results of these evaluations can provide insight into developmental and learning concerns and assist with obtaining academic and testing accommodations.
- Autism Spectrum Evaluations – Include the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd Ed.
- Neurodevelopmental Evaluations for Infants & Toddlers – Include the Bayley Scales of Infant & Toddler Development, 4th Ed.
- IQ Evaluations for Gifted Schools & Programs – Include the Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence, 4th Ed. or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 5th Ed.
What if I'm Worried About My Child Being Labeled?
Many parents reasonably worry that a diagnostic label might diminish or unnecessarily pathologize their child’s unique identity. However, the research supports (and we have certainly found in practice) that children who receive a reliable diagnosis through valid test methods have far more positive short- and long-term outcomes in terms of their academic performance, self-esteem, social development, and overall well-being.
On the other hand, in the absence of a diagnostic understanding for the child’s behavior, children who are struggling with a developmental or other clinical issue commonly misunderstand their difficulties as evidence that they are “dumb” or “bad.”
These children often receive negative feedback from teachers, parents, and/or peers who may grow impatient or frustrated by the child’s behavior. For example, a child with undiagnosed ADD/ADHD who jokes around during class is likely to be reprimanded by the teacher and because he has not been able to pay attention to instructions, he will have more difficulty completing assignments, leading to poor grades and a belief that he isn’t as smart as his peers.
This leads to a subsequent cycle of avoidance, disengagement, and performance decline. The child may act out at school and at home as he experiences anger, embarrassment, and depression over being called out by the teacher or teased by peers.
With a proper diagnosis, the symptoms that may be getting your child into trouble now can be effectively managed so that your child has an opportunity to succeed.
We conclude every evaluation with clear and practical recommendations that help parents and teachers better understand each child’s behavior so they can fully support their progress. What matters in the end isn’t whether the child has a label but rather that they have the support they need to reach their potential.
How Long Does Testing Take?
The research has shown — and it has been our experience — that a comprehensive test battery provides the most valid and reliable results, particularly when differentiating between the multitude of factors that can impact a child’s academic performance. For children who participate in a full-comprehensive evaluation, testing is completed in four steps. (Hours are approximate.)
Step 1. Initial Interview With Parent(s): 2 – 3 hours
- You and your provider will meet to discuss your child’s current academic concerns, any behavioral issues, and developmental history.
- You and your provider will review any report cards, school records, and/or prior assessments.
- You will be provided with additional questionnaires about your child’s academic performance and behavior to complete at home.
- Your child’s teacher(s) may be sent an online link to a questionnaire so that they can report their observations of your child’s academic performance and behavior.
Step 2. Test Administration (Provider and Child Only): 6 hours during 1 or 2 meetings
Your child will meet with the provider once or twice to complete a series of psychological tests, including cognitive, academic, behavioral, and additional diagnostic tests as needed. If only one long testing appointment is desired by the family, breaks will be scheduled throughout the day.
Step 3. Test Interpretation and Reporting (Provider Only): 10 – 15 hours
Your provider will score, interpret, and write a report detailing your child’s assessment results and their meaning. Neither you nor your child will need to be present during the reporting process. The report will include:
- A diagnosis, if indicated
- Clear and practical recommendations for parents, teachers, and mental health providers aimed to optimize your child’s well-being and functioning in all relevant settings
- Any additional resources or services are recommended as well as nearby referrals
Step 4. Feedback Session With Parent(s): 1 hour
- You and your provider will meet to review the assessment results and recommended next steps to help your child.
- You will be provided with a written report.
What Happens After Testing?
Simply put, after testing we’ll have the data we need to make recommendations that make the biggest positive impact on your child’s life. Below are just a few of the many positive outcomes of testing.
- The school’s special education director can utilize the report to determine your child’s qualification for accommodations and services.
- We provide additional educational advocacy services to ensure that your child receives adequate support from the school to reach their full potential.
- We can match your child with the right therapist — and treatment protocol — to help address their specific challenges and build success.
How it works
Book your free phone consultation
Take our quiz to find the therapist who’s right for you and book a free 15-minute phone consultation.
Get familiarized with the process
During your phone consultation, your therapist will answer your questions and schedule your first visit.
Attend your first appointment
Your therapist will get to know you and offer a supportive plan to help you reach your goals.