Beginners Guide: Pediatric Neuropsychology & Neuropsychologists

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A neuropsychologist is someone who specializes in the functioning of the brain and focuses on the connection between the brain and behavior. Neuropsychologists are licensed in psychology and have studied clinical psychology in addition to special training in neuropsychology. A pediatric neuropsychologist has extensive training in how the brain develops, as well as training in testing and assessment of developmental, neurological & learning disorders. 

Pediatric neuropsychologists are often sought out when parents and/or teachers have concerns about a child's ability in one or several areas which can include difficulties with focusing, paying attention, reading, learning, and/or behavior problems.  A comprehensive evaluation can provide clarity when a child's diagnosis is not clear, the cause for their difficulties is complex or confusing, or it is unclear what supports they need in order to excel. Sometimes parents ask us if they should do a school evaluation first or if they should completely forgo an evaluation with their child's school and elect a comprehensive assessment. The answer to that is not the same for every child as it completely depends on the questions being asked. The difference between a neuropsychological evaluation and school evaluation is that a school evaluation is often limited in nature and seeks to determine if a child has a deficit in a particular area, whereas a neuropsycholgoical evaluation seeks to understand why a child is having difficulties. 

Some benefits or reasons for seeking a neuropsychological evaluation include:

  • helping parents, teachers and physicians to understand what is causing the child's difficulties in school or at home
  • providing diagnostic clarity
  • understanding how the child learns best
  • improving ability to develop a treatment and/or school plan
  • improving expectations to match child's abilities, strengths & weaknesses

A variety of areas are assessed during a neuropsychological evaluation, these include, but are not limited to, intelligence, planning & organization, attention & memory, language, academic skills, social skills, impulsive behavior, etc... Finally, neuropsychologists will often assist families in guiding them through to process of acquiring the appropriate services for their child, once determined.