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Neuropsychological Testing: What Is It and Why Do It?

People often talk about “testing” or “neuropsychological assessment.”  What is this assessment – why do people have it done, and what does it entail?

If your answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” you may wish to read further.

For Parents: Do you have a child who struggles in school? Are there gaps in your child’s performance in different areas? Are you or your child’s school interested in understanding how your child learns best? What are their strengths and what are their challenges? Do you have questions about whether your child is struggling simply due to ADHD or whether there are underlying learning disabilities? Do you think that your child might need accommodations to give them the best shot at reaching their learning potential? For older children, are you concerned that your child may need accommodations to do their best on standardized testing? Do you or your child’s school need strategies to best help them learn and achieve?

For Adults: Have you ever wondered about your ADHD diagnosis, like wished to have more concrete signs that you have it?  Did you ever just wonder how your brain works? Curious about your strengths and weaknesses? Concerned about why you’re not able to do certain things as easily as your peers, and wondering if it’s just ADHD or if something else is going on too?

What is neuropsychological assessment and why is it important?
Neuropsychological assessment consists of a series of tests, completed over somewhere between one day and a handful of days, evaluating one’s intellectual abilities, academic processes and achievement, memory, language skills, visual-motor coordination, reasoning abilities, executive functioning skills, and attention. Testing can also look at whether there are underlying psychological issues that are impacting learning or day-to-day functioning. Clinicians select a series of tests that makes the most sense for each individual, based on the concerns you, your child, or your child’s school may have. Some tests are completed using paper and pencil, and others are verbal or computer-based.  Questionnaires are completed by patients and those who know the patients well, and a comprehensive clinical interview always takes place as part of the testing process.

Through the use of neuropsychological assessment, parents can learn more about how their children process information; they can also determine whether a learning disorder is present. This can be used both to come up with strategies to optimize their ability to learn and to build a system of accommodations in school, if necessary, to help them reach their potential and thrive in their environment.  Neuropsychological testing can also be useful for some adults, enabling them to understand more about how their brains work, or to assess cognitive concerns, whether related or unrelated to ADHD; this can help adults to better understand themselves and how they can work most efficiently. (Outside the ADHD world, neuropsychological testing is also often used to assess for damage related to brain-affecting diseases or traumatic brain injuries.)

When is the best time to do testing?
Neuropsychological testing is a time-consuming endeavor, in most cases occurring over multiple days of at least a few hours each day. Typically testing sessions are scheduled for early in the day to maximize alertness. Summertime and school vacations are often ideal times for children to complete testing since they are off from school.

If you are interested in pursuing or learning more about neuropsychological assessment at the Hallowell Centers, including availability for summer testing, please call the NY-Manhattan Center at 212-799-7777 or  Sudbury, Mass office at 978-287-0810 to set up an appointment with our intake coordinator.

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