Neurological disorders and brain injuries can affect how your child thinks, learns, behaves and expresses emotion. Some brain conditions are present at birth while others result from illness or injury. Problems with reading, memory, focus, mood or other difficulties are sometimes due to these and other undiagnosed medical causes.
The neuropsychology specialists at Children’s National Hospital provide specialized diagnostic testing for children and teenagers. Our detailed outpatient evaluation can help identify causes and treatments for brain-related learning or behavioral difficulties.
Why is an Evaluation Helpful?
Pediatric neuropsychologists have expertise in how brain structures and systems develop and function. They evaluate, diagnose and treat learning and behavioral problems that may be associated with treatable brain-related conditions.
Children’s National neuropsychology evaluations are more comprehensive than typical school assessments used to determine whether a child qualifies for school-related programs or therapies. School assessments generally focus on academic achievement and skills. Most do not diagnose learning or behavior disorders caused by conditions that affect brain function or development or provide recommendations for interventions which can be obtained outside of the school system.
Our testing results in a better understanding of your child’s behavior and learning in school, at home and in the community. Your neuropsychologist may work with your doctor to combine results from medical tests, such as brain imaging or blood tests, to diagnose your child’s condition. We work as a team to help teachers, therapists, and parents so your child can reach his or her full potential.
An evaluation can help:
- Pinpoint the source of problems. Testing can reveal why a child is having a problem such as focusing or learning delays. An evaluation may indicate a medical condition such as concussion, a hearing and speech disorder, a neurodevelopmental problem affecting the brain, or a brain injury from an accident, birth trauma or other illness.
- Develop a personalized profile for your child. Our testing diagnoses learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other brain-based developmental problems. We create a unique profile of your child’s areas of strength and weakness and what that means for treatment.
- Detect symptoms and monitor treatments. Evaluation can show how a condition such as epilepsy, tumor, leukemia, stroke, traumatic brain injury or a genetic disorder affects your child’s thinking and ability to process information. We perform evaluations to obtain a baseline (initial level of functioning) and monitor the effectiveness and progress of treatment over time.
- Understand and improve behavior and learning. Parents, teachers, care providers and others can use evaluation findings as a guide. The information can help reinforce your child’s strengths while working on needed skills and supporting areas of weakness.
- Develop a treatment plan. Your doctor and care team will develop and manage ongoing treatments for your child to meet his or her unique needs. This may include addressing issues such as speech or hearing problems, arranging therapy to help with routine tasks, cognitive rehabilitation to regain learning skills lost in brain injury, behavior management, psychotherapy and many other treatment options.
- Provide strategies for success. Your care team will recommend parenting strategies for working with your child. We also provide teaching and educational assistance. This includes consultations with schools for developing or updating an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan (federal Rehabilitation Act requirements). We can suggest ways to help your child succeed socially. We have additional strategies that older children and teenagers can use themselves to improve learning, communication, social skills, or other abilities.
If your child needs to see another specialist, our team can help. We’ll provide detailed recommendations around coordinating services such as psychological therapy, medication needs, tutoring, speech/language therapy, occupational therapy and medical care. Our team also coordinates referrals to other professionals at Children’s National or in the community.
We evaluate these and other neurodevelopmental conditions:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
- Learning disorders
- Brain tumors
To thoroughly understand your child’s concerns, we evaluate:
- Academic achievement skills in areas such as reading and math
- Attention and concentration
- Behavior and emotional functioning
- Emotional functioning
- Executive functions (life tasks) such as organization, planning, and self-regulation
- General intellectual abilities
- Language and language-related processing
- Learning and memory
- Motor/sensory capacities
- Social skills
- Visual and nonverbal information processing
About the Evaluation Process
We usually complete neuropsychological testing in one day, but times vary depending on your child’s age and abilities. Except for very young children, parents are not typically in the room during testing. Children’s National specializes in caring for children of all ages. We will do all we can to help your child feel relaxed and comfortable. A neuropsychologist will spend time with you and your child. He or she will:
- Ask you to complete a questionnaire about your child’s behavior
- Interview you about your child’s history, behaviors, and other details
- Observe and interview your child
We will conduct various types of written and play- or activity-based testing. Some tests will be standardized (consistently administered and scored). Standardized tests show us how your child’s scores compare to the average scores of other children in similar age groups.
We may ask others – such as teachers – to fill out questionnaires about your child’s behavior.
How to Prepare for the Evaluation
Talk to your child about the evaluation in advance. Be simple and brief, based on how much he or she can understand. It helps to use terms your child knows such as “we want to help you understand and follow directions,” “pay attention better,” or “get better at spelling.”
Reassure your child that the evaluation is painless. Tell him or her that you are trying to understand certain problems to make things better. Assure your child that he or she does not have answer each question perfectly but rather just try to do his or her best. Most children find the evaluation interesting.
Your care team will discuss any details and information needed, provide any necessary forms and instructions and answer specific questions you may have.
- Completed forms you may have received in advance
- The results of any previous testing
- Recent report cards
- Relevant medical records
- School IEP or 504 Plan if your child has one
- Your child’s glasses, hearing aids, or any other devices needed
Make sure your child has plenty of rest and eats a good breakfast before the evaluation.
Your child should take any regular medications. However, if your child is taking medicine for attention problems, check with our staff when you make the appointment. They will tell you whether your child should take it on the day of testing.
Your care team will provide specific instructions about what to expect and how to prepare for the evaluation. We will answer any questions that you, your child, or others may have.
After the Evaluation
We will schedule a 60- to 90-minute feedback session after the first visit. This often takes place two to four weeks after the testing session. We also send a written report to you and your referring physician within about three weeks of the feedback session.
During this follow-up session, a neuropsychologist will discuss your child’s strengths and any areas of concern. He or she will provide individualized guidance and “next step” care recommendations. Parents will receive a written report detailing evaluation results and our recommendations.
Call us at 301-765-5430.