Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty within the field of psychology. Neuropsychologsits are focused on understanding the relationships between brain function and behavior or performance. For example, neuropsychologists may investigate
What is a Pediatric Neuropsychologist?
Pediatric neuropsychologists are licensed psychologists. They have training in both school or child-clinical psychology as well as neuropsychology. They have special training in how the brain develops. They use this training to evaluate and help caregivers manage children who are experiencing difficulty in school or at home with learning or social-emotional functioning. Such disorders may involve brain injury, medical disease, or developmental problems.
Pediatric neuropsychologists help parents, teachers, and physicians to:
- Understand how problems with the brain may relate to problems seen at school, home, or with peers
- Understand how a child learns best
- Understand why a child may have behavior problems
- Help a child deal with thinking or behavior problems
- Identify other confounding factors that are impacting a child in a negative way
- Help match expectations to a child’s specific strengths and weaknesses
- Work with other doctors and teachers to develop the best treatment and school plan for a child
A neuropsychological evaluation may help if you are concerned that you or your child has:
- a problem in school or at work that you think may reflect problems with attention, learning disabilities or other developmental disorders such as Asperger's and Autism.
- been identified as having a neurological condition such as spina bifida, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizures), neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, or a brain tumor and you'd like to know more specifically how this impacts your/her brain functioning and general cognition.
- experienced a brain injury from a trauma to the head, stroke, AVM or anuerysm, lack of oxygen, or an infection.
- other medical problems such as prematurity, diabetes, chronic heart or breathing problems, certain genetic disorders, or treatment for childhood cancer
- been exposed to lead, street drugs, or inhalants (carbon monoxide)
- been exposed to alcohol, smoking, or certain drugs prior to birth.
- had an evaluation by a psychologist or the school, but the treatment following that evaluation has not helped.
What does a Neuropsychological Evaluation Involve?
- A neuropsychological evaluation involves examining thinking, behavior, and social-emotional functioning.
- The evaluation uses standardized tests and procedures. The neuropsychologist works directly with the individual being evaluated in a quiet, private and comfortable 1:1 setting. They also talk to parents, teachers, employers and physicians, with permission, to gain additional information. These other individuals may also be asked to complete a series of standardized checklists and forms as part of a comprehensive evaluation procedure. Tests taken directly by the individual being assessed may be performed using paper and pencil, conversational questions, or on the computer.
- Neuropsychological evaluations typically include procedures that measure the following skills and abilities: overall intelligence or IQ, executive functions or problem solving, planning, organizing, attention, problems with memory, processing speed, language, academic skills, visual and nonverbal perception, control over hand/muscular movements, depression and anxiety, aggression or impulsive behavior, social relatedness and personality.
- The neuropsychologist will also reviewa medical, employment and school records, and previous evaluation reports to help understand how the test results relate to daily life.
Are the results of this evaluation confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and neuropsychologist. Reliable testing results are based, in part, on good rapport, which requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but in a clinician's office. Every psychologist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in the office will not be shared with anyone.
Sometimes, however, you may want to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (you’re your teachers, a physician, a family member or an attorney), but by law a psychologist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission or the permission of a parent/guardian.
It should be noted, however, that state laws and professional ethics require exceptions to this confidentiality for the following important situations:
- Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.
- If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.