What to Expect During a Neuropsychological Evaluation
Neuropsychology diagnosis, Counseling tools
One of the most important tools for the successful treatment of individuals with injuries, illnesses, or developmental differences impacting brain functions is the results of their neuropsychological evaluation. To have the most accurate understanding of the impact of your condition, your neuropsychologist needs to conduct a detailed assessment of your skills in a variety of areas.
Your neuropsychologist administers neuropsychological tests. A neuropsychologist specializes in studying how the brain thinks and how this impacts day to day functioning. During testing, they examine how illness, injury, and developmental differences have affected thinking and behavior for patients with a variety of diagnoses, including brain injury, concussion, stroke, dementia, brain tumors, injuries stemming from loss of oxygen (near drowning, heart attack, etc.), toxic exposures, developmental issues, and a variety of other conditions.
Testing can help determine many things, including:
- The efficiency of an individual’s learning and memory skills
- Effectiveness of problem-solving skills
- How well the individual can pay attention, focus, and accurately identify important information
- How well he or she can process information presented in multiple ways (verbal, visual, tactile, etc.)
- Effectiveness of language/communication skills
- Emotional / behavioral functioning
- Current academic functioning
- The individual’s capacity to complete day to day skills for independence
- The individual’s need for special accommodations within home, work, or school settings
Here are few things that are part of a neuropsychological evaluation:
- Your first meeting is typically an interview with the neuropsychologist. You are welcome to bring family members to the meeting to share their observations, and the neuropsychologist will ask about your medical, developmental, educational, vocational, and social history. The neuropsychologist will ask questions about challenges you are having currently and any changes in day to day skills that may have occurred, as well as you and your family’s goals and priorities for your future. You may also be asked to sign a release so the neuropsychologist can obtain your medical records, and you may be provided questionnaires for a friend or family member to complete regarding your day to day functioning prior to your testing session.
- On the day of testing, you will be seen one on one with the neuropsychologist. There are a multitude of tests that can be administered, and the selection of tests is based upon the questions to be addressed by the evaluation. The actual tests vary, but usually involve using a pencil and paper, working with other objects like cards, blocks, or pictures, and responding to questions from the neuropsychologist and/or on a computer. All procedures are completed in the neuropsychologist’s office, and there are no needles, electrodes, or noisy machines involved.
- Testing can take as little as two hours or as much as eight hours. The tests can be tiring, as they are meant to identify the limits of your abilities. Breaks are taken as needed, and testing can be completed in a single day or over multiple sessions, depending upon the age, capabilities, and preferences of the patient and his/her caregivers.
- Following the testing session or sessions, the test will be scored and the results compared to others of a similar age and educational level. The doctor will then schedule a follow-up meeting with you to share the results in a feedback meeting. As with the initial interview, you are welcome to bring family members to your feedback session.
When it comes to gathering accurate and comprehensive information about the functioning of an individual with an injury, disease, or developmental difference affecting the brain, one of the best tools is the Neuropsychological Evaluation. It gives the neuropsychologist, treating clinicians, patient, and caregivers a better understanding of how the patient’s brain is processing information and helps them formulate a treatment strategy to address the patient’s present condition with specific therapies. Then, working together, the patient, patient’s family, and treating clinicians can begin the task of rehabilitation and personal development with the best possible chance for a meaningful recovery.
“Neuropsychological Tests.” www.webmd.com. Web. 28 September 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/brain/neuropsychological-tests>.
Kreutzer, PhD, Jeffrey. “A Guide to Neuropsychological Testing.” www.brainline.org. October 2011. Web. 28 September 2015. <http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/10/a-guide-to-neuropsychological-testing.html>.