Comprehensive Cognitive (Neuropsychological) Assessment
Child Assessment: Ages 4-17 years: Processing issues, learning problems & ADHD
At the SCDC we have extensive expertise in the assessment and treatment of children with developmental, cognitive, learning, social, emotional and behavioural issues. We offer a very flexible assessment system: we do not believe in a fixed battery system as every child is highly unique with different core issues underlying their functional weaknesses and differing patterns of strengths and weaknesses. To administer all available cognitive tests to children would take over 7-8 hours and be highly inefficient and stressful for the child. We therefore base the initial assessment on parental ratings/ interview as well as teacher ratings, and then continue the assessment according to patterns of performance noted on the testing.
Our point of difference
At the SCDC we only have neuropsychologists conduct our assessments. An IQ test and tests of academic achievement are always going to be starting points in assessment, but these tests are just the tip of the iceberg and are not the end goal of assessment. To stop here would only be describing the symptoms without identifying the causes. We only very rarely recommend these tests in isolation as they tell you little about the core issues underlying performance. The only time we would administer just these tests would be if it was a question of funding or application for extra assistance at school. We also do not recommend that questionnaires alone are used to measure attention skills as numerous processing issues (other than true attention problems) can create low ratings. It is helpful that when you are looking to get your child assessed you ask what sort of assessment the health professional conducts and whether they can give all the comprehensive tests noted below. Otherwise you may find yourself shuffled to numerous professionals before a diagnosis can be made, or a misdiagnosis may be made if certain issues are not ruled out. Many patients we see who come to us with a preliminary questionnaire-based screening of ADHD are misdiagnosed and actually have a non-attention based processing disorder such as a visual processing, auditory processing, or other processing disorder. All of our assessments are aimed at understanding your child holistically in regards to not only their cognitive skills but the impact upon them psychologically, emotionally, socially and behaviourally. We recognise that accurate diagnosis and assessment is vital to be able to treat the child as holistically as possible in order to help them maximise their potential.
What tests can be conducted as part of a general cognitive assessment?
- Intellectual functioning: verbal comprehension, visuospatial skills, fluid reasoning, working memory, processing speed
- Memory: visual & verbal learning & memory; immediate, delayed & recognition memory
- Attention: visual sustained, auditory sustained, switching attention, divided attention, selective/ focused attention
- Attention/ memory span: auditory & visual attention span
- Impulsivity, motor restlessness/hyperactivity & stimulation levels
- Executive functioning: planning, organisation, abstract reasoning, self-monitoring
- Processing speed: visual and auditory speed of information processing
- Cognitive flexibility & perseveration
- Visual processing: visual discrimination, spatial, form constancy, figure-ground, closure
- Auditory processing: auditory figure-ground, filtered word, binaural integration, speed
- Motor speed/ reaction time
What tests can be conducted as part of a learning assessment?
- Reading accuracy, reading speed & reading comprehension
- Spelling & writing
- Phonological Awareness: blending, segmentation, rapid naming, phonological memory, non-word reading
- Mathematical operations and reasoning
What psychological & behavioural issues can be screened as part of an assessment?
- Generalised anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Specific phobia
- Low self-esteem
- Oppositional defiant behaviour
- Conduct issues
- Social skills
Important things to consider when looking to have your child assessed
Many parents take their children for cognitive testing and are surprised that even though they told the psychologist their child seems to have organisational, attention or memory problems they just do an IQ test and don't actually do formal cognitive testing of the specific areas of concern. Make sure that the psychologist can assess all your concerns and actually have a complete and updated cognitive test library. Usually only dedicated cognitive centres with invest in these very expensive neuropsychological tests. Before considering assessment we recommend that you:
- Check for a full neuropsychological test library- see tests above. If the psychologists doesn't have all the tests how can you expect they can pinpoint the root cause of the difficulties?
- Check for level of registration with the APRHA register. You would be surprised at how many non-psychologists try and claim they can do comprehensive cognitive testing.
- Check whether they have a minimum of master's level training in the administration of interpretation of neuropsychological testing if neuropsychological tests are conducted. This area of endorsement requires an additional 4 years of supervised training in addition to a 4 year psychology degree.
A complete solution
All our assessments are aimed at providing the parents with
(1) a full description of their child’s strengths and weaknesses,
(2) short-term recommendations on how to manage their weaknesses at school and at home, and then
(3) a long-term program of how to manage and improve the areas of weakness through various types of therapy and cognitive training.
At the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre we have a team of neuropsychologists, clinical psychologists, speech therapist, orthopist/visual trainer, cognitive trainers, and educational experts who can treat every aspect of your child's issues. We have a philosophy to address issues from all angles to be able to achieve maximum benefits. For example, many children with cognitive issues develop anxiety and low self-esteem and even though we can improve core cognitive skills, without improving the psychological factors, children won't believe they can succeed and therefore still won't try. For children with multiple issues we combine therapies so that the child can reach their highest levels of potential. We aim to provide families with a comprehensive solution to helping their child maximise their potential and create the best quality of life for them in the long-term.