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Neuropsychological Assessment in Schools

What is Neuropsychological Testing?


Updated October 28, 2012

Neuropsychological Assessment in Schools. ERIC Digest.


Neuropsychological assessment is a tool that has traditionally been used by hospital clinicians and clinical psychologists. However, now that educators have begun to recognize the value of neuropsychological assessment, many school psychologists are being trained to use it as a regular part of assessing children with special needs.

This digest tells you what neuropsychological assessment is and why it's important to educators. It explains how educators use neuropsychological assessment and what some of its limitations are. It also provides a list of sources where you can find out more about neuropsychological assessment.


In theory

Neuropsychology is the study of how the functions of your brain and nervous system affect the way you think and behave. For some time now, neuropsychology has helped hospital clinicians assess patients who have experienced head injuries to determine how neurological damage affects their patients' thinking skills and behavior. Clinical psychologists have also benefited from neuropsychology because it helps them more accurately assess the causes of some patients' behaviors.

Recently, education experts have begun to use neuropsychology to explain why some children have trouble acquiring language skills, learning to read, developing arithmetic reasoning skills, and so on. Using neuropsychology in schools can help teachers serve children with learning disabilities more effectively because a child who has neurologically related disabilities does not benefit from the same teaching techniques (such as repetition) that a student who learns at a slower rate benefits from.

Neurological assessment is a tool for evaluating how much a child's performance may be influenced by unusual functions of the brain and nervous system. It helps school psychologists systematically measure a child's skills and determine the best learning environment for the child.

In practice

A complete neuropsychological assessment requires gathering and analyzing information about the child's development physically, socially, and psychologically as well as the child's education. This information comes from a variety of sources:
  • Parents' observations are a valuable source of information because parents are the first observers to evaluate such things as their child's motor skills, language acquisition, and the like.
  • Formal observation, for example, watching the child copy designs, pronounce words, or figure out an arithmetic problem is also part of the assessment.
  • Some standardized assessment measures with established validity and reliability already exist--for example, asking a child to generate rules from examples or to state socially accepted behaviors for given situations.
  • Other tests are designed to help assess neuropsychological development as well.
The two most common tests are:
  • the Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Test Battery (which includes the revised Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) and
  • the Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Battery.

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