To determine if a child has attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or other learning disorders, we start with an evaluation process appropriate to the child’s age. The evaluation helps us understand how brain function is affecting the child’s ability to learn and participate in school and do other activities of everyday life. By discovering how your child’s central nervous system works, we are able to recommend the best course of action to help address those issues.
Through training, research, and clinical experience, our neuropsychologists are able to discover if a child has a learning disorder, such as ADHD, and the extent of its effect. Based on our evaluation, we recommend next steps that may include medication, psychotherapy, coordination with the school, and special programs. We are dedicated to helping children reach their full potential by providing the tools to learn and navigate all types of situations in school, in play, and in relationships.
The neuropsychological evaluation process differs from other psychological evaluations because the focus is on understanding how the child’s brain functions and affects the child’s ability to learn. We do that through age-appropriate activities. Our specialists conduct the evaluation process in a natural, relaxed, and fun way according to each child’s interests and abilities. We use play during our assessment, allowing us to make the correct diagnosis and develop the most effective therapies for each child.
Before meeting with a child, we meet the parents to get a clear picture of their concerns and to get a better understanding the child’s interests and needs. The neuropsychological evaluation typically involves:
- Having parents complete a questionnaire about the child's development and behavior
- Interviewing parents about the child’s personal and medical history
- Meeting your child
- Testing your child with age-appropriate activities designed to be engaging and fun, such as:
- Answering questions suitable to the child
- Hands-on activities with blocks and other interactive objects
- Paper-and-pencil exercises, like drawing or writing
- Using a computer when indicated
A neuropsychological evaluation assesses each child’s:
- Ability to copy or draw something seen (visual motor integration)
- Attention and concentration
- Feelings (emotional functioning)
- Full scale IQ for ability to process information, interpret words, and concentrate without distraction
- Learning (academic skills)
- Planning, paying attention, and controlling behavior (executive functioning skills)
- Relationships (interpersonal functioning)
- Speech and language
- Thinking (intellectual ability)
- Use of vocal sounds (phonological function) and ability to hear sounds (audiological function)
- Using hands to eat or write (fine motor functioning)
- Verbal and visual memory
Our evaluation helps us personalize the services a child needs because every child learns in a different way.
What to Expect
Parents are usually not in the room during the evaluation process, except in the case of very young children, when a parent’s presence is necessary. How long the evaluation takes, depends on your child's age and the nature of the child’s issue. The evaluation may take a few sessions over the course of several days.
In addition, we may do classroom observations. This will help us see how the school environment affects your child’s cognitive, behavioral, and social-emotional skills. We will assess peer group and social interactions. Our staff also talks with teachers and the school’s support team. We frequently consult with schools to provide appropriate educational programming suggestions that will help your child.
Preparing Your Child
What you tell your child about the evaluation depends on how much he or she can understand. In general, it is best to tell your child that the activities they will do are a way to help parents and teachers know best how to help with learning and playing at school and at home.
You can make sure that you and your child are ready for the evaluation by:
- Asking us if your child should take his or her regular psychotropic medication for the evaluation
- Bringing your child’s glasses or hearing aid to the evaluation session
- Letting the neuropsychologist know before the evaluation if your child has special language needs
- Providing any records of previous school testing and individual education plans as well as related medical records
Following our evaluation, we meet with parents and provide a written report with our findings. During that follow-up meeting, we discuss what the test results mean for your child. Together, the neuropsychologist and parents design a plan to help your child while considering the needs of the family. While we make recommendations for how to help your child, the best plan is a plan that works for the whole family.
The report about your child may include the following information:
- A detailed summary of the results of the evaluation
- An approach that helps you take action while taking into consideration your child’s strengths and needs
- Clear recommendations to address your child’s challenges
- Offering to work with educational advocates to help you get the financial support you require for your child’s education plan
- Proposal that our specialist participate in meetings to discuss your child’s needs: Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings
- Recommendations and support to help parents arrange to get the services your child needs
- Specific recommendations on how to advocate for your child to gain support from others (teachers, administrators, and school support staff)
- The suggestion that our specialist attend meetings with your child’s school teachers and administrators to help explain report results
Your child’s evaluation may indicate other types of treatment that your child may benefit from, including psychotherapy instead of, or in addition, to medication.
Whenever possible, we work with children and parents on modifying behaviors through psychotherapy based on our evaluation and observations. We often recommend psychotherapy instead of or along with medication. Our psychotherapists specialize in working with children. We offer individual psychotherapy that typically includes conversations and other child-friendly interactions with your child. Parents are often involved in this process.
Another option may be a group setting that involves your child and other children facilitated by the therapist. Psychotherapy sessions engage and stimulate your child in a way that is comfortable, fun, and age appropriate.
Parents Making a Difference
Our psychotherapist works with parents by teaching you techniques that will help you help your child. We offer:
- Parent Management Training (PMT): Teaching you about your child’s learning disorder so that you are better equipped to help your child. You also can learn to be an advocate for your child so that you can help others, such as teachers and school administrators, do what is best for your child.
- Parent and Child Interaction (PCIT): Learning these skills can relieve stress in areas that may have been a problem, such as homework or other tasks at home. Our therapist helps you learn new ways to interact with your child.
Learn more about the programs we offer to treat ADHD and other learning disorders now and as your child grows.
Some children with ADHD need medication to cope with the demands of school in order to focus and learn. Medication is used to help your child navigate the school day, and we monitor the results to ensure that it is effective and appropriate for your child. We work with your child’s school to see if the medication is effective in that setting. Our staff manages your child’s medication to ensure the medication is not altering his or her personality. We want to make sure that medication, if necessary, is the right one, and that your child is getting only the amount needed to help. Our therapists also work closely with your child’s medical doctor to monitor overall health.
Insurance and Costs
While we do not accept insurance payment for neuropsychology services, we work with your education advocate to help you get financial support for these services.
As a leading academic medical center, Mount Sinai offers the opportunity to have your child assessed by one of our medical residents or fellows for a reduced fee. Our licensed pediatric neuropsychologists closely supervise residents and fellows.