How to "Prepare" for a Neuropsychological Evaluation!
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Often we are asked how best to help a child or family member "prepare" for their Neuropsychological Evaluation. I put "prepare" in quotes because there is little to no preparation involved! Neuropsychological evaluations do not involve studying or attempting to cram information before arriving- our tests are not used in this way! The accuracy of our tests is based on an unprepared individual- someone who has not seen our measures before!
Instead, our goal is to understand how an individual is functioning at a given point in time. We describe the evaluation as a snapshot- helping us to understand their abilities on the day of testing, and to compare their scores to other individuals of the same age. In this way, we can tell if someone is on-track with their skills compared to peers, or if they may be demonstrating difficulties in a particular area. If difficulties arise, our job is to formulate a plan to support and bolster those areas of challenge! Some of the activities we complete are very easy and liked by most people; others are challenging and can result in occasional frustration. This response is normal, and we make sure to take breaks and allow clients to relax if they find their frustration is increasing. Most of the time, by the next activity, their frustration has abated!
So how can a family member or parent best help the individual "prepare"? First, get a good night's rest the night before the evaluation. Ideally, consistent sleep for the 2 nights prior to the evaluation will help the individual feel rested and ready for a day of activities with us. Second, eat breakfast! Touted as the most important meal of the day, breakfast provides the essential fuel needed to tackle our morning games and activities. Third, pack snacks or drinks for breaks. We provide numerous rest breaks throughout the day, and snacks can help to keep the energy flowing! There is a break for lunch as well, and families can either pack their lunch or pop out to one of the many restaurants in the surrounding area.
Finally, help the individual understand what to expect before coming to our office. Often one of the first questions we are asked is "do I have to get a shot?" and the answer is absolutely not! Particularly with younger children, explain to the individual that he or she is going to spend the day with the doctor doing various learning activities at a table. Some of the activities may feel like school, while others involve drawing, looking at pictures, or solving puzzles. Family members are welcome to wait in our waiting room, so it is okay to help the individual understand that a family member will be at the office with them throughout the day.
Our goal throughout the evaluation is to make the individual feel as comfortable and at ease as possible. We hope that this post clarifies the preparation process, and look forward to seeing you in the office on your scheduled evaluation day!