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Why Have I Been Referred for a Neuropsychological Evaluation: A Patient’s Guide

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WHY HAVE YOU BEEN REFERRED FOR A NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION?

After an injury or illness that affects the brain, people are commonly referred for a neuropsychological evaluation.  People with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and ADD/ADHD are also referred for neuropsychological evaluation.  Your doctor has referred you for a neuropsychological evaluation.  This evaluation may be helpful in answering questions like:

“Is my memory loss due to normal aging or could something else be going on?”
“How will my brain functioning be affected by an upcoming surgery or treatment?”
“Do I have memory loss due to a certain neurologic condition?”
“When do I go back to work? or “Can I start driving again?”
“What additional supports do I need to be even more independent?”
“What educational accommodations do I need?”
“Am I depressed or just tired from the effects of my illness?”
“Do I have adult ADD or ADHD?”

While doctors are able to look at scans and pictures of the brain, these images do not always show how the brain is working or functioning and how the brain has been injured.  By doing neuropsychological testing, doctors are able to see how your brain is functioning.  These tests will also help you and your family members understand how your abilities have changed.  This can help us with developing a plan for you getting better, performing to your best, or planning for the future if abilities are not expected to improve.

The neuropsychologist provides an evaluation that may be of help in:
a) finding a possible problem with your brain functioning
b) forming a diagnosis
c) defining your thinking skill strengths and weaknesses
d) guiding treatment for your personal, educational, or vocational needs

WHAT DOES A NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION CONSIST OF?
A neuropsychological evaluation involves testing that is sensitive to problems in brain functioning.  The tests are designed to challenge your brain but you can’t “fail” the tests. Instead, the tests show how well the brain is working when it performs certain functions (for example, remembering).  The tests are administered by paper and pencil or computer, and do not involve attaching you to any machinery (non-invasive).  Most tests involve working with materials on a table, similar to a classroom environment.  The neuropsychologist will also talk with you about your medical history.  The evaluation can take 2-12 hours depending on what questions we are trying to answer.

WHAT SKILLS AND ABILITIES DO NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS MEASURE?
Typically, neuropsychological tests will assess intelligence, attention and concentration, problem-solving and ability to shift gears, speed of thinking, learning and memory, visual spatial skills, emotional functioning, academic skills, and sensory-motor skills.

WHO WILL I MEET WITH DURING MY APPOINTMENT?
You will meet with a neuropsychologist, a licensed psychologist specializing in the area of brain-behavior relationships.  Although a neuropsychologist has a doctoral degree in psychology, he or she does not just focus on emotional problems.  The neuropsychologist has additional training in brain anatomy, brain function, and brain injury or disease.  The neuropsychologist also has specialized training in administering and interpreting the specific kinds of tests you see.

WHAT DO I BRING AND HOW DO I PREPARE?
Call the neuropsychologist to arrange an appointment time.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before the evaluation, bring hearing aides or eyeglasses, a form of payment for the exam, a snack, lunch, or money to buy lunch since evaluations can take a full day, medical records that are related to your current illness, and academic records if you are in school.

WHAT WILL I LEARN FROM THIS EVALUATION?
You will need to set up a feedback meeting with the neuropsychologist after the evaluation is complete, which is typically 1 hour.  During that time, your neuropsychologist will explain the evaluation results, go over recommendations, and answer questions.  A neuropsychological evaluation will provide you and your family with a better understanding of your brain’s strengths and weaknesses, information for your doctor for treatment planning, and recommendations for day to day life that can help with recovery from illness or injury or help you perform to your best in work, school, or daily living.  For disability evaluations, the evaluation can help document your disability.  For others, the evaluation provides important documentation if you are involved in a court case.

Some people worry that their evaluation results will be used to make decisions about whether they can drive, return to work, get into a school program, manage their own money, cook, or be home alone.  These decisions must ultimately be made by you, your physician, and your family.  However, based on your strengths and weaknesses, a neuropsychologist will make recommendations that fit your life at the time.  These are for your safety and are designed to let you be as independent as possible.

By | 2017-05-25T13:35:30+00:00 December 21st, 2015|neuropsychological evaluation|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Messler is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist and licensed psychologist who has provided thousands of evaluations where the question of traumatic brain injury was raised. She has also served as expert consultant and witness. She believes it is critical to provide an objective, scientifically defensible opinion, and to help the jury and court understand the implications of the neuropsychological aspects of cases before them. As a prior active duty neuropsychologist, she has extensive experience in the area of military forensic neuropsychology.