How can I tell if it’s the right time for a neuropsychological evaluation?

As young children enter school, many behaviors may emerge which could be concerning for parents. It can also be disheartening to see your child struggle with new academic skills when it seems like their peers are excelling. Whether it’s due to emotional, behavioral, social, or academic concerns – it may be the right time to consider a neuropsychological evaluation for your child.

First and foremost, it is important (and reassuring) to know that most difficult behaviors in young children are typical – and even expected. For example, most children who have not yet engaged with multiple peers in a structured setting struggle to share and take turns with others. Just like riding a bike, many social, emotional, and behavioral skills take time to refine. For many kids, this happens quickly or naturally. For others, the process takes a bit longer – and isn’t always perfect, even as they get older. For clinical neuropsychologists, what differentiates typical development from diagnosable conditions is the frequency and severity of behaviors. For example, many young children display negative behaviors when they do not get their way. In these instances, having one “meltdown” per month is much less concerning than multiple, severe tantrums per week.

In addition to behavioral considerations, children entering kindergarten are often faced with new social, cognitive, and academic demands which become increasingly difficult as they get older. It is also important to consider that no two children learn at the same rate. As an example, it may be discouraging to see your child struggle with early literacy skills while some of their classmates have already mastered them – but there is quite a bit of variability in the ages that children typically develop reading skills. Prior research has shown that approximately 2% of children entering kindergarten in the United States know how to read sight words – and that the average age that students develop reading fluency is age seven. Additionally, academic success is not solely tied to intellectual or cognitive abilities – many emotional and behavioral components are involved in early academic achievement. A critical element of determining if your child has learning needs involves communicating with his/her teacher regarding their progress. Are they listening and following directions? Do they seem to understand concepts being taught to them? Do they struggle with the language used during lessons? Are they able to sit still and participate?  Following consultation with your child’s teacher, it can be helpful to consult with your family’s pediatrician. Your child’s educational and medical specialists can help weigh in on behavioral and academic expectations for their age.

Ultimately, if your child has recently entered school and you are concerned about their development following conversations with their teacher and/or pediatrician, it may be a good time to consider a neuropsychological evaluation. At an early age, neuropsychological evaluations are critical for identifying and diagnosing learning needs and providing a baseline for measuring future progress. Most importantly, research has consistently shown that children show the most opportunity for growth and progress when learning disorders and mental health conditions are diagnosed and addressed at an early age. If you feel like your child would benefit from an evaluation of their cognitive, academic, emotional, social, and/or behavioral skills, do not hesitate to contact Oakland Neuropsychology Center. Our highly skilled and trained neuropsychologists can discuss your concerns in great detail and help determine if an evaluation is the best next step for your family.