Diagnosing acquired brain injury is not always as simple as getting a scan or picture of the brain. Even with a "normal" scan, the person may have trouble with how they think and how they behave. be normal, yet the person may be experiencing trouble with how they think and behave.
A Neuropsychological Evaluation is a comprehensive assessment
This evaluation is not one test, but uses a variety of standardized tests to measure functions such as:
- Ability to learn new things
- Academic skills
- Planning how to get a task done
- Language Skills
- Organizing thoughts, work
- Attention & Focus
- Problem solving
- Perceptual Abilities
The evaluations can also look at how well a person can multi-task, deal with frustration, and whether they're depressed. The tests help you and your doctors understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. A referral is usually needed for a doctor treating the patient.
Why take this sort of evaluation?
- Confirm or clarify a diagnosis;
- Better understand strengths and weaknesses since the injury;
- Document a disability (for example, for a Social Security Disability claim);
- Guide treatment planning – including referrals to other therapists such as a Speech Therapist or an Occupational Therapist
- Provide ideas and strategies to help cope with challenges in day to day activities;
- Answer questions about competency, the ability to handle funds or live independently;
- Decide if the person is ready to be left alone, go back to work, school or resume driving.
- Make recommendations about what accommodations are needed for school or work;
- Document progress if a person is tested several times over a period of time.
What is the testing like?
The evaluation is conducted by a Neuropsychologist, a clinical psychologist with additional training in brain-behavior relationships and how to administer and interpret these tests. In some places a technician called a “psychometrist” does the actual testing. The clinician will review medical records and interview the injured person. If possible, a family member who knows you well may also be interviewed. Some of the testing is done with paper and pencil, some on the computer. There are a variety of tasks such as copying pictures, reading or listening and answering questions. Some of it might feel repetitive. There aren’t any needles or electrodes or scans. Some people might find the testing frustrating, others may find it interesting. During the interview, you may be asked about your mood, feelings and emotions since these can affect how well you function. The testing can take anywhere from a few hours to 6 or 7 hours. It might get scheduled all on one day or spread out over a few days.
To get the most out of the testing:
- Get a good night of rest before the evaluation and eat a good breakfast;
- Leave enough time for travel, parking, finding the clinic - so you don’t feel rushed or frazzled;
- Take medicine as normally scheduled, unless told otherwise by the clinic;
- Complete any questionnaires provided before arriving and make sure to bring them;
- Bring medical records regarding the injury or arrange for them to be sent in advance;
- If in school, bring academic records;
- Bring insurance card and ID;
- Wear glasses and hearing aids, if needed.
- There is no need to study before the testing; it’s meant to get a measure of current abilities;
- If you need a break during testing, be sure to let the person doing the testing know;
Talk with the Neuropsychologist about reviewing the test results with you. You are more likely to get a more thorough explanation and more understandable and use able information if you meet with the Neuropsychologist. If the patient is already getting therapy, make sure to provide permission to share the results with others involved with your care.
Coverage for the cost of testing will vary depending on circumstances. Health insurance may cover the testing, but some will have limits on the number of hours for which they will pay. The patient is responsible for any co-pays or deductibles. If the patient is involved in a Workers’ Compensation case or a Personal Injury case, talk with your attorney about coverage. For those who are enrolled in Vocational Services with the Dept. for Aging and Rehabilitation Services, this might be a source of payment too. Some providers may have financial assistance or payment options available. If receiving services from a Brain Injury Case Management Program in Virginia, talk with your case manager about whether financial assistance is available.
In summary, a Neuropsychological Evaluation is an important tool to help you and your treatment team better understand the effects of your injury and better plan for the most effective treatment.
Schaaf, Kathryn Wilder, Ph.D., Stevens, Lillian Flores, Ph.D., Holcomb, Megan, Ph.D., Smith, Stephen, Ph.D., Artman, Laura, Ph.D., Kreutzer, Jeffrey S., Ph.D., ABPP; Frequently Asked Questions About Neuropsychological Evaluation, Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Psychology and Neuropsychology Division, Richmond, VA
www.neuropsychologycentral.com Explanation of Neuropsychological Evaluations, downloaded 4.13.07.
This project is supported by state contract #16-002A, administered by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).