ERIC Identifier: ED328609
Publication Date: 1990-12-00
Author: Merz, William R., Sr. - And Others
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Tests Measurement and Evaluation
Washington DC., American Institutes for Research Washington DC.
Neuropsychological Assessment in Schools. ERIC Digest.
Neuropsychological assessment is a tool that has traditionally been
used by hospital clinicians and clinical psychologists. However, now that
educators have begun to recognize the value of neuropsychological assessment,
many school psychologists are being trained to use it as a regular part
of assessing children with special needs.
This digest tells you what neuropsychological assessment is and why
it's important to educators. It explains how educators use neuropsychological
assessment and what some of its limitations are. It also provides a list
of sources where you can find out more about neuropsychological assessment.
WHAT IS NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?
Neuropsychology is the study of how the functions of your brain and
nervous system affect the way you think and behave. For some time now,
neuropsychology has helped hospital clinicians assess patients who have
experienced head injuries to determine how neurological damage affects
their patients' thinking skills and behavior. Clinical psychologists have
also benefited from neuropsychology because it helps them more accurately
assess the causes of some patients' behaviors.
Recently, education experts have begun to use neuropsychology to explain
why some children have trouble acquiring language skills, learning to read,
developing arithmetic reasoning skills, and so on. Using neuropsychology
in schools can help teachers serve children with learning disabilities
more effectively because a child who has neurologically related disabilities
does not benefit from the same teaching techniques (such as repetition)
that a student who learns at a slower rate benefits from.
Neurological assessment is a tool for evaluating how much a child's
performance may be influenced by unusual functions of the brain and nervous
system. It helps school psychologists systematically measure a child's
skills and determine the best learning environment for the child.
A complete neuropsychological assessment requires gathering and analyzing
information about the child's development physically, socially, and psychologically
as well as the child's education. This information comes from a variety
* Parents' observations are a valuable source of information because
parents are the first observers to evaluate such things as their child's
motor skills, language acquisition, and the like.
* Formal observation, for example, watching the child copy designs,
pronounce words, or figure out an arithmetic problem is also part of the
* Some standardized assessment measures with established validity and
reliability already exist--for example, asking a child to generate rules
from examples or to state socially accepted behaviors for given situations.
* Other tests are designed to help assess neuropsychological development
The two most common tests are:
- the Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Test Battery (which includes
the revised Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) and
- the Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Battery.
WHY IS NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT IMPORTANT FOR EDUCATORS?
Recent laws for the handicapped encourage it.
Educators have turned to neuropsychological assessment in an effort
to comply with recent laws for the handicapped. The Education for All Handicapped
Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142) and The Education and Handicapped
Act Amendments of 1986 (Public Law 99-457) require schools to search for
and serve all handicapped children who are three years old and older. The
act and its amendments require educators to screen, assess, and identify
children with learning disabilities early on so that these children can
receive an education that is best-suited to their needs.
Schools today offer a wide range of programs.
Programs in most schools address a wide range of functioning levels
from the severely developmentally disabled to the gifted or talented. For
these programs to work effectively, the school psychologist must identify
the learning strengths and weaknesses of each child so that the children
will be placed in the educational environment that will help them reach
their full learning potential. The more extensive the psychologist's repertoire
of insightful tools, the more complete the evaluation. And, the more complete
the evaluation, the more appropriate the child's placement.
Learning disabilities are difficult to identify.
Identifying learning disabled students has never been an easy task.
Students' ability to acquire learning skills can be affected by many factors,
ranging from physical make-up to home environment. It is possible that
Johnny can't read because he has not been in school enough, has emotional
problems that interfere with learning, is unable to listen to instruction,
or has a brain dysfunction that prevents the acquisition of learning material
through traditional methods. In order to separate the many overlapping
factors and provide the most accurate diagnosis possible, the school psychologist
must use the best diagnostic instruments available.
Children with subtle problems benefit most from neuropsychological assessment
because they do not have severe disabilities that have obvious symptoms;
yet, these children do not function best within the normal learning environment.
HOW DO SCHOOLS USE NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?
Just as the medical practitioner uses diagnostic tests to rule out or
to corroborate diagnoses, the school psychologist assesses abilities using
neuropsychological assessment. Most students are not formally assessed.
If a teacher notices that a child seems to have learning problems, the
teacher may modify teaching methods accordingly. If the student fails to
respond, then more extensive assessment may be done to determine the best
instructional approaches to meet the student's needs.
WHAT ARE SOME LIMITATIONS OF NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?
One of the advantages of neurological assessment is that it can accurately
detect neurological damage or dysfunction without the need for obtrusive
medical tests. However, some limitations should be kept in mind:
* To perform neuropsychological assessments well, you must be a thoroughly
* The results of a neuropsychological assessment are not an absolute
score or completely accurate proof. You must use results along with data
that are compiled from many different sources.
* Many experts question the validity of basic norms of neuropsychological
assessment because the norms were originally derived from groups that were
predominantly adults; only a very small sample of children were represented
in the populations that were studied to produce the norms.
* Neuropsychological assessment batteries are long and extremely time
consuming when used in their complete form.
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New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Kestenbaum, C.J. and Williams, D.T. (1988). Handbook of clinical assessment
of children and adolescents. New York: New York University Press.
Sattler, Jerome M. (1988). Assessment of children, (3rd Ed.). San Diego:
Jerome M. Sattler.
Siegel, M.G. (1987). Psychological testing from early childhood through
adolescence. Madison CT: International Universities Press.
Swiercinsky, D.P. (1984). "Evaluation of Neuropsychological Impairment."
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clinical and psychoeducational assessments. Kansas City, MO: Test Corporation