When a student is experiencing significant learning, behavioral, or emotional difficulties in school that are not temporary in nature and that do not seem to improve with regular school interventions, a comprehensive academic evaluation may be requested. In the public school system, the student may be referred to the Child Study Team which conducts that evaluation. Often, one part of that evaluation is conducted by the School Psychologist, usually a Masters-level certified school district staff member, who administers a battery of tests that will include intelligence testing and emotional/behavioral assessment at the minimum. Another member of the Child Study Team, usually the Learning Specialist, will also administer achievement testing.
Unfortunately, due to limited resources, staff and funding, not all students who might benefit from an evaluation actually receive one. Furthermore, the scope of the school evaluation is not as comprehensive as that of a neuropsychological evaluation, which is conducted by a Doctoral-Level, licensed health care practitioner. As a result, many learning, attentional, developmental, behavioral and emotional disorders go unidentified and the student may not receive the appropriate support and accommodations needed to overcome the difficulties. It is not uncommon for students to struggle for many years, until they have fallen considerably behind in their academic skills, before a more comprehensive evaluation is conducted.
A neuropsychological evaluation includes testing of not only intelligence, emotional/behavioral, and achievement domains, but of other areas such as sensory-motor functioning, specific attention and concentration, memory and learning skills, executive functioning, higher order reasoning, cognitive flexibility, auditory processing and discrimination, right vs. left cerebral functioning, as well as other domains.
In cases where the school and parents are at odds regarding the best educational plan or placement for the student, an independent neuropsychological evaluation may be requested by either the school or the parent/guardian. Such an evaluation offers an independent, outside expert opinion to assist the school and parent/guardian in the development of an appropriate Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for that student.