Cognitive assessments for children and adolescents should only be done by a professional, specifically trained in using the different test materials, and scoring and interpreting the obtained results.
Also called IQ (Intellectual Quotient) Testing, the process involves a series of different activities designed to help identify a child’s specific learning style, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
When taking your child for a cognitive assessment, it is important to bring a copy of all past assessments, in order to let the psychologist know about previous results and recommendations.
Moreover, it is essential to note that there should be a two year period before re-testing your child. For example, a child assessed by a psychologist or school guidance officer in June 2013 will have to wait until June 2015 to be re-assessed using the same measuring tool.
Reasons for Cognitive Assessments
The assessment gives an insight into a child’s cognitive abilities and learning potential, generating two types of results: an index, as well as a general IQ score. Cognitive assessment is often used with children experiencing different kinds of difficulties at school. Common concerns expressed by parents/caregivers may include:
- My child is struggling academically;
- My child seems to be behind his/her peers;
- Teachers believe that my child should be tested;
- My child does not appear interested in learning things.
While the assessment results are important, the clinical observation of the child during testing sessions is paramount, as it gives valuable information on why the child is struggling, how the child is behaving, their ability to concentrate on the task, and their anxiety level during the assessment.
In fact, how a child performs tasks is as important – and often even more so – than the actual scores.
If you believe that your child might be gifted; s/he may also benefit from having a cognitive assessment done. This will give greater understanding of the child’s cognitive abilities, and will enable the psychologist to make recommendations in order to inform the school for example. If a child is bored at school, s/he may show their frustration by being disruptive. Studies have shown that gifted children often present with behavioural and academic issues, and may underachieve in order to better fit with children from their peer group.
Types of Assessment
The cognitive assessment utilised will depend on your child’s age:
- Younger children (4 years old – 7 years and 3 months) – the WPPSI IV (availability to be advised);
- Children and adolescents (6 years old – 16 years and 11 months) – the WISC-IV.
For children aged between 6 and 7, the psychologist will select the most appropriate scale, depending on the information given by parents/caregivers and the school.
These scales (known as the Wechsler Scales) are the scales of choice in many countries around the world when trying to understand a child’s thinking and reasoning abilities. They provide information about a child’s Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory and Processing Speed abilities. The child will obtains scores for each of the four indices. It is also crucial to look at individual items within subtests as these can provide a rich source of information on the types of error the child might be making.
Cognitive assessments are conducted in a specially appointed room, allowing good testing conditions and reduced noise for the client. The word “test” will be avoided as much as possible and replaced by a non-threatening one such as, activities or games. There is no pass or fail, but different results that will enable the psychologist to put together a profile for your child and write a report with recommendations and suitable actions.
The aim of such a process is to better understand the child’s difficulties; I also like to ensure that the child’s abilities are also highlighted. Results and recommendations are usually explained to the family during a ‘’feedback session’’, where teenagers can usually be invited to attend. Usually younger clients are not present during the feedback session, in order to allow time for explanation between the psychologist and the family, and to reduce anxiety during the delivery of the obtained results.
Depending on the reasons for undertaking this assessment process, a WPPSI IV or a WISC IV, may give enough information to obtain a clear picture about your child’s cognitive abilities.
However, further assessments for your child may also be suggested, using a more specific tool like the WIAT II (to look at any issues in academic achievement); or the CMS (to assess any memory difficulties). Psychologists often need to compare measurements obtained in two different tests (for example, WISC IV and WIAT II), to assess any kind of learning disabilities.
Other Types of Cognitive Assessment
The WIAT II (Wechsler Individual Achievement Test) assesses the academic achievement of the child. It examines specific abilities and comprises a range of subtests assessing the person’s abilities in Reading, Mathematics, Written Language and Oral Language. By using the WIAT II in combination with the WISC IV, it is possible to identify potential learning disabilities; and it can also be used to determine a child’s level in comparing his results to the norm established for his age.
The CMS (Child Memory Scale) is used to assess learning and memory function in children aged 5 to 16 years old. It gives valuable information on the child or adolescent’s Visual Memory, Verbal Memory, Attention and Concentration, as well as Learning abilities. It can be a useful tool in assessing Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or memory issues after a brain injury.
If you would like to find out more about what a cognitive assessment is and how it could be beneficial for your child, please call 1800 877 924 or book online for an initial consultation with Meggy Delaunay.
Please note that you will have to book an initial appointment in order to discuss your concerns, before booking for the assessment itself. There are no Medicare rebates available for these assessments.
- Cognitive assessment, Intellectual abilities (from $990) – 1 to 2 sessions for the assessment itself – 1 feedback session – Scoring, interpretation and report.
- Assessment to determine eventual learning disability (from $1650) – Cognitive assessment (assessment, scoring, interpretation and report) Plus: – 1 to 2 more sessions for assessment – Scoring, interpretation, feedback session, and report.
Author: Meggy Delaunay, PG Dip Psych Practice, PG Dip Dev Psych, M Genetic Psych, B Psych, MAPS.
Meggy Delaunay is a psychologist who primarily works with children, adolescents and young adults. She is a registered Psychologist in Australia, New Zealand and France, and can provide therapy sessions in English and French.
Freecall 1800 877 924 to book today!