What is a cognitive assessment?
A cognitive assessment of a child is usually conducted as part of a broader battery of psycho-educational testing. Such an assessment will offer a picture of the child’s thinking ability, scholastic and socio-emotional functioning.
Children will be referred for a psycho-educational assessment for some of the following reasons:
- learning difficulties;
- scholastic under achievement;
- social, emotional and/or motivational concerns;
- school readiness;
- application to an examining board for accommodations and concessions;
- the need to plan an appropriate educational programme for a particular child;
- school placement decisions.
How is the assessment conducted?
At Bellavista S.E.E.K., a cognitive assessment is conducted by an Educational or Clinical Psychologist who leads a multi-disciplinary team assessment. The cognitive assessment contributes to an understanding of the child’s current ability and areas of strength and weakness in relation to himself/herself and to others in his/her age group. The approach to the assessment is multifaceted and recognises that concerns about a child are not inherent to the child but include the context of the systems in which that child functions – school and the family. Assessment serves as a springboard for intervention and is therefore intended as the basis on which to make appropriate recommendations. Results of a cognitive assessment are not to be interpreted in isolation but, rather, should be seen in relation to assessment observations, school and teacher reports, guardian or parents’ participation and results of other assessments (i.e. scholastic, Speech-Language or Occupational Therapy); thus providing a holistic and integrated picture of the child’s functioning.
The purposes of assessment include:
- providing an understanding of the child’s current functioning;
- referral to an appropriate source for assistance to the child or the family;
- developing an intervention plan;
- determining appropriate school placement or individual education planning;
- determining a plan to re-evaluate progress after intervention.
What does the cognitive assessment entail?
- A parent or guardian submits an application for assessment and includes a detailed history taking on the questionnaire.
- The need for a cognitive assessment is determined after a file review.
- The allocated psychologist meets the parents/ guardians to take a detailed background history.
- The psychologist selects tests deemed suitable tools to gather the information required for the purpose of measuring progress in therapy and/or guiding therapy planning going forward. These may include: WPPSIUK; WISC VUK (Wechler Intelligence Scale for Children Fifth Edition); NEPSY; CAS2 (Cognitive Assessment System); Griffiths Mental Development Scales; emotional screening tools.
- The assessment battery is applied with the child in a one:one setting;
- The results are scrutinized by the psychologist who will then consult the multi-disciplinary team for input before a feedback interview with the parents/ guardians;
- A full, integrated report is compiled and issues, indicating results, discussion on the results and recommendations.
Information about the following may be revealed:
- verbal comprehension, expression and conceptualization;
- reasoning ability and logical thinking;
- acquired knowledge (general knowledge; social knowledge, language and mathematical knowledge;
- simultaneous processing (seeing the whole; linking the information together;
- successive processing (processing in sequence)
- planning ability;
- attentional behaviours, impulsivity and distractibility;
- auditory processing ability (includes auditory short term memory and auditory discrimination);
- visual processing skills (includes visual memory, visual discrimination and perception);
- Working Memory
- Spatial visualization;
- Motor coordination.
It is of great importance that test results are interpreted with caution. Observations and test findings reflect a sample of the child’s behaviour and achievement at the time of testing and do not apply indefinitely. Behaviour may vary according to context and circumstance, and this should be given due consideration. It is accepted that a person’s scores on the tests applied can be influenced by motivation, attention, interests and opportunities for learning. A few test scores cannot assess all the skills that a person may be capable of using to assist him in achieving success. It should be noted that it is not possible to predict future behaviour with any degree of certainty; nor is it possible to predict people’s responses to significant life events.
Ultimately, the goal of a cognitive assessment is to guide intervention to allow the child to reach his/her optimal functioning and full potential.