What is a cognitive assessment?
Cognitive testing is a check to see if there are problems with an individual’s cognition. Cognition is a combination of processes in your brain. It is included in everything we do, from thinking, memory, language, and a personal ability to read situations and use their judgement.
Cognitive testing is often used to help screen a person for mild cognitive impairment which is often referred to as MCI.
There are a few types of cognitive testing available, each involves answering a series of questions or completing a simple task. The way in which you complete the test measures your mental functions, such as memory, and language.
Cognitive assessments in children will assist in the examination of a learning difficulty or disabilities, intellectual diffluences, or disabilities and intellectual giftedness. A cognitive assessment for children requires an experienced and accredited psychologist. They use a variety of assessment tools for different reasons and dependant on the age group. Common cognitive assessment tools may include Wechsler Intelligence scales for children, Stanford-Binet fifth edition for children ages 2-7 years, and Wechsler preschool and primary scale of intelligence.
How could a cognitive assessment help my child?
So, a ‘normal’ cognitive function is not only hearing the information but being able to make sense of it and to put that into practice. Comprehensive educational assessments can help teachers and parents gain an insight into a child’s unique learning profile and capabilities. This will allow both the parents and teachers make informed decisions regarding a child’s education, and to help provide them with optimal learning environments specific to their needs.
Children with an intellectual giftedness, may wish to have assessment to help determine whether a child can access gift and talented programs or special classes. It may also provide guide to their school and teachers to provide them with extension activities during their school days.
A cognitive assessment completed with an educational assessment, can help identify the presence of a learning difficulty for the individual, and allow the teachers to provide appropriate communications for the student within the classroom.
If you believe a child has intellectual disability or difficulty, an assessment can be completed to identify the disability. It is then it is followed up with an IQ test, which will allow teachers and parents to gain a better understanding of a child’s ability to learn and understand.
Other reasons could be to assist in the examination of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
How is a cognitive assessment usually run?
Speaking to your children’s school and expressing any concerns could be the first port of call. This will enable you to get a clear understanding on how your child is performing, or underperforming, at school, and they can provide examples of where they should be performing, given their chronological age or based on national averages.
A visit to your GP will allow you to get a health practitioners opinion and they will be able to refer you to the best providers. Once you have a referral and are booked into an accredited psychologist then a typical assessment includes:
- An initial meeting with a parent to gather information about the child and how they have developed from pregnancy to date.
- Usually, 2 sessions are scheduled for 50 minutes -1 hour each to perform the standard cognitive testing.
- Each assessment is scored and interpreted against standardises results.
- A detailed assessment report of findings, with behaviour and educational recommendations for your child is presented to you.
- A feedback session to discuss the assessment report and answer any remaining questions you have is scheduled.
Cognitive assessments can be tailored to each individual needs. This information is just a general outline of how most assessments are completed.
Signs my child might need a cognitive assessment
Children can often experience learning difficulties at school, common concerns are:
- Struggle to learn
- Difficulty following instructions
- Is my child gifted
- Wise beyond their years
- Angry and frustrated at school
As children are constantly developing and learning as they experience the world, their cognitive skills will increase and are constantly changing, you will notice certain strengths and weakness within your children’s cognitive development. Whilst some struggles are classed as within standard learning capabilities, when a child has low self-esteem and cannot complete tasks at school, it often means there could be an underlying issue with their ability to comprehend a set of instruction or task for them to learn a new skill.
What will the school do with the results?
Within the detailed report that is provided to you as part of the assessment, it will have home and school recommendations, to help develop a learning plan for your child. These recommendations are based on your child’s current strengths as well as their weaknesses.
Instructions could include, for example:
- Student is to be provided with clear instructions, one at a time.
- Student requires a demonstration rather than written or verbal instructions.
The results in the report should provide an opportunity for teachers to gain a better understanding of a child’s learning needs and requirements, but it also provides you the parent answers to why your child is struggling.
How much does a cognitive assessment cost?
Cognitive assessments are not set a standard cost, so it is best to speak to a few providers to find the best phycologist and assessment for you. The average cost is between $500-$1000.00.
Will you be able to give a diagnosis following the assessment?
Assessments are usually used to support a diagnosis, and in some cases the assessments results are sufficient to confirms a diagnosis. However, in other instances the finding forms a bigger picture and other assessments maybe required to confirm a diagnosis. E.g., a dyslexia assessment, maybe required if your child struggles with symbols to sounds or reading and retaining sight words. The phycologist will be able to recommend the appropriate testing if further information is required.
A cognitive impairment is not an illness, but it is a term used to describe a person’s condition. In short terms, it means they have trouble with their memory and paying attention, which might extend to trouble speaking and understanding instructions.
As we age, our cognitive function may decrease. Some examples of long term or permanent cognitive impairment are dementia, a result of a brain injury, or a stroke. Not everyone will have a cognitive impairment, but it is more common in older individuals.
If you are experiencing a cognitive impairment or would like to get extra support for a friend or family member, ConnectAbility are a registered NDIS provider who can help with everyday living, to people who are living with cognitive impartments or a disability. Call our team on 02 4349 3700 to find out more about the services and activities we can offer you to support your needs and aspirations.