Confused about the different cognitive & educational assessments available?

How we diagnose and treat cognitive issues and learning disorders

Neuropsychologists have a very different way of diagnosing learning disabilities compared to the typical psychologist due to their different type of expertise. Psychologists will typically diagnose learning disorders through the administration of an IQ test (the standard in Australia being the WISC-IV) and academic achievement testing (the standard usually being the WIAT-II). This type of assessment will be able to diagnose whether your child has a specific learning disability, That is, it will be able to assess whether your child’s academic skills are falling significantly below their level of IQ, and whether they are also impaired compared to children their age. We find that whilst parents can be relieved to have a label, the main thing they desire is a plan for treatment. This type of basic testing does NOT assess all the core processing issues that could be creating these blocks to learning, hence this type of testing may not identify the core reason why your child wasn’t able to take in information in the classroom. Often from these assessments parents are recommended to put their child in to extra tuition. This leaves parents and children frustrated: the child is in school 6-7 hours a day not learning much, and then has to come home to relearn all the material when they are tired? Once they have caught up they stop the tutoring only to find a short while later their child has fallen behind again as the core issue blocking their learning was never addressed.

At the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre we have a very different philosophy. We will diagnose any core learning issues BUT we will also do a full cognitive assessment to tell you why these learning issues have occurred in the first place. We then then be able to develop a unique treatment plan to build the core weaknesses your child presents with so that they can then sit in school and take in information at much higher levels. This way once they have had tutoring to fill the gaps in their knowledge, they will no longer be highly reliant upon this tutoring to learn.

Assessment at the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre

STEP 1: Initial phone interview with our intake officer

Prior to booking an appointment all of our patients go through a screening process by our intake officer, Rhianna Mott. Rhianna will go through all your areas of concern as well as ask you about your child’s general skills in other areas. At this stage you may be asked to forward us reports from other assessments you may have done so that we can determine the extent of testing still required. An initial consultation with the parents will be booked as well as the assessment date for us to formally assess your child.

STEP 2: Completion of standardised rating scales by parents & teachers

After your appointment has been booked we will then send you links to online standardised rating scales. These include (1) a developmental history questionnaire, (2) a comprehensive development screening questionnaire looking at diagnostic criteria for 13 different disorders (3) a questionnaire looking at executive skills (eg. planning and organisation). These questionnaires look at symptoms of attention issues, as well as social, emotional and behavioural issues both at home and at school that may be resulting in behaviours that may be underlying learning problems.

STEP 3: Initial consultation with parents

This involves a 1 hour interview with the parents to look holistically at how the child is functioning and to help further guide the assessment process. This consultation goes through the developmental history and other possible issues that may underlie the noted issues either at school or at home (eg. visual and hearing issues, head injury, sleep problems, sleep apnoea, etc) to help make a differential diagnosis.

STEP 4: Formal neuropsychological assessment

The child then undergoes a neuropsychological assessment looking at the key features underlying learning. there are numerous types of testing possible and each assessment will be individualised for your child. For a list of all tests available and pricing for each test please request an information package.

STEP 5: Feedback session

Once the results are available and have been analysed the parent/s will be given verbal feedback. At this stage a diagnosis will be discussed along with possibilities for therapy. A careful therapy plan will be formulated.

STEP 6: Report

Within 2-3 weeks the family will receive a very detailed neuropsychological report which will outline all tests conducted, results, diagnosis, summary of strengths and weaknesses, follow-up required as well as specific detailed recommendations according to all the areas of weakness noted. We prepare both a parent report, which has specific recommendations for use in the home, as well as a separate teacher report, which has only school related recommendations. Our reports are very detailed and usually are between 20-30 pages each.

STEP 7: Follow-up therapy

See our HighQ Cognitive Training Program for more details on our complete therapy program.

HighQ Cognitive Training Program

STEP 8: Review

Following intervention we usually like to briefly review children to make sure that all areas of skill have improved . At this stage we may make some additional recommendations to further improve areas of weakness. We find that as children develop there are usually several periods where we usually need to reassess their needs and engage in more skill training. This usually occurs when they reach grade 4 as the executive requirements in the classroom increase, year 7 when large amounts of structure are removed and children need to be more autonomous in their skills, and prior to HSC.