Spina Bifida Family Support

"Families Helping Families"



Neuropsychological and School

Understanding how a brain injury affects a student's behavior

Written by Marilyn Lash, M.S.W. & Ron Savage, Ed.D.



    Neuropsychologists have special training to evaluate how a brain injury affects learning, communication, planning, organization and relationships with others. Already trained in psychology, the neuropsychologist specializes in the relationships between brain and behavior.



    Standard tests used by school psychologists to evaluate students with special needs may not be as useful when evaluating a student with a brain injury. Many intelligence and achievement tests primarily measure what the child has learned in the past.

    Students with brain injuries often do not lose the knowledge they had prior to the injury. Tests on previously learned material such as vocabulary and general information may score average or above average. Measuring what the student learned in the past, or before the brain injury, is not the same as evaluating how the student with a brain injury is learning now and will learn in the future. The neurophysiologist can help parents and teachers:

  1. identify how the child learns and uses new information

  2. understand changes in behavior

  3. figure out compensatory strategies

  4. develop an educational plan for the student

  5. provide training for parents and teachers

  6. identify changes to watch for as the child gets older


    There is no set timetable for a neuropsychological evaluation. The brain changes rapidly during the first year after the injury. Many students experience new challenges with each developmental milestone. Look for signs that the student is having difficulty with learning or behavior and that teachers need suggestions for effective teaching.

    The severity of the injury is an indicator for a neuropsychological evaluation. Moderate to severe brain injuries are more likely to result in changes in the student's abilities. However, it may also be needed for the student who has had a mild traumatic brain injury and continues to have trouble with attention, learning, behavior or emotions.



    Evaluations usually involve several tests, including games, puzzles and responses to words and images. These give the student's brain function when challenged to reason, analyze, store and recall information. The selection of test depends on the student's age, reported difficulties, and the information requested.


Choosing a neuropsychologist

Look for a neuropsychologist experienced with.....

Tips on what to ask.....

Sharing and getting information

    This is a three way process between parents, educators and the neuropsychologist.


What information can parents provide?

What information can schools provide?

What information can the neuropsychologist give?

How the brain injury affects the student's......

Ask if the report and recommendations will.....

What to expect from an evaluation?

alternative methods of evaluation, such as...

Who pays for a neuropsychologist?

    Evaluations can be expensive and depend on how much time, formal testing, observation and meetings are involved. Discuss and negotiate costs in advance. Conflicts can be avoided by agreeing on who is responsible for the costs, what is covered under special education, and if medical insurance provides any benefits.


What about follow up?

    The best testing, evaluations and reports can be a waste of time and money if there is no follow up to insure that information and recommendations are used to help the student.

    Choices for follow up include:

Tips for follow up by parents......


If you child has hydrocephalus, I would highly recommend contacting the Hydrocephalus Association. There is much information that can be obtained from this organization that can greatly benefit your child and yourself during IEP meetings and educating your child's teachers.


Back to Main