Neutocognitive Testing

The BI-LO Charities Children's Cancer Center has a full-time licensed clinical psychologist with specialized training in the treatment and assessment of children and adolescents with medical conditions.

One of the services the psychologists provides is neurocognitive assessment. Children with cancer, blood disorders, and brain tumors sometimes experience neurological changes as a result of disease, or from the lifesaving medical treatment they receive.

Chemotherapy delivered to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), cranial radiation and brain surgery have the potential to affect the developing brain and several areas of cognitive functioning. Neurocognitive testing assesses for difficulties in learning skills, memory, attention, language skills, visual-motor abilities, mood and behavior.

The goal is to identify emerging problems early so that any needed interventions can be put into place as soon as possible, thereby decreasing the long-term impact of the problem. Often, the child's parent will voice concern about a change in grades, attention or behavior to one of the center's physicians or nurses.

The child is then scheduled for a neurocognitive evaluation in order to determine the reasons for the change. Sometimes, a patient may be tested early in the treatment process as part of a "baseline" evaluation. Baseline evaluations are conducted before any anticipated impact from chemotherapy or cranial radiation.

This is particularly helpful in identifying subtle problems that emerge later because it provides information about the child's "typical" functioning, to which later evaluation results can be compared.

Baseline evaluations are also useful when a child has a medical condition such as sickle cell disease. Some patients with sickle cell disease are at risk for complications that can affect the brain's functioning. A baseline evaluation carried out before any complications emerge makes their later identification easier and more accurate. Neurocognitive assessment is also a component of some treatment protocols, where it is used to measure any changes in brain function resulting from treatment.

The results of neurocognitive evaluations are analyzed and a comprehensive written report is produced and filed in the patient's medical record. Recommendations based on identified areas of concern are generated, and may include school-based interventions for improving academic functioning or home-based strategies for behavior management. Based upon evaluation findings, the child may also be referred for services such as speech therapy.

Please contact the center's psychologist with any questions about the neurocognitive assessment process, whether your child would benefit from an evaluation, or insurance coverage of assessment services.

Neurocognitive Assessments are also a part of the School Intervention Program. Click on the link to learn more.