Coming to your first neurodevelopmental evaluation can be scary, daunting, intimidating. It’s also a time of great anticipation and hope. Maybe having a little better feel for what an evaluation is like can help reduce those negative feelings a bit and maybe even enhance the positive ones.
We know some of you travel great distances to have your child evaluated. Because we have the privilege of having seen so many children improve in so many ways, we have no doubt this drive every 4 months is completely worth it, but that’s hard to see from where you are at the starting line.
We also know that the history form we ask you to fill out is time consuming. Some of you have filled out forms like this time and again as you have sought for help for your angel. For others, this is the first time you’ve been asked all these questions. You have to look up the answers to some and make calls to find out other information. There may even be some things you can’t answer (and that’s OK). You may feel grief over things that have happened in your child’s life. You may even feel like you’re going to be judged if you answer some of the questions honestly (you won’t, we’ve been there). We really do need all that ‘stuff’ though. We will be evaluating your child in every area, but background information will help us recognize some areas we might need to focus on and there is no way we could gather as much information in a few hours with your kiddo as you, their biggest fan and advocate, knows without even thinking about it.
You will probably be at the evaluation site for 4 hours or so, so if you’re able, it’s helpful to have some snacks both for you and your child. We love it if both Mom and Dad are able to come to evaluations (especially the first one). It really helps for you both to be able to ask questions and hear what’s said and, while we love siblings, it’s easier for everyone to focus if they are able to stay with someone while you come to the eval.
When you arrive for your evaluation, you will settle in to a waiting area. The ND may still be with the client before you and they will need time to review your history form before starting your evaluation. Occasionally there can be a significant waiting period. This is because evaluations can vary greatly depending on the issues involved and the amount of questions the family has. The good news? When it’s your turn, you will get all the time you need.
We like to start an evaluation by spending some time with the child (without the parents). This is not always possible, and that’s OK. If the child is too young to come in without their parents, that’s fine. Some kids are also uncomfortable coming in without their parents, and that’s OK, too.
The evaluation consists of many components, but we don’t do all of one area before moving on to the next. It’s much more fun to do some things in one area, then some in another, and so on. This may make the evaluation appear a bit chaotic if you are observing, but there is method to the madness and we will eventually get to all the areas of neurodevelopment.
Your child may be worried about what kind of ‘testing’ we will be doing. It will vary depending on their age and issues, but there may be some academic testing (math, word recognition, and word comprehension), visual activities (sighting at near and far distances, tracking, visual sequencing), auditory activities (auditory dominance, auditory sequencing), gross motor activities (crawling, creeping, cross marching, cross skipping, jumping jacks), fine motor (printing, cursive, picking up small objects), and many others.
After we have done lots of activities with your child, we will ask the parents to join us. We will share the things we observed and ask if they match what you see at home, ask you questions about areas we were not able to observe during the evaluation, and answer your questions.
When we’re all all talked out, you’ll return to the waiting area and rest up a bit while the neurodevelopmentalist writes up your program of activities. We’ll then reconvene and will explain the evaluation form, suggest ways other families make program work for them, and go over every activity – explaining them, showing you how to do them, giving you handouts, etc. You are free to record this time if you feel it would be helpful.
At this point we heartily recommend that you cheer for each other and do something special on the way home! And chances are good your child will look forward to their second evaluation.