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A Parents' Guide to a Cognitive Assessment

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

What is a cognitive assessment and why might it be helpful for your child?

You may be reading this because your child’s school has recommended you seek a ‘cognitive assessment’, or perhaps you have concerns about your child’s learning and would like to know how you can support them.

There are many reasons why your child may have been recommended an assessment: perhaps they are falling behind their peers academically, or it takes them longer to complete school work than other children their age, or maybe they are having difficulty concentrating and focusing. They may have specific difficulties, with reading and writing and may have other neurodevelopmental or mental health difficulties.

Here is what to expect from a cognitive assessment.

Firstly, what is cognition?

Cognition refers to the mental process of acquiring and understanding information from your senses. It involves thinking, understanding language, expressing language, memory and attention. It is vital to your child’s development and learning in school.

What is a cognitive assessment?

A cognitive assessment is a formal, comprehensive assessment conducted by a Clinical Psychologist or Educational Psychologist to assess your child’s cognitive abilities, including their overall IQ, verbal and visual spatial skills, processing speed, memory, academic ability, attention and executive functioning.

The aim of the assessment is to:

  • understand your child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses;

  • inform how they can be best supported in school; and

  • identify global intellectual disability (previously referred to as learning disability) or specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia.

With the benefit of a comprehensive background developmental history and parent/teacher reports, the results of a cognitive assessment can provide an individualised learning plan and recommendations for how best to support your child in the classroom.

Why is it important, and what happens after the assessment?

Parents often find a cognitive assessment helps to shift perceptions others may have about their child. It may help them to see your child as someone who perhaps needs a little bit more time (rather than ‘lazy’) or someone who has attentional difficulties (rather than ‘naughty’ or 'never listening'). Ensuring the right support is in place for your child is essential not only to their performance academically and in exams, but also to their overall self-esteem and mental health.

After the assessment, at The Lotus Psychology Practice, we will provide you with a comprehensive report, including individualised recommendations for your child. We will arrange a time to talk through the report, explain the findings and answer any questions you may have. You may want to invite a representative from your child’s school to this meeting. This can be helpful, especially if the results suggest that an Education and Healthcare Plan may be indicated.

How can I explain what a cognitive assessment is to my child?

Children and young people may feel anxious ahead of the assessment. We will discuss with you in advance whether there are any adaptations we can make to ensure they feel comfortable and relaxed, and are able to perform to the best of their ability.

It can be helpful to explain to children that the cognitive assessment is an appointment where they will do puzzles and tasks to help others understand how they learn best, what they are really good at, and what they may need a bit more help with.

"I was anxious about taking my child for a full assessment, wondering how he would cope and how I would understand the tests and subsequent results. Morvwen explained everything in such a way that it made sense and also reassured us in equal measure. I would highly recommend Dr Duncan to anyone who was beginning the journey of looking for diagnostic testing for their child. This report gives my child a voice now and for that we will always be grateful"

At The Lotus Psychology Practice, we are highly experienced in conducting cognitive assessments, and are able to discuss your concerns and help you to decide if a cognitive assessment would be helpful for your child.


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