Neuropsychology

What is the Neuropsychology service?

Our Neuropsychology (nur-oh-sy-KAH-lah-gee) team assesses babies, children, teens and young adults with medical conditions that may affect their thinking, memory, learning or behavior. If you think your child may benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation, ask your medical care provider to refer you. See the types of referrals we accept and how to schedule an appointment.

What is special about Seattle Children’s Neuropsychology service?

Our team is very skilled in determining how a medical condition affects your child’s brain. Based on a full assessment, our expert team will recommend treatments tailored to your child and family.

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    • Our neuropsychologists and psychometrists assess your child to understand how their brain is developing and working. We have the expertise to determine how medical conditions can affect your child’s thinking, learning and behavior.
    • We are dedicated to helping your child reach their full potential. To do so, neuropsychologists work closely with specialists in other fields, like Rehabilitation Medicine, our Neurosciences Center, Autism Center and Neurodevelopmental Program.
    • To provide seamless care for patient families, we also have team members working in programs for children with conditions as varied as heart failure  and sickle cell disease.
    • We create a complete report for your child, based on test results; observations; feedback from school staff and healthcare providers; and interviews with you, your child and other caregivers.
    • We meet with you to explain our findings and recommend the best treatment options to meet your child’s needs. We share the results with you in an easy-to-understand way.
    • We may discuss the results with your healthcare team to aid in treatment planning.
    • You can share the report with your child’s school, therapists and other providers to help decide the best services for your child.
    • Our report can support your request for services at school through a Section 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
    • To track if your child has made progress in different areas, our team may assess your child in the future and compare the results to their first (baseline) tests.

Conditions We Treat

Our team accepts referrals from medical providers to assess how a child’s illness or injury affects their thinking, learning and behavior. We see children referred by our Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Program if a medical illness that impairs their thinking also affects the management or treatment of their psychiatric condition.

The children, teens and young adults we see have these and other conditions: 

  • The body’s immune system usually defends against illness. But sometimes the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. This may cause conditions that affect a child’s brain. Read about Seattle Children’s Inflammatory Brain Disorders Clinic.

  • Brain tumors are growths of cells in the skull that are not normal. Many types of brain tumors affect children. Some are cancer (malignant), while others are not (benign). Read more.

  • Often children with cancer are treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or bone marrow transplants. We assess how these treatments affect your child’s brain and their thinking and behavior. Read how Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center treats your whole child, not just their disease.

  • Cerebral palsy (CP) is a general term for permanent differences in how a person moves and controls their muscles. The differences are caused by an injury to a child’s brain as it develops. The brain injury can happen before, during or after birth. CP affects a child’s strength, muscle tone and motor control.

  • Neuromuscular illnesses affect the nerves and muscles. They often cause muscle weakness and may lead to problems with muscle control. For instance, muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of diseases that cause muscles to weaken over time. MD sometimes affects the heart, eyes, brain and other organs.

  • A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head or body that makes the brain move back and forth quickly inside the skull.

  • Epilepsy is a brain condition that causes repeated seizures (SEE-zhurs). Seizures temporarily change your child’s state of awareness and physical activity. Seizures and medications can affect your child’s thinking and behavior.

  • Hundreds of medical conditions are caused by changes in genes. Seattle Children’s brings together experts in different medical fields to treat children with conditions such as neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis complex and 22q syndromes. Seattle Children's has 1 of the largest programs in the United States devoted to genetics research and care for children with genetic conditions.

  • If your child’s heart cannot pump enough blood, it may affect their brain. Sometimes the best treatment is to replace their heart with a healthy heart from a donor. Learn more about our Heart Transplant Program.

  • Cells in the brain need oxygen to survive. Brain injuries can happen when the brain does not get enough oxygen (hypoxic) or no oxygen at all (anoxic). A near-drowning event is 1 way this happens.

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-lasting disease caused by damage to the protective coating on nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. It can cause problems with your child’s vision, balance, muscle control, speech and other functions of the body.

  • These infections happen when disease-causing viruses or bacteria invade the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord. It controls the body’s activities.

    Encephalitis, meningitis and HIV are the most common types.

  • A stroke can happen in 2 ways. Sometimes, the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. In other cases, a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds into the spaces around brain cells. Either way, brain cells do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive.

    Strokes can cause:

    • Loss of muscle use in parts of the body (paralysis)
    • Problems with memory, learning and thinking
  • Many children we see have had a traumatic brain injury or concussion. A severe head injury can harm the brain. Our team will check your child’s language and thinking skills. We recommend ways to help them recover as much function as possible and plan for their return to school and their community.

Neuropsychology Evaluations

Our team assesses your child to understand how their medical condition affects their brain. This includes an in-depth interview with parents or caregivers. We measure your child’s: 

  • Intellectual ability (intelligence quotient or IQ)
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Planning, organizing and impulse control (called executive functions)
  • Visual-spatial skills (how they see what is in space)
  • Fine motor coordination (how they use their hands)
  • Language and communication skills
  • Adaptive skills
  • Mood and behavior

We will explain our findings and recommendations during a follow-up appointment and in a full report.

Our assessments can: 

  • Detect ways your child’s brain, learning and behavior are affected by a disease, injury, treatment or developmental problems and may determine which areas of the brain are involved
  • Identify mild impairments to help with a diagnosis
  • Guide you and your child’s healthcare team in selecting treatments or strategies to help your child
  • Measure your child’s strengths and weaknesses to help predict how their condition and recovery will affect them in the future
  • Measure where your child is now (set a baseline) to help you and your child’s healthcare team make treatment decisions in the future
  • Help you and your child’s healthcare team make decisions about returning to school, work, sports and other activities
  • Explain the effects of your child’s condition on language, thinking, memory and other skills needed to process information
  • Suggest coping strategies for your child and family 

    Participate in Research

    Neuropsychologists do research to better understand how medical conditions affect how the brain works. Help us answer questions about childhood health and illness, and help other children in the future. Learn more.

    Contact Us

    We only accept referrals for patients already being treated for a medical condition that affects their brain. If you would like an appointment, ask your healthcare provider to refer you. See the types of referrals we accept.

    If you have been referred, we will call you to schedule an appointment when you reach the top of the wait list. If you need to contact us, please call:

    • Neurosciences (referred by a neurologist or neurosurgeon): 206-987-2078, option 2
    • Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine: 206-987-6944
    • Rehabilitation Psychology (accepts referrals from providers in the community as well as at Seattle Children’s): 206-987-2219

    If you already have an appointment, learn more about how to prepare and what to expect

    Telemedicine at Seattle Children’s

    We often use phone or video appointments (telehealth) to interview parents or caregivers to learn more about your child and for the follow-up visit to review results. Some children have a telehealth appointment for cognitive testing. Learn more.

    Paying for Care

    Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.