Dr. Andrews' Blog

Evaluation of Developmental Delays

For children suspected of having developmental delays or learning disorders, the difference between a teaching hospital's developmental medicine evaluation and a pediatric forensic neuropsychological testing evaluation is like the difference between a lightning bug and a lightning bolt. At teaching hospitals, a Developmental Medicine Center's (DMC) evaluation team is typically comprised of a child neurologist, a neuropsychologist, a child psychiatrist, a speech-language pathologist, and physical and occupational therapists. To be sure, large teaching hospitals produce excellent interdisciplinary academic and research work in neuro-developmental pediatrics. They also strive to integrate the overlapping areas of neurology, psychiatry, and neuropsychology. This model of evaluation and consultation is a collaborative one and attempts to integrate clinical service, research, and training programs.

By contrast, a Pediatric Forensic Neuropsychological Testing (PFNT) evaluation is conducted by single evaluator (typically a developmental psychologist or pediatric neuropsychologist) and integrates forensic psychology into the report writing and consultation process. "Forensic Psychology is the application of the science and profession of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system" (American Board of Forensic Psychology). Specifically, the pediatric forensic neuropsychologist prepares a medicolegal document for special education law attorneys or special education advocates. He/she addresses the question of eligibility for special education and drafts recommendations that concur with the intent of PL 94-142 (All Handicapped Children Act), FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education), and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

In addition to producing consultation recommendations and treatment planning, the forensic pediatric neuropsychologist considers the continuum of alternative special education placement and service options for every child with a disability. Regardless of whether placement options or services are available or implemented within an examinee's school district, all special education service and placement options are considered in order to achieve an educational benefit and to promote effective progress academically.

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Developmental Medicine Center vs. Pediatric Forensic Neuropsychological Testing Evaluation