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Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is a global campaign, founded by The Dana Foundation, to engage and educate the public on the advances and advantages of research in this area in a worldwide celebration of the brain!

To contribute to this, we wanted to talk about Child Neuropsychology and provide more of an understanding about this amazing organ in our head.

Our Clinical Paediatric Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist Dr Susan Bruce answers a number of questions;

What is Neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is the study of brain behaviour relationships, including how we learn and remember, accumulate knowledge and learn new skills to help us function in life.

A disruption to normal brain development, from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or a disease or infection such as encephalitis, meningitis or a stroke can result in a neuropsychological deficit.

The deficits can include problems with: memory, speech and language, attention and concentration, organising and planning, motor skills, aggressive behaviour and/or personality changes that are out of keeping with a child’s typical profile.

The consequences of these can and do impact upon learning and performance in school, and result in stress in the home as families try to manage and cope with the difficulties. Children can also become depressed coming to terms with their difficulties and the impact this may have on their quality of life.

How can it help to understand behaviours?

Clinical Child Neuropsychologists provide comprehensive assessments of a broad range of cognitive abilities to determine your child’s profile of strengths and weaknesses.

From here specifically targeted and realistic interventions and advice can be tailored to the child’s neuro-rehabilitation and mental health needs.

How does it work?

Neuropsychologists use information from detailed assessments, that take into consideration the type of brain injury sustained, and then understand the child’s learning, personality and behavioural profile in the context of this.

Realistic goals and plans can then be developed to help manage difficulties and promote more adaptive behaviours. Sometimes this means making changes to the child’s home and school environment. This may include compensating for a skills deficit by removing particular stressors, or working within a neuro-rehabilitation model where children are taught to relearn skills.

All children are different, and although certain brain injuries can result in specific types of problems, it is essential that individualised detailed assessments consider the child as a unique individual both before and post injury. Each child’s response to injury and coping mechanisms will vary.

What kind of assessments are they? Assessments will include:

  • Memory and new learning
  • Novel visual problem solving
  • Attention and concentration
  • Verbal comprehension
  • Higher functioning executive skills
  • Behavioural assessments and observations
  • Coping mechanisms
  • Mental health functioning both pre and post injury
What kind of issues can Neuropsychology help with?
  • Learning and or behavioural difficulties both at home and school
  • Mental health difficulties resulting from a neuropsychological deficit such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem.
  • Family support for behavioural difficulties.
  • School based interventions and information to support learning and adaptive behaviour.
  • Neuropsychological education and advice to teachers and schools to help promote understanding of a child’s difficulties (as brain injuries are not visible) but the resulting difficulties are, but are often misunderstood and viewed as defiance or bad behaviour.

Clinical Child Neuropsychologists are on the Specialist Register of Neuropsychologists held by the Division of Neuropsychology at the British Psychological Society.

Dr Susan Bruce, Clinical Paediatric Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist