by Barbara H. Rosenn, Psy.D.
Neuropsychological testing is very helpful in clarifying the appropriateness of the Asperger’s diagnosis for an individual. Testing may be done by a psychologist or psychiatrist, and by a man or a woman. In this article, for the sake of convenience, I will use the term “psychologist,” and the pronouns “she” and “her.”
1. Most important is finding a testing psychologist who is familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, and whose final test report will include specific recommendations for you to work on. (Call AANE and ask Dania to refer you to someone good.)
2. Make sure you know in advance how much the testing and the report will cost.
3. Clarify with the psychologist who is doing the testing how long the time for testing will be, and how long each testing session will be.
4. Try to be rested for the sessions. The tests themselves are not difficult, but they are more likely to reflect your true abilities and personality if you have gotten enough sleep the night before.
5. Try to be on time. You will do best if you can arrive in plenty of time, and if you know where the psychologist’s office is located. You can preview the route by driving it a few days before the day of your testing, or by or checking train or bus schedules beforehand. You may want a parent or friend to drive or ride with you if you are unsure about how to get there.
6. Be curious about the different tasks, and try all the tests, even if they are not your favorite thing to do. People with Asperger’s Syndrome often have slower processing speeds than other people, so be patient with yourself.
7. Be observant yourself about which tasks or activities are hard and which ones are easy. Your tester will be interested in feedback from you about your experience.
8. Do your best to engage with the psychologist. Try to make eye contact as best you can. Try to give complete answers, and to stay focused and on the subject.
9. Clarify with the psychologist that you would like to have him/her make recommendations in your test report about ways you can work with your weaker areas. If you have specific questions you would like the psychologist to address, let her know before you begin.
10. Let the psychologist know that you would like the test report to include the specific breakdown of the test results, like the subtest scores for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), for example, so that other clinicians you work with can also identify your stronger and weaker areas easily.
11. Make sure that you will have a feedback session (often, with a parent or advisor present) to go over the results of the tests.
12. Sometimes, the psychologist’s participation in a meeting of treaters, school personnel, or employment supervisors can be helpful.
13. Make sure that you have a copy of the final test report to take away with you. File this report in a safe place for future reference.
Psychological testing assesses your cognitive (thinking) abilities and your emotional state. Sometimes testing also looks at your educational achievement, the information you have acquired in different areas, your abilities in areas like reading, writing and math.
The cognitive tests tell how you take in information best.
Is it through words or through visual observation?
Are you fast or slow at putting information together?
Cognitive tests also look at your "executive functioning," or how well you organize the information you take in.
Can you figure out "the big picture"?
Can you "read between the lines"?
Do you tend to collect details or put them in sequence?
A tester will be interested, too, in your learning style.
Do you listen attentively?
Can you manipulate information better when you have the information written out in front of you?
Does writing help you to remember?
Does repetition help you to learn?
Often, the cognitive abilities will be evaluated with the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, which provides a Verbal and Performance IQ score, as well as Index Scores that summarize specific abilities: verbal understanding, visual perception (ability to take in information visually), attention and concentration, and speed at processing information. This set of tests is not hard to do. You’ll find you are good at some of it. Questions of general information and vocabulary, easy jigsaw puzzles and assembling blocks in patterns, listening tasks and ones that show how you organize information are part of the test. You also may be asked to draw or copy patterns, to make up stories or tell what you see in some pictures, to do a little writing , math, or reading or just have a conversation with the tester. These tests broaden the picture of who you are and your fund of information.
Other tests will help the psychologist to form an impression of your emotional state. Tests like the Rorschach Inkblot Test and other tests where you are asked to tell a story or draw a picture give some idea of how you see yourself in the world, your mood, and your emotional resources.
What you can tell the psychologist about how you are feeling will also help her to understand how you are doing emotionally. Often , a psychologist will want to interview you or a family member about your early development and your experience at home and at school , with family and classmates. Your health through the years will be an important concern, too. All this information will add to the picture of how you have become the person you are today, and will appear in the final test report.
All of the testing is done to help you know more about yourself. You can then use this information to develop strategies that will help you function better in your day to day life. When you know both your "strong suits" and your weak ones, you can learn to use your best abilities to help you deal with your difficulties—and to work toward your goals, and. It also can help other people understand your strengths and weaknesses: a parent or partner, a boss or co-worker, a therapist or job coach.