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Cognitive neuropsychology studies the way in which changes in the brain (traumatic or developmental) can affect behaviour and cognitive abilities (e.g., memory, language, arithmetic operations, attention, visual-perceptive skills, executive functioning, strategic planning, manual dexterity, abstract reasoning, etc.).
The cognitive neuropsychology department provides assessment or rehabilitation sessions with children or adults. With the use of a large number of neuropsychological tests and tasks it aims to describe in a complete way personal cognitive functioning.
In order to perform a complete neuropsychological assessment, including a full written report, 3 or 4 sessions are necessary. A brief assessment with a summarized report can be accomplished in 2 sessions. These sessions include a medical history and psychological and neuropsychological tests. The full report can be handed over during a session with a detailed explanation on the results of each test or the report can be collected from reception..
On the day of the session, the patient should come well rested, well fed and should avoid intense physical exercise or the consumption of alcoholic drinks immediately before.
Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) consist in learning difficulties and difficulty in using academic skills such as reading, writing and mathematical calculation.
SLD are the most common cause of school failure and result from a specific deficit in the brain’s ability to receive, process and communicate information. These difficulties should not result from a lack of practice, teaching methods, anxiety and depression, behavioural disorders or from perceptive peripheral deficits (vision or hearing).
The most significant signs of SLD are a significant difference between the expectations deposited on the child’s school performance (taking into account its intellectual capacity, its behaviour, family and emotional well-being) and the actual school results of the child. A child with SLD shows an adequate level of reasoning and capacity for understanding and for carrying our various tasks but fails when it comes to learning and especially in school test results.
It is nevertheless important to distinguish between general learning difficulties, for example due to a delay in cognitive development or an autism disorder from Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD).
An attention deficit, with or without hyperactivity, may also be present together with SLD (difficulty in orientation, paying attention, planning difficulties).
SLD are a permanent affliction and the child needs monitoring and support during the rehabilitation period. Frequently adequate support measures need to be taken also at school, in order to minimise the impact that these difficulties might cause on the child´s school career.
It is also important to emphasize that that SLD are independent to the child’s intellectual development; the best indicator is the gap between the child’s obvious intellectual capacity and his school performance.
For an evaluation it is necessary to gather information from various sources; the parents, teachers and to observe the child. Various cognitive tests must also be carried out.
Early detection will allow for the establishment of interventions in order to address the child’s difficulties, targeted at improving performance and reducing the child’s academic frustration.
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability where learning to read is impaired. This difficulty in learning to read is independent from the general intellectual ability, in a child with adequate reasoning and comprehension. These difficulties in reading and writing cannot be explained by visual or auditory deficits.
A dyslexic child shows difficulties in school, reads slowly and with errors and also produces a significant percentage of errors in writing. They show difficulties in interpreting texts and a low ability to produce written texts. School performance is lower than what you would expect taking into account the child’s intellectual ability. These children withdraw from school and school related work, usually being labelled as lazy or distracted.
An early diagnosis allows for a faster and significant rehabilitation of reading and writing abilities. It also allows the child to understand the origin of his difficulties, boosting self-esteem and has a stimulating effort in school work. These children should have a differentiated treatment at school, with regards to reading and writing difficulties, in order to further their linguistic abilities.