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Types of Diagnostic Testing

Cognitive (IQ) Testing

While the types of tests and measures used will vary based on age and presenting concerns, almost every diagnostic evaluation will include an IQ test.  IQ testing can be done for anyone between the ages of 3 - 89.  IQ testing measures various novel reasoning and problem-solving skills, including:


   •  Verbal reasoning 

   •  Visual reasoning

   •  Spatial skills

   •  Short-term memory

   •  Attention

   •  Processing speed  


IQ testing is essential for multiple reasons.  First, a deficit in one or more of the IQ domains often provides evidence of a disability.  Second, IQ is used as a baseline against which to measure other skills such as academic performance, social skills, and communication.  In general, an individual’s academic, social, and communication skills should be relatively similar to his or her IQ skills.  When gaps or discrepancies between these abilities are discovered, it may indicate a disability.

Learning Disability

To evaluate for a learning disability, IQ testing and academic achievement testing are required by federal guidelines.  A diagnosis of a learning disability typically indicates that a child’s academic skills in one or more areas is not as strong as expected in comparison to that child’s cognitive ability.  The vast majority of learning disabilities involve reading fluency or comprehension, while a smaller percentage involves a math or written language disability.  This type of evaluation can be conducted from ages 6 through adult.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

ADD/ADHD testing is conducted for individuals who struggle in school, at work, or in social settings with focus, attention, concentration, forgetfulness, disorganization, impulsivity, fidgetiness, excessive talking, frequent interruptions, or general hyperactivity.  While parent and teacher rating scales are crucial in evaluating for this diagnosis, they are often not sufficient.  Attention struggles can be due to an attention disorder, although they can also be impacted by other problems such as:

   •  Learning Disabilities

   •  Slow processing speed

   •  Short-term memory impairment

   •  Central auditory processing disorder

   •  Anxiety Depression

   •  Sleep disorders


Comprehensive testing is needed to address all of these domains.  Additionally, testing can help narrow the exact type of attention problem by assessing visual attention, auditory attention, selective attention, sustained attention, and divided attention. 

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are rapidly gaining attention within both the medical community and the mainstream media.  Unfortunately, there are many common misconceptions and misunderstandings about ASD.  These disorders typically involve global social impairments and very specific stereotypical behaviors or characteristics.  However, there are many other disabilities or disorders that can look like autism, such as ADHD, intellectual disability, language-delay, or anxiety.  An evaluation for ASD will include IQ testing, social skills testing, a measure of adaptive functioning, an autism-specific measure, and screening for behavioral and emotional disorders.

Medical Complications & Head Injuries

Neuropsychological testing is typically used to better understand cognitive strengths and weaknesses in individuals with various medical conditions and head injuries. These include, but are not limited to, conditions such as seizure disorders, prenatal or birth complications, genetic or congenital disorders, toxin exposure, concussions and other head injuries.

Intellectual Disability or Cognitive Impairment

An intellectual disability requires evidence of substantial impairments in both cognitive and adaptive skills.  It indicates that an individual struggles with problem-solving, reasoning, and one or more adaptive skills such as communication, self-help, socialization, or motor coordination.   By contrast, cognitive impairment can be found through deficits in one or more areas such as memory, problem-solving, language, or reasoning skills. These evaluations are available for any age and will include, at a minimum, assessment of cognitive and adaptive functioning.  

Developmental Delay

A developmental delay is a deficit in one or more areas of functioning such as cognitive skills, communication skills, early academic skills, social skills, daily living skills, or motor skills in children aged 5 and under.  An evaluation for a developmental delay includes cognitive testing, a measure of adaptive skills, and screening for behavioral or emotional struggles. 

Behavior problems

Although there is no test for a behavioral problem, diagnostic testing should be considered for children or adolescents who frequently exhibit any of the following: 

   •  Defiance

   •  Oppositional behavior

   •  Aggression

   •  Tantrums

   •  Apathy towards school

   •  Skipping classes

   •  Truancy

These behaviors often result from undiagnosed disabilities such as a learning disability, ADHD, or cognitive disability.  These evaluations will help determine if your child’s behavioral challenges are due to disability, mood, or temperament.


Giftedness evaluations can help determine if your child is being sufficiently challenged at school, and if he or she is capable of handling more rigorous coursework. Although uncommon, some children who are unmotivated in school may be under-stimulated if in fact they are gifted without having been identified as such. 

Accommodations for ACT/SAT or other standardized tests

A thorough assessment of cognitive and academic skills can help determine if your college-bound child may receive any accommodations (i.e. extended time) for standardized tests. While an evaluation is essential to receive accommodations, it is ultimately the decision of the testing agency to approve requested accommodations. 

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