Cognitive assessments involve assessments done to determine cognitive capabilities and functioning. Cognitive abilities and functioning refer to the mental processes related to acquiring knowledge and understanding the environment through experience, senses and thinking. Cognitive capabilities and functioning warrants testing when the client presents with a functional difficulty which may be linked to the persons cognitive ability.
Cognitive assessments may facilitate possible diagnosis of disorders which impact cognitive ability and can accurately estimates functional capability.
Cognitive assessments are used for:
(i) screening for cognitive functioning;
(ii) to formulate differential diagnosis;
(iii) assess severity of disorder or impairment as well as to monitoring possible degeneration;
(iv) make recommendation to optimize functioning.
Traditionally, when thought of cognitive assessments, the measurement of “intelligence quotient (IQ)” or “general mental ability” is focused on. IQ is measured by the total score calculated using several standardized tests which assess various aspects of human intelligence. The test battery (standardized tests) which is used to assess intelligence, measures different cognitive abilities like: numerical reasoning, verbal comprehension, general knowledge, social reasoning, inductive and deductive reasoning, visual processing speed, etc.
A wide range of assessment instruments have been developed to aid therapists to evaluate a variety of aspects of human functioning. These instruments vary in testing time – from brief screening tools to formal comprehensive neuro-psychological assessments. The choice of tests are determined by time available for testing, the environment where testing occurs as well as the specific cognitive abilities which needs to be investigated.
When considering intelligence, test are formulated to not only to test knowledge gained through education but also performance intelligence which relates to cognitive abilities acquired through neurological development. Often caregivers, educators, parents or legal guardians may notice that a child has certain strengths and other weaknesses in their functioning. A cognitive assessment may be indicated when a child is falling behind on his/her developmental in relation to his/her peers, exhibit difficulty in learning or displays behavior that impacts learning and contribute to delays in development.
A comprehensive cognitive assessment in conjunction with a detailed background history for the child’s functioning as well as information provided by the parents/ legal guardians and teachers, can greatly assist in developing individualized recommendations for learning and development for children.
Cognitive assessments are also done in the context of traumatic brain injury as well as neurological pathology and degeneration. Within the context of organic impairment or disorders of the brain, cognitive testing can greatly assist with identify current areas of difficulty and areas of strengths. This can greatly assist individuals and/ or caregivers to understand the nature of the organic impairment as well as make the necessary adjustments and to optimize strengths.