The role of a pediatric psychologist in a diagnostic evaluation

Pediatric neuropsychologists often conduct the most significant portions of the diagnostic evaluation, including the initial intake meeting with the parent and child, test administration, and feedback meeting (to discuss the results of the evaluation).

Why consult a clinical psychologist?

Clinical psychologists are clinicians who have PhDs (doctoral degrees) and can specialize in a number of different areas of interest within the field of mental conditions and disorders. Clinical psychologists are often involved in the assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and can also provide diagnostic evaluations for other mental disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). 

What areas of cognitive function does a clinical psychologist assess?

A clinical psychologist is trained in the administration of diagnostic evaluations and can therefore provide assessment in the following areas of interest:

  • Cognitive assessment: this assessment is used to determine a child’s language and problem-solving skills. For toddlers and young children this assessment may include an evaluation of motor abilities as well. A clinical psychologist can also provide an IQ test for school-age children, which measures their cognitive ability in relation to their peers, including verbal and nonverbal problem-solving elements. 
  • Adaptive behavior assessment: a clinical psychologist can test a child’s daily life skills and abilities measured against those of their peers. These assessments are often conducted with the help of questionnaires and interviews given by parents and teachers to establish a child’s mastery of everyday routines and tasks. These can include self-care and social skills.
  • Autism-specific assessment: Clinical psychologists are also able to administer the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Second Edition (ADOS-2) standardized test and other standardized assessments that are frequently used tools in the diagnostic evaluation process for autism. The ADOS-2 assessment tool tests social communication skills and repetitive behavior tendencies through a series of checklists of behaviors and structured activities that allow a clinician to observe a child’s behavior in an evaluation setting. Clinical psychologists are trained in the administration of these standardized assessments and can use them to make recommendations to families following a diagnostic evaluation. 

Based on the findings from these individual areas of assessment, a clinical psychologist can provide an accurate description of the child’s behavioral and cognitive abilities as well as recommend next steps in the child’s therapeutic program.

A clinical psychologist may also request past evaluations (e.g., speech and language evaluation, occupational therapy evaluation) to incorporate other professional perspectives into the evaluation process. Any current teachers or therapists may also complete standardized questionnaires that are included in the analysis of the evaluation.

The results of the diagnostic evaluation can help guide next steps with a child’s care plan to best support the child and family moving forward.

Do you have questions about diagnostic evaluations or your child’s development? Contact the Goldman Center to speak with one of our specialists who can answer all of your questions! (773) 998-8500


"¿Quién es capaz de diagnosticar el trastorno del espectro autista?" Centro para la Investigación del Autismo, Centro para la Investigación del Autismo, 2015,

"Elementos de una evaluación del trastorno del espectro autista". Centro para la Investigación del Autismo, Centro para la Investigación del Autismo, 2020,

“A Parent’s Guide to Psychological Evaluations for ASD.” Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Vanderbilt Consortium Lend, 2010,