Adult Developmental Assessments

(or adult ADHD, autism, and learning disability testing)

Adult developmental assessments are evaluations specifically addressing possible ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and learning disabilities in individuals ages 18 and older. These issues may have gone unidentified or unaddressed, due to lack of awareness of the many possible ways they can manifest. 

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What is different about Adult Developmental Assessments?

In adults, developmental diagnoses appear and manifest differently than they do for children, and an awareness of these differences is crucial.

An appreciation for how adults may camouflage or “mask” certain neurodivergent traits is necessary.

Finally, an awareness of the impact of trauma on psychological functioning is important, as is an ability to distinguish between trauma reactions and developmental diagnoses. 

What is included in an adult developmental assessment?

Adult developmental assessments vary depending on client need and interest. Possible areas of focus are outlined below. 

Areas of cognitive functioning:

  • processing of visual and auditory information
  • language functioning
  • speed of information processing
  • executive functioning (reasoning, planning, organization, cognitive flexibility, impulsivity)
  • attention, learning, and memory

Areas of academic functioning:

  • basic reading skills and reading comprehension
  • mathematical problem solving, calculation, and fluency
  • basic and compositional writing abilities

Areas of social functioning:

  • characteristic relationship patterns and challenges across the lifespan
  • social awareness and insight
  • verbal and nonverbal communication style
  • expressive and receptive language

Areas of emotional functioning:

  • anxiety and depression
  • obsessions and compulsions
  • trauma and traumatic stress
  • personality, coping style, and emotion regulation skills
  • tendency to get “stuck” on thoughts, topics, or feelings

Aspects of daily living:

  • sensitivity to sensory stimuli
  • patterns of interest 
  • movement and repetitive behavior
  • eating, sleeping, self-care, and hygiene
  • ability to express needs and wants

What are developmental adult assessments used for?

Adults often seek developmental evaluations in the context of lifelong difficulties that have been hard to treat or understand. Adults may function well in some aspects of their lives but struggle to stay afloat in others. They may seem successful, but struggle with intractable anxiety, depression, work problems, or relationship difficulties.  

Adult developmental assessments can provide a way to understand historical challenges, reframe self-blame and guilt, and forge a path that affirms one’s neurotype. 

Therapists may suggest developmental evaluations if they suspect the presence of undiagnosed ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and/ or learning disabilities. 

How long to developmental adult assessments take?

Adult developmental assessments begin with an extensive interview with the client. The interview probes past and current medical, emotional, behavioral, social, academic, and work status.

Collateral information is especially helpful in developmental evaluations in order to gain valuable outside perspectives. Information may be sought from family members, partners, friends, therapists, teachers, and/ or colleagues. 

Cognitive, executive functioning, and/ or academic testing is conducted over a series of appointments – usually three sessions of 2-3 hours each. However, testing is flexible depending on an individual’s capacity for sustaining focus.

Objective and projective tests of emotional, social, and personality functioning are administered during these testing blocks. If warranted, a targeted interview that addresses traits of autism spectrum disorder can be conducted. 

Evaluations are conducted in person in Old Town, Alexandria. Virtual testing is not possible for these assessments. 

Which tests do you use in adult developmental assessments?

Tests depend on the referral question but may include the WAIS-IV, WIAT-4, IVA-2-CPT, D-KEFS, CVLT-II, WCST, Rey CFT, Nelson Denny, SCAN-3, ADOS-II, MIGDAS, MMPI-3, MCMI-IV, BRIEF-A, the Rorschach Technique, and SCID-5, among others.

What is included in the report?

Results are analyzed and summarized in a comprehensive written report, which is presented to clients in a feedback session.

Reports contain a description of test performance and a discussion of performance in relation to strengths and challenges. Diagnoses are provided, if relevant, and real-world implications of diagnoses are outlined.

Attention is paid to elucidating the processes that underlie any diagnoses, as well as the ways in which diagnoses may have gone undetected or unidentified until now. 

Do I need a referral?

No referrals are required for adult ADHD, autism, or learning disorder assessments.

They often do result from referrals from mental health providers, or suggestions from colleagues, managers, educators, or family members. Individuals often self-refer.

Are these types of assessments covered by insurance?

Insurance companies may reimburse for a part or most of the evaluation, though this varies by plan.

Clients are always encouraged to check with their insurance before scheduling and inquire about benefits and rates of reimbursement.