Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit

Watch our Neuro Development Assessment Unit (NDAU) video.

The Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit (NDAU) draws on internationally recognised expertise to conduct a feasibility study of an innovative approach to the assessment of young children who are experiencing problems.

Young children with emotional and behavioural problems often don't receive the support they need early in life. When they finally receive support it may not be appropriately targeted towards their individual needs.

The primary aim of the The Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit (NDAU) is to collect broad assessment data, informed by the RDoC approach, on a large sample of 500 children (aged 4 to 7 years old) with diverse developmental problems that will enable us to understand the overlapping cognitive and socio-emotional bases of different profiles of children with neurodevelopmental problems.

The results of the assessment are fed back to the child’s referring agent in order to inform and enhance their continued support for the child. The data that we collect will in time inform our understanding of the neuropsychological and biological mechanisms that underlie different neurodevelopmental problems.

The NDAU is a three-year study that has been funded by The Waterloo Foundation.

Who we are

The NDAU team is a multi-disciplinary team, consisting of developmental researchers, educational psychologists, clinical psychologists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and a GP who work together to assess the problems that children have.

The NDAU provides training opportunities for students, researchers, clinicians and educational psychologists and helps to build capacity in the academic, educational and health sectors in Wales.

The Waterloo Foundation has given us funding to set up the Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit as a demonstration project that illustrates a way forward to address the needs of children who show emotional, cognitive or behavioural difficulties and problems.

We are conducting a three-year study of the feasibility of working in partnership with families and schools to provide evidence-based assessments of children who may have developmental problems. We intend to help families and those who work with the children at school by providing them with detailed information about the strengths and weaknesses of the child. This report can also inform any later referrals to educational or clinical services.

Specifically, children aged 4 to 7 years are assessed for a few hours in our Neurodevelopment Assessment Unit (NDAU). We i) assess general scholastic abilities such as verbal/nonverbal ability; ii) administer cognitive tests of attention, inhibition and working memory; iii) provide research-based socio-emotional tests of emotion recognition, empathy, affect processing, and theory of mind, and iv) ask the accompanying parent/guardian to complete a clinical interview to identify the main challenges for the child (i.e., the Development and Well Being Assessment; DAWBA), and questionnaires regarding the children’s strengths and difficulties, behaviour, and their development and health.

The outcomes of this detailed assessment will help those who work with these children at school or home select appropriate educational provision and prioritize interventions and inform any later referrals to educational or clinical services.

Lead researcher

Professor Stephanie van Goozen

Professor Stephanie van Goozen

Professor

Email:
vangoozens@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 4630

Academic staff

Man's face

Dr Daniel Burley

Research Associate

Email:
burleyd2@cardiff.ac.uk
Anita Thapar

Professor Anita Thapar

Professor, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences

Email:
thapar@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2068 8478

Dr Cerith Waters

Lecturer

Email:
waterscs@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
029 208 70709

Professor Sue Leekam

Professor

Email:
leekamsr@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
029 208 76604

Dr Chris Hobson

Senior Academic Tutor

Email:
hobsoncw@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
029 208 70582

Louise Page

CUCHDS Centre Administrator / Building Manager

Email:
pagel4@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
029 208 70354

Dr Angela Wigford

Educational Psychologist

Email:
wigforda3@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 0582

Assessments

We undertake a wide range of assessments at the NDAU. These enable us to understand the individual cognitive and socio-emotional profile of every child that visits the NDAU. Each assessment captures a psychological construct that is derived from the RDoC Framework and is believed to be important for a child’s learning and development.

Facial Emotion Recognition

Emotions are associated with specific emotional expressions. Facial emotion recognition refers to the ability to accurately identify these facial expressions, which develops and improves throughout childhood.

View the Facial Emotional Recognition Information Sheet

Non-Verbal Reasoning

Non-verbal reasoning involves the ability to understand and analyse visual information and solve problems using visual skills.

View the Non-Verbal Reasoning Information Sheet

Theory of Mind

Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and to others. This function enables an individual to understand or predict other people’s behaviour in social situations.

View the Facial Theory of Mind Information Sheet

Verbal Working Memory

Verbal working memory refers to the capacity to store and manipulate verbal information for brief periods of time.

View the Facial Verbal Working Memory Information Sheet

Verbal Reasoning

Verbal reasoning involves the ability to understand and reason using words.

View the Verbal Reasoning Information Sheet

Visuospatial Working Memory

Visuospatial working memory refers to the capacity to store and manipulate images and information about locations for brief periods of time.

View the Visuospatial Working Memory Information Sheet

Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to think flexibly and to transition from thinking about once concept to another.

View the Cognitive Flexibility Information Sheet

Cognitive Inhibition

Cognitive inhibition is one of the core cognitive skills that we use to control our thinking and behaviour. It is the ability to inhibit and control our cognitive responses by tuning out information that is irrelevant to the current task.

View the Cognitive Inhibition Information Sheet

Sustained Attention

Sustained attention is the ability to focus on an activity or task over a longer period of time.

View the Sustained Attention Information Sheet


Partners

This research was made possible through our close partnership with and support from:

CUCHDS conducts research and training in the study of human development from conception to adulthood.

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