January 6, 2010
Did they test the right kid?
By way of background - I am not a passive parent. When we moved to this valley I met with Alex's teachers, re-met with the teachers and re-met with the teachers. At this point, it is not worth going back in time, but I believe plans and promises made were never executed. I wait no longer.
I know everyone involved with Alex has her best interest at heart. But, I do not believe she is currently being serviced at optimal levels. In my mind, our school district is so small and so rural that Special Education has been a step child. Additionally, I had the opportunity to be in a school district where this was not the case. I try very hard not to say “in IL”….but I believe I know what works, and what doesn’t work. I could be wrong, but..........I'm not!
To that end, before the winter break, I asked the school district to retest Alex. I also asked our previous school district to send Alex’s old file – this included her official test results, previous IEPs and information from the MDCs (multi disciplinary conferences). I had a hunch her testing results would show limited growth (I hesitate to say regression), and her IEP goals in 6th grade would be harder, more involved and more “Alex” oriented than her current goals. I was right.
Alex has had a lot of positive growth in the four years we have been in our beautiful valley. She has matured considerably, gained poise and confidence, and learned to participate in team sports. She has not grown in reading, writing, math or language abilities. Additionally, her behavior around peers, particularly those of the opposite sex is inappropriate. These are skills that I insist are crucial to her success as an adult.
I am enclosing the recap of her test results. I do not include this to cast dispersion on our school district or our educators. I include them as a foundation. These results in no way accurately evaluate Alex’s current levels of academics, social interaction or motivation to learn. They are inconclusive and flawed – but a starting point. My counsel to all parents, never believe a moment in time correctly reflects your child’s intelligence and abilities.
Alex has had several previous cognitive evaluations, in 2nd grade, 5th grade, 8th grade and the current evaluation in 10th grade. Results are fairly consistent in indicting cognitive ability in the extremely low range of functioning. Understanding verbal information, thinking with words, expressing thought in words, listening to questions and giving verbal responses are all tasks that are quite difficult for Alex. Auditory working Memory is an area of difficulty. Concentration, sustaining and retaining information in memory tests below the first percentile, as does processing speed.
Solving problems that require reasoning and thinking with pictures is a relative strength for Alex. She seems to do somewhat better in understanding concepts if she had pictures to support thinking and reasoning. Average subset performance indicates that she is successful in both areas at about a mid-second grade level, which seems fairly consistent with rate of mental growth.
At the last assessment (2007) Alex seems somewhat more open in talking about her interests, school, her family, things she liked and didn’t like. Her most frequent response during this assessment was "I don't want to talk about it". She identified her classmate Cindy and her teacher Mr. S. as being the only two people with whom she was willing to talk.
Academics are not very motivational for her, and certainly life skills, self help skills and daily living skills will continue to be important developmental area on which to focus. Objecting to requests may be a way to have some control over her environment, and may also be a way of covering her frustration of not being able to meet academic challenges. Continuing to identify what are positive experience (for example, the computer, music) may be helpful in motivating cooperation.
For the next step, I requested (insisted) a “team” look at these results together. Although requested, this has not been done before, in our school district relative to Alex. Attending will be the Principal, Assistant Principal, Head of Athletics, School Psychologist, School Counselor, and Speech Therapist. Also attending will be Alex’s Special Education teacher, Special Education assistant and a representative from BOCES (much more about this later) and me. Basically, BOCES is the organization the school district contracts with to consult on special education. It is a new year, and a new starting point – and it will be successful!
The goal of this meeting is to put a new Alex plan in place. We will look at her strengths and weaknesses and figure out how to teach her in the way she learns. We will put together a team vested in Alex's success. Our tool will be the IEP, with resources utilized as necessary to insure accomplishment. This IEP will push Alex to work, and take her out of her comfort level. It will be monitored and evaluated regularly, and everyone will be accountable, including me.
Some might say this is a very time consuming process. Perhaps it is, but being the parent of a child with special needs does come with some responsibilities, just as being the parent of any child. This truly is a privilege for me.
Maybe, I am a Pollyanna, but I know this will work; failure is not an option when it comes to our kids. And the rewards are so great, I will not risk failure!