We had our report card conference/IEP meeting yesterday. Sometimes I feel like they say things like they’re trying to cushion us from a really bad fall. There’s nothing they can tell me about my son that I don’t already know. They may not understand fully the things they’re telling me about him, but I know him and I am not shocked. Sometimes I may get disappointed, but it doesn’t last. Unless he does something that he shouldn’t and he could’ve controlled it, not usually disappointed in him. A lot of disappointment comes from the way the state measures the intelligence and academic achievement of students with disabilities and invalidity of that measurement.
I knew already about the report card and the low reading level they obtained from the preposterous reading assessment the state requires they do now at the 2nd grade level. They give the students what’s called MClass testing and if they read the book proficiently at one level, they then have to provide a response to the questions, which the teachers cannot read to them or prompt them to respond to further. Now, he gets dictation for his responses, but they must write exactly what he tells them.
Imagine that scenario for a child with autism in the 2nd grade. He reads a book. He reads the questions to himself out loud. He answers the questions out loud, not knowing whether he has provided enough of an answer or not, and then must independently move on to the next question. The books get leveled alphabetically from A-(whatever), and A is the lower level. At his current point in the year, they say he should now test at Level M. At the end of last school year, he tested at Level E, yet he tested at Level F almost at mid year before that. Of course, I got assured that it may have just been a fluke or something that he tested that high. Who knows. Anyhow, he’s not tested above an E since then. They attempted him at an F again, and he read that book proficiently, but because he did not retell enough of the story and did not answer the questions well enough, he did not “pass” the book level. Keep in mind, a child with autism will not elaborate about anything, so retelling a story? He will likely give bare minimum. I’ve heard him tell me what happened in a paragraph and only tell me one thing and he won’t say anything else. He answered the question. End of story. He’s far below grade level in reading, folks. But here’s the kicker for me! He got all but 2 of his sight words on grade level correct. I’ll let you analyze that data all on your own.
In math, they see much more potential in him, but not too much. He just doesn’t get the math vocabulary. I mean, I see him struggle some at home with the word problems, but mostly I see that he doesn’t want me to sit too far away from him when he does his work. When he reads out loud to me, he mostly gets them right. Does he struggle some with subtraction? Sure he does. But, not enough for me to worry too much about it if he practices it. He will get anything that he can learn by rote. He’s brilliant with his memorization of facts. I’m working on teaching him strategies.
Then there’s the writing. Oh, lawd! He’s not progressing with his OT goals in writing. It’s not improving, really. He doesn’t like to do it. I keep mentioning that I’d like to get Assistive Technology in there to begin working on something with him, because, yes, he’s still young and we cannot entirely give up on writing, but, seriously? How long will we harp on this whole writing thing? I keep hearing about it. Stop telling me he hates it, that he won’t do it or that he fights it, and then refuse to do anything to help him. How would you feel about something that takes so much effort? He has to think so hard about what to write, then think so hard about how to write, and then do it over because it’s sloppy. I’d hate writing too. Help him! He’s NOT too young, and the excuse of telling me he’s not going to sit at the computer and work either doesn’t work for me. What made me happy, and I mean really happy was that the assistive technology person happened to be at the meeting and said that no, we cannot just sit him at the computer. We need to teach him how to use a program. She’s going to get some programs for him to use as a trial to help him with his writing and see how they work and we’ll go from there. We’ll still work on his writing, but these programs will help him with planning his writing and things like that.
At the end of the meeting, once we’d signed everything, my husband had left, and the compliance person/assistive tech person left, somehow the conversation got slipped into talking about retention, which I attempted to ignore. Suddenly, I get encouraged to visit a 3rd grade classroom and see how things go there because “things are really tough there” and I’m getting the distinct impression that they just don’t feel my son’s going to the 3rd grade. We’re just in February now and they have time to put things into place that we just changed. We just added more individualized instruction in reading to his schedule, Speech has agreed to work in math vocabulary, and we added an extra day of OT. So leaves me confused about why it seems like we’re already giving up on the 3rd grade. I mean, I don’t think the 3rd grade exists just for neurotypical children, so that can’t be the reason. I’m not planning to visit a 3rd grade classroom for the purpose of deciding my son needs to stay in the 2nd grade. I’m not a believer in giving up on my child.
[ctt tweet=”No single assessment tells me how intelligent my child is. #IBELIEVE http://ctt.ec/oQiJ3+ @embracespectrum #hope #autism #disabilities” coverup=”oQiJ3″]
We’ll also continue to praise him and make sure he hears nothing but words of encouragement about his excellent math skills and about how well he reads. The more building up he gets, the better. In the end, all these reading assessments don’t matter. He’ll remember whether we believed in him or not and I can promise that we’ll remain his fervent cheerleaders! That’s what propels a child forward. The people who believe in him or her. I will continue to do so for his sake, even when no one else does, because I know he can and so he will. Until the day we figure out how to unlock his intelligence in a way that everyone else understands, we’ll keep going. It’ll happen. Until then, we’ll just…keep swimmin’, I guess.