Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not Today, Thanks

With all of the hustle and bustle of December and Advent, there's one big stressor I'm not experiencing this week, and that's testing.

Ellie's last evaluation was in August of 2006, shortly before her third birthday. It was good for 3 years, so she'd need another before starting Kindergarten. It makes sense to do it now, her teacher explained. That way we'd have all the most current information on hand when we start the IEP process early next year and talk about Ellie's needs and goals for Kindergarten.

Sure, that sounds reasonable. BUT, I know that the pre-Kindergarten evaluation is the one where a Real Diagnosis is assigned (until now she's been a "young child with a developmental delay") and I've been dreading this moment since before Ellie was even born. Most of us live up to expectations. Labels can be very helpful in accessing necessary services to promote development. They can also affect others' expectations and therefore limit potential. I see this all the time, in myself as well as in the people who work with Ellie.

Also, our last evaluation experience was awful. And the IQ score the evaluator came up with for Ellie was . . . ridiculous and not at all a measure of her current abilities, let alone her potential. I can't bear the thought of her future Kindergarten teacher seeing something like that in the file as her first introduction to my wonderful, amazing, smart, capable daughter.

I've been to some pre-kindergarten parent workshops about how to introduce your child to her new teacher in the best possible way. And Ellie and I still go to her monthly "practice reading class," which is a special pilot early education program for kids with Down syndrome, sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. It's a fabulous academic program, but its greatest benefit from Ellie's perspective is getting to spend the afternoon with a bunch of other kids with Down syndrome. And the greatest benefit from my perspective is what I learn from the other moms and their experiences.

Last month I learned that I can refuse the IQ test without losing services. So I did, in a gently and nonconfrontational way. And Ellie's teacher was totally OK with it. And we're going ahead with the IEP and all that early next year with no expectation of problems or loss of services. And no new labels!

I didn't even have to use the suggested wording: "As many scholars argue, I.Q. tests measure only the output from the student at a particular moment in time and are not necessarily predictors of future ability (particularly when dealing with children with disabilities). Additionally, studies from England are beginning to show that standard I.Q. testing may not accurately predict the abilities of children with Down syndrome. Based on these points, we feel the I.Q. testing recommended in the proposed assessment is not appropriate and therefore, oppose it."

I just pointed out what my mom said to me, that Ellie's last test was unequivocally inaccurate (everyone agrees on this) and that IQ tests are notoriously unreliable at this age.

And it worked!



Tracey said...

As someone who has administered IQ tests in the past, I have been frustrated with the inaccuracies in them that I have been forced to apply. The biggest issue I've seen affecting kids is that they are penalized for not working quickly enough. In my mind and experience, quick workers are not 'smarter' than slower and more methodical workers. Just because you can come up with the correct answer fast, does not make you any more bright!

I am so glad you could refuse the test for Ellie as you're right, it is a single measure taken at a single moment in time (like a polaroid in my head) and is often not a good representation of the child or their abilities.

BTW and off topic, I would love to come to your holiday open house but I am unsure if I can do it based on craziness schedule at my house. :)

Anne said...

We did the same thing for much the same reason. Last spring in Nick's IEP, it was the school psychologist who was pushing for the testing and his teacher who recommended against it. The psychologist's point for doing it now rather than latter is that when he was 5 he'd be measured on the 5 year old scale and the differences wouldn't be as great as they may be at 8. But, his teacher was concerned that he could be denied placement in an inclusion setting if his scores were really low. Nick can be very stubborn and doesn't like to be tested, she was concerned that he wouldn't cooperate and his score would be low. My only concern with not doing it now is in the application for his waiver. But, they didn't need it last year, so hopefully, he won't this year. I'm not sure if at some point we will have to do IQ tests but maybe by that time Nick will like taking tests better.

deb said...

If you have the means to do it privately, I would have the test administered for your own records. IQ scores indeed show limited information in the developmentally disabled - but they can demonstrate rather effectively in a due process situation over time is lack of educational progress if paired with standarized test scores trending downward over time, if the IQ scores are dipping significantly along with them. (And I'm a big believer in avoiding due process by always preparing for it.)

I understand the concerns you have about this - they are valid, which is why I suggest paying a child psychologist of your own choosing if you can get this done on your own dime - you don't have to share the scores but you will have it on hand if you need it later. But the flip side is - yes, it is a snapshot in time - but sometimes it takes several snapshots over time to tell a story.

We went through a thing where my son had a 30 point dip in IQ score between ages 5 and 8 that had a lot to do with his inability to read at grade level. When they remediated the reading problem, the IQ score was back to the expected level when we tested him at age 10. Kids with autism are notoriously inconsistent test takers and standard IQ testing has a built-in bias against those with social handicaps, but pared with the other information we had, the IQ test wound up giving my observations and the other test scores some added validity even when the teacher was insisting he was reading.

I treat the scores as nothing other than a piece of information but I can understand why you don't necessarily want a teacher to see it - particularly if you are thinking about an inclusion setting.

Sarahlynn said...

Tracey, you just made me about 10 IQ points smarter!

Please stop by if you can make it on Sunday; I'd love to meet D and the kids. :)

Anne, I don't know waivers, but I hope you're able to continue avoiding the test - if that's what you want to do - for as long as possible.

Deb, interesting point. Maybe I can convince my mom (a school psychologist herself) to test Ellie at some point. Or my dad could do it less conventionally, with his neurofeedback (?) equipment.

Ellie isn't autistic, but she is resistant to pressure, especially in time-sensitive situations. And we are definitely thinking about inclusion. Thanks!

deb said...

:) Thanks for not taking that the wrong way. I was worried after I hit "publish" that you might think I was disagreeing with your decision. My older son is 10; been on this crazy special ed highway a little longer and I just wanted to share a differing viewpoint, fully knowing I don't know that much about Down syndrome. And wow - if your mom can administer a test for you, that's just super. Then you just file it away and don't think about it for three years until you have to reassess. Now, my younger son is in an inclusive situation - it's totally wonderful and supportive. I bet Ellie would do well in that kind of environment.