Saturday, January 23, 2016


Every three years, as mandated by law, we have a discussion with the Child Study Team at school regarding the necessity of testing for Thing Two.  The idea behind the law is that classified children must be assessed periodically to determine their current performance levels and need for services to make sure that the services they receive are appropriate.  It's entirely possible for the group to collectively decide that there's no need for testing at that time, but the subject must be raised.  Since we have him comprehensively evaluated by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician every year anyway on our own, we have a pretty good idea of where he stands, but the laws governing public schools are what they are and we go with the flow.

Anyway, six years ago, he was tested and failed just about everything.  As expected, given that at the age of 4, he had very little functional language.  While not exactly *happy* test results, they unquestionably qualified him for a great deal of help, which the school district has been very cooperatively providing ever since.  (Really: in several cases they've voluntarily gone beyond what they are obligated to provide for him.)  Three years ago, when he was in first grade, we looked at the situation again and decided that we had a pretty good handle on where he was and that he was getting what he needed--crucially, with the full agreement of the neurodev doctor, who has been seeing him since he was a preschooler--so we left things status quo without testing.   He was doing a lot better by then, but was still not within a city block of being a 'normal' first grader from either an academic or social standpoint.  

A few weeks ago, I got a call from the lovely woman who does the scheduling for the Child Study Team, reminding me that it was that time again: we needed to schedule a let's-discuss-testing meeting.  I have to admit that this time my heart sank to my knees.  He's in fourth grade now, and the change from first grade is dramatic (and thankfully so.)  He actually has friends, and courtesy of years of OT his personal space issues have gotten a lot better.  He functions in class with very little support, and if you only looked at him on paper--his report card or standardized test scores--you might not realize that the kid has issues.  Of course, you *talk* to him for more than 10 seconds and you can still easily see them, but he's progressed so far in the past six years (and is so damned smart under the crossed language-related wires in his brain) that he's advanced himself right into a gray area.  Given that Special Education services are ridiculously expensive to provide, a fact of which I'm well aware in my Board of Ed capacity since I see all the budget numbers, my fear was that they were going to try to push him out on the basis of the progress he's made.  Don't get me wrong, I'll be the happiest mother on Earth if the day comes that the kid legitimately doesn't need to be classified anymore, but he's not there yet.  I don't want to usurp a single solitary resource that the kid doesn't no-joke need, but I also don't want him shoved out the door prematurely just to cut costs.

At the beginning of the meeting, the case manager asked me for my thoughts, and I explained that I really wanted to know what tests they were planning to run, since his performance on any kind of language-based test depends entirely on what *exactly* they are testing.  For example, if they look at his ability to decode or spell words, he tests at high school level.  If they look at critical thinking skills or short term memory, he's years behind.  I needed to be sure that they were going to be looking at the whole picture.  The discussion that ensued (between the case manager, his school speech therapist, and his homeroom teacher) clarified for me that the initial tests would be general and that the follow-up tests would aim specifically at weaker areas (helpfully identified by the homeroom teacher as we sat there) which is a huge relief.  It has been my sense for years that this group of women has Thing Two's best interests at heart, and they all but said outright (which they couldn't really do) that they want the test results to reflect that he still needs help.  The next meeting (at which we discuss test results and make plans for next year) is in March, so fingers will be crossed until then, but I am hopeful.


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