Friday, January 16, 2015

The limits of testing

We sit with the experts on one side: the head teacher, the head special ed teacher, the speech pathologist, the occupational therapist and Don'tae, Naomi  and me on the other. A copy of the findings of Maya's recent tests is projected on a large screen. The report is so full of mumbo jumbo that Maya's parents can't begin to understand what they are talking about. I hone into some of the specifics:

Maya can identify 2 of the 8 common shapes.

I interject at this point. I have a wooden puzzle with these shapes that Maya has been correctly identifying for more than a year. The classroom teacher agrees that Maya does know her shapes but on the day of testing, she was unco-operative and received the scores that she did.

So what should count? Does she know her shapes or not? As you can guess, only her responses on the day of the test count. The special education teacher continued with point by point totaling of all of Maya's perceived deficiencies. When they came to her lack of identifying certain letters of the alphabet, Don'tae objected because he knew she knew these particular letters. Again  that one test is what they were going by.

Maya is deficient, Maya is deficient...

On and on complete with advice what the parents should be doing to ameliorate these defects at home. Judgement should...........

But in the end, they threw a bone. Maya is such a delightful child, so polite and happy, they should be proud of the way they raised her. She still qualifies for special services as she is 'so behind' though less occupational therapy as she made greater strides there. They strongly recommend that she enter a young fives program next year instead of kindergarten. What is the process for enrolling her? They couldn't tell us ($%@!). We stopped at the target school on the way home. Enrollment is in a couple of weeks.

And today, another wild goose chase following up more erroneous testing: hearing. Before any child can enter speech therapy, their hearing is tested by an audiologist.. This was done at 18 months and she was found to have no problems. She passed a screening a year ago but this fall, failed it. Naomi was not told of this until last week when she was asked on what she did to follow up on this. (a letter was presumably sent but not received...this is happening way too often with several things). Does she show any signs of hearing loss? No, she can distinguish between subtle sounds. Have the teachers noticed anything pointing to a hearing loss? No. Does one lose hearing in a year's time with no history whatsoever of ear infections? No.

What Maya does have is severe stranger anxiety. When forced to interact with a strange adult, she becomes mute and looks at her feet waiting for the stranger to leave her alone. I assume something of this nature happened when a strange person from the health department expected her to answer questions.

She will be screened at the pediatrician's office. Of course these are the same people who last summer who recommended a pediatric ophthalmologist because she did not correctly identify the objects shown in the vision screening. Did she even know the names of these small objects I asked the tester? Well she had told Maya what they were right before the screening. She should have remembered....
Vision, surprise, surprise, was found to be OK.

I am no stranger to the mistakes these tests make. I've written at length on the testing necessary to have 4 year old Josh's enunciation issues addressed. In order for our private insurance to pay for it, he would need to do extra badly in their screening, which he did not disappoint. They were testing language acquisition along with the enunciation. The tester concluded from really absurd evidence that Josh was profoundly behind and was probably mentally challenged. I was tempted to schedule a chess game between them which I would bet, Josh would win. I knew he was very bright, he just had the enunciation issues (which I had some of them myself..I have tests to prove I am not mentally retarded!!!). Good news, therapy did fix many of his issues.

Update: We took her in for a  hearing screening at the pediatrician's office this afternoon. At first she would not co-operate. We finally let her select her own signal (clapping) to indicate she heard the beeps. She did not miss any. Results were texted to the school nurse so hopefully they will be off Naomi's back about that.



Elephant's Child said...

How awful. And how frustrating. On some levels that bone would have infuriated me. A bone which didn't take into account only the 'one day' but took a longer term view.

Lisa said...

I had 2 attention deficit children, one with mild cerebral palsy. I have never been to an IEP meeting that went well. Parents only leave feeling judged and with a list of "It will only take 15 minutes a day" things to do. Problem is, each of those dozen or so items take 15 minutes a day. And as you said, the testing is totally flawed. I finally took my boys to a children's hospital and had each of them tested. Twenty five years ago it cost $5000 each. But I got an honest assessment from an indisputable source. I then took those bill back to the school board and had them reimburse me. My boys are fine now. They have careers and families. You have my sympathy.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Love the happy ending to your IEP story Lisa. My son also does well despite the dire predictions made when he was 4. He never had an IEP but maybe should have due to mild dyslexia.

And the mother of Maya also had an IEP. It helped in some ways but they could never help her with her specific disability, which sadly remains.


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