Thursday, January 24, 2008

Not that we didn't know, but it's nice to be reminded

I've been wanting to write about this for about a week now. Originally, I wanted to frame it in terms of Kittenpie's recent post on parental bragging. But my mind isn't that organized right now, so I'll just come at the topic head on.

Scooter is smart.

We don't have the official results from his cognitive evaluation, so I don't have numbers or percentiles or anything like that--nor would I want to be that specific even if I did. But it was quite obvious during the evaluation that there are some amazing things going on in his mind, and the evaluator said as much.

Between my experiences as an educator and as a subject of these sorts of tests, I had a pretty good idea throughout of the purpose of each test and the sort of performance my son was turning in. I knew going in that such tests progress in difficulty and that evaluators are making note of how the subject approaches the task as much as their degree of accuracy.

The first two tests included a writing component, and so Scooter gave up before time was up due to his fine motor issues--which is what the evaluator noted to us later: he understood the exercise, but couldn't follow through.

On spatial reasoning and pattern recognition, he did very well and was happy to continue for quite some time. With the patterns, even his wrong choices made some sort of sense. And when he got to the section in which he had to pick out the things that went together, he made clear several times that while his choice might not have been the intended answer, he had a logical reason.

When I took him for an emergency bathroom break, the evaluator explained to Trillian that she has continued several of the tests past the point where he was getting "correct" answers in order to test his attention span. Which is apparently quite remarkable. His spatial reasoning is also well developed.

Of course, one of the most interesting parts of these evaluations has been realizing just how much he knows and can do. The little bit of the written tests were one part; even though he didn't do very much of either one, he demonstrated the ability to apply logical rules. In another section, the evaluator asked Scooter to define words. My favorite was his definition of "hero": "someone who saves and flies and lands."

On the other hand, his approach to several of the tests confirmed for me the suspicion that his thought processes are a bit... different. In the definition section, he described every word with three qualities. When asked to pick out things that go together, one from each of two rows, nonetheless he insisted that two items from the same row went together; when the evaluator tried to rephrase it along the lines, "But what if you picked one from this row and one from the other, what would you pick then?" he refused to play along and stubbornly insisted on his previous answer.

We're lucky to be in a school district where each tested area is considered separately. I've read of people who have to deal with districts where a high cognitive score "balances out" a low motor skill score, making the kid "normal" on paper. Because Scooter has already qualified for OT services (and probably speech too), other results will not disqualify him. In fact, they will use the results from his cognitive testing to make sure that he is provided enough of a mental challenge.

I think that this last bit will be very important. On two or three questions, Scooter started to give smart ass answers, with a gleam in his eye and that special smile, but when the evaluator would ask him again or change the question slightly, he would immediately give his real answer. This was very different from his eye test. I think that the key was the nature of the questions, the fact that they weren't overly easy, even at the beginning, and they required him to really think. He was engaged and interested and ready for more.

There's been one other very positive aspect of this process for Trillian and me. Scooter has been utterly charming at all of his evaluations--agreeable, polite, friendly, excited. We've been swimming in remarks about what a pleasant and fun kid he is. It is such a nice change from the times that we felt like all anyone saw in him in Toronto was a sad, shy, weepy child. I have been so happy that they get to see the kid we know he is from the very start.


Aliki2006 said...

This is wonderful! I know exactly what you mean--it's so hard to be bogged down by all the "negative" evaluations and you have to work hard to pull yourself out of those sad feelings and be given a chance to remember to celebrate your child. I think we were mired down in all that when we first got L.'s diagnosis--now it's becoming so clear to everyone else how smart he is. At that recent parent/child workshop the psychotherapist told us: "L. is the most seriously smart kid I've ever met" but then she did go on to say that this would be difficult for him, because people's expectations would be so high and yet there will be many things he struggles with.

But's wonderful to have the positive feelings around you.

I'm charmed by Scooter and I haven't met him!

bubandpie said...

This was just eerily similar to Bub's experience with testing last fall. The tests themselves were different - no writing or definitions - but the patterns were the same: even his wrong answers demonstrated a grasp of the concept, and it was all or nothing: either he did well at a task or he froze up and opted out altogether.

It is nice to get that appreciative feedback about our lovely boys, isn't it?

cinnamon gurl said...

That's great that each part is evaluated separately... I'm shocked that in other locations challenges in one area could be cancelled out by gifts in another area.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

Anything that helps us to understand how their minds work is wonderful.

I like that they assess each area individually. Realistically, I think every child deserves and IEP and some individualized instruction, but, realistically, this is not possible.

Good for your new school district for trying to modify and help a child succeed at such a young age!

Mouse said...

I've been a little surprised to discover what warm feelings I have had around this process, and most of it comes down to the fact that Scooter is being appreciated.

I also remember that the OT told us at our first evaluation that even if Scooter didn't qualify for services, the kindergarten teachers were very experienced in providing the sort of guidance Scooter would need and that they'd look out for him even if he didn't have an IEP. This was exactly what I wanted to hear. Even though it looks like Scooter will get the services, I'm still glad to know that the adults in the school community are focusing on more than an IEP's official proclamation.

Lisa b said...

Oh this is so great. I am so happy for you!

Lisa b said...

and I just read your comment. It sounds like your school district is just amazing.
You wrote about this before, that your mother in law called - but what is it that they say they provide? Just a high level of services for kids? or a great deal of awareness of learning styles and autism?
I have to get shopping for a good school district.

Mouse said...

Lisa--the great thing about this department is that they do both: they attempt to provide services to as many kids as they can and they are aware of learning differences. We're ecstatic that Scooter will be getting OT through the school (saves us several hundred dollars a month), but even without that or an IEP, we have felt pretty confident that his teachers would still be open to providing him classroom level support.