Last month, just before Matthew turned 3, he had his evaluation through the school district.
I don’t know why it’s always so hard, but it just is. And, I know from reading other blogs that it’s hard for everyone. We all dread the evaluations, and getting read the results is even worse.
Maybe it’s because we feel that our child is being judged – and it feels unfair. Or, that our child really didn’t perform to the best of his or her ability on the evaluation day, so the results don’t accurately represent what he or she can do. Or, maybe it’s that we realize that every accomplishment and milestone is amazing, and standardized tests don’t reflect that attitude. It doesn’t feel celebratory when you’re being read a list of “_% delay in this category, _% delay in that category…” Besides, as a parent, we already know which areas are strengths and weaknesses … and we really don’t need the weaknesses pointed out over and over. Or, maybe it’s just that our child really doesn’t really “fit” well onto a form, doesn’t conform to the norms or standards that are able to be represented by a standardized test.
For me, it was all of the above, in addition to my own issues. I always put so much pressure on myself to do well academically, to test well, to get really good grades, that all of that perfectionism comes back the minute I step into a “testing” environment. It feels like I am being tested when Matthew is tested, because I am his mother, his teacher, and his caregiver. I want Matthew to do well, I want all of his strengths to shine through, and I want the whole world to see how wonderful and beautiful and brilliant he really is!
It’s taken me a month to be able to step back emotionally, put my thoughts together, and write about the evaluation here.
First of all, why do the evaluation at all? Well, it is required if Matthew was to continue to receive any services through the school district. Even though we’ve opted out of the preschool, we have the option of receiving specific therapy at no cost to us through the school. It’s also the only way to objectively track Matthew’s progress. We’ll be able to look back at this evaluation in a few years and say, “Wow – look how far he has come!” With our choice to keep him out of preschool, and most likely home-school, I wanted this benchmark in case we ever faced resistance and had to prove that he is learning and progressing at home. So, in that regard, part of me wanted to say, “Go ahead, Matthew – throw this one! Don’t show them all that you can do!”
Matthew’s evaluation was split into two parts. The first part (cognitive, problem-solving, and social skills) was done at home, with his teacher that had been working with him all year. In other words, it was a very comfortable, playful environment, and Matthew did really well. He even surprised me with some of the things he was able to do! I was so proud of him, and felt like the test went really well.
The second half of the test was done at the school – a new environment for Matthew, with teachers and therapists he’d never met. The perfect set up for Matthew to shut-down, which is exactly what he did. I can’t blame him, either. Three adults firing questions at me from all directions, and taking turns asking Matthew to do things. After only a few minutes, the speech therapist had him looking at pictures in a book, and said, “Can you point to the spoon?” Matthew shook his head, said “no,” went to the far corner of the room, turned his back on all three ladies and played with a toy car.
O.k. – this is not going to go well. He’s not quite 3 years old, he doesn’t like this environment, and he’s really not interested in spoons right now. Ask him to point out a tiger or a monkey, and you might have better luck … but that’s not how standardized testing works.
After a few minutes, we were able to bring Matthew back, but he was still pretty closed off. Even so, the physical therapist left half-way through the evaluation saying, “Well, even if he is slightly delayed, he’s not delayed enough to qualify for my services.” WOOOOOO-HOOOOOOO!!!
I’m afraid the speech portion did not go as well. Matthew didn’t say anything, which didn’t really surprise me. His speech is the first thing to go when he’s placed in a new environment, feels uncomfortable, or is around people he doesn’t know – and this situation was all 3 of those things. We already knew that speech was the area in which he needed the most help, though.
. . . to be continued