Wednesday, April 29, 2009

for child "experts," they sure don't know much about kids

Danny has been in the "system" almost as long as we have lived here.  As early as 18 months, we had him evaluated and he qualified for Early Intervention for speech and developmental therapy, and later for physical therapy for his SPD.  Over the years, my kid has been evaluated, tested and examined dozens of times.  Charlotte, on the other hand?  Never.  Last year the principal encouraged me to take Char in for the birth-preschool screening, but I decided against it.  I had had my fill of "experts" telling me what my kid could and couldn't do.  I was sick to death of the limitations of the tests and the inaccuracy of the results.  I mean, really, how effective is a test if it relies on a very small child's ability and willingness to listen to directions from strangers and sit still for long periods of time?   

This year, I decided to go ahead have Charlotte evaluated at the preschool screening, mostly out of curiosity.  I naively went into the screening assuming it would be a somewhat pleasant experience.  After all, I knew perfectly well that Charlotte would not qualify for extra services. I wasn't going to come away from this worrying about Charlotte possibly being autistic, and I was fairly confident there wouldn't be any surprises for me.

Sadly, despite Charlotte falling well within the normal range, it really wasn't a very positive experience, especially for me. First of all, when the social worker sat down with me to go over the results, all she focused on were the things Charlotte couldn't (or wouldn't) do.  Not once did she mention a strength or even assure me they don't expect kids to get everything right.  Seriously, by the end of her little monologue, I was convinced that my daugher did indeed need therapy, that was how focused on the negative she was.  It wasn't until the very end that the lady finally told me that Charlotte was normal, but by then I had heard so many criticisms, it was hard to latch onto that one brief statement.

I came out of the meeting feeling slightly shell-shocked and more than a little defensive.  I mean, how dare they lombast my child's abilities that way?  The more I thought about it, the more unrealistic it seemed to me.  I mean, some of the things they expected of my child seemed laughable.  Having been a teacher, I understand the limitations of standardized testing.  I know that they are designed just to see where on the continuum of "normalcy" kids fall.  So, I understand that there will be questions on the test that seem excessively advanced.  Still, there were so many things about this test that surprised me, things that display a total lack of understanding of children.  Allow me to share:

**While Charlotte can identify most of the basic body parts (arm, hand, belly, and even chin)  she couldn't identify her knuckle.   Never in a million years would I have even thought to teach my kids where their knuckles are.  And my three year old is supposed to know this?  Just seems a bit advanced.  Now if they had asked my lovely daughter where her vagina was, she would have aced THAT question!

**At least twice, the social worker mentioned that Charlotte was too wiggly during the evaluation.  
I wish I could go back and ask her exactly what she means by that.  I would also love to know just how many other kids were deemed "too wiggly."  She's THREE!!!!  Isn't she supposed to be wiggly?  Seriously.  I cannot think of a single non-wiggly three-year-old; it makes me think of the  scene in "Uncle Buck" where Buck is meeting with the principal and says, "I don't think I want to know a 6-year-old who isn't a dreamer or silly heart, and I sure don't want to know one who takes her student career seriously."  And I will add that I don't want to know a three-year-old who isn't a wiggler.

**Apparently, at one point Charlotte got bored with questions, like what does a thermometer do and instead declared, "I want to play."  
OK, so first of all, what three-year-old knows what a thermometer does?  That one really surprised me.  Secondly, Charlotte had been in this testing for over an hour.  Is it really out of the ordinary that a little kid would get bored with this much testing?  

**Charlotte didn't do too well on the self-grooming questionnaire that I filled out and I am sure a big part of that is she isn't potty trained, which frankly, is all my fault.  What did surprise me on this section was that Char should be blowing her own nose with no help and without being told to do it.  None of my kids have ever shown any interest in blowing their noses.  They would be far more content to wipe them on their sleeves, if I let them.  And judging from most of the kids I see at church and the library, they don't seem to be in the minority on this one.

**Charlotte wouldn't cooperate on the vision test, which bothered me until I found out why.  In order to do the test, one of Charlotte's eyes had to be covered.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that I was not in the room with her at any point during the evaluation.  So, my daughter would not let a complete stranger cover one of her eyes.  And the tester told me that this could be a sign that Charlotte has a vision problem.  It didn't ever occur to her that actually, having a stranger cover your eye might be a scary prospect for a little kid.  

Interestingly, while we were waiting for the social worker, I heard a tester tell a dad that he needed to come into the room because his son (who was at least a year older than Charlotte) wouldn't cooperate during the vision test.  Apparently, Charlotte is not the only one freaked outby  people touching her eye.

So, now, according to the tester, I need to spend the next week practicing this with Charlotte so she can come back and actually cooperate on the test. Yes, I am supposed to figure out a way to make my kid allow me to cover her eye while we play games.  As if I don't have enough to do, what with feeding, cleaning up after and teaching my kids to blow their dang noses.

There's more, but I won't bore you with the details.  This experience just really underscored to me the shortcomings of our public school system.  You cannot test a kid for an hour and get a really accurate idea of what the kid knows.  I understand that we just don't, at this point, have any viable alternatives to this sort of testing.  Still, you would think that in dealing with small children, the evaluators would be a bit more understanding and realistic.  At the very least, they could point out where your child is excelling and not just focus on the weaknesses.  Because, as was repeated in my Special Ed graduate seminar, you never get the whole picture when you just focus on a kid's weaknesses.  You have to include the strengths to really begin to understand the child. 


Anonymous said...

I think children need to be evaluated over time, in multiple settings. One day is one day.

I get what you mean about focusing on the negatives. I know it's my Charlotte's preschool teacher's job to point out where she's not "up to snuff" so to speak, but couldn't she at least have the decency to tell me the positive things she does in class too. Where she's excelling (besides reading). Last time I asked her that, she said Charlotte did really good at following along with the class routine. Oh geez. That's the best you can say about my kid??

Anyway - I feel your pain.

Are you sending your Charlotte to preschool next year?

Anonymous said...

errrr... For every negative there should be three positives, in my book.
Just an idea, what about a paddle to cover her eye. I am thirty (cough-cough) and I don't like any hands near my eye.

Quirky Mom said...

Strengths really are crucial, aren't they? For educators to understand, as well as for parents to hear. Nobody wants to hear someone list off weakness after weakness.

I'm LOLing about some of the expectations. Blowing her nose? Gawd, Apple's way behind on that one. And I can't imagine her letting a stranger do that vision test without me there. But Apple has known what a thermometer does since well before turning 3... But not until after learning about her vagina. LOL.

Kelly said...

As someone who has been helping out with the Sunbeams a lot lately, I don't know a 3 year-old who ISN'T wiggly. Or even a 4-11 year-old, come to think of it. Please.

Who ARE these people? Knuckle? Covering a kid's eye?

By the way, hi! I'm excited I found you and Bill on Facebook.

beckbot said...

no way! I took Flash in for speech evaluation at age 3 (stuttering) and he didn't know knuckle either! Makes me think it shouldn't be on the test. When does one really need the word knuckle.
Fear not, Pasha. You have fantastic kids, a very limited education system, and the wisdom to see the strengths in the former and the weaknesses in the latter.

rainbowmummy said...

OMG, that's crap. But you siad it, you need to think of a way to cover her eye during play. They shuld be doing that, all that tuff in a fun play filled environment

Shellie said...

That sounds especially bad, and I think the best way to get a good eval would be to make it simpler, break it into smaller sections and make it a GAME! Let kids be kids. Too bad they didn't point out her strengths. The best testers don't go by silly questions, but the overall picture they see and they realize that it's limited.

Anonymous said...

sheesh, my completely neurotypical daughter is 8 and she will hardly blow her nose without being prompted! LOL

people are nuts.

Mrsbear said...

My six year old just got the hang of blowing his nose unaided, for the longest time he preferred me to hold the tissue while he blew. I wouldn't put too much stock on that test, especially considering it put Charlotte in the normal range anyway...what the French? I suppose I should be prepping my two year old now on his more overlooked body parts, knuckles, ear lobes, the uvula. I may need to break out the anatomy book. ;) Craziness.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Oh gracious, my Sue needs a crash course. (And she W-sits! Marker, marker!)

That plus the non-nose blowing and knuckle innocence would have her labeled with something for sure.

Fascinating post!