June 17, 2013

The Double Edged Assessment Sword

I am not a fan of standardized assessment.  Never have been.

Yet here I find myself with a child on the Autism Spectrum and it seems that scales, assessments, and evaluations are the bread and butter for treatment decision making.  As we plan our move and speak with teachers on the Minnesota end, it seems assessment is back at the forefront of my life-  like it or not.

I can't even begin to tell you how far Caleb has come in the last year or two.  I've heard such good reports from his teachers and therapists.  His PCA from last summer (also one of his TWD instructors) told me over the weekend, its so nice to have a conversation with him now.  His speech therapist told me that she feels like she can understand him most of the time without asking him to repeat himself or slow down.  His OT noted how cooperative he was with his latest round of assessments.

So, yeah...right?!  Making progress, feeling good and all that!

Mostly.

I hear this feedback and then I see his "results" and I can't help but feel a little sad again.  Progress, but still not up to his "age" in some areas.  New issues in place of the old ones in other areas.   For example, his articulation has improved over the last year but he is still just as much behind as he was this time last year and he has added fluency issues (stuttering, repeated words, strange pauses).  I was sure his social communication scores would have gone up too, I mean he has started playing with kids on the playground and everything...in reality not so much.

His writing improved over the course of the year to my naked eye, but he has started having placement problems.   I don't have the assessment in front of me, but it turns out he isn't combining motor skills and vision input.  More new issues to work on.

Therapy has been so disjointed the last 2 years.  One thing here, another thing over here, and no communication between except me.  Sometimes I just want an objective set of eyes to tell me what we should worry about and what we should let go.

This is why I don't like assessments.  I look at Caleb and overall I am really happy with where he is comparatively to what he was able to do this time last year.  But the assessments disagree.  They paint a different picture of Caleb without seeing all of his strengths.  Those crazy things don't say anything about his stellar memory for facts and determination.  They don't see him at taekwondo taking on a black belt test or tournament with kids twice his age and succeeding.  They don't see him with his hand up with the answer to every question at the Eucharistic Retreat before First Holy Communion this spring.

These crazy assessments don't really tell me much about Caleb but they sure seem to get under my skin and determine how other people look at him.  The MN school district asked me to have his assessments updated before we move to save time this fall, but part of me suspects they are going to redo all of them anyways as they decide what to include in his IEP.

Blech!

Can we put the assessments away for awhile now?


1 comment:

Meredith said...

Heidi, I understand. Those papers are hard to read, when they tell us a story about our child that doesn't feel right and doesn't seem right. The schools and therapies *have* to have this all written down, and in our experience it usually looks pretty bad. It's a struggle, but I always find that when I try to see my guy through God's eyes (instead of mine or the examiners), I realize how off the charts he is! In a good way. Can't WAIT to have you here, even if it means more evals and assessments at first...