I will admit right out of the gate that I HATE standardized testing. I have been a strong critic of "No Child Left Behind" from the beginning and not only because it is an unfunded mandate.
I believe that standardization forces teachers to teach to the test. It also forces kids to learn only what the test asks. I think it stunts creativity and alternative forms of learning for both teachers and students. And, I worry that kids that do not test well view themselves as dumb or unintelligent just because of a test score. I wish with all my heart we could go back to a more well rounded curriculum and that teachers were encouraged to bring their own creativity and interests to lesson plans instead of having their job performance linked to how well the kids pass a standardized test. Alas, I fear that the genie is out of the bottle on this.
So, what does this have to do with Shea? Well, when a child with special needs turns 3, the school district makes their formal assessment about need. A whole fleet of standardized tests are given which determine what services will be provided through the school district. They use these tests as a starting point to determine the IEP for the child. By the way, this entire round of testing happens again at age 6 as the child moves into Elementary School.
I admit I probably had a pretty bad attitude as I headed into this testing when Shea turned 3. First, all the testing is verbal. How do you do accurate standardized tests on a non verbal child? Good question but no easy answer. There was a lot of paperwork, checklists and questionnaires for the parents to fill out. The teachers and specialists were very supportive and wonderful, I just didn't have any idea what was coming or how I would react.
A meeting was scheduled to talk about all the testing and Shea's needs. I didn't really realize how hard it would be to sit and hear the results; the tests determined his language at 9 month old, that his IQ landed below average, etc. I remember pretty much crying through the whole thing; I just kept going through tissue after tissue.
My husband was home with Shea during that meeting and silly me, I went alone. Big mistake! DO NOT go alone to an IEP meeting, especially the first one! Everyone, no matter how tough, will need a support person that first time around.
I remember one of the specialists asking me what had happened that made me so upset. Not her words exactly but that was basically the gist. I said, "I guess, I had promised myself that I wouldn't freak out until Shea turned 3. Now, he is 3 and there is no way for me to deny it anymore." In a word, I was freaking out and the future seemed very dark and scary. They all just sort of sat there looking at me with compassionate, somewhat embarrassed looks on their faces.
It was true. I had tried to stay light, breezy and not over react. I set Shea turning 3 as a threshold for my full scale worry. Well, when it hit; it was fast and furious.
My husband was much more taciturn. He knew that Shea was intelligent and that he would be fine. Was he sad? Yes. Was he concerned? Yes. But, he wasn't a puddle like I was. It's nice to have a rock in the family and he is mine. Love you, honey. XOX
Looking back, I think it took a good month to just come out of that depression fog. I had good friends and support but I needed an expert. I realized that the school would never be able to give Shea the sort of intensive therapy that he would need. They just can't afford it. But, how does one go about choosing a therapist? Hopefully, you have a good friend that can refer you to one, and I want to send out a shout out and a blessing to Sally for helping us find ours.