Monday, March 17, 2008

The Trouble with Shrinkie...

I try not to do this too often, but today, I must vent... just for a moment....

Collette, my special needs kiddo has an IEP coming up in a few weeks. For those of you who do not know, an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, it's something that all special ed kiddos have written out for them every year (kind of goals to work on, placement, etc). Now I usually hate going to these because I always feel like DH and I need to go in expecting some sort of fight. Every year, the school tries to put her in a more handicapped class than she should be in, but luckily, we are well-versed enough in the "rules" that we know she doesn't have to go anywhere we don't want her to be. Every year, we have this "discussion" and every year we prevail although it's very stressful at the time. Not only do we have to go to an IEP meeting every year (not just DH, me and Collette's teacher, but also school administration, district administration, school speech therapist, school occupational therapist, you name them, they seem to be there!) but every three years they do an additional IEP called a "triennial IEP" which is more long-term planning. These wonderful "triennials" include all the above players, plus our own private therapists (whom, we must pay hourly out of our own pockets to attend) and, my most favorite of all participants... the school psychologist... (if you are a school psychologist, please do not be offended by what I am about to say... I'm sure not all school psychologist are like ours!)

Our story begins several weeks ago, when a "pre-pre-IEP" meeting was called to authorize any testing that needed to be done for the triennial. DH and I don't feel that any standardized test is a good indicator of how our daughter is learning and growing. Lots of children just don't test well even though they know the material and Collette is one of these children. Add to that the significant speech and language disorder and auditory processing difficulties and you might as well not even bother, because an accurate result is never going to happen. As hard as we tried to waive the testing, the school district pushed right back stating "compliance" and the point came where we had no choice but to just give in and let her be "tested". Now we have no problem with the tests that the speech therapist and occupational therapist are giving her, they are actual assessments of what is being performed. The psychologist, however, is a whole different ball game...

To begin with, this woman (I'm going to call her "Shrinkie") talks down to me like I'm some uneducated person straight off the turnip truck (a sure way to push my buttons!!). She calls me at home and asks when we can meeting so she can go over a questionnaire that needs to be filled out for her assessment. Shrinkie asks me "do you think you can do this at home?... or would you like me to go through it with you??...." (...trying not to scream at her....teeth clenched... heart attack vein pulsing...) "no" I answer, "I'm pretty sure I can do it all by myself"... So we make an appointment for DH and I to come to her classroom to go over the questionnaire and answer any questions about the tests she's giving Collette.

Several days later, Eric and I visit Shrinkie and she, in her usual way, proceeds to speak very clearly, very distinctly, to I'm a (bleeeeeeeeppppp)ing idiot!! My blood is beginning to boil, but I keep my calm...deep breathing... think happy thoughts..... butterflies... puppies.... ice cream..... martinis...... She is showing us these tests and explaining how she's giving them. I ask her if, when giving the tests, she sometimes rephrases the question if it seems that Collette is having trouble answering it (for example.... three crayons of different lengths...ask which is the largest....if she's hesitating, does she then maybe ask, which is the longest, or biggest? - same result, just different wording)... She, for some reason, cannot answer a question directly and goes round, and round, and round (I'm getting dizzy) until she appears to have answered the question... only it's not even the question I asked... (maybe she's the idiot, not me??).. The example she gave was this (in reference to the crayon length question).... "for example one of the questions is to show a red square and a blue square on a piece of paper, and ask the child what is the same about these two things?... the child doesn't get it right away, so I'll pull out two objects - one red, one blue (different objects, mind you) and then ask them what is the same about these two objects (say a blue truck and a red crayon)"....... What the &*%#@!!!!???? did anyone figure out the thing that is the same is that they're both colors???.... me either!!! And she's going to mark my kid down because she can't answer that question!!! It's at this point that I've lost my cool and get up to leave, I tell her I feel like she thinks I'm an idiot and I don't appreciate it. She of course, looks all concerned ..... "oh my, I don't want you to feel that way..." Eric is much better at being diplomatic and tries to steer the conversation away from Shrinkie's behavior. We leave with our questionnaire in hand and I go home to have a cocktail...

So, I'm filling out this questionnaire, and you'd never believe the questions it asks (I must rate these on a 0, 1, 2 or 3 scale with 0 being not able, 1 being never, 2 being sometimes and 3 always). Here are is just a sampling of the questions I'm supposed to answer (about my 4th grader, mind you!!):

"Answers complex questions that require careful thoughts and opinions, for example questions about politics or current events"

"Calls a repair person if, for example, the air conditioner or heater is not working"

"Reads classified ads for purchases and services"

"Performs minor household repairs, for example, a clogged drain or leaky faucet" (do you really want your 4th grader fixing your leaky faucet?)

"Buys over the counter medications when needed for illness"

Here's a good one... "Washes and rinses the sink after brushing teeth".....My own 47 year old husband doesn't even do this....sheesh...

And these are just a tiny sprinkling of the outrageous questions I had to circle seven pages of tiny little numbers for!! So, for every one that I mark less than 3, she's getting her score lowered ... do you think her score should be lowered because she's not buying her own medications, calling the plumber and fixing the air conditioner all by herself???.. what an irresponsible parent I am... all this time, not letting her do such things - maybe I should let her take the car to have it serviced next month - do you think they'll bring her home in the shuttle van?

So, today I turn in my little questionnaire, answers neatly circled (with, mind you, five typed pages of comments to go with them)... and wait... while Shrinkie compiles my answers and gives them a score then she will add them to the scores that she and Collette's teacher hav given her. This score will be the school districts view of my child... a number. Do they care that a year ago, she wouldn't even sit long enough to try a preschool puzzle and today she sits at the table long enough to put together a 25 piece puzzle without one drop of help?.... Do they care that today she can read a little reading book when two years ago we were told that she would never be able to read?... Do they care that she can now dress herself when it was a struggle only last year?... Nope, they only care about the score of her test...oh, and if she can call for an air conditioner repairman (nevermind that we don't even have air conditioning!!)...

Posted by Liz of Pink Lemonade

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Tara said...

oh how horribly frustrating for you! My sons' school is giving us a bit of a run around too...I'm not sure what my sons difficulties are yet but basically they are treating me like I am an idiot.

Some people.


sexyoldbroad said...

It's not just you. My grandson is a special needs kid and my daughter fights the school every year over wanting to medicate him. His doctors don't recommend it but the school insisted on it.

These kids are very lucky that they have mothers who'll fight for them like you and my daughter do.

Crafty Mama said...

Oh you poor thing!
Weren't you aware that most fourth graders were shopping independently for prescriptions and participating in global discussions about the state of the presidency? ;) You're much more patient than I am- I would've brought a cocktail with me!

LizetteKnowsBest said...

No two kids are the same and therefore a test cannot accurately define them from one day to another. One day they are focussed and do things right, the next day they are not. That goes for both special needs and other kids. Only a mother truly knows whether her child is progressing or not and people need to appreciate that and give us some credit!