Related to: Put on Your Armor, Part 1 and Part 2
Several times, now, I’ve “diagnosed” our children in the face of therapists who disagree…only to have a psychological evaluation support my assertion six months (or more) later.
This is not because I’m more intelligent or have higher qualifications.
I don’t point this out to brag.
There is a reason it happened:
NO ONE can be an expert on EVERYTHING.
Every therapist has specialties.
If you’ve been part of the Hypervigilant community for more than a year, you may have wondered why I sometimes write yet another “we have a diagnosis!” post. Since he came to live with us, I’ve asserted our boy is on the Autism spectrum. And every time a professional confirms Autism, a different therapist disagrees the following year.
Some people don’t want their kids “labeled,” but in our case, what I call a diagnosis-in-writing helps us obtain needed services. (A number of therapists agree, “yes, I see those traits, but I’m not ready to put the diagnosis in writing”)
In search of someone who could finally help him, we bounced through the counseling community for six years. When the yearly psych came due, his counselor du jour completed the process.
At the time, utilizing the counselor most familiar with his current behaviors seemed logical, but not all of them were adept. In some cases, he refused to complete questions or gave answers he thought they wanted to hear.
His fluctuations in participation, combined with the wide array of specific spheres of knowledge, created anomalies in his diagnoses.
In January, a psychologist at the residential center completed a psychological for our son. Her field of expertise is ADHD. Almost all of her recommendations centered around mitigating ADHD symptoms. She did not address any of our concerns about Autism, ODD or social behavior, nor did she delve into factors impacting his aggression level.
I requested (okay, demanded) the center pay for a new psych evaluation with a different individual (since insurance wouldn’t pay for another). They declined to provide a full workup but agreed to a specialist performing certain specific testing.
Here’s what I never realized until now: we needed a TESTING expert.
The individual who performed the second battery does not provide counseling, therapy or psychological services of any kind. He only handles TESTING.
Our son’s session with the tester ended up fielding even better results than I’d hoped and I learned a valuable lesson in the process:
For therapy, turn to a licensed therapist or counselor. For medication, seek a psychiatrist. For accurate test results, consult a testing specialist.
But I digress. My point here is that no professional will ever have full command of every possible issue. Have you seen the DSM-V? It’s a chunky little book. And some of the diagnoses it contains are the sole focus of entire Ph.D. degrees.
When it comes to the kids in our homes, it is OUR responsibility to be the expert.
Children who’ve experienced trauma are each unique, but parallels appear in symptoms and behaviors across the group.
Unless your counselor is well-versed in results of a traumatic beginning, you will likely be your child’s best advocate.
If you live with a child, you know the child better than the “professional” ever could.
Don’t allow fear of being wrong or less qualified stop you from speaking up about concerns.
The most important part of being a child’s advocate is preparation. We need to put in the time to learn and to research.
With this in mind, in the next few weeks I’ll be posting resources to help kids who’ve had tough beginnings.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 encourages study of the Bible, so that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” While not specific to kids who’ve experienced trauma, it’s a great resource for finding hope and fighting fear, both integral to healing.
The idea also applies to studying on behalf of our kids. The more we know about needs and behaviors related to trauma, the better equipped we are to help them and to fight for them.
Let’s get out there and do GOOD WORK.
Just a little follow-up to Testing, Testing, 1-2-3:
After days of angst
Hours of horror
A sleepless night and
Billions of butterflies in both our stomachs
I found her on the bleachers, sitting next to a new friend.
“It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I think I did okay.”
I think I did okay, too.
Tommorow, she tests for…
Here we go again…
This week, the girl participates in her first annual testing session since we’ve been homeschooling.
It is less a test of her abilities and more a measure of my prowess as a teacher.
I’m a bit nervous. Possibly more than she is.
I actually had trouble sleeping, which is not unusual, but I don’t usually worry myself awake. Most nights, my brain spins stories or posts destined to never see an audience because I fell asleep halfway through.
Before we adopted, I didn’t understand when my friends bemoaned their children’s test anxiety. You’ve heard the phrase “pulling out my hair” in frustration…I’d never seen it in action until one of our little friends showed up with no eyebrows. He was anxious about testing and pulled them out, bit by bit. (There’s a disorder called trichotillomania, but they ruled that out and said it was just anxiety.)
I’ve always loved school and am a geek-tacular stay-up-all-night-crammer. My test grades were rarely less than stellar. (Not bragging—just explaining why I didn’t understand how tests might be scary. I just saw them as a challenge.)
Might not remember any of the material a week later, but as long as my grades were high, everyone seemed happy.
None of my peers ever talked about test-taking anxiety. On occasion, someone admitted being nervous about passing a certain test or achieving a certain grade, but no one was pulling out their eyelashes.
When my friends discussed their children’s test-taking anxiety , I thought it was hyperbole.
And then we adopted our kids.
The boy has no such thing as test-taking anxiety, mostly because he doesn’t care.
He likes good grades, mostly due to sibling competition. He doesn’t like it if his sister’s grades are higher than his, but he has an innate ability to both put in minimum effort and get fairly decent grades. In general, he displays an incredible lack of concern about school (the exception: history studies…the one time he has the legitimate ability to learn about war in a setting in which discussing weapons is taboo).
Our girl, on the other hand, wants to “get everything right the first time” and doesn’t understand why memorizing information requires so much effort on her part.
She should be able to assimilate it by osmosis, of course.
I’ve tried to help her understand that very few people can view text once and remember everything they need to know, but I am—thus far—unsuccessful.
Her expectation of perfection frustrates her. It often trips her up during testing, because the moment she sees a question she doesn’t know, she starts freaking out. She doesn’t necessarily have any external physical reaction, but she begins making mistakes and overlooking obvious answers.
Any information she might have known flies away like pigeons from a coop.
To prepare her for the upcoming annual test, I gave her a practice test 3 grade levels below her own. I thought it would bolster her confidence.
Instead, she stumbled over one question and spiraled from there. She ended up answering one-third of the answers incorrectly.
She KNEW all of the information.
I asked her the questions verbally and she answered all answers with 100% success.
But put that paper in front of her, and she freezes up.
Hoping to alleviate her fear, I explained the test doesn’t matter. The results are less about what she knows and more about highlighting anything I still need to teach to keep her on par with her peers. (Or, if I have my way, to get her ahead of her peers…but I don’t say this. No pressure. We’re still catching up. But I tell you, this kid is brilliant.)
I keep telling her I don’t know of anyone who takes standardized tests for a living.
None of it seems to sink in.
I am a bit concerned that the test results won’t be accurate because she may miss answers she truly knows after confronting a difficult question.
I’m fighting my own version of test anxiety,.
I want her to do well for her own sake. I want to show her that she can do well on a test. I’m hoping to help her overcome the stress induced by the public school system yearly testing.
I’m not on a witch hunt and don’t have anything against public schools but they put so much pressure on the kids with constant drilling, remedial groups before and after school, prizes for doing well and promises of ice cream for those who participated well in prep exercises.
One mother opted for her child not to take the test, which is allowed, and the school tried to fight her. Her daughter is extremely smart and would have done very well on the test, reflecting positively on the school and raising their scores.
I didn’t even know skipping the exam was an option until it was too late.
Because they drilled the importance of testing into my daughter, her already perfectionist personality can’t handle an error. Once she knows question is incorrect, it’s over.
I’m praying she does well, but to be honest, I have personally seen her growth this year and found that she is much smarter then they gave her credit for.
She just needed to hear things in a different way. Sometimes I have to explain things more than once, but once she gets it, she gets it.
I’d like to instill in her that the point of school is not to get good grades but to learn the information we need to be able to do well in life and to interact with others in a positive way.
Math is important. Most of us will never use trigonometry, but basic math, algebra, and geometry are all important for most careers.
Language is one of the most important subjects. You might be an amazing genius, but if you can’t communicate your ideas, no one will care.
History is her favorite subject and I’m so thankful for this. Learning about history and taking it to heart gives us compassion for others, helps us recognize dictators before they take over, and allows us to see the mistakes we as people have made in order to avoid repeating them.
Hubby and I also want to give our kids a love of science. Curiosity and willingness to problem-solve are key to lifelong learning and success.
We were fortunate to find a fabulous art class this year, in which she studies some of the masters and has an opportunity to try to paint in his or her style. She likes to sketch and color but has never shown much interest in painting until now. She’s very talented.
I was in grad school by the time I realized the point of school was not to cram one’s way to the highest grade possible, but to ingest and comprehend the greatest amount of information to then translate into real-life application.
Creativity, curiosity, problem-solving ability, and the knowledge that you can find the answer to pretty much any question if you look hard enough: this is what I want my daughter to learn.
Testing this week won’t even affect her by next week. The true test will be life.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to find out what she has learned and what she still needs to know to keep up with her age group…or surpass them.
But I know that this test will not measure her ability to live a happy, successful life.
For that, we will have to rely on the test of time.
Every once in a while, we get a win. Today, I feel sort of like the kid in the picture. The one in the green shirt.
I’m not bragging, but so much of the time I write about the hard stuff, and today I’d like you to join me in a little happy dance.
Fourth grade has not been easy. Both kids have had frustrations (math for her, staying focused while testing for him). And of course, those frustrations have spilled over to home.
You JUST DID the SAME kind of problem. It’s the SAME process with different numbers. Simply DO what you JUST DID.
You knew all the answers last night. ALL. OF. THEM. How could you tank this test?
We worked this year. Double duty math practice. Extra spelling drills. Re-taking tests at home if grades sank below C-level. (Sorry, nerd joke.) And no, not for credit, just for training.
Their teachers have been phenomenal. The school is incredible. Anytime I ask for extra support, more worksheets, conferences…pretty much whatever we need, they provide. I’m so glad we have one more year with this super team.
And today, all the extra work, the collaboration—and yes, the tears—paid off. In spades.
Hubby and I sat in the crowded auditorium as children dressed in red, white or blue filed in behind jubilant teachers. When the principal began announcing names of children with elevated scores on year-end tests,
he called her name.
Hubby and I couldn’t hold back our whoops. And then,
he called his name.
Both of our kids stood, proud, in line with other children who’d scored well.
She received an award for reading. He received awards for reading and math.
Five years ago, he was 5 and didn’t know the alphabet. Five years ago, she was 7 and couldn’t read three-letter words.
We have come so far, the four of us.