The boys' third-quarter term ended, and the school sent out report cards and IEP progress reports. We also recently received their results from the Iowa standardized testing conducted in our district.
It's a good thing I'm somewhat comfortable with ambiguity.
Jack's report card was surprisingly good, but second-grade report cards do not feel like data to me. For instance, Jack received an A in social studies, yet I decided early in the year that we would not do social studies homework. The second-grade vocabulary list included executive, judicial, and legislative; I'm not wasting my time or Jack's to study these abstract terms. I learned about government in 7th grade. It was easy to learn at that time because my brain had developed the ability of abstract thought. Neurotypical 2nd graders in Jack's class learned the words but, when questioned about their meaning, did not understand what they had learned.
Is this education?
Well, it passes for education in Ohio because it's part of the curriculum mandated by the state. But the reality for Jack is that he is more than a grade level behind in math, and while his reading skills are good, his reading comprehension is hampered by short attention span and impaired ability to communicate understanding of what he reads. Consequently, we focus on math and reading homework.
I saw the enormous effort Jack put into reading and understanding a lovely story about Hellen Keller, but because the story doesn't repeat the fact of Keller's blindness and deafness, Jack didn't understand that she could not see or hear...even after reading the story numerous times at home and at school. How, then, could he understand the three branches of government? He hears branch and thinks tree.
Last night while we played snuggle-bunnies before bed, George spoke for Jack's stuffed Stitch doll. Jack said, "Stitch doesn't talk, Daddy. He's a stuffed animal." Then, George joked, "What!?! I didn't get a talking alien? The Disney store ripped me off. That was money down the drain!" Jack said, "Don't do that to Stitch!" He thought George was going to flush Stitch down the drain. We tried to explain what George had meant, but I don't think Jack really got it because he kept a death-grip on Stitch until George left the room.
Jack earned a B in science. This actually seems more reasonable to me. He loves certain things about nature, so he's willing and able to learn. For instance, he was fascinated with the phases of the moon...because he can see it in the sky, see how it changes each night. It's a real, concrete thing.
Jack's grades are the result of a modified curriculum to accommodate his needs and must be affected/inflated by the aides he works with. When he was given the Iowa Achievement test, he had no accommodations other than a teacher at his side to keep him focused. She couldn't help in any other way. The scores, needless to say, were very low.
This standardized data isn't useful either because Jack's academic skills are nowhere near as low as the standardized test would indicate. These low scores merely tell us how poor Jack's attention span is and how hard it is to motivate him to do things he does not want to do.
In the broader picture, these failed attempts to quantify Jack's academic achievement symbolize the failed attempts of neuroscience to describe exactly what causes autism or what therapies can help any given child. The experts can't even come up with diagnostic criteria that make sense, despite their dedicated attempt in DSM-V.
We parents in the world of autism are essentially forced into a world full of ambiguity, irrelevant data, uncertain courses of action. We make decisions to act, wonder if these decisions are right, fret over uncertain evaluations of our decisions, and try hard not to scream with frustration.
I crave data. When I get it, however, it tells me little. And I move on.
There's really no other choice.
How do you feel about your child's grades and test scores? Do you feel they accurately reflect his/her ability?