I’m not sure any word strikes dread in my heart now quite like the word “testing.” It wasn’t always this way. When I was younger, I didn’t mind them at all, probably because I was kind of (ok…ok…completely and totally) a nerd. If there was a test, I was pretty much sure to pass it….and more than likely make an A. When standardized testing rolled around, I wasn’t nervous at all. And was sorely disappointed in myself if I scored anything below the 95th percentile (I promise it only happened two or three times). But then Level 2 autism entered my world, and with it more tests, ratings, and percentiles than I was ever aware existed.
Our first barrage of what I would call “real” testing occurred on Monday, April 1, 2013 and led to our autism diagnosis. I still have the results of those tests in one of our Evaluations and Testing binders because special needs parents never throw a piece of paper away. Like ever. Never. I stared at numbers like 5th percentile and IQ 76 and then at words like “below average” and “slightly impaired” and then finally the queen mother of all words, autism.
After that day, it almost seemed like we lived our lives in between the tests and evaluations. There were occupational therapy evaluations, speech evaluations, language evaluations, vision evaluations and physical therapy evaluations. And there wasn’t a single one we ever scored in the average range.
In fact, in the last few months we have had our most recent round of evaluations to start some new therapies and…wait for it…our scores have gone DOWN. Talk about a gut punch. This kiddo works hard every single day and constantly gives it his all and we go down. In one of our new tests we were in the 0.3 percentile….I mean really? Couldn’t just say less than 1? Had to make sure we got that exact number, huh?
I think those numbers are especially difficult for me to process. I know how hard he works and I see that he IS learning, every single day. He’s making improvements in math, diagrams a sentence like nobody’s business, and can even tell me what happened on the Ides of March. But somehow it never seems to be enough to budge those test scores. It had really started to weigh me down….until I decided to stop looking at the scores and start looking at my son.
Collier could be one of the happiest and most contented people I’ve ever met. He has a huge smile that he shares with us about a million times a day. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He wants to be everyone’s friend. He loves to hug and say “I love you.” There’s this myth that people with autism don’t notice others, but I’ve seen Collier stop strangers to compliment them on everything from their shoes to their dog. 😊 He has a sweet soul and a gentle spirit. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. He is a blessing.
His scores may tell us WHERE he is, but they don’t tell us WHO he is. And while they tell us we still have a long road ahead of us, they don’t tell us where the destination of that road is. From now on, I’m determined that he won’t just be known by one set of scores, but by the milestones that really matter.
For every Intelligence Quotient we get…….I’ll remember his Happiness Quotient.
For every total achievement score we get…..I’ll remember each individual advancement we make academically.
For every behavioral index score we get….I’ll remember all of his perfect smiles.
For every functional impairment score we get….I’ll remember each friend we make.
For every articulation score we get…I’ll remember all of the successful conversations we have.
As a special needs family, we may never be able to escape tests, evaluations, and scores. But we will allow them to only define what path he needs to take, and not who he is.