Friday, December 15, 2006

Looking Glass World

Yesterday Fathersvox and I met with an education attorney to talk about what options we might have for other schools for Sweet M.

This particular attorney is tremendously knowledgeable about the available schools and ways of securing funding for said schools if one winds up at a non-state funded private special education school, so we were eager to talk with her about what might be possible.

There has been one school in particular that everyone has recommended that we look at for Sweet M. We were reluctant because the school is in another borough of New York City, quite far from where we live — over the river from us — and we weren't feeling particularly sanguine about having her so far away, especially in case of any other extraordinary events such as those we experienced in September 2001.

But once you've heard person after person sing the praises of a school over and over and over again, you start to put aside your hesitations, you start to be persuaded. And it's a state-approved, state-funded school, and so would not require us to sue the Department of Education for private school tuition.

So we were eager to talk with the attorney about this particular school. After a quick look at Sweet M's neuropsych report, the attorney announced: This is what'll keep her out of X school. This full scale IQ is too low.

Too low? I asked. Sweet M has a low average full scale IQ, with fairly typical splits associated with kids with language impairments. We'd always been told that IQ scores like these have to be interpreted with caution because there is too much variation between the performance IQ and the verbal IQ.

Yes, much too low, the attorney replied. X school is looking for ASD kids with fullscale IQs of 125 or more.

So now in order to qualify for a special education setting one has to have an IQ that is two standard deviations above the mean? If these are the kids who go to the state-funded special education schools, you've gotta wonder what it takes to qualify as gifted and talented.

I have the sinking feeling that we have entered the looking glass world where everything is the opposite of what it's supposed to be.


Anonymous said...

It's Liz from I Speak of Dreams. My response is somewhat tangential to the thrust of your post.

Given that she has language delays, has she had a non-verbal IQ test, such as:

What nonverbal IQ tests are available?

While there are a number of nonverbal IQ tests, the three most popular tests seem to be the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (Kaufman-ABC), the Leiter International Performance Scale (Leiter), and the Test of Non-Verbal Intelligence 2 (TONI-2).

The Kaufman-ABC, developed by Alan Kaufman, is generally considered a measure of cognitive intellectual abilities. The Kaufman-ABC is intended for children ages 2.5 to 12.5 and is of relatively recent origin. The Kaufman-ABC emphasizes mental processing and provides an estimate of overall ability (Mental Processing Composite) as well composite measures of Simultaneous and Sequential Processing. The Kaufman-ABC has a nonverbal scale as well as an achievement section. The Kaufman-ABC has been examined in a number of different populations including speech-language impaired children. Psychologists say that the K-ABC is a fun test for children and seems to hold their interest. It appears to correlate well with standard verbal intelligence tests such as the WPPSI-R and Stanford Binet. A speech-language pathologist who has done research on IQ testing of speech-language impaired children thinks it is one of the fairest (assuming the child has no fine motor problems).

The Leiter has been around a long time and has a much narrower scope than the Kaufman-ABC. If anything, it may place language-impaired children overly high (see Swisher, Plante, and Lowell (1994)). The Leiter looks at conceptual ability but does not require speech responses. The child must solve puzzle type problems using visual, spatial, and some language based reasoning. Basically the examiner has a device on which they can put small squares with different images and the child is then asked to match the squares placed by the evaluator from the small squares placed in front of the child. The lowest level involves direct matching (e.g. red square to red square) and then the test proceeds to move to higher and higher levels of abstraction. There is some fine motor skill involved in that the child does have to place the square below the evaluator's square. The test does not take long to administer, but does take some sustained attention from the child. A Leiter has recently been revised and a new, more substantial test, called the Leiter-R is now available.

The TONI-2 is designed for ages 5-0 and up. The items include problem-solving tasks that increase in difficulty. Each item presents a set of figures in which one or more components are missing. The test items include one or more of the characteristics of shape, position, direction, rotation, contiguity, shading, size, movement, or pattern. The subject must examine the differences and similarities among the figures, identify one or more problem-solving rules that define the relationship among the figures, and then select a correct response. The test requires a relatively short administration time, usually no more than 10 to 15 minutes. The TONI-2 was normed on a large, representative sample of more than 2,500 subjects. Evidence of both internal consistency and stability reliability are provided for normally achieving subjects and also for populations of persons who are mentally retarded, learning disabled, deaf, or gifted. Reliability coefficients exceed accepted standards at most age intervals. Substantial empirical evidence relating to the validity of the TONI-2 has accumulated and the relationship of TONI-2 scores to a variety of other tests has been established.

Maddy said...

Well said anon - there are lots of test out there, you just need to find the right practitioner to administer the right test and you may find yourself in a whole different [and hopefully rosier] position - apart from the evaluation bill of course.
[three steps forward but only one back] Best wishes

hollywoodjaded said...

"X school is looking for ASD kids with fullscale IQs of 125 or more."

Yes, you're right, it's Alice-in-Wonderland-time and now this gives me some insight into something that 'may' be happening in a similar So Cal school, a potential issue which had not occured to me until your post. This experience of yours is frustratingly absurd. What about the Raven Matrices test? I'm just stunned by that inane requirement. What, pray tell, is the IQ requirement for the teaching staff?

Zilari said...

Wow...this kind of thing definitely demonstrates the dangerous discrimination that can come about as a result of assigning too much value to IQ tests. IQ tests test a person's ability to take an IQ test, and additionally, probably reveal something about *relative* strengths and weaknesses (though usually not anything that couldn't be figured out by observing the person in other environments).

I wouldn't have made it into that school either as a kid; my IQ subtest scores had a very wide scatter and the full scale number was decidedly unspectacular. There's a whole lot wrong with society and the education system, but I'm sure you realize that.

kristina said...

Perhaps you could still (if you have not yet) visit the school and see what the story is, or at least a bit more. And look at other schools, too, and see what their requirements more---we looked at everything we could when we were on the school search for Charlie last year and even though some were not the right thing for him, it was good to see what is out there.

Anonymous said...

i'm with everyone here. perhaps there is a different IQ test? although i can't stand those test and think whatever they measure is RARELY significant. seems a way to exclude rather to gather information geared toward INcluding that particular child.

ugh. but why not visit the school? as kristina suggests? once they've had a chance to meet you and you them, who knows? perhaps they have a staff member who could meet with sweet m? and see your remarkable daughter in person? how could they resist?

MothersVox said...

Hi everyone, Thanks so much for all your thoughts on this. Liz, I'm going to see if the person we're considering hiring to retest Sweet M administers any of those tests. That is incredibly helpful.

We'd love to visit this school, but they don't allow visits until after your child is accepted for an interview. It's the only one that I know of that has that limitation, but since it's so sought after, one can sort of understand . . . Would you really want the 10,000 parents of special needs kids desperate for a placement traipsing through your school each autumn?

We've looked at 11 schools so far -- there are really only about two left that we haven't seen. And one of those is in Queens almost at the Nassau County border, which we think is just unacceptably far for a 10 year old to travel twice a day.

And, of course, I'm with you Kyra -- I do wonder how anyone could resist Sweet M's enthusiasm and love of learning, and genuine good spiritedness 99% of the time. But apparently some people have.

The overall questions that all of this raises for me are along the lines of what Zilari mentions -- the the tyranny of neurotypical IQ scores.

Also and especially the ways in which a special education system based on private schools allows schools to choose the easiest kids or the kids from the wealthiest families. Ya gotta wonder. . . if this is the trouble that we're having . . . even with loads of what the social scientists call social and cultural capital (friendship circles and graduate degrees), what happens to the kids whose parents have even fewer resources than we do?

I guess we don't have to wonder too long about that.

Neurodivergent K said...

I just want to reach out and hug Sweet M. This isn't fair to her. I've got more points in certain areas than they know what to do with (scatter, anyone?) and I'd donate them if I could...they'd get measured that way, and a child who needs an appropriate education would have a shot.

When I was about her age I went to a gifted school for neurotypical kids. the part they left out of the description was 'monetarily'. There was one Aspie girl in my class, and I'm autie...and the rest were rich spoiled brats.

It's too bad you're so far from the ASPIE school, and she's so young. They're pretty inclusive last I checked...

MothersVox said...

Hi Kassiane! I'll pass along your hug to Sweet M. We've also realized that gifted, as in monetarily gifted, would be a big help for all of us! It's genuinely disturbing that a free and appropriate public education for our kids means putting them in a private school and paying to sue the Department of Education for part of the tuition.

Anonymous said...

Dear MotherVox,

I spent my free time this weekend "catching up" on your life (finally). . . and I'm so glad that I did. Now I really know where to find you. I'm sorry I've been so out of sync . . . . I see now that the school thing is absolutely crucial, espec. now that exponential leaps are happening in M.'s reading development.

I wish I could be of some help, but I know very little of appropriate resources that I can draw on, except my own experiences.

As the younger sis of an autie (Stephen, unfortunately, was born before they even had a name/label for this difference in wiring, and thus never received any early intervention, or language development, and was institutionalized at a very young age), I am emotionally very hooked in to this world, even though I, too, teeter at the "edge".

My parents, however, were big-time activists in this field. They founded and built a group home for very low-functioning autistic adults in Minneapolis, where Stephen now lives. I realize that this has nothing to do with your current situation, but I did want to share with you the Minnesota "system", and the website -- I don't know if New York has such a thing, all in one place (if they don't, they should):

(Upon review, I don't think this link works in a post, so I'll also email it to you . . .)

Also, I'm sure you've been there already, but the Resources for Chldren With Special Needs, on E. 16th off of Union Square, was tremendously helpful to me in putting me in touch with a camp-finding specialist who helped me find R. a very special (and inclusive!) summer camp. The gentleman there at Resouces was so lovely (I forgot his name but can find it again if you want/need).

That's all for now -- Keep writing, and loving! I am now your faithful reader.

-- Monica

KathyIggy said...

I can feel your frustration--IQ tests are notoriously unreliable for ASD kids. Meg's IQ on a "regular" IQ test is around 70. A couple years ago, we had the opportunity to participate in a research study where the Leiter nonverbal test was given (for free). The nonverbal was 38 points higher and the result would have been even higher but for the last subtest where Meg was tired and had about given up. Though these results are mentioned in her IEP, it's also noted they are minimal estimates given Meg's problems with direction-following and focus. It's a tragedy some schools have an arbitrary cutoff and fail to see a child's whole potential. I think there was an article in the NYT recently about law firms specializing in getting the Dept of Ed to pay for private schooling.

Anonymous said...

Extremely similar experience to Meg's: Nims tested about 70 on a verbal-based test, around 120 on a non-verbal 6 months later. Like Meg, he got tired in some later subtests and just stopped. Actually, he crawled under the table and hummed.

What is weird, is gifted and talented usually requires off-the-norm skills in just one area. If a normed IQ for a child is normal, but (as is so extraordinarily common with AS kids) there are splinter skills that are very high, I would think that should be taken into account. Essentially, most of our kids would probably qualify for GT if you just looked at their pattern/spatial skills or their short-term memory.

Nims' special school required "normal" or "above normal" intelligence. They tested kids for entry with a speech path and an OT, and selected kids that they were sure would get the most help from the environment that they offer. To me, that test was infinitely more important than his (at the time, listed as 70) IQ score. While that was his score, I openly told the tester that if my nonverbal child could score that on a verbal test, he might well be a genius in my eyes and perhaps the tester was retarded to administer such a thing to a child brought in for evaluation as "nonverbal."

Perhaps IQ is all in the eyes of the beholder. ;)

Omar Cruz said...
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