Some of you may remember that Charlie got evaluated for preschool back in April. Or something. I can’t remember. What am I, his mother? Anyway, since Charlie is such a “complex” child, they thought it would be best for me to bring him to the special education center where he could meet with all the evaluators at the same time.

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When I arrived, one person asked me questions while the others did things with Charlie such as show him switches, evaluate limb stiffness, and generally put him through the paces. I noticed that they seemed to be shielding me from the evaluation and were most-definitely not interested in hearing my ideas on the best way to test him. I’m a mom. We’re a pain. It’s our job. Best keep me at bay.

We got the results of the evaluation a few weeks later. OT and PT were spot-on. He actually came in as “moderately impaired” in OT, which was a pleasant break from all the “this child is so behind even a rocket pack can’t help him.”

And then I got to the cognitive evaluation. fireman headboard 033

We were told that Charlie had the cognitive abilities of an eight month old. I know this isn’t true—I’ve got experts and my own two eyes to tell me so. I realize that kids have off days, testers have a specific set of questions, blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to read it, but I understand that it’s not a message sent from God. So, I sucked it up and headed over the pages of “suggestions.” Now, if your kid is completely normal, you’ll be unfamiliar with this—lucky you. Basically, they provide you with a list of activities you can do to stimulate them in the areas where they’re lacking. It’s usually pretty easy stuff that you can work into your daily routine.

Alternately, it could be a list of completely inappropriate activities that clearly have nothing to do with your child. Perhaps something cut and pasted from another child’s IEP.

Guess which one we got? I’ve actually never seen a suggestion list that was so clearly not for my child. Multiple items suggested that Charlie “tell” me things even though he’s non-verbal. Other items were for much older children. Believe it or not, my nerd self actually looks at educational benchmarks for preschoolers. This stuff was for a Kindergarten kid or older. One of Charlie’s therapists actually said, “they should be embarrassed.”

I get it. It’s the end of the school year, you’re tired, and you’ve got a stack of papers to fill out. I’ve been there. But come on, you’re gonna tell me my kid is horribly behind and then give me a list of suggestions I couldn’t possibly use? Have you really gotten that jaded?

fireman headboard 032

So today, when I saw that same evaluator at Walmart—what do you think I did? Did I smile? or wave? Or maybe stop to chat? Did I put on my big girl panties and let bygones be bygones?


I pushed my cart in the other direction as fast as I could.

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  1. You are braver than I am. I'm not sure that I could have resisted the temptation to shove the trolley at her :-)

    I had a suggestion today that my son should do his homework on his own so that I can encourage independence in him. That's great. Except he can't do anything on his own because he has a severe disability. What makes you think that he can do his homework on his own when he needs assistance with everything including turning the page of a book? But I know she meant well.

  2. caryanne says:

    Oh Katy. I don't think I could be as brave and awesome as you are. I would have dissolved into a puddle of tears, I think. Even though i would know how wrong they are, it would still kill me.

    I KNOW that Charlie is bright. It comes shining out through this computer of mine.

  3. Candace says:

    Crap, Katy! I think I would have done the same thing when I saw her! LOL!

  4. So sorry to hear this Katy!

    Ugh, what do the evaluators know about our kiddos? Really, in 30 minutes or an hour they can't get a full picture of what is going on, how they learn best, etc.

    I'd fight it. Put on your big girl panties and start the fight. It's got to start somewhere for all of us in the school system unfortunately. I read somewhere about a private evaluator and the school district having to accept that eval. Might have been in the IDEA book?

    Oh, and I would have turned the cart around too. I've done it before on several occasions…..

  5. It would've been difficult for me to walk the other day without some smart remark about her ridiculous evaluations and suggestions. Really, really, hard. You know what? YOU should open up a school. As if you're not busy enough…but…Seriously.

  6. I mean, walk the other WAY. Not the other day.

  7. At least you GOT suggestions for things to do to help! All I got where some vague goals for his IEP, the end. And the cognitive evaluation is always the worst. There is no way Charlie is at the level of an 8 month old! Ugh. I'm frustrated FOR you!

  8. Nadine Hightower says:

    i thought you were going to say "rammed her cart"… big girl panties indeed.

  9. TherExtras says:

    “they should be embarrassed.” That was mild, uhm, diplomatic.

    Didn't you receive receptive and expressive language scores as part of an evaluation by a speech therapist?

    I'm pretty sure big girl panties also help us know when to move in a self-protective fashion.

    Love the photos of Charlie! Thanks! Barbara

  10. Ugh! I just don't understand why the special education professionals in schools persist in doing this sort of stuff. I'm a school principal and former special education teacher. I'm also the parent of a child with a disability. One of the things that I have learned and that I work with my staff, especially the preschool staff, to help them understand is that it is not appropriate to ever put labels on children based on one set of testing. Besides that, it's not possible to accurately assess the cognitive level of a child who is as young as Charlie is. Kids have strengths and weaknesses and often, and especially with non-verbal children, they score lower because they are nonverbal!

    We need to know the child, and the best way to do that is through the parents. Parents are the first and best teachers of their children and know them best.

    I am so sorry that you got this sort of garbage. I know you won't ever stop advocating for Charlie.

  11. Yea you have got to love the cognitive part. We have been told Zach is really far behind but I also know that Zach knows all his colors, all his numbers (1-10), all his animals and the whole alphabet, so I would just like to say that they are WRONG!!

  12. Looking Up says:

    You're a better woman than I am! I probably would have "accidentally" smashed my cart into hers & then consoled myself with some chocolate from the candy section. :) For me, one of the most frustrating things about being a parent to a child with Down Syndrome is realizing that the so-called "experts" assigned to help my son succeed are, in fact, not experts at all!!! My son is only 19 months old, but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that maybe "mom does know best", whether or not your child happens to have special needs….

  13. Charlie is WAY more developed cognitively than an 8 month old. I know because I have seen his cognitive skills in action. As I have stated before…games at his 3rd birthday. Enough said.

  14. yeah, at d's evals i was told they use evals for typical kiddos and as you know many cognitive evals for 3 year olds are based on motor capabilities. he got a bunch of blocks and could only stack 3 or 4 before his poor hand coordination knocked the tower over. the eval person was like, nope, he has to stack 6 or more. i was like, the intention is there, hello! he knows what to do, but it's all standardized and so the cognitive scores are affected. it's maddening, i hear you.

  15. Katy,

    I've been thinking all day long about your post and I would like your permission to share it with the preschool staff in my district. Those are the people who do early childhood evals. and see kiddos at child find. I think that your words express your frustrations so well and could really help as we work with our staff to help them understand that every child is a child and not a number or a statistic.


  16. Anonymous says:

    The pre-K evaluation that my daughter brought home on the last day of school said that she couldn't skip, nor had the ability to cut paper with scissors. Did they casually forget that she chopped off half of her own hair mid-year? I think they just rush things.

  17. First of all, I had to go back and read this post twice because I was too distracted by the ridiculously cute pics of Charlie and the hose!!!

    These are the kinds of things that make moms homeschool their kiddos. I remember Little Bird getting goals in an IEP that she had hit months earlier. In fact, I'd have her private therapists contact the school therapists and duke it out. I've been thrilled to be out of that system for the last year. But, we'll likely be back in another year after the private inclusion kindergarten program is over. Not looking forward to it.

    This is when we pull out the big A: Advocate!!

  18. GingerB says:

    I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry it is all so sucky. You are a fabulous teacher and a powerful advocate and you will learn how to ram shopping carts at Target, we all will, I know it. And he is such a doll with that hose!

  19. I've never been given the list of suggestions for Elisabeth….maybe they think she's in the 'to far gone' category all ready.

    I love that you walked the other way. Classic. And yes, they SHOULD be embarrassed. Big time.

  20. I can't imagine them treating you like that. Not just because your his mom, but because you were an educator – in fact, you were in special education, so I can't believe they wouldn't want SOME of your input.

    our evaluators did similar things but they also listened when I told them they'd get a better/more appropriate respone when they used blahblahblah. Or, since he has CVI, here's our current vision therapists number (who's been with us since birth)

    it's funny because the district let us continue Early Intervention out of the school budget because we need SO much but they said they would be in charge of the goals. Well they just let me be in charge of that one.

    I feel the same way about taking my son to a seating clinic to be evaluated for a wheelchair. he could be having a GREAT day, no floppy head or trunk control, and would get something completely inappropriate for him. they don't know him. they don't know his abilities OR potential.

    we've never been given a list of suggestions from the school… yet, but I hope that while they listen to me, they also take their own initiative (as opposed to letting me run the show). I don't know about education and such, I just know my son.

  21. what a waste of time, energy, resources and your sanity, plus the effort Charlie had to put out. They might as well have had you send in a photo a and then they could all pull suggestions out of a hat… wait, maybe that's what they did.

    so sorry

  22. In a world of people like that it is good to know there are people like you. Peace

  23. what exactly does cognitive abilities mean?

    I feel rather stupid but I was thinking an 8 month old wouldn't have play figured out on a DVD player or other things that you relate that he does.

    Or nothing to do with cognitive?

  24. I’ve had iep “drafts” given to me with the wrong gender in the goals section. As in “he will…” when I have a daughter. Oh yes I do believe they like copy and paste a lot.

    Oh – and our district does not even evaluate cognitive until age 7…as someone mentioned I’m not sure measures are accurate before that age, but it’s interesting that different districts do things differently. I am worried that we’re missing some learning disability in addition to the speech and social delays, but they won’t even test for another 6 months or so…