Emotions get in the way but they don't pay me to start crying...They pay me to put some perspective on the situation - Ted Koppel
A few months back we had yet another IEP meeting at school. As with the previous annual meetings, nothing really set it apart--a person in the meeting reads aloud a whole bunch of evaluations, some figures from testing and evaluations are thrown around, and the successes being experienced are bandied about, giving the impression that Autism was being cured.
As the meeting progresses from one subject to another, I typically will come upon a few tough questions that need asking. I do this, not to be obstinate, but to keep the information regurgitation in perspective.
Ethan's teacher began reading from the IEP, "Ethan is receiving the following grades in his classes: World History - 84.7%, Language Arts - 86.8%, Learning Center - 90%, Physical Education - 97.5%, Earth Science - 76.15%, Geometry - 92%."
Sensing that something was missing with these numbers I asked, "Except for his grade in Earth Science, Ethan is nearly an Honor Roll student, right?"
The room fell silent. Slowly the "um, well, uh the, uh, no, you see..." started.
I continued by saying that the grade suggests he is getting 92%, an "A" in Geometry, but we all knew that "he isn't really taking geometry. He hasn't even learned three number multiplication or division yet, so certainly he isn't really taking geometry. Just like last year in algebra, it wasn't really algebra."
"I'm not sure I know what you're asking," came from the Support Coordinator.
"Looking just at the numbers we see that a 92% is a great grade in Geometry, but it isn't accurate. It is misleading. Isn't he really doing first grade math? Compare that to the fact he is a Sophomore in high school, and now we are getting somewhere; we have some perspective. Can you tell me at what grade level he is at in each of these classes?"
"Oh, yes, I see your point."
We concluded that, as best as possible, grade level indicators would be determined to give perspective to the grades being received.
Next, the meeting moved to discussion of "Transition." That is simply a word to mean his future; not sure why they couldn't just say future, but that is another issue. According to the IEP the OASIS-Interest test indicated that Ethan tested high in "Mechanical and Business" placing him in a career path involving "technical scientific work, operating and maintaining mechanical" equipment.
I sat quietly, waiting for them to finish reading the evaluations before I started in with my questions, but my mind was already racing with thoughts. Had everybody already forgotten he was banished from the Vocational Rehabilitation program due to being classified as a "flight risk?" Obviously nobody told the OASIS test he is a flight risk and requires too many services, thus casting serious doubt on the results. Working with mechanical and scientific equipment first requires some advanced level of comprehension, which we know is lacking, and lastly, though of no less import, it also requires a sense of danger, which he also doesn't have! With that said, how could he possibly work with such equipment?
They continued reading, and there it was; nicely marked for eternity in black and white on an official document, the Pièce de résistance.
"Ethan also scored high in Protective, which goes along with his interest of being a policeman, however, this may be unrealistic for him."
I couldn't help myself, I just had to ask, "Why is it unrealistic for him to be a police officer?"
Again, the room fell silent! Mouths gaped open at me like I was a lunatic. Certainly, I, better then anybody else in the room should know why Ethan can't be a police officer!
I let the silence brew for a few seconds, then continued, "I know why he shouldn't be a police officer - he has no sense of danger, among other things." But then to my real question. "These tests tell us what he is good at, but is there anything that identifies the areas of risk? It said he is high in protective, but yet it is unrealistic, why is it unrealistic? Can you give me a list of reasons why it is? Tests tell us what he is good at, but not good at telling us what he is bad at. It seems to me that if we can identify the areas where he is at risk, that we could formulate some sort of education plan to address those areas, and see if we can resolve them..."
~ ~ ~
I am very much like Ethan when it comes to measuring relativity; numbers and data alone mean nothing to me. Don't give me information with nothing else from which to measure it. Like Michael in the Philippines, when he says he has $3000 Pesos in his pocket for emergencies, at first we think "Holy Cow! Are you crazy you're going to get robbed." Add one small piece of information (the Peso to U.S. Dollar exchange rate) and suddenly we have perspective. He actually has about $60 dollars for an emergency; a much more reasonable, and less risky, amount.
A few weeks ago, some of the answers we sought in the IEP started coming in. They came by way of test results. Though I appreciated the test results, it was missing two things, either of which would have made it worthwhile: the date the test was taken or his current enrolled grade level in school when the test was administered.
The results clearly showed that Ethan reads at the fourth grade level, is not quite at the fifth grade level for spelling, and can write a fourth grade sentence. His "listening and comprehension" however is not quite at the first grade level, having only answered 2 of the 5 questions correctly, he needed to answer 4 of the 5 for passing.
"He tried to answer 4 of the questions, one of them he stated 'I don't know'. While the administrator was reading the story, Ethan picked up the hand sanitizer and asked, 'what are the bubbles?', and then proceeded to make popping noises."
As for math, the test showed him at the "first grade level in the area of math problem solving." He was "able to solve two digit addition and subtraction problems" but had "difficulty in solving problems with fractions, and multiple numbers for multiplication and division."
Obviously, most people don't think the way I do; I'm sure that is a plus for the world. Nevertheless, I am a hope-filled-realist when it comes to Ethan. Give me the facts, don't sugarcoat them. Tell me where we are in relation to where we've been or where we're heading. Now, when I see a 92% in geometry, I can visualize that he is mastering math on the first grade level and will be moving on to the second and third grade level. It is far from perfect for a high school student, but it reveals progress!
By looking at life from an unclouded vantage point, the light of possibility lets me see progress in him, but I am also anchored in the reality of the progress not yet made. It's all a matter of perspective!