Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Just hold on a minute

A series of things have occurred that stress me to the point where I am thinking about nothing else but the young guy, his school and his support people. This is new. I've generally be comfortable with my the young guy, his school and -- when present -- his support people. What makes this more odd is that the young guy has, in my opinion, been doing remarkably well, and making all sorts of developmental leaps and bounds.

What has changed is where we live. Last summer we moved from a very big city to a medium sized one. In the very big city, the young guy was seen as having a social learning disability, needing minimal support. He was most recently diagnosed with a moderate speech delay and mandated small group social skills and speech therapy, for about two to three hours of pull-out time per week. In the medium sized city they suggested that we pursue an autism diagnosis, which we got. But at the same time, the psychologist pegged the young guy's IQ at borderline retarded, while the big city psychologist had clocked it at normal. What is more, the medium sized city SLP upgraded the young guy's language delay to severe. In the big city, the young guy did well in school. He got As and Bs. Last year, he got Bs in both the both Math and English statewide standardized tests that they subject the kids to in grade four. Here, they refuse to even give him grades for anything but math. Which is another way of saying they are giving him straight Fs in everything but math. What is more, they young guy had plenty of friends in the big city, including friends in class, friends from his block and friends of the family. In the medium sized city, he has shown reluctance to even attempt to meet or hang out with any of his peers.

So in a few months, the young guy has gone from being, in everyone's estimation, a kid with a few challenges, who is doing very well, to a kid who is seen by everyone, except for me and his mother, as having a host of severe problems and limitations.

I am aware that much of this might have to do with the transition itself. All kids find moves hard. Spectrumy kids are bound to find it harder. And it's not like the young guy is responding by being angry or defiant. He just cries, or grimaces, or hides his face, or says "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" (Behavior that, up to now, has been seen as part of the young guy's personality, but which is now viewed as a major problem by his teachers.) But knowing that it could be worse is a bit like telling yourself that it's not so bad to have the flu, because at least you don't have cancer. It's not an inherently comforting line of reasoning.

In fact, the really upsetting thing for me is the cognitive dissonance between how well I see the guy doing and how he is being evaluated by those around him. I guess I feel that, if they don't like how he's doing now, they will never like how he does in the future.

Another half of my concern is that the guy we are seeing and the guy other people are seeing may not be the same guy. It is possible that, at home, where things are pretty much the same as they were in the big city, we see a guy who is pretty much the same as he was in the big city. While at school and in psychologists' offices, they see a guy who finds himself in an alien environment and is trying to regulate the situation in any way he can, which may include not actually engaging or giving real consideration to questions that are being asked.

In the past, the guy has been very good at regulating situations. Teacher's and interveners often told us that he wrapped them around his finger. He's a really nice sweet guy, so it's easy for him to do that. I don't hear that anymore. All I hear are lists of things that he cannot do or does not understand. I'm told that he giggles and acts silly when asked skill-testing questions. I wonder if that is a way of regulating the situation.

Whatever the reasons, I don't like what it happening. I don't like it one bit.

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