difficult child 3's assessments results

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We're finally getting some useful answers for difficult child 3.

    He is now in Year 10 - it's the year of the first important public exams in the state. After Year 10, there are another 2 years of high school education before the final exams (again, state-based public). Because difficult child 3 is struggling to complete the workload in the given time, we are taking the option of studying at half rate. That means he will take two years to complete each of the next three years schooling. However, he may also begin to do some tertiary study once he has finished this year's schooling.

    School is now getting more abstract, requiring more executive skills. However due to the delay in his development of these executive skills because of his autism, we needed to get help. We needed to know exactly where he needs support, what sort of support he needs and what asort of support can be given. The school is willing to help but they need a guide book. Last year's English teacher was a very kind person but just didn't get it. I tried to explain, she didn't understand. There was another teacher who also set the bar too high, I felt.

    So we finally got a neuropsychologist assessment. Because he's already had an IQ test done (about five years ago) this was not repeated, however enough testing was done to see where he is now, what his strengths are and what his weaknesses are.

    We got the results yesterday (Monday). The general outcome - difficult child 3 is in the top 1% to 5% of the population as far as IQ goes, but is in the bottom few percent for executive skills. He is seriously delayed here and needs a lot of support in certain tasks. Our decision to delay his Year 10 English exam for a year, now seems thoroughly justified. We also now have some highly specific instructions which the school can now use to direct his work more effectively. A lot of what we're already doing, is also now validated. The psychologist who did the work is also discussing the results with difficult child 3's other therapists as well as the school SpEd.

    And today - difficult child 3 had his typing test/handwriting test with the Occupational Therapist at the local hospital clinic today. We need this report in the application to allow difficult child 3 to use a computer to write his answers in this year's exams. He'll REALLY need it next year when his subjects will include English, History & Geography. Because some of Sydney's private schools have been exposed as having students whose parents have paid for therapists to fill in false reports to support special provisions applications, now the Board of Studies has clamped down so ridiculously, that kids who really need provisions aren't getting them. A friend of difficult child 3's last year was refused use of computer, even though he also has problsm with his hands. Instead he was told he could use a scribe - but when you have autism (a communication disorder) it makes use of a scribe much more difficult. No chance to practice with your scribe either, which frankly would be needed.

    The Occupational Therapist (OT) today made particular note of difficult child 3's bad stammer. "With that speech dysfluency," she said, "how can he be expected to use a scribe?"

    He's also had a history of being assessed at this clinic by their OTs, since he was 5 years old. It's a multidisciplinary clinic, he was first seen by them at 3 years old (Speech Pathologists). So if difficult child 3 can't get these special provisions, then I'm really going to make a lot of very loud noises.

    The Occupational Therapist (OT) did say that of all the kids they did reports for last year, none were granted use of computer. They are horrified at this clamp-down, kids with real needs are now being badly disadvantaged because in the past other kids got away with rorting the system. It's not fair at all.

    Getting back to the neuropsychologist report - we've been given a clear roadmap of what to do. Basically, difficult child 3 needs to be given instruction so he can learn how to learn. He needs to have work presented as the big picture, and from there, the work broken up into manageable bites. However, a miniature of the big picture needs to always be available, side by side.
    He needs help in learning to read between the lines and will need to practice this, to learn new skills in subtle interpretation. This is going to be a tough call for a kid who refuses to watch movies or read books. He has an amazing vocabulary and is a brilliant reader, but finds the story concept too distressing. We can't let him slide on this any more.

    We need to role-play vartious social interactions. I need to do this with difficult child 1 at the moment too, to help him practice how to apply for jobs.
    We need to teach relaxation techniques (the Wii Fit Zazen can help here) and she also recommended certain computer games to help develop his executive function areas of his brain which currently are badly lagging behind his peers. ALthough we thought he had outgrown them, Zoombinis is highly recommended. "Go play as much of it as you can," she told him. There is apparently a newer version of these three games now packaged in one bundle, but we've not been able to find it. We do have copies of all three Zoombinis games but they won't run on our newst computer. From what we can find out, there aren't any later versions. I'm hoping this is wrong.

    So if any of you know of more modern versions of Zoombinis, or any other similar software, please let us know. If you have something tat has worked well for your kids, please let us know. All ideas welcome!

    We have a few more days of school holiday, then school goes back. But just as school goes back, we're going to have to head north for most of the first week of term in order to help get ready for easy child's wedding. Of course difficult child 3's schoolwork will have to come too. We're in for a busy time.

  2. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I can't fathom not allowing a special needs kid access to the very things he needs to succeed! That burns my hiney, that parents will go to those lengths to cheat. What kind of kids does that creat....grrrr.
    So, difficult child 3 will take 4 years to complete the remainder of his schooling, did I understand that right? That's a good deal if he's allowed access to the equipment he needs...if not, it might be a very long 4 years.
    If anyone can fight it, tho, you can.
  3. Jena

    Jena New Member

    Hi :)

    I"m glad you got that info. it is so helpful isnt' it though?? The neuropsychologist evaluation is lengthy though, it seems to me that you got alot out of it.

    I know what you mean in regards to the executive functioning skills, my difficult child same exact problem. It's all just presented to her the "wrong" way in order for her to learn.

    Does he tend to be a visual or auditory learner? did they specify that? just curious.

    Now, relaxation techniques.... i'm not familiar with the name of the one that you had listed. I know for my difficult child we live on (for me as well) breathing techniques, so basic yet so helpful. It's basically meditation breathing yet without sitting in meditation pose. We also use visualization techniques. It really was difficult though having her adhere to this, help her really grasp it. She's finally got it after years.

    That's what helps her through her anxiety when it's elevated. In regards to the executive functioning skills, what are their thoughts? i struggle with- this one constantly. The way the work is often presented to our children is so very overwhelming, if a different approach would be taken it would ease their anxiety so greatly i feel.
  4. Jena

    Jena New Member

    i am sorry about their thoughts in regards to the schooling and how long it will take to complete.
  5. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Glad you have a much clearer picture about what's going on with him and what to do about it now. That's ridiculous about the lack of access to the assistive technology. Just doesn't make sense.

    You've got a lot more work still ahead of you with his final years of schooling. But at least you have some idea of how to make it go more smoothly for him. I hope you can find the game software that will work on your system. It's amazing how much computer games, if they're the right type, can help kids like ours strengthen some of their skill sets.
  6. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Marg, it's good to hear that the assessment provided such a clear roadmap for difficult child 3's further schooling.

    That business about the school not being willing to provide accommodations for kids who really need them just burns me up. We had a similar situation here with ADHD medications. Some parents were teaching their children to fake ADHD symptoms so that they could get the medications which would help them focus during exams.

    I too have confidence that you'll make them see straight.

    And yes, it does sound like you're in for some busy times. Hope easy child's wedding planning goes smoothly, and that you get some time for relaxation in with all the running around.

  7. 'Chelle

    'Chelle Active Member

    Good to hear that the assessment validated what you've been doing, it's always a good feeling to know you're on the right path. English is something our difficult child struggles with as well, though now having the same teacher 2 years in a row has helped as his teacher has come to "get" our difficult child. It's his history teacher this year who's not too great, though with the help of his aide they are modifying the work to make it easier for difficult child. Hope getting your difficult child the things he needs to succeed in school isn't as difficult as you're anticipating. When I hear these things I realize how helpful our difficult child's high school has been the last couple years. My difficult child has a standing offer to be allowed to use a laptop if he thinks it will make things easier for himself.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    He's an extremely visual learner. Where possible when watching RV, even if it's just cartoons, he understands much better when subtitles are on. Yet his hearing tests out as really good, exactly what you'd expect for a healthy kid.

    To clarify the school, and support - we have no problems with the school, they are providing a great deal of support and actually were grateful for this assessment, they're waiting on these results (they're still on holidays for the rest of this week). The problem is coming from much higher up.

    To explain - our states in Australia are much bigger proportionally than states in the US. There is also some level of coordination between the states, in terms of recognising interstate school results. Therefore, the official state-based exams are extremely strictly scrutinised. And difficult child 3 is now at a grade level where his exams will be state-based.

    Our state, NSW, is the first state founded in Australia after European settlement. It is also the biggest in population. I'm not certain (because my information is rusty, from my own schooling) but we were taught that 95% of Australia's population was along the east coast, from just above Brisbane down to Melbourne. Most of this strip is in NSW, so it means that at least when I was at school, NSW contained well above 50% of the national population. So the NSW Board of Studies is VERY powerful, when it comes to setting up rules for exam provisions.

    We have two possible exit points from schooling - that is, exit points with a qualification. The two levels were originally designed for students who wanted to leave school to go get a job or a trade, and for them the School Certificate was the qualification of choice. That is the end of Year 10. For students intending to study at university, they were expected to do another two years of school and achieve the Higher School Certificate. This probably replaces US college education, at least in part.

    To get to each of these academic milestones requires state-based examinations. These are run NOT by the Department of Education but by a slightly different (but once-upon-a-time related) group called Board of Studies. It is Board of Studies that tells Dept of Ed what the curriculum mut be and what the learning outcomes must be. And I'd love to have a serious talk to whoever at Board of Studies decides on the curiculum - we had a ghastly time of it when difficult child 3 was in Year 8 and the first HALF of his Geography course HAD to be on the topic of "globalisation". A VERY abstract topic, very difficult for difficult child 3 to understand when he still hand't grasped the basics of where various countries are, what their main product is and what their capital city is. You know - the sort of stuff we USED to study in Geography. Instead, he had a Geography teacher nagging him to find a primary source on the internet that defined "globalisation".
    Go on. Try it. Remember - PRIMARY source. On the internet. yeah. right. Eight weeks of this.
    Finally difficult child 3's year advisor told us to ignore the geography teacher and any work she sent. By the end of that year, the Geography teacher was no longer at the school. Don't know whether she was sacked or resigned. But we weren't the only ones screaming. However, to be fair - it was Board of Studies who insisted that "global change" be half the subject.

    And it is Board of Studies that sets (and allows to be varied) the exam conditions.

    These exams - they are all held at the same time, around the state. All the students of a school will all sit in the same large hall, each will have a student number assigned by Board of Studies. Every student studying Maths 5.3 will besitting down to the exam at the same time, with the exact same exam paper. All papers will be graded according to the same rules, in one large central location. Where possible, exam papers are computer-graded. Where there has to be a human iinvovlement in marking, the markers are made up of high school teachers who are paid extra to do this job. They do it as 9 to 5 over a period of weeks. It's extra bread and butter for them, but for those weeks their regular classes don't see them, they get a locum instead. Only the best teachers get to do this. It's exhausting, it's tiring, but I'm told that the networking is also a bonus. I've had friends involved in high school marking. A lot of the teachers at difficult child 3's school do HSC and SC marking.

    No familiar face supervises the exams - various people are hired to be the person out the front telling the students what time they have to do the exam, while other people walk around making sure nobody is cheating. Various tools allowed to be used - calculators in Maths exams, for example - must be the accepted standard and must be seen to be switched off before the exam.

    In the past, computers were permitted to be used. difficult child 1 had use of computer plus extra time, something he needed. difficult child 3 definitely needs extra time. His school is extremely supportive, they know he needs all this support. And Distance education students especially, have a high level of need primarily for the many reasons they are doing Distance Ed in the first place. But last year was (I think) the first year in the major clamp-down. Despite this, there were still a lot of private school students who are believed to have got special provisions way beyond actual needs. Someone did a statistical analysis of these private schools and the degree and amount of special provisions and blew the whistle. I was amazed at just how much extra help some students were being given, purely for a diagnosis of ADHD. Much more than difficult child 1 ever got, for more serious problems. It really has been a matter of who you know as well as what you know.

    What makes me really angry - that friend of difficult child 3's last year who was refused use of computer, told to use a scribe instead. I rang Board of Studies on his behalf (not mentioning names) and also to make enquiries about difficult child 3's chances of getting Special Provisions this year. Board of Studies told me:
    1) our friend should have appealed, the school should have appealed on his behalf, of course if using a scribe was going to be too difficult for him, if he had a diagnosis of autism, he shouldn't have any trouble and why was the school not passing this info on to Board of Studies?
    The answer: the school did absolutely everything they could, they did appeal, over and over, but Board of Studies just wouldn't listen, even when they were told tat the student is autistic and can't be asked to use a scribe because it requires him to communicate his ideas through several levels before it gets down on paper.
    So Board of Studies lied to me there.

    2) difficult child 2, as a Distance Ed student with a diagnosis of autism, would automatically qualify for use of computer.
    We have been told THIS year by the school that this is not the case, and was not the case last year either.
    Board of Studies lied again.

    The trouble is, if you make too many waves you are scared that they will penalise your child by refusing Special Provisions or in some way making it more difficultfor your child. But tis year, difficult child 3 can risk it because his subjects are unlikely to require much in the way of handwriting, in the exams. The trickier subjects are NEXT year. So this year, I can afford to make enemies, if it means I can expose this injustice and kick some rear ends hard, publicly.

    As for difficult child 3 now taking six years (including this year) to finish his schooling - we do have choices for him.
    I mentioned that he can begin to do college courses while still at school - the college course is at TAFE, it's the college you used to go to to learn a trade (still is, but it's expanded to teach even more). Since difficult child 3 is keen to do IT (computers etc) for a career, that is the course we'll put him into. He could even do this course now, but because he doesn't yet have his SC, the course would be very basic, frankly TOO basic for him ("this is a keyboard, this is a mouse, here is how you move the cursor around the screen"). We're hoping to enrol him in the post-SC course next year even though he won't have his full SC, because he WILL (hopefully) have his SC levels in the prerequisite subjects of IT, Science & Maths.

    And once he is in TAFE, he can drop out of school any time. Because once you have done enough courses at TAFE, you can get into uni without having done the HSC. A TAFE Diploma is seen as more than equivalent, in the relevant subject area. It will take difficult child 3 4 years to get a TAFE diploma and from there he could even bypass 1st year uni. So if difficult child 3 simply can't manage to do the more difficult (for him) subjects such as English, he can simply drop them. However I want him to try and do them because I tihnk they will help him immensely with his executive skills.

    As for these mysterious executive skills - it is the higher function, the frontal lobe stuff, where the important stuff is lacking in autism. It can be taught, it is difficult and requires a different approach, one I'm still trying to work out in difficult child 3's case. These higher function areas do not develop very fast even in normal people - the brain is still developing here until you're 30. In autism, it is slower to develop. But it can be sped up, by stimulating that area constantly. And again in autism, if you want Occupational Therapist (OT) stimulate that part of the brain you have to really work it and work it hard. But make it enjoyable and understandable.

    A tall order.

    difficult child 3 is brilliant at rote memory with details and facts, but needs to be able to understanddeeper meaning and general concepts. He needs to be able to identify a possibly abstract pathway to a topic answer and not be deflected by apparently more interesting (to him) facts associated with a topic. He needs to dig below those facts and make inferences, even where there may be no clear single answer. Discussion of possibilities, of opinions, of the grey areas is what he is now going to have to do. Even in subjects like Science - a recent topic was genetic modification, he had to write an essay on the pros and cons of genetically modified foods. He needs to really understand this well because I suspect it will be in the end of year Board of Studies exam as an essay question.

    In the past, the computers these kids used in the exams were something like an Alphasmart. The computer can be any kind, but it has to be checked before the exam and shown to have no test files already loaded (of course), only the text processing software needed to write an essay, I believe no spell-check or thesaurus is permitted.
    All this is totally impractical for the average student laptop. Imagine having to pretty much erase everything on your laptop and pull out most of the bells and whistles of your software. How many of us could even have the expertise to do it, let alone be willing to? So it stands to reason that schools willing to help a student use a computer, will have to have computers on site already in this state.

    Using an Alphasmart makes so much more sense but apparently Board of Studies has moved away from this. I really don't understand why.

    difficult child 3 has use of an Alphasmart. It belongs to Dept of Education but was purchased years ago with Special Provisions funds, for him to use. He has major problems with his hands, his fingers bend backwards where they shouldn't. In his handwriting test he wrote four lines. IN his typing test, he wrote over ten lines, in the same time period. He was in a lot of pain through the handwriting test and had minimal to no pain in te typing. But the Occupational Therapist (OT) noticed his bad stammer, she said it would be a huge problem for a scribe to understand him.

    Another factor - when difficult child 1 did his exams using a computer, he was put in an exam room with other stufents also using computers. This is so the sound of the typing didn't disturb students in the main exam hall. But six students (for example) in one room, takes less staff than supervising staff and separate rooms for each student with a scribe. because you can't have students with scribes sharing a room. I can just imagine it - "Hey, I just hear Tom over there dictate to Jack that the Battle of Hastings was in 1066. I'd forgotten that until I heard Tom mention it. Quick -write that down!"

    So how much more does it cost, to force students to have provisions tat don't work as well? Again, the students most likely to exploit this (who don't really need it) are more likely to do better using a scribe, than our kids who have communication problems. So again, it's the kids with disabilities who are being badly disadvantaged.

    But it's not the schools. Even those private schools which had a higher rate of Special provisions than could be considereed valid - it may not have been the schools' fault, but the geographic area, the richer parts of the state where the more corruptible therapists live, who know what phrases to use to get their clients the Special Provisions their parents have paid for... after all, it's generally private terapists and specialits who have written the reports. The schools only file the reports, they can only respond according to the reports they have been given.

    All though difficult child 3's schooling, the school has been generous about allowing him to use a computer to type his reports. In fact a lot of his schoolwork this year especially, is being emailed to him for him to type onto online and email back. He just emailed his most recent assessment task, it was all done on computer. But if he is not permitted to use a computer in his Board of Studies exams, the school expects to have to rehearse him and wean him off using a keyboard, and train him back to handwriting.

    itwon't be pretty.

    And how can thye provide a scribe, when this is a correspondence school? The rules state that the scribe has to be one of the brighter students from the grade below. But we do not attend school except on study days, we don't get to meet other kids from other grades except maybe once or twice a year.

    here's hoping we can get this passed. If we don't, I'll be screaming long and loud.

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2009
  9. ML

    ML Guest

    It's wonderful that you were able to get a game plan. I remember when you decided to give him extra time to finish the next few years of studies and thought it was a plan. How great to have it validated.

    You were already doing so many things right. But it just sets things in clear motion for the school and hopefully gets them on board the same train.

    Wow, Marg, that little bugger is truly brilliant. Manster is pretty average IQ (like 114) and his Exec Functioning Skills are pretty weak as well. But to have that kind of gap must be very frustrating for your little man.

    I'm glad the school is doing what they can and pray that the actual support get instituted as needed.

    Thinking of you and difficult child 3. Hugs, ML
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    The strongest recommendation we got, for development of executive skills and to help our kids do this - let thme play computer games that will develop their reasoning power. Brain training games, mind power games, MENSA stuff, Zoombinis, Maths coaching, Sudoku, Carmen Sandiego games, SIMS (watch this one for adult content with younger kids), Civilisation and so on.

    Any other games that you think would be good - let us know. But these ones for sure, we now have carte blanche to really work them hard.

  11. ML

    ML Guest

    I will look for these games. It's perfect cuz manster is a puter addict! Thanks for the tip, we need all the help we can get :) ML