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06/22/2011

Letters in the mail

A large envelope arrived in the mail, the first of two reports from Charlie's evaluation. Quickly: ADHD.

This particular report runs to almost 20 pages and breaks my fucking heart, not for the conclusion itself but for the details it contains. "Cannot work in a group." "Increasingly socially unengaged." "Did not attend or participate." "I hate all the work that I have to do; it's a bit too hard and I just don't want to do it." "Engages in a great deal of task refusal and expresses a disdain for school that is extraordinary for kindergarten students." "Verbally and physically aggressive." One classroom interaction in particular, as observed minutely by the evaluator, makes me cringe to consider. I'll just say this: I'm very sorry, S., for what Charlie did, and I hope you grow a new leg.

I joke because, oh, God, I don't know what else to do.

The report notes that Charlie is "currently functioning within the 'superior' range of cognitive abilities," but you wouldn't know it from his classroom performance, and that is precisely the problem: "Charlie's functional demonstration of his cognitive abilities in the form of academic performance is significantly lower than would be expected given his cognitive abilities...Classroom observations and teacher reports indicate that Charlie's poor academic performance is predominantly related to his behavior."

The report goes on to deliver a gentle pat of consolation, in case we were feeling guilty: "Charlie's premature birth cannot be overlooked as having a potential influence on his current presentation." The evaluator goes on to cite numerous possible consequences of prematurity; I will summarize this part of the report thus: Don't have your babies early. It can really fuck things up. (Now imagine me delivering this next part really fast, in a low voice, like the voice-over in a prescription drug commercial: Of course, not every child born early experiences these repercussions, and many full-term children experience nausea, anemia, disorientation, hallucinations, unexplained calf pain, irritability, scrofula, quinsy, worm fit, yellow jack, scrimshaw, aaaaand death.)

It's tempting to conclude that what we're dealing with now is the result of Charlie's early birth, thereby absolving ourselves of any part in it. It's also tempting to deliver a few punishing thumps to the chest and wail with the guilt and remorse of it: What have we dooooone to make him this way? I could go to either extreme, I guess, but I don't think there'd be any point. Where it comes from is not an urgent question. I am much more occupied just now with what to do about it.

What to do about it.

We have an upcoming meeting with the school at which I expect -- because they have warned us -- that they'll contend that Charlie is not eligible for special education. The question is one of adverse effect: Does his current condition have an adverse effect on his educational performance? And although the evaluator's report seems to say so in so many words -- "academic performance is significantly lower than would be expected given his cognitive abilities" -- the definition per state regulations is quite specific. He would have to be performing at the 15th percentile or lower in one of seven basic skill areas to qualify. And even given how little he attends or participates in class, that's just not the case. Regardless of how poorly he's performing in relation to his own cognitive ability or his potential, he's not doing badly enough in relation to grade norms.

And I've gone through the looking glass seven or eight times so far on this. Good? I...guess? That he's not doing that badly? Badly enough...to get the full range of assistance from professionals who specialize in this stuff? Which is...bad? Or...good?

I don't even know. I don't know what's next. I don't know what the school will propose, and I don't know what to counter with. I don't know what he's entitled to. I don't know what would help. I don't know what we should be fighting for, and that scares me most of all.

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