There comes a point when you’ve made peace with your child’s diagnosis. You’ve got supports and therapy in place that work for you and your child. You’ve had the IEP meetings, and assured that your child is getting the help they need academically. The routine is in place, and things are moving along fairly well, and you’re feeling…in control.
Report cards or test results come home from school, as they did here, yesterday.
Last month they administered Cognitive Ability testing to the 2nd graders. Reading the results, it was like being kicked in the gut. My throat closed up and I fought back tears. My mind moved toward an imaginary future, with scenarios of what my son’s life might be like, based on my own fear. Horrible thoughts of what might become of my son someday, when I’m gone, assaulted me. It felt like all the hard work we’d done just wasn’t enough.
Luckily, I’ve got a very supportive online group that I can go to when I hit a bump in the road. They reminded me of some very important things, and I want to be sure to pass on this wisdom to you, should you find yourself in a similar dark place.
1. Your child-MY child, is exactly the same person as they were before you received feedback about their level of functioning. They have not changed in those few moments.
2. Our children don’t always test well. Reading comprehension is often a challenge for our kiddos on the spectrum. The stress that accompanies taking a test can also inhibit their performance.
3. Whatever the test or assessment, is does not DEFINE your child. Our children define themselves, and we are there to support them.
4. Academic tests are not created for children that learn differently. They’re created for the “typical” child. Think of giving an english-speaking child a test written in Spanish. They’ve been set up to fail because the test isn’t in their language, just like most academic tests are not in our autistic children’s “language.”
5. If you don’t have a support system, find one. There are many online communities for special needs parents. But it’s imperative that you have people you can talk to that understand the situation, and can offer words of support and encouragement.
6. Remember that you don’t control the future, you can only control what you do right now. Letting your imagination take you down dark alleys will only lead to anxiety and depression. And it won’t help your child.
7. Use assessments and test results to your child’s advantage. I plan to have the results at our upcoming IEP meeting, so I can specifically ask how they will address his learning style to tackle areas where he struggles. And we will talk about whether he needs to be in a smaller classroom setting, getting more individualized attention. Turn test results into tools for gaining more support for your child.
8. Allow yourself some time to feel down. It’s normal and it’s okay to have those feelings. But don’t allow yourself to wallow there, because you’ve got to be ready to pick up and move on, to secure whatever support your child needs.
9. Accept. Accept that your child may lag behind, or not excel in certain areas. Get the support your child needs, but remember not to push too hard, or have unreasonable expectations.
10. Love them. No matter what the future holds, no matter how well they’re doing in school, or how poorly, they are still your child. Don’t be robbed of the precious moments you have right now, by worrying about a future you can’t control.
It’s so easy to let things like this open up old worries, old hurts. The important thing is that we keep moving past that, and remember that our children are learning and growing every day, no matter what a test or assessment says. We will be there with them as they continue to grow, and we will hold their hand and meet the future with courage and bravery.