Just when you think the world has mitigated its percentage of asshats you come across the most absurd stupidity you could even imagine. Ok, ok…as parents of autistic children we have our fill of morons on a daily basis sometimes, that it is true. But I am actually talking about those out there who are designated to help your child. Or so they say. No I am not talking about the special education professionals in school. I am talking about those that review your child’s application for accommodations when it comes to national testing, specifically the individuals at the SATs and ACTs.
There are two widely taken exams that seniors have to take in order to apply for college admission. The well know Scholastic Aptitude Test, more euphemistically called the SATs, and theACT. The SATs is the traditional test that most of us took during our sojourn through the trauma of college applications. It is that test that decided whether you reason and apply logic in the same way that some group of psychologist and educators in Princeton, New Jersey think you should. The ACT on the other hand is a much more concrete exam, relying more on actual knowledge than on some undefined idea of logic and reasoning. I suppose logic and reasoning would be all well and good if everyone was to go into philosophy or theoretical physics, but for most students actual retained knowledge tends to get you where you need to go on a daily basis. It is amazing how a student can look totally different on these tests. Collegeman took both exams. On the SAT he barely broke 1100, while on the ACT he had ivy level scores. The interesting thing about the SAT was that on the essay part of the exam, the concrete part, collegeman received 11 out of 12. So, from that experience, we decided that it would be best that Highschoolboy take the ACT first this spring, and if he needs to, the take the SAT in the fall.
Now how do you go about applying for accommodations for these exams? There are forms to fill out. There are always forms, lots of forms where ever you go. Bureaucrats rule the world, they really do. But if you keep everything from over the years all together it does make it less daunting every time you need to dredge up what happened to your child when they were 2yrs and 2 months to prove that their disability was not invented yesterday. Many people keep a binder full of information and anecdotes for the teachers from year to year. We also have a file cabinet full of every test, IEP and information from every meeting categorized by year for each boy. It is ironic how executive functioning issues are what haunts your child throughout their education but without your grasp of executive functioning everything that your child needed would never get done.
So off you go to fill out the forms. The guidance department at your school needs to fill out most of the form, explaining the IEP, accommodations and recommendations that they are requesting for your child. I found my guidance department to be very helpful and understanding and explained everything that we needed to do very clearly. Of course, if they had told that to HSB nothing would have gotten done and it would have been lost down the rabbit hole on its way to Wonderland. So off the form went to both the SAT and ACT companies.
Now I don’t remember if I have ever told any of you about our travails with the SAT Company and collegeman. But it was something out of a surreal novel. Collegeman for all tense and purposes by the time he was 5 years old was on a terrible downward trajectory. He could not function in a classroom; he spent a lot of time stimming ; did not have appropriate age related skills in anything except that math and reading were stratospheric for his age. They had diagnosed him with PDD-NOS and they were not wrong in any way shape or form. Now we had all the medical evidence to back that up. We had all the IEPs the recognition of special placement; the developmental letters from the doctors everything. The SAT company denied him any accommodations except breaks and because of the breaks an alternative classroom. I have to tell you I sat looking at that letter and must have had to read it at least a dozen times to really take in what it said. I called the guidance counselor and asked who the hell gets accommodations if collegeman doesn’t get extra time. He really didn’t have an answer. He was as stunned as I was.
I called the SAT people and they told me to write a letter to the special accommodations department requesting a review. So I did. I explained to them who collegeman was and the issues he has been through and how he needs that extra time. They actually called me. Yes, one of their doctors called and then proceeded to talk to me like I was an idiot. “Oh he has aspergers and that doesn’t mean he needs accommodations. Most students with aspergers don’t need extra time. It’s a social disability and there is no record of him having anything that would influence how well he does on our test. Just because the schools give the extra time doesn’t mean we will. Its two different kinds of situations, yada, yada, yada” I tried to explain to this doctor that the boy had been diagnosed with pdd and how much therapy he had had over the years and how that didn’t take away for his need for extra time. “Well, send me some testing from earlier if you have it and I will look at it, she condescended.” Everyone would be real proud of me, no yelling screaming or name calling on my part. I kept my heart in my throat and proceeded with this conversation. I hung up, very demoralized thinking with everything that this child has been through and now this from people who have no idea who he is. I hated the SATs before and now they were definitely at the top of my shit list.
Just as I was about to get up and start searching the files the phone rings. It was the SAT psychologist.
“Is this collegeman, from name of our town, that attended X elementary school in the year 19..?” she asked.
“Yes, it is.” I replied
“I was the school psychologist that did the initial testing on collegeman when he was 5. You must have given him tremendous remediation and therapy for him to have the testing scores that he does. I can’t promise you that I can get him 100% extra time, but I can get him 50% extra time, will that do?” she asked.
“Of course, anything that you can do. He really needs that time,” I replied.
“Send me everything that you have and I will get it done.”
“Thank you.” I hung up. Sat down on my bed, and began to cry hysterically. Somewhere, somehow, someone was watching over my child. I don’t believe in coincidences. Things happen, and the people you meet you are meant to, at the right time and in the right way. You can bet, that that psychologist received one bigass package the next day, by hand from hubby’s office. (Just as an aside, how horrible it would have been if she had not known him. He would have never gotten that extra time.) At least for now, and supposedly for the rest of his life, the SAT organization has it on file that collegeman can receive all these accommodations, for any test he ever takes that they administer. I’ll let you know if it works out that way when he goes to take the LSATs for law school next year.
Meanwhile, HSB has a different tale to tell. The SAT Company never gave him a moment’s trouble. He has 100% extra time, alternative location and use of a computer for the essay part of the test. Now as I have said before, HSB was never as disabled as collegeman, ever. He has his issues, everyone is well aware of that, but what we asked for we got. We even sent in his latest testing which showed an executive and reading issue, but an extremely high IQ, almost 30 points higher than collegeman’s. Go figure. I can’t and neither can the guidance counselor. Just count your blessings and don’t try to figure it out he told me, and I truly shan’t. It was just one heck of a surprise, considering what we had been through with collegeman. Maybe they kept it on record that I had informed the psychologist that they would be hearing from us with another child. Who knows? Yes again,I had to read that letter several time over too. Not out of shock. But had to make sure I was reading it right.
So of course, since the ACT had been so accommodating with collegeman we thought we had the process knocked. You know the old saying, man plans and God laughs. Well he was laughing all right when it came to the ACTs. First they only gave HSB 50% extra time and no computer for the essay. Excuse me. Had to read that one over again too. Contacted them and they said to send it reports from an OT, old IEPs and a writing sample. I told them he uses a computer and doesn’t have sample written essays, but some short answers that maybe consist of a few words each. They said that would be fine. Well here they had an OT evaluation that said he has fine motor issues, can’t hold a pencil properly, and needs to use a computer. That he has had the use of a computer since 2nd grade and that he doesn’t have the ability to even take notes for himself in class. The aide scribes notes for him. Nope they denied him again. Then the school sent a letter from the psychologist saying that he needs to use a computer. They sent back a letter saying that a psychologist doesn’t mean anything that they need a letter from an OT. Gotcha, asshats! Made an interesting call to the ACT Company. They put me through to at least three or maybe four people. Kept passing the buck I assume. Finally someone came on the line and started quoting the Americans with Disabilities Act to me.
Now once again, everyone would be so proud of me. I did not yell, I did not scream, didn’t even pull rank with my law degree. I told them you wanted the OT evaluation you have the OT evaluation that says he needs to use a computer. But that is not our policy she said. He has to be physically incapable of holding a pencil. So I asked you mean if he had cerebral palsy? She had to think about that really carefully, probably figuring I was setting her up. Well, she answered or they have to be missing a limb and can’t write with the hand they have. Yes, the ‘brilliance’ actually said that.
She then told me that most schools do not require that they do the essay and that it is a separate part of the test and not even graded together with the main exam. That if the schools HSB is going to apply to don’t require the essay then the issue really is over. All I had to do is inform the proctors before the exam that he would not be taking the essay. They inform the ACT Company and that also solves the issue. I thanked her and promptly called some local colleges. Nope not an issue. I also remembered that collegeman did not take the essay part of the ACT and that is probably why we never had this problem before. Collegeman also got into his college sans ACT essay, after we received the scores from both tests we decided to only send the ACT scores to the colleges. The college actually asks for the application essay, that everyone has to write, and that in the event that they want further information about your writing ability they will ask for a graded essay from your high school. That’s fair enough. An essay from school is also more indicative of ability than any off the cuff, hastily written test essay (at least at this age. We aren’t talking Bar Exam here).
So off HSB will go, next week into the realm of college boards. Two days of testing, four hours a day. Poor kid. But it will be all right. He can do it. He actually will probably have a good time. OK he would rather be playing video games. But it is what it is, just another step on that journey of discovery called: how does this test my intelligence and fitness for college?
Until next time,
P.S. I will let you know when we get the scores back.