the dangerous stupidity of standardized testing

by neuro diver

Today my amazingly wonderful son had his second speech-therapy session with a new SLP during which she decided to administer an assessment test.

After some repetitive prompting to get him to obey her command which consisted of dropping his much beloved activity of browsing through iron man pictures and joining this stranger that he had only met briefly on a previous occasion at the table , she deemed his level of functioning low and went on to criticize the type of therapy I have chosen as being inappropriate because it is not structured enough ( ABA enough) to work effectively on him .  

 Next she pulled  an intimidating looking form along with a small booklet of pictures that she placed on the table and began her evaluation  comprised of asking him to point to pictures designating different actions . The question, apparently, had to to be asked in the specific wording of “point to the —” and only once , not ” where is the –”  or ” which one is –” which he is more used to hearing . 

No , it was “point to the boy holding a ball”, and if Kylian manifested his interest in puppies by his attention inevitably getting caught by the picture of “the boy with the puppy” instead , his answer was deemed incorrect, regardless of whether or not it was an actual answer. 

After a slew of similarly rigid tasks , she finally  informed me that his skills are well beyond delayed , that he had tested to a social and communication processing delay which places him on the level of a 2 year old ( he is 5).

To say I was heartbroken at hearing this is an understatement. 

I felt the need to impart my opinion at this point that while he does have certain skills  that would need some boosting, he more than makes up for it in his well rounded cognitive skills , to which she found it appropriate to remind me that he is in fact all around delayed , that speech and social awareness are part of his cognitive processing leading to a global cognitive delay . That he will not be able to function in a mainstream classroom among his peers or understand the teacher. That he is much too delayed and needs intensive therapy to get him up to par.

Even if that were true, this is clearly not the most diplomatic of wordings used to inform a parent . In front of the child in question no less . Words that could possibly contribute to a very dangerous and negative perspective that parents can fall into when dealing with unfit therapists or professionals whose influence on future interactions between parent and child is so indelibly marked. 

I went on to explain that while I fully realize his difference in development , that I am not in denial over it but choose to accept him as he is instead of trying to alter his behaviour to fit the mould deemed appropriate by society , and that I did not wish for him to view himself as lacking in any way , thus my reticence to employ certain therapeutic approaches . She went on to reaffirm that he has strong ‘delays’ that he is probably already aware of compared to his peers . 

Barring her lack of patience and negative general disposition , the terminology employed alone pushed me into terminating her services .

I admit I was not immune to the surge of doubt caused by her irresponsible and cruel words . I questioned my parenting choices and wondered whether i was doing right by Kylian by possibly resisting certain ” treatments” that were recommended by the medical community. I want the best for him obviously and I would be disconsolate if I were to have inadvertently risked his possible future success , but a quick play session , a chat with my husband and some re-grounding restored my faith in my ideals , restored my faith in my son . 

How dare she try to make me view him through the narrow scope of her misinformed and bigoted perspective ? How dare she attempt to steal the wonder that he offers me ? the joy which springs to my heart every time his beautiful eyes, full of intelligence and joy and wonder , look into mine in the most spectacular form of communication ever manifested ? What a horrible human being it is that deprives a parent of the joys and wonders on the parenting journey of getting to know their child , that brings a child to hate themselves and resent the world they were born into .

The language of psychiatry and medical mental diagnosis . How horrible and insidious they are . At the root of the stigma and unacceptance they lie , at the root of this ill-held belief that anyone who does not fit into tiny rigid brackets automatically is tainted and broken and sick , that they need curing and changing . 

Why are these professionals so fast to conclude that he is ” developmentally delayed” based off of some standardized rigid test created to suit a neuro-typically developing person anyway ? it might as well be in an entirely different language for him !

And yet on top of being placed on an alien planet so to speak and having to learn to speak an alien language without any effort on their behalf to meet him halfway , he is also expected to conform his behaviour and development to theirs or else be shamed and stigmatized  in clear inconsistency to the encouragements and rewards that society bestows upon originality and individuality in other wakes of life . 

So I have decided that i will hold firm to my possibly unrealistic ideals , because I refuse to allow my son to succumb to the self-loathing and shame that failing a stupid test could cause , I refuse to allow him even for a brief fragment of a second to believe that his worth is measured by some silly tools that idiots created to make sense of their falsely constructed beliefs . He is as he is and he is perfect.

My son is autistic, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.