Ask the School Psychologist...|
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.
A Natural Ham
The same school psychologist had evaluated Allison in kindergarten and again in third grade, so her parents requested that a different person test her before she entered 6th grade, her first year in middle school. The PPT (Planning and Placement Team) agreed to hire an independent practitioner and I accepted the assignment. Due to space constraints at her school, I decided to complete the testing at Allison's home, where we could work in a quiet environment without interruptions.
She and her mother met me at the front door. I hadn't met Allison before and was immediately impressed with her social poise. She greeted me with a warm smile and handshake, as she introduced herself and invited me in. She led me to her bedroom where she had cleared her desk for us to work.
Her room was exquisitely organized, with computer, stereo, tape deck and television surrounded by shelves holding books, video/audio tapes, CDs and software. I learned in conversation with Allison that she knew exactly where everything was and what each book, tape and CD contained. Clearly a movie and musical buff, she had memorized every song and nearly the entire script of each of her favorite movies. During breaks from testing she played a few of her favorite songs and scenes, and she performed right along with the artists. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable series of testing sessions I've ever experienced.
Allison gave each testing task her undivided attention. Numerical reasoning was her weakest skill and auditory memory her strongest. Fine motor control was poor, causing nearly illegible printing and cursive writing. She was able to form complete but rudimentary sentences using simple word choices. Abstract reasoning and ability to generalize concepts were weak.
Despite steady academic gains over the years, Allison's general intelligence, as measured by standardized IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests showed a downward trend, from a measured IQ of 70 at age six to a measured IQ of 53 (from my testing) at age thirteen. An IQ score of 53 is in the Mentally Retarded Range.
These test results surprised no one, because Allison was born with Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21) and had been receiving special education services since birth. Mental retardation is one of the expected outcomes of this genetic disorder.
Allison's parents, in addition to providing her with support services and an organized, stimulating educational environment at home, decided to focus their efforts on helping her maximize her natural talents and teaching her how to handle herself in social situations. Allison's friendly disposition was a great asset, as was her love of music. She turned out to be a natural ham with no signs of stage fright!
She earned the admiration of her peers for her appearances in school musicals as well as for her willingness to take on any task on stage or behind the scenes. Her parents and siblings backed her totally and bragged about her accomplishments to anyone who would listen.
Allison and her family proved to me, as so many other families have over the years, that it is always what a child can do that counts - not what he or she cannot do. To Allison's family, mental retardation was nothing to be afraid of. It means that Allison learns more slowly than most other people do. But it does not mean that she will ever stop learning. She will continue to grow and change throughout life, just like everyone else. And they will be right beside her, cheering her on.
Beth Bruno firstname.lastname@example.org
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