Saturday, May 30, 2009


My niece is graduating from high school tomorrow. She is a remarkable young woman who, despite attentional issues, has completed over a year of college as a junior and senior, all while working and volunteering. This year, she was honored as a young woman of distinction in the county's cotillion.

She knows what she wants to major in when she starts college in the fall, and she has gotten offers, with incentives, from several distinguished universities. She is a success story.

This week, on my birthday no less, I went to an Individual Education Plan meeting for youngest at the private school which we are leaving. This spring, the school suddenly decided youngest needed testing to determine if she needed services, as her grades were poor this year--they were fine in first and second grade. No one other than I seemed to think that this is not because of a change in youngest but because she finally got a teacher who was actually teaching and not all wrapped up in a pregnancy or assuming Nita was dumb because she was black, an impression which Nita used to her advantage.

Anyway, the school psychologist called me and said youngest scored in the seventies (100 is average) on the IQ test (I refrained from sarcastically asking her, "And what did you score?"), so her grades reflected her abilities and therefore she would not be receiving services. The school psychologist told me that, if I could come up with a medical diagnosis, then we could get services.

What amazes me is that it is considered "normal" for kids with low IQs to get poor grades, so no interventions are necessary. Okay, so let's just let any kid with a low IQ score struggle and determine they are dumb and then not succeed in school. What happened to no child left behind? Are we just having them go through the same education as everyone else, get poor grades, and calling it a success?

Since I know Nita better than anyone, I don't accept an IQ score that low. I am not delusional about her abilities--I know she has challenges. However, this is the same kid who doctors said might never walk and most likely never talk. I wouldn't accept that as a final diagnosis, so we got her therapy three days a week, and she not only walks, she runs and plays the drums and skates and plays basketball, and just now her father told her, "You talk too much." This is the same kid who took a check and correctly filled it out to get a hot lunch. This is the same kid who can program the VCR and figured out how to use the computer all on her own.

Yes, the doctors SAID, but as my sister put it, "Nita didn't get that memo."

I also know that it is possible that Nita was bored with the process and that she doesn't like the school psychologist who tested her, so this might have skewed her scores.

Some kids learn differently, and some have learning disabilities. Just because Nita doesn't fit into the nice, neat, visual/auditory learning classroom situation, then let's not write her off as not being able to succeed and make sure the one thing she does learn from her education is that she is not as good as most people.

I called our family doctor, who knows us well, and told his nurse the situation. When I gave her the IQ score, she said, "So when he gets done laughing, I'll ask if we should have an evaluation done at the Cleveland Clinic."

So, at the IEP meeting, I celebrated my birthday by not simply signing the IEP. Instead, I wrote my concerns on the bottom of the form and told the school system I'd be in touch. But my big question is, "What happens to the kids whose parents don't have the wherewithal to get them services or can't fight for interventions?"

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