Q: The public school is insisting that my 11 daughter with high functioning autism have psychological testing before she goes to middle school. Her last testing was in kindergarten. Because the tests they administer are language based she does not perform well. Because of my refusal to allow the testing, the school district has filed for a mediation session on 3/9/00 and a due process hearing on 3/16/00. What information do you have about standardized tests and autism? Are there any appropriate tests to administer to our children?
A: Dear Toby,
I think that you raise an excellent question. At this time, many parents, and actually numerous professionals as well, are strongly questioning the viability and usefulness of standard testing for children with special needs. From my own experience as a Special Education Teacher doing testing with my students, as well as observing countless tests and communicating with parents, it seems clear that in many instances the test is not able to measure a child’s abilities, knowledge etc for various reasons. Many children act very differently in an unfamiliar environment. Oftentimes the environment is “stressful” for the student due to the anxiety of both the parents and those who are testing - it is no wonder that a child who often reads at home quite often only throws the book from the table when being tested.
Hopefully, in the future, tests will be created which can be offered to children in their familiar environment and can be designed around the child’s motivation and interests so as to heighten the possibility for them to demonstrate their true abilities and special qualities. At this time, I do not know of a test that would fill this criteria, but I would offer you this perspective: As a parent, trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone else. You know and understand their areas of challenge and their special gifts. You have a commitment that far exceeds anyone else’s involvement with your child. Trust your love - trust your abiding interest and caring, and know that what you believe about your child, what you know about her abilities can never be matched by any outside influence. This does not mean that you would necessarily then decide never to test her, but rather that if you do decide to have her tested, you will do so with the knowledge that whatever is on the final piece of paper, whatever the “score” or result, it only has as much power as you give it.
Wishing you much luck with all of this,