Have you heard someone tell you your child has “mastered” a skill or program? I hear that all the time. At first, I thought that was cool. He could now move on to more complicated information. Then, I started learning how “mastering” didn’t take. It wasn’t working.
Here’s an example. Recently, my son’s ABA tutors did a “program” called “more and less”. They would give him a number and ask him to give a number that was either more or less than the number given. He preferred to go up and down one digit. They tried to broaden his understanding by saying, “Great, now give me another number…” and he would then go one more digit up or down as requested.
Last week, we sat down to do homework. There were six “problems” with numbers side by side, each in its own box. He was told to circle the number that was more than or less than. He got every single one of them wrong. So, there you have that skill – NOT mastered.
I read a post from an adult with autism about the way she processes information. She tells in incredible detail about how much input she experiences simultaneously such that some of it is discarded by her. I think my son does the same thing. He focuses on what he finds important and discards the rest. The trouble with that is that he is not an adult, like the blogger above. He needs to know very basic concepts. He cannot discard “more versus less” in favor of the last episode of Spongebob, even though he has great memorization skills.
At first, I was mad at ABA. What kind of crap were they trying to feed me about my son having “mastered” a skill that he dumped from his hard drive less than a month later? Then, I read a post by Rhonda at Going Insane, Wanna Come? that made me think more about the subject. Rhonda is rightfully angry having discovered in a few days of homeschooling her son, that the school that failed him in retaining some basic skills and failed to get him the neuropsychology evaluation that he should have had to help do it years ago.
Our kids struggle. If they show us they have learned something, only to “forget” it shortly thereafter, what was the point of learning it in the first place? Did my son really learn it – or learn the way to manipulate his way to the positive reinforcement? Looks like it was (b) and he fooled his tutors in the process. How superficial are the results of ABA? And what can neuropsych do that other programs can’t?
As a lawyer, I have had rare occasions where a client is subjected to a neuropsychology evaluation to determine the extent of an injury. I never put together that a neuropsychology evaluation could be an educational tool to help my son learn until I read Rhonda’s post (and Jen’s comment after) and started searching the internet.
The first thing I needed to know is what is a neuropsychology evaluation. The definition that was easiest for me to understand was this one:
Neuropsychological evaluation is a specialized psychological assessment that includes systematic, comprehensive assessment of cognitive functions, including:
- Intelligence & problem solving
- Attention & executive function
- Language & auditory processing
- Memory, & learning
- Visual-perceptual & sensorimotor abilities
- Academic achievement
- Emotional, & behavioral functioning
This website also said more good stuff, like this:
“Neuropsychological evaluation has been classically used to assess the cognitive consequences of brain injury and neurological problems. It is, however, also an excellent tool for ascertaining the underpinnings of learning difficulties and other childhood disorders because it identifies specific intellectual strengths and weaknesses. For example, a child with a superficial attention problem may have an underlying difficulty with language. Or a child with a superficial problem with memory may have an underlying difficulty with attention. Sometimes there is an interaction between more than one area of difficulty. Therefore, systematic evaluation of more than one area of cognitive functioning is often necessary in order to “put all of the pieces of the puzzle together.” Besides deficit areas, a neuropsychological evaluation also indicates areas of strength that may be useful in remediating learning difficulties.
Neuropsychological evaluation provides comparison between areas of functioning, as well as comparison of the individual cognitive domains with general intellectual functioning. Additionally, it provides rich and detailed information about strengths and weaknesses within a particular area of functioning. This information can be extremely helpful for educational planning.”
So, the neuropsych evaluation sounds like a pretty powerful tool that should be given to all of us with ASD children to help plan their educational paths. But, as with any tool, we have to be careful what we request. Often, if the school district gives us one, it is because they have someone on the payroll who is not properly credentialed, or who is bought and paid for by the school to decrease costs for the district of funding programs for our kids. Thus, we won’t get an honest and independent evaluation with a good planning guide.
No one has ever suggested a neuropsych evaluation for my son to me. I wonder how much it costs. The website I referenced above does not bill insurance or take insurance. It is private pay. As I recall from the billing done in some old cases, I think it runs $3,500 to $5,000 for the assessment and report which included a short section on planning recommendations. I’m quite sure the school district won’t be recommending this for my son. I think you know who will be recommending it. Yeah – me.
Meanwhile, I’m seeking it through our health care provider’s referral as well. Just mentioning it here, as a possibility for others, like me, who were unaware of the benefits it might provide. Now, go get ’em!