I generally get nervous when I see the elementary school’s phone number appear on our caller ID. In the past two years, I’m pretty sure they’ve only called with something positive once or twice. Generally the call is either from the school nurse, letting me know one of my children displayed her superhuman ability to be clumsy and injured herself, or Cordy’s teacher letting me know about some incident where she got in trouble or had a panic attack.
So when I received a phone call from the school recently, I didn’t answer it because I was already on the phone trying to make an appointment for Cordy with an occupational therapist. After the trouble she had earlier this school year with her anxiety at school, we set up an appointment with her pediatrician to discuss what to do. He recommended an OT he knows to help Cordy get through her anxiety. We agreed we don’t want to consider medication yet, so this is our first step towards helping her cope with her constant anxious state.
The school left a message, so I knew it had to be something important, but at least a voicemail gave me time to react and process whatever they said before I had to call them back. I played the message, and it was from the school psychologist.
He mentioned that Cordy had been doing some testing with him as part of her three-year evaluation (all kids with special needs services are evaluated every three years to make sure they still qualify) and he wanted me to call him back to set up a time to go over all of the cognitive testing he did with her. He also mentioned what an interesting and delightful child she was, so I at least knew the testing couldn’t have been a complete disaster.
I didn’t know that he had been testing Cordy. Two weeks before that, a woman from the gifted and talented department came to the school to evaluate Cordy, and days before the psychologist called we had received her results. Cordy had an impressive score on a cognitive abilities test, earning her the label “superior cognitive” on her school record. It’ll help provide more gifted ed services for her, and I was proud of the score, but it was only one test and she had a particularly good day that day.
I wondered if the psychologist’s evaluation would match up with her recent testing? We didn’t know he was testing her, so we had no way to prep her like we did for the gifted ed department’s testing.
There was no hesitation in calling him back. As soon as I said my name, the school secretary knew why I was calling and transferred me to the school psychologist. He was only supposed to set up a time to go over the results in person, but he was bursting with excitement to give me the highlights of what happened from testing her that morning.
The good news: she still qualifies for special needs services. She meets the criteria for autism (no surprise there), although he said the only presenting issues at the moment are her anxiety and her deficit in social skills. Again, no surprise.
But then came the even better news. He used multiple testing methods for her, and said she’s one of the smartest eight year olds he’s ever seen. Her IQ testing resulted in a 139, with a verbal score of 143. On one verbal abilities test, she had a perfect score. I was stunned into silence as he explained that he’s been working in elementary schools for eleven years and Cordy had the highest scores he’s ever seen.
One example he gave was in analogies: he said to her “flour is to bread like…” and she answered back with “like hydrogen is to water!” Her science vocabulary was especially impressive. (Thanks to Netflix and the full series of the quirky Beakman’s World on instant streaming – our #1 source for science lessons!)
We met yesterday and went over the full results. I’m so proud of Cordelia. He said she was enthusiastic about the testing, as if she really liked the challenge to prove what she knows, and was incredibly sweet and charming. He also started the thought in my mind that the public school may not have enough resources to fully provide for her education at the level she’s at. We’ll need to consider supplemental resources to keep her engaged and wanting to learn.
I’m trying not to brag, but it’s so fantastic for a parent to get good news about their child. And honestly, the confirmation of her cognitive skills creates several issues for me. We always knew Cordy was bright, but to get confirmation that she’s highly gifted means I need to pay closer attention to making sure she’s challenged and getting material at her level. At the same time, her anxiety really needs attention now, since it tends to flare up when she feels something is too hard. It’s a delicate balance.
Technically this makes Cordy “twice-exceptional” (also called “2e”), meaning she’s both gifted and special needs. I have a child who still can’t wear jeans because she can’t reliably work a button but can explain the meaning of the word dehydration. I found this chart on the wiki page for twice exceptional, and aside from a couple of items, it’s an eerily accurate description of my daughter.
So now that I’m armed with this knowledge…I have no idea what to do next. She’s doing well in school, but nothing particularly outstanding. I know she’s bored on some level, but also resistant to being pushed to learn new things faster. We’re moving forward with occupational therapy in the hopes it can help her developing coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety.
She’ll be eligible for the school’s gifted classroom in fourth and fifth grades, and will continue to have limited gifted instruction until then. We can’t really consider the possibility of private school because they’re just too expensive around here. There is financial aid, but we’re in that boggy middle ground where we make too much to qualify for aid, but would be on a ramen noodle budget to pay for private school.
I’m sure there have to be resources out there for twice exceptional kids, possibly even in our community. It may be time to spend a day with Google to see what’s out there, either in enrichment activities or parent groups or any other kind of support. I was a gifted student myself, so I have some idea of how to help Cordy with that. It’s incorporating it with the autism that makes it a little harder.
All of this, of course, is nothing more than labels and changes nothing about the cheerful, quirky, loveable little girl we have. But those labels do give us more insight into why she does what she does, and can help provide the justification for arranging educational experiences that will provide the most benefit for her.
Gifted or not, autism or not, she’s still our Cordy, and we have the responsibility to do what’s best for her (and Mira), just as any parent does. But hopefully we have a better map to guide us towards what she needs going forward.
I love that kid and her sister so much. They’re exceptionally sweet and quirky, and I wouldn’t have them any other way.