Another Day, Another Evaluation

Yesterday I spent the morning in a psychologist’s office. No, not for me, although I think we can all agree I’d probably benefit from a visit. This was for Cordy. Her county service provider had told us last month that she was due for a re-evaluation by the time she turns nine in order to still qualify for county funding. Since things like social skills classes and other behavioral services are rarely covered in full by insurance, this funding is tremendously helpful.

She was last evaluated when she was four years old, which was when she received the PDD-NOS diagnosis. Yesterday we saw the same psychologist that we met with four years ago. I wondered if she’d remember the stubborn, curly-headed four year old from years ago, or if she’d even recognize her after she had grown and changed so much. I also worried that there was a chance that Cordy would try to fool the tests and appear perfectly typical, losing her diagnosis and possibly any future assistance.

It didn’t help my fears that she woke up that morning perfectly cheery and agreeable. She’s been an irritable crankypants for the past few weeks, easy to anger, wanting to be left alone as much as possible, but on the day when I was hoping a professional would see these behaviors, she woke up as Miss Sunshine, happy to chat, polite as can be.

Cordy has also become accustomed to testing. In this school year, she’s been evaluated twice for gifted education, and she also had a re-evaluation for the school district. At this point she likes the testing, and she’s also becoming self-aware of being different and wants to know more about it.

As we drove to the office, Cordy asked me, “Will this be like the other tests I’ve had this year?”

“Similar,” I replied, “You’ll probably answer a lot of questions from her, and you’ll probably be asked to solve some puzzles.”

“Oh good! I like puzzles. Will she tell me why I have autism and think different from others?”

Oh dear. “Well, I don’t think she can tell you why you have autism. But I’ll bet she’ll tell you that if you do think differently from others, it’s not a bad thing at all. We’re all different, and being different makes us all interesting, right? And she can probably help you understand things that don’t make sense to you, but I doubt she can do all of that today.”

That seemed to be enough for her, and she went back to reading her book. At the office, the doctor did indeed remember Cordy, and asked me to explain what’s changed since she last saw her. I didn’t think we had time for all of the changes, so I summarized as best I could. Cordy was already distracted by everything in her office, and started spinning in her office chair, then found a small ball and tried to bounce it off of the walls.

After we talked a bit, I was sent to the waiting room with a parent questionnaire to fill out while she evaluated Cordy. It’s so hard to describe all of your child in a series of questions that are answered with Often, Sometimes, and Never. I again worried how Cordy was doing in the office. When she met with the school psychologist earlier this year, he said he didn’t see any of the behaviors her teachers had reported and said that if he had only seen her for that one meeting and didn’t have any other data, he would never have suspected she was on the autism spectrum. Of course he also said Cordy asked him repeatedly how she was doing and would ask if she got certain questions “right” – being perfect was her goal, and she was trying to shape her responses to what she thought he wanted her to say.

I also had that awful voice in the back of my head saying What if she really isn’t on the autism spectrum and you’re just a bad parent? Despite having her diagnosis confirmed for us more than once, I still struggle with that absurd criticism that we’re really forcing a label onto nothing more than bad parenting, since she’s so high functioning. If we had only forced her to do more for herself and behave properly, blah blah blah. It’s a horrible idea that doesn’t deserve any of my energy, but it still pops into my head in times like these.

It felt like I was in that waiting room for hours, but after about 45 minutes Cordy came out to meet me. The psychologist explained that she’ll review everything and would write up her results and send them out to us in a few weeks. My impatience got the better of me, though, and I asked if she could at least give me initial impressions – does my daughter still have PDD-NOS or was there anything else she saw?

The doctor said it’s without a doubt that Cordy is on the autism spectrum. She’s using the new DSM 5 guidelines, so it would be called Autism Spectrum Disorder now, but she said it’s likely under the old DSM 4 she’d fit better under the Asperger’s diagnosis at this point. She wants to get Cordy enrolled in a social skills group in the fall, and she wants to set up a meeting with us and her behaviorist as soon as possible.

Apparently when she asked, “What do you do if there’s a fire?” Cordy responded, “Call 911.” And then she suggested after you call 911 that you try to put out the fire. (facepalm) I’d like to explain that we’ve told her several times that the first thing you do in a fire is get out of the building, and the fire department even came to their school and taught them all fire safety, but the message didn’t stick with her. So that’s something to work on with the behaviorist.

I’m looking forward to reading the entire report, and I’m glad Cordy has been such a good sport through all of this testing. She’s an amazing kid, super-smart, and with such a unique view of the world. She’s got plenty of things she’s not good at, but don’t we all? If she can conquer some of her fears and better learn to live with other people around her (which…I get it. Some days I don’t like people very much, either.), there’ll be no stopping her.

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