Well, okay, stop. Before I get to that "first of all", I should actually define what that means, for those of you who don't know. Here's how the Texas Education Agency's A Guide to the Admission, Review and Dismissal Process defines the ARD committee:
Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committee: The admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee is composed of a student’s parent(s) and school personnel who are involved with the student. The ARD committee determines a student’s eligibility to receive special education services and develops the individualized education program (IEP) of the student.
So yes, this meeting went well. Now that we're in Plano, ARD committee meetings usually run pretty smoothly. We all tend to be on the same page, after all, and the members of Schuyler's team seem to take us seriously and behave as if they are genuinely happy that we're as involved as we are. Our input seems to drive these meetings, which is as it should be, and yet I know better than to believe that's how most parents feel when they are meeting with their kid's IEP committee.
The issue of the three-year evaluation was only discussed in passing since we put it off until early next year. No one seemed to mind; I actually felt an almost palpable sense of relief in the room. In talking to Schuyler's teacher after the meeting, we learned a little bit more about the process. It looks like we do in fact have the option of choosing not to have this evaluation administered, and since she already qualifies for special education services, there doesn't appear to be anything she'd stand to lose by skipping it.
We're all going to follow up to find out if there are doors to services that might actually be opened by this test, but unless they include a free pony, I can't imagine why would would go through with it. The benefits (aside from possible additional federal reimbursements for the school district) seem intangible at this point. The consequences, on the other hand, seem all too real.
This is hard. Even if she never takes the test, it's still out there. The word is still there, and there's at least one person on Schuyler's team who seems eager to attach it to her. Not out of any malevolent intent, but because in her eyes, it's important knowledge, and knowledge is power.
Except to me, it isn't, not when this knowledge is gained through questionable means. And make no mistake. Assigning an IQ score to a non-verbal child is a subjective process at best. One commenter on my last post put it best:
"To administer the test via AAC breaks the procedural integrity of the test. The norm table that the scores are based on are set using a sample of speaking children. […] The testing may bring some valuable insights to her reasoning, an error analysis might teach the team some things about deficits that may be addressed, but the number is not valid. Unfortunately, numerical scores are easier to read while you are skimming a report than the paragraph of disclaimers that dismiss that number as questionable."
I know that the lens of fatherhood is coloring my thoughts and judgments on this issue, and Julie's objectivity is equally suspect. But I asked myself a question, and in my answer to that question, I knew the right thing to do. My question was simply this. Which would I feel comfortable with as a mistake, one for which I might find myself apologizing to Schuyler one day? My decision to skip a test that might have possibly helped her out of my fear of stigmatization for her? Or a decision to allow someone to attach that awful word to her, despite being mindful of the risk, all on a stranger's assurance that doing so might ultimately benefitted her one day?
That was easy. We don't get many simple or straightforward questions where Schuyler's future is concerned, but that one was no challenge at all.