After 5 hours of tests, the Dr. determined what we suspected: Ben has a very high IQ, but he's also dyslexic. Really, Really Good to know! Hooray--we are now empowered!! His high IQ is why he is actually above grade level in math (using blocks and manipulatives), and why he's been able to be at almost grade level in reading, with lots of extra help. A normal special education assessment would not have picked up on his central auditory processing disorder. Next step is to present the report to the school and see if the reading teacher has been trained on a specific reading system (there are 5 to choose from, but Wilson is the most common around here) that Ben needs to use to overcome his processing disorder. The Dr. is willing to train her (and me too!), at no extra charge, if she is not appropriately trained in this specific system. However, the school may require more documentation, since Ben isn't performing horribly in school. He's so smart, he's managed to squeak by (and any deficits would have been blamed on language acquisition). We may have to go to a the language and communication center in Rochester for additional tests just to confirm the Dr. diagnosis. We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Special education services are provided by our local public school, and they hate sending a special ed teacher over to the private school without lots of documentation! Anyway, the appointment was fruitful, and now we can help Ben learn to read better!
I've blogged before about the challenge of meeting the educational needs of adopted children. First of all, internationally adopted children often lack some basic language skills. Many adopted children are not even fluent in their native language, due to the lack of exposure to normal conversation! Sitting in a crib all day is not conducive to language acquisition. Ben was 6 1/2 years old when adopted, and he had never attended any type of school in his life. However, Ben did speak some dialect of Chinese,but Mandarin speakers could not understand him, even in China. Consequently, Ben lost his ability to speak (his version of) Chinese since his adoption, but he still doesn't have the English vocabulary of a typical 8 1/2 year old American boy (yet). Supposedly, it takes 6-7 years of language immersion to be 100% fluent (reading, writing and speaking) in a language. What this means is, that in order to make certain that Ben receives as much extra help as he needs, we need to have him identified as learning disabled. Our government, in all its wisdom, mandates funding and services only for students who have disabilities. As an English Second Language Learner, there are some supports in place, but for Ben to really succeed we need to establish that he has learning deficits, not just language deficits. By the way, in NYS highly gifted children also receive ZERO support or special classes, as we found out with Connor. We are fortunate that (being in a small private school) our school has gone above and beyond to help all of our children. To make certain that they continue to receive the help that they need, today I am spending the entire day having Ben evaluated at Encompass Resources for Learning. This is the first step to obtain an IEP (individualized education plan). Yes, we can request that the local school district perform the special education assessment (for free!), but I do not trust the powers-that-be any longer. I used to believe that the public school really wanted the best for every child. It took me 20 years of having children in the school district to realize that the evaluators and administrations are really trying to find a way to do what is cost-effective and easy for them. With the budget cuts, and special education being a huge part of the budge already, it is easier, and cheaper, to determine all (but the most severe) children average. Yes, Ben is just slightly below grade level---which is an absolute miracle, considering he's lived here less than two years! But he gets tons and tons of extra help that he will not continue to receive in higher grades without an IEP. I only mention this on this adoption blog because many parents accept what the school says at face value. Don't. It's tedious and frustrating, but as parents of children who are adopted, it is crucial that we fight for our children's educational needs. Again, we are extremely fortunate that we have the resources (both financial, my time and my educational background) to take the steps to take to get what our children need. So---yes, hiring an independent evaluator to test Ben is an expense we don't need, and it will take several days, but we strongly believe that it is money well-spent. Next up---let's see how Sam and Leo do with our homeschooling April-September. Will they also need an IEP? Probably. I'm prepared.