You may remember that I had the kids' neuropsych testing done a couple of weeks ago. Well, I got the results back on Friday - and had what is without a doubt the best appointment with a medical professional that I have ever had!!
The doctor had nothing but nice things to say about both of the children. About Reece she said that she had never interacted with a child of Reece's diagnosis where she had to focus herself back on the job of testing. "I just wanted to talk to her - she's magnetic!" was how the doctor described her. I think most people who have met her would tend to agree!
The doctor went on to say that it was clear that I know my children very well. She said the way I described their strengths and weaknesses in all of the paperwork that I was required to turn in at the first appointment prepared them for what they might see in the kids - and that was exactly what they saw. That made me feel really good. Sometimes, with Reece especially, I don't feel like I 'know' her as well because she's the youngest and I've always been so busy with the others.
We discussed Reece's results first. This was her first testing and my purpose was to get a baseline for her. She is the same age that Austin was when he had his first testing. I wanted a starting point for her to compare her to because it was around this level of work where Austin really started to show evidence that he was struggling. Also, I wanted a heads-up if there was some sort of underlying issue or LD that I needed to know about. Her results were not surprising at all. She is average on everything except math where she tests low-average. Considering that she is just finishing up what is considered the "second grade" book in RightStart Math and she only tests low-average as a rising fifth grader, I am not displeased at all! She does exhibit the executive functioning problems that are common for children on the autism spectrum, and I was given some suggestions for going ahead and working on those areas now. Mostly it was stuff I have planned to do with Austin, but she thinks I should go ahead and get a start on them with Reece. She said that Reece (and Austin) learns best in the context of story (YAY! CHARLOTTE MASON) and that she does not learn best through rote and drill. She recommended that her math program require her to explain how and why she gets answers - which is exactly what RS math does! It was very encouraging to know that I am already doing many of the things that the doctor recommends for Reece!
Austin's results were a little more complex. During the parent interview, I told the doctor that I am most concerned about Austin's loss of language at times. He will completely lose words. It is frustrating to him and to me. Also, he can wake up some mornings and have lost learning that he had known for a few weeks or months. Quite often it is 'back' the next day, but he is growing concerned over it. What she learned through his testing and comparing it with his previous testing is that there is something going on in the area of his brain where his seizures happen - the frontal lobe. This area controls language and executive function. AHA!! Now, whether the seizures damaged this part of the brain (since we don't know how long he may have been having them before he finally had a big enough one to cause him to lose consciousness) or whether there was something going on in that area of the brain itself that resulted in the seizures we won't be able to determine. But we do know that there is a REASON for the struggles he is having. She even added a new diagnosis to his list called "Cognitive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified." That basically means he has a loss of brain function due to a physiological issue - namely, the seizures. She said that all things considered he is performing marvelously academically, much higher than one would expect if you just look at his test results!! Then she went on to say, "You can take credit for that! Homeschooling is obviously working for him and for Reece!"
She had many practical suggestions for Austin, including some of the same things that were suggested for Reece - for instance, he learns best through story and that he does not work well with rote learning. I learned that what I have been expecting from him with his science program is not appropriate for how his brain works. This is valuable information because he has struggled so much with science and I wasn't sure why. Now I know, and I won't use the same sort of program again next year!! Perhaps the most interesting thing was when she showed me one particular test that he took. He was required to replicate a picture that was made up of various shapes and lines. The picture was right in front of him the entire time. They watched not only the final result but how he went about drawing it. It was fascinating! His planning was completely disorganized! He didn't see the big picture and just saw random lines - no shapes to give it meaning. It is amazing insight into how his brain works!! I'm so glad she shared that with me!
She also included some accommodations in his report that would assist him if he chooses to make an attempt at college. Also, she moved his primary diagnosis to Epilepsy instead of Asperger's. She said that, right now, the effects of the seizures are what is causing him the most trouble. So his diagnoses in order of importance are Epilepsy - Asperger's - Cognitive Disorder NOS. She said that he will be able to get services in college through an Office of Disability Services. She thinks he will be able to attend college under the right circumstances: determining what he wants to do (that doesn't require much math LOL), and finding a college that is small and willing to work with him.
All of this wonderful and valuable information is only part of what I got from this appointment. I also got much-needed validation and encouragement. She told me what a great job I am doing and how pleasant my children are to be around. When I told her that I was nervous that she would see two homeschooled children who are "behind" and assume that we don't work hard on our lessons. She said that nothing could be further from the truth - they never once thought that. She said that she looked into RDI and is impressed with it and suggested that we continue. She did suggest that I look into the Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia which is something I hadn't really considered. Since we have achieved good seizure control, I have sort of felt like we didn't really qualify for needing a support group. But I think I will look into it now.
For the first time since the word "autism" entered our vocabulary, I left a doctor's appointment for one of my children feeling encouraged and supported. I am excited that the path that we were led to several years ago with Charlotte Mason is the right one for my children - it's scientifically and medically documented! LOL Most importantly, I no longer feel like I am doing the kids a disservice by homeschooling them. I have always been afraid that they would be better off at school with a professional who is trained to work with them. But it appears that in trusting God and prayerfully considering the best approaches year-to-year, that I have been able to give them what they need! That's all I ever wanted - to give them what they need! And now I have the confidence to move forward and that feels SO AMAZING!