*Note: there may be strong language throughout this, mostly because I’m still mad.*
I had to take Thing 1 to a screening before school started. I guess it’s the norm in Wyoming, because as a kid, I never did anything like this in Florida. But, whatever. I figured it wouldn’t be that bad, that they may make him say some words, name some colors and do a hearing test, vision test, etc. All the things that he’s done before, in other screenings, since we’ve gone to yearly since he was about a year old. (I’ll explain why in another post).
Anyways, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, and I thought it might actually be a little fun for him to see other kids his own age and maybe meet some of the teachers he’d have.
Let me say: I am so glad that none of these people are his teachers right now.
So, we get there and they hand me a few papers to fill out about him, his emotional state, etc. Mostly things for them to use as data to give to the state.
We go to the first “checkpoint”, which was a hearing exam, and went easy breezy. He was in and out in a minute and things seemed to be great. I thought to myself, “Man, this is going to go by so fast.”
Was I wrong.
We go to the second “checkpoint” where they do a series of other “tests” to see how developed Thing 1 is. It was comprised of a few different sections that would test how well he spoke, how well his motor functions were, and his knowledge of things. There was also a Math station.
Let me pause for one second to tell y’all that my kid? Has a speech “issue” — he knows the words and how to say them, but he doesn’t say them very well. I guess that’s more of a “speech impediment” except that it’s actually His Very Own Language, which is a mixture of mermaid/phlegm and some sort of foreign language. He’s taught it to his sister (they are only a year apart) and that’s how they talk to each other. We call it “babbling” but it’s a little more than that.
By saying that, I’m telling you that I expected them to say he has a speech impediment, and that he would need some sort of speech therapy.
What I didn’t expect was to be treated like we were 3rd class citizens and that I was a moron.
The first sign that this would be a bad day was when the lady that would be doing his speech assessment walked over to us and asked Thing 1 his name.
“[Thing 1],” he said. (He doesn’t say his name very well.)
“What’s your name?” she asked again.
“[Thing 1], he said.
She looked at me. I’d already handed her the folder with his name on it, so I pointed to it.
“What’s. Your. Name?” she asked slowly and a little louder than before.
“It’s on his folder,” I staged whispered.
He didn’t say anything.
She shook her head at me, “What’s. Your. Name?” she asked him again.
“His name is [Thing 1],” I said through gritted teeth.
She looked down at the folder, “Is your name ‘[Thing 1]’?”
“Yes,” he said, looking at me like the woman was a moron. Wasn’t that what he’d just said.
She made that “tsk. tsk.” sound and grabbed his hand, “Why don’t you come with me?” and then to me, “You can sit over there.” she nodded at some chairs against the wall.
Less than a minute later, she yelled for me to come over to where they were sitting.
“Your son doesn’t speak very well, does he?” she asked, looking from him to me.
Me: No, he and his sister have their own language, which they normally speak around grown ups. Sorry.
Her: No, that’s not possible. Twins don’t make up their own language. Neither do “Irish Twins”.
Me: Well, they did, so.
Her: You know, you really shouldn’t speak baby talk to your child ma’am. He’s almost six years old.
Me: I don’t speak baby talk to him. I never have. He’s not a dolt.
Her: Well, he definitely is going to need speech therapy. He may be autistic.
Me: Excuse me?
(Note: She’s saying all this in front of my son, who looks like he’s going to begin crying.)
Her: He may have a mental delay which is keeping him from speaking correctly. Why haven’t you had him checked out before?
Me: I have. Yearly. He’s been on target. They said his speech delay was nothing to be concerned with, as it would disappear on it’s own. Why don’t we speak over there? (I pointed to the other side of the room, away from my son.)
Her: No, ma’am. He can go to the next section, you can take a seat.
My jaw was literally on the floor.
I went and sat back down, trying not to cause a scene, but I was … I don’t know really. I was upset, clearly, but I wasn’t pissed off yet.
After the next section, which was Math, that lady told me that Thing 1 did really, really well. Above and beyond actually.
Her: Have you had him tested for autism?
Me: No, he has no signs of autism.
Her: He may be on the spectrum.
Me: He’s not.
Her: It’s nothing to be ashamed of. (She said that to Thing 1 as she walked him over to the next table.)
I wanted to tell her that I was not ashamed of my son. I didn’t like them pushing a diagnosis on my son after spending only three seconds with him, but I kept my mouth shut. Which seems to be my main problem, keeping my mouth shut.
After he went to the Motor Functions section, all three of the “teachers” came to talk to me, in front of my son, who still had one more section to go.
Teacher 3: He couldn’t jump on one foot for a whole minute. Has he had any problems like this in the past?
Me: Well, he didn’t start walking until he was 18 months old. Why don’t we let [Thing 1] go to the next section while we speak?
Teacher 1 (the one that had trouble with his name): No. He’s fine. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Me: Why do y’all keep saying that? I’m not ashamed of anything.
Teacher 1 (the math section lady): We’re just trying to help.
They take him to his next section, where he has to name off as many colors as he can in two minutes. He named off five. Not because he didn’t know the names of the colors, but because he was sweating, close to tears and kept looking over at me, where I was trying to smile encouragingly.
After he finished with the sections, they took Thing 1 and I to a back room to ask again whether I’d had him tested for Autism, whether I talk baby talk to him at home, and all kinds of other things.
I pointed out 2 or 3 times that he scored ABOVE AVERAGE in the Math section, which they completely disregarded, because he wasn’t supposed to even score in that subject.
I finally stood up and said, “We’re finished here.”
The next morning, Thing 1 got into bed with me and asked, “Mama? I’m normal right?”
I wanted to cry.
There are many reasons why I was upset. One, I was being accused of not taking care of my kids (they didn’t believe that we’d been screening him almost consistently every year, they wanted to see documentation), two, that I was being basically told my child was stupid, and it was being insinuated that it was all my fault, and three, that they were making my kid feel inferior.
If he did have something that made him “different” — I would not be upset by it. I love my kid, no matter what. It wouldn’t bother me. But don’t try to push something on my kid because he’s not “developed” to your standards.
I went up to his school and talked to them about it, which was where I told that the screening meant very little to them, and that they would basically be starting with him from the assumption that he’d learned nothing and go from there. They also assured me that if there were any concerns, they would call me.
I knew that the screening would be tough. When Thing 1 was about 2 months old, we moved in to a house that had been a meth lab before we moved there. We didn’t know it until I was two months pregnant and Thing 1 was four months old and hadn’t developed at all, had lost weight and was so skinny and small and I was completely scared he was going to die.
Then, our landlord told us that the house had once been a meth lab. Wanna see someone really mad? Tell them that their infant is living in a house that was a meth lab. If you survive that, you’re lucky.
Our landlord was lucky.
In any event, since that happened, he’s been behind on basic every developmental threshold that he’s supposed to reach. Sometimes not reaching one for up to a year later than other kids his age.
But no one cares about that explanation. Because to them, he should’ve gotten over it by now. There should be nothing “wrong” with him now, so he must have some developmental disorder.
Which, like I said above, if he does, I’m totally okay with that. Some days I think it might be easier to just let them think he does have a developmental delay rather than trying to explain to him what happened when he was a baby.
He’s been to speech therapy, until the pushed him out because he was “fine”.
So, yeah, I am seriously considering not taking my daughter to the screening next year. Especially if I am going to be treated this way again. I don’t like it.
It’s not fun.
And to me? It’s not helping anyone.