Another Hurdle Crossed


Long before I learned that James would need a neuropsychological evaluation (IQ test) in order to receive disability accommodations at Northern Virginia Community College I read a book called Autism: Sensory-Movement Differences and Diversity by Martha Leary and Anne Donnellan. This is the best book out there on what the real challenges are for James and many like him who have a broad diagnosis of “autism” implying social and cognitive disability, but what in reality is a severe motor movement disorder.

One of the chapters in this book is an overview of the history of IQ testing (depressing) and how over the last thirty years people have begun to question the value of the tests and the whole idea of intelligence as quantity. The authors state, “What has never been properly taken into account, however, are the communication, voluntary movement and performance requirements needed to demonstrate competence on these tests. A non-speaking person cannot show knowledge on an oral test. A person with delayed response cannot show actual ability on a timed test. And a person with a certain movement difficulty cannot perform adequately on a test requiring dexterity.”

Fortunately for James we found a psychologist who was willing to figure out how to administer the tests taking into consideration the complexity of his motor movement disability. She had administered IQ tests to some other people who use spelling or typing to communicate and she did an excellent job. She allowed Shannon to hold the letter or key board for him but she was vigilant to observe and document that Shannon was not assisting him in any way with answers.

These tests were administered over four or five days (in different weeks) for 3 hours each day with a half hour break between sessions. If you had told me that James could do that even six months ago I would have strongly doubted it! But he did it and what a hurdle to cross! I say I don’t care what his IQ is and that I don’t believe they measure much of anything but deep down I am thrilled for him that the one who looks like he isn’t “smart” may be the brains in the family. How fun for him to know that he successfully took a test to measure his intelligence and that they didn’t change the test or dumb it down they just let him answer using his most reliable form of communication.

We’ll get the results of the test at the end of next week. I may not tell James the details, he knows the score doesn’t make a bit of difference for anything. Hopefully we’ll get all the needed information to the community college so they will allow a communication assistant in class and James will move forward into his future, believing that all things are possible.

I asked James to write about it:
This fall I hope to attend NOVA, but there are several hurdles that we must overcome. I say we because this goal is a team effort. One hurdle was to complete psych testing – my first IQ test. Understandably my tester was curious about my communication so Shannon made videos of me using all of my boards: mini laminate, large laminate, and wireless keyboard. She even made me show off my verbal spelling and talking! The tester accepted all of my boards, and even complimented our math system.
The tests were long, difficult, and demanding, but I did it, and I think I did well. I surprised myself with my accomplishments. I answered questions that Shannon did not have access to, I read paragraphs to myself, I figured out how to describe my math reasoning, I worked in hour blocks, and I regulated myself. I am unsure which I am proudest of, but I know I am proud. 
The immense impact this experience had on my life continues to unveil itself and compounds with each day. I look forward to the report, but I already believe it taught me more about myself.