The night before Miles' first LAUSD assessment, Zach and I discussed our approach. First off, we made a pact to be calm and relaxed the next morning so that Miles could feed off our peaceful energy not our frantic one. We made a list of Miles' strengths and weaknesses, our concerns for his future, adjectives that describe him and what we would like him to work on. We talked about giving them the information they need without too much elaboration, so it would be just enough. Not too much, not too little. We left everything packed the night before so that we could leave early without much rushing around. Ella's sitter was set to arrive at 7:30am and we would be on our way by 7:45 the latest.
That morning, everything was going as planned. Miles was in a good mood, we were ready to leave but for some reason we didn't get out of the house until almost 8am. I let my anxiety get to me and started snapping at Zach in the car. I wanted to stop for a coffee but now we had no time. WTF!!
Zach: How was I supposed to know you wanted coffee?
Me: Because I have coffee every morning. Don't you want coffee?
Zach: No, not today. It will make me talk too much and you told me not to talk so much.
Me: Ugh! Sigh!
Me: I'm sorry, we said we wouldn't argue this morning. My bad.
Zach: It's okay. I didn't know you wanted coffee.
Me: How would you know, I didn't tell you.
Zach: It's okay.
Me: Yeah, it's cool. I'll have coffee later.
Fight averted. Phew! Miles was chillin' in the back seat, playing with his dinosaur puppet.
We arrived at the school parking lot with a few minutes to spare. We made our way to room 137 where the speech therapist and school psychologist were setting up. While we waited for the LAUSD coordinator, the occupational therapist, physical therapist and adaptive PE teacher, they decided to start with our interview. So we sat down and started the process. Meanwhile, Miles walked into the classroom, full of new toys and kid games and went straight to work- playing!
Okay, so here's Miles, a very busy toddler, hard at play within the first few minutes of getting to this new environment. You'd think these evaluators would engage with him right away: watch him, play with him, ask him questions. You know, evaluate him. Because he's a toddler, a ticking time bomb. His attention span will only last for a set amount of time and once it's gone it's meltdown city! Instead they start asking us questions about him, about us, his history, strengths, weaknesses, stuff pertaining to speech and development, every now and then glancing at him. The speech therapist made a few feeble attempts at communicating with him. Then back to questions for us. Miles is playing with some animals and starts pointing, I ask him what he wants, in Spanish. Oh shit, monkey wrench!!
The speech therapist shoots me a hard look, then--
Speech Therapist: You speak to him in Spanish?
Speech Therapist: You can't do that. You need to pick a language!!
Me: (quizzical look, what?)
Speech Therapist: You can't speak to him in two languages!!!!
Honestly I was stunned and couldn't think fast enough to respond. But Zach could.
Zach: We don't care what you think, we are speaking to him in both languages and that's our choice!!
Speech Therapist: It's going to be harder for him to learn to speak!
Zach: Half of you people say one thing the other half say something else, so obviously you don't really
know anything. It's going to take him longer to speak regardless and we'd like him to be able to at least
understand Spanish. He's our son and it's our choice and this is not up for discussion.
Holy shit! Go Zach!!
At this point my mind finally caught up with the conversation, so I cut the silence with--
Me: Look, I speak in Spanish, it's who I am, I'm not going to change that. We also have a daughter and we
want her to speak Spanish as well, so I'm speaking in Spanish to my kids. I'm not treating Miles any
different because he has Ds.
At this point it was the speech therapist who had a stunned look in her face, but she shut up about it.
Good. Lets move on.
Meanwhile the OT and adaptive PE teacher had shown up. They decide to take him outside to test his physical skills. Miles is delighted, he loves playing outside and with a ball! Forget about it, he's pysched! Inside, the questions continue.
They come back inside, Miles isn't too happy about it, but he finds some other toys to play with. Finally, the speech therapist and psychologist try to engage him in some focused play with blocks and puzzles but Miles isn't having it. He wants to play outside and ooh, wait, the PT shows up with a really cool car! He wants to play with that. Basically, this goes on for a while. Now that it's been about 45 mins, the speech therapist, phychologist and OT are trying to get Miles to sit at a table and play with them but he will not cooperate. He runs away, throws himself on the floor and goes into full tantrum mode.
He's hungry and tired. It's almost 10am and we've been here for an hour, how on earth do they expect him to perform now?? I get him his snacks, which he sits and eats and afterwards, he plays a little bit more with them.
To make a long story longer, the whole thing was just goofy and felt a little bit like a waste of time. They did it all wrong. They should have played with Miles inside while he had the focus, taken him outside when he couldn't be contained anymore and asked us questions while he was outside. Each one of these ladies were odd in their own way, from the psychologist who was way too stern for someone who supposedly works with children. She sacred me, imagine how she makes kids feel! To the funny looking PT with her fake wig and too much make-up on. The adaptive PE teacher was super nice, with her bird's nest hair and sweatpants, but what she saw Miles do? I have no idea. The OT was like a quiet mouse in the corner, also very sweet but she seemed afraid of speaking out loud. And the speech therapist, beside our little Spanish encounter, was very nice. I mean really, they all seemed like nice people but other than the PE teacher, I don't think any of them ever really work with kids. They evaluate them, but they are not clinicians. They generate reports that create an educational plan for children with special needs. That's what they do. Are they good at their job? Well, I'm sure they do it all the time but I couldn't tell if they were any good. I can tell you that they were disorganized and scattered and not paying attention and how they will successfully evaluate hims beats the shit out of me!
But apparently this is all normal. Now that I've spoken to other parents who've gone through these evaluations, this is the way they're done! And it's why we, the parents, end up having to hire advocates and lawyers to help us get the Individualized Educational Program that we know our kids deserve. I am really curious as to what IEP these evaluators will device for Miles because the whole evaluation was kind of a joke. The psychologist is set to visit Miles in his school this week and our IEP is scheduled for next week, just two days before Miles' 3rd birthday. We have retained a lawyer who will accompany us to his IEP and make sure that things go smoothly. Basically what we want is for LAUSD to pay for Miles to go to United Children's Learning Academy, the school he is currently attending and where we know he will flourish as an individual.
So stay tuned and I will let you know how it goes!!