This article was originally published on the College Park Patch as part of the weekly column by Gretchen Schock, Parenting on a Tightrope.
Inside were documents I knew I needed to hold on to, but that I also had to take the time to organize - letters to Santa mixed with outdated voter registration cards.
The box also included a 4-inch stack of testing results, evaluations, progress reports from speech therapists, occupational therapists, pediatricians, and neuropsychologists.
Ah yes, the year of diagnosis. I remember you well.
I skimmed the papers, smiling to myself at certain moments, “L came into the testing room carrying a Spiderman and wearing a Superman costume.” I had forgotten the year he only wore pajamas, all the time…everywhere. Then came the realization that we have been living in the Superhero phase for almost 4 years now!
One of these reports lists his developmental age based on the results from the testing. At the time he was 4-years-old, and the psychologist conducting the test determined that he was developmentally 2 ½-years-old. Keep in mind these tests are conducted in a strict regimen very much like standardized testing in the public schools. But hearing that your child is 2 years behind feels like someone just punched you in the gut. It didn’t help matters that I also had a normal developing child exactly that age.
After many years of early intervention, fast-forward to today. L is in a mainstream classroom and on grade level for all of his subjects. But it’s quite remarkable to look back and see how far L has come since first being diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. I celebrate every time the teacher reports that he is on grade level. I feel so proud of him.
Recently it seems as though every conversation that I have with another parent includes the subject of TAG testing. Everyone is obsessed with thinking that his or her child is exceptional, and should be learning above grade level. Why is there this pressure that children should be reading 2 or even 3 years ahead of their developmental age? What happened to being an on-par first grader and that being okay? Is this pressure created by the administrators? Have the parents done this to each other? Are we “keeping up with the Jones’s" in terms of our children’s education? Who created this standard that each child should reach so that they can be labeled “gifted”?
Don’t get me wrong. There are children who are naturally exceptional learners and need to be challenged beyond their developmental age. As fate would have it, my younger son is one of those children. But it can’t be possible that 9 out of the 10 parents that I’ve talked to recently believe their child is “gifted”.
The worst part is that the people who are hurt the most are the kids who are reading on grade level and behaving in a manner typical for their developmental age. These children, like my oldest son, are left feeling ashamed for not being above grade level.
What is wrong with being average?