Saturday, November 16, 2013

getting a psychological evaluation

There is this beautiful example of getting ready for Shabbos early going around: have your table set and all the preparations finished by chatzot (midday) of Friday. While I appreciate the idea, it never worked for me: when I was working, I did not get home till a few hours before Shabbos, and now, with kids at home, we are often still using the dining room table late into the afternoon. And this week, my newly-crawling baby reminded me why I used to set the table only after my husband got home from shul: he got hold of the edge of the tablecloth and started pulling. So while the concept of going into Shabbos in an unhurried manner appeals tremendously, honestly, it is not happening to us.

I used to feel the same way about labeling and diagnosing, especially boys. I was very inspired by Boys Adrift and the theory that boys are overmedicated today, and normal boy tendencies are squelched. I have been careful to avoid labels, especially for 7 yo. I knew that there is something going on, but with individualized instruction and lots of freedom to move and be, he would be better off at home than in any other scenario.

Lately, I had been not so sure. We are butting heads and butting heads. He keeps getting triggered into fits: one day it's one thing, next day it's something else. He is anxious and stubborn. 3 yo started to emulate his sulking behaviorand repeat some choice phrases. A few weeks ago, after a particularly trying day, when both boys acted up and did not listen, and 7 yo decided to pull on me "you are making me do things that 7 year olds are not supposed to do", I yelled back "Enough! I'm sending you to school! Then you will see what other kids your age are doing!" They quieted down, but the thought stuck with me.

I told my husband the same evening that I'm seriously considering sending both boys to school. They do not appreciate the amount of freedom they have now, it is too much for me, and let them experience for themselves what they should be doing. I also said that I'm not even sure that the local dayschool will so readily take 7 yo, with his outbursts and refusal to write, they will send him to public school, and the public school with require educational testing and psychological evaluation to get a label on his problem. My husband thoughtfully said: "If we will have to do it anyway, why can't we get him tested ourselves? Why are we avoiding this?"

Very good question.

I have resolved to get him tested and finally see what is the proper name to this craziness. (And yes, I am still considering sending either or both boys to school. Call me a traitor to the ideals of homeschooling, but it has not been feeling warm and fuzzy lately. If it's not working, I am not so stuck up to keep on plowing through becausse I have a reputation to uphold). However, from my previous asking around, I got that we are looking at thousands of dollars in expenses, coupled with potential long waits and probably just a label slapped on, not practical solutions. I figured, we probably will need an exemption from the standardized test that he would have to take next year, or at least, an accommodation, so a label will have at least a limited practical use. This time, I confided in a friend, who sent me to another mutual friend, saying that she knows people. That second friend gave me a name of this person, and that person, and warned me that a lot of them do not take insurance. I was listening to her while simultaneously feeding mush to my baby strapped in a stroller and glancing over 3 yo at the playground. I meekly suggested that she e-mail me the names of these people. And then she mentioned, by the way, this psychologist friend of her husband is coming into town on Friday since he has to testify, and he does educational testing, but at less than half of the cost. He had to cancel all his appointments on Friday, so she is sure that he would love to get some work done. I said that it's a good option to consider. Then I looked at myself, covered in mush, and thought: am I going to have time to go home, look up these people online, call and ask around, and then decide? I said, please send me his number and tell him I would like to have my son tested on Friday.

We spoke on the phone, and agreed that the psychologist will come to my house after he's finished testifying. I told 7 yo that a psychologist will be coming. He asked me whether he will be able to read his mind. I laughed and said, no, but he will see what we can do to help you learn better. He wanted to know exactly what the psychologist will be doing. I said that I did not know, and I was very careful not to use the word "test".

On Friday, the testing took place. As a psychometrist was working with 7 yo, I chatted with the psychologist about my concerns. I had to fill out a few questionnaires. When I saw one of them, I laughed: a friend of mine just fumed on Facebook the other week about these ridiculous statements: "My child behaves like an angel", "My child is perfect in every way". Do people really answer "always"? So thank you for advance warning.

I was quite nervous whether 7 yo will sit still for three hours of testing, whether he will lose his temper and throw a tantrum. Well, he worked the whole time and seemed to be totally fine. This made me feel totally crazy: maybe he will work hard for others, but not for me? Maybe I'm in the way of his learning? He told me: "I had hard time with spelling but I just need to sound out the words". Sure, because I never tried to provide him with this piece of information. Silly mommy, just tell him to sound them out!

After everyone left, I asked 7 yo to tell me a bit about what he had to do. He described some activities, and he told me which ones he liked. He mentioned that he had to divide 7 by 2. I asked him, what was the answer and he said that he did not get to it. I asked him, was this hard? He thought and said that some of it was. I paused and asked him, but even when it was hard, you did not get angry and cry? He said, no, because then they would think that he's acting like a baby. I paused and asked again, so why do you scream at me, aren't you acting like a baby? He said, nobody is watching me and would make fun of me.

Right. So he feels comfortable at home to express his frustration, but he was too embarrassed to do that in front of the psychometrist. Did he dupe the system? What happens if I do send him to school? Will he keep it together there, bow to peer pressure only to melt down completely later, in the safety of our home?

This Friday night, my brother-in-law came over with his girlfriend, who is a music teacher. When we chatted a bit about this whole thing, she told me that a lot of parents tell her that kids do just that, rip off the mask of holding it all together as soon as they are in their parents' car. And on an unrelated note, watching 7 yo read "Winnie the Pooh" on the floor and giggle, she said that her students do not do that, because they don't understand what they read or enjoy it, they just get tested on it.

So I am waiting for results, and looking to see what kind of adjustments we'll have to do.

I guess my resistance to testing is in the same hypothetical realm as having everything set for Shabbos before chatzot: both are lovely to consider, but often impossible to pull off.


  1. My 9yo said the exact same thing to me on Shabbos. That she acts out at home because she feels comfortable with me and knows that it won't ruin her reputation, but she behaves like an angel in school and at friend's houses.

  2. When I was homeschooling my girls, I often thought that if they went to school they would see how much children have to sit and do things they don't want to do and they will appreciate homeschool more! I think something that perhaps is not discussed enough about homeschool is how much the children tantrum (older children) and how much they refuse to do work that they would buckle down and do in school because of exactly the reasons you cite: they don't want to embarrass themselves, they don't want to look like a baby, they don't want the teacher or the other kids to think badly of them.

    My experience is that kids find ways to hold it together, usually in the form of nervous habits, chewing, twitching, etc.

    I also want to remind you (even though you know!) that the first year after a baby is born is very difficult to homeschool! Remember our friend who always said the year after the baby is born is a lost year. Add on a few months for nausea during the pregnancy, and some months at the end because of exhaustion, and we lose 1.5 years...

    Kudos for testing. I asked my mil (who worked 20+ years in early education and often had to have the difficult conversation with parents that their kids needed to be evaluated) to evaluate my son when he was 3 and when he was 5. I hope you get some answers and some good advice.