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Cognitive test results meaningless?

(8 Posts)
MauvaiseHelene Thu 04-Jun-15 02:33:15

DS is 8 and in Y3. He was recently assessed by an LEA Ed Psych.

I was hoping the EP report might shed some light on whether he has any specific learning difficulties that could be contributing to his anxiety and lack of engagement at school.

The EP tested him using BASC 3. His scores ranged from 5th percentile to 97th and everything in between. I was expecting something of a spiky profile but not quite to that degree!

The area he scored lowest on was pattern construction, which the report says is based on speed and accuracy. He is extremely slow to complete tasks in general so I would have expected a fairly low score on this anyway. Even if he'd scored significantly higher on it I expect there would still have been a massive discrepancy between this and the higher scores.

The report goes on to say that as he was not particularly cooperative the scores cannot be relied on as a reflection of his overall cognitive abilities.

From what I've read a spiky profile can often be an indicator of a specific learning difficulty. I'm concerned that his lack of cooperation might just be an anxiety response to a task he was simply unable to perform.

The recommendations in the report were all about helping DS to work on his attitude (the digested read would be something along the lines of "your child is a brat", or at least that's what it felt like) but I'm worried something might have been missed. I read and hear so many stories about children struggling with undiagnosed issues year after year and I don't want it to happen to DS.

We have a meeting with the SENCO next week to discuss the report. What questions should I ask? Should I take the EP's remarks about the results being unreliable at face value? If the results of the cognitive tests are meaningless then how can we rule out a specific learning difficulty (the report didn't rule this out by the way - there was just no mention of it at all)?

Some background on DS: he has been suffering with anxiety (all school-related) for the last couple of years. He was under CAHMS for a while and he's currently seeing a behavioural optometrist, a retained reflex therapist and an occupational therapist, and he is also being referred to a psychiatrist (all these via the developmental paediatrician). He's currently in a relatively good place anxiety-wise although he does have his ups and downs.

Just as an aside, the school has all the reports from these professionals and said they would all be reviewed by the Ed Psych in drafting her report, but she clearly didn't read any of them and even said he had been referred to CAHMS but had not met the threshold criteria, when in fact he did 12 weeks of sessions with them in the school.

He has an IEP in place. His teachers are always very vague on how he is doing academically because he doesn't produce enough work for them to assess (can't write for toffee, spends most of his time staring into space etc.) so it's difficult to know if he's falling behind or not.

Phew! Thanks for reading this far. Any advice gratefully received.

Vagolajahooli Thu 04-Jun-15 04:31:09

MH I'm sorry you are dealing with all this esp with all this vague advice. I think you need to force school to get on board with helping you find out what is going on and what he is capable of. It is in their interests, a SEN statement which shows a need for resources will give them the funds to sort out extra staff time with him so is a plus. You need to really push the SENCO.

Also you need to pull the ed pysch up on her mess up. She needs to rereview the report and sort her CAHMS miss info. That is a big error. They need a case meeting with everyone involved with your son. This can be done at school. Tell them to sort that out ASAP. Many perspectives in one room is the way forward. You can also get the school nurse involved, she should already be aware of you DS.

SofiaAmes Thu 04-Jun-15 04:37:29

My understanding is that kids struggle when there are large variations in their abilities. You describe things varying from 5th to 97th percentile. This can be enormously stressful for a child (or an adult). My ds had testing when he was 8 with these kinds of results. I never did get the school to give him the support he needed. He is now 14 and is finally getting support, but ironically not because of his learning issues, but because of severe health and mental health issues (unrelated to his learning issues). Google 2E or Twice Exceptional children and you will find lots of information about what these kids need. My personal advice would be to put your energy into supporting your child yourself rather than putting the energy into trying to get the school to do it....

MauvaiseHelene Thu 04-Jun-15 05:48:20

Thanks Vagolajahooli.

I could try and ask but the optometrist and reflex therapist are clinic based and he's been discharged from CAHMS. The OT might be helpful as he had a lot of recommendations for the school to put in place.

In fact we've been given tons of suggestions, exercises etc. But there are just too many and we need to whittle them down to the essentials. For that we need a clear picture of what's happening.

What I'd really like is for someone to look at all the separate reports and recommendations and help us see the whole picture as we just can't see the wood for the trees any more. I got the impression the EP would do that but not at all.

A lot of her report was based on her conversation with me and DP, which she reconstructed from notes several weeks later and just filled in the blanks with whatever came into her head. For example we mentioned that he likes to play QuizUp, which is an online game where you play against an opponent. He only plays it occasionally but we mentioned it as an illustration that he has good knowledge of certain subjects and that he is capable of thinking quickly. But she mentions it again and again in the report as if he's somehow obsessed with online quizzes as he can only handle interaction with adults on an anonymous basis. The report's full of stuff like that so I don't have confidence in how she is interpreting & reporting the conversations she had with the school staff or DS.

I will see if I can at least get the ed psych back but they do make you feel like they are doing you a massive favour so I don't know how easy that will be.

It's very hard even getting even his teachers into the room together. He has a job share and one of them is on adoption leave so he's got a cover teacher I haven't met. Even the SENCO is covering for mat leave so we'll get the usual one back in a few weeks (and then things will really grind to a halt).

I don't think a statement/EHCP is a serious possibility - the EP's recommendations were all about him developing a growth mindset, encouraging him to look into the science of brain plasticity etc. The books she recommended at the end were all along the lines of "motivating the gifted but underachieving child" - no recognition that he genuinely struggles with aspects of schoolwork. I don't know whether she seriously had no concerns about his low scores or whether it's a case of them preferring not to commit resources by looking too deeply. Maybe I should ask them to put in a specific mention of whether or not there is any evidence of specific learning difficulties.

Never even thought of getting the school nurse along - is there a school nurse at every school? I know they have an occasional drop-in session but I've never looked into it. I will mention it to the SENCO.

MauvaiseHelene Thu 04-Jun-15 05:56:18

Thanks Sofia. I'm aware of 2e and I suppose I was expecting something along those lines to be the case here. What kind of things do you mean at home? We have a list a mile long of exercises etc we've been given to do at home but they only seen to add to his stress so we've had to really cut back on them. That has lessened his anxiety but not sure if it's the right thing to do long term.

QuinoaLenghi Thu 04-Jun-15 09:20:46

This sounds really frustrating. Huge variances between different abilities is a red flag and should not have been dismissed as meaningless. Given the factual errors in the Ed Psych report I would write her a simple factual letter highlighting the errors, questioning her dismissal of the results and therefore questioning her conclusion that he is gifted but disengaged. I would copy to the SENCO. Nothing ranty, just short and to the point.

The school sounds pretty rubbish btw. Is a transfer a possibility? Does your DS engage with learning at home in a less structured environment?

notjustanumber Thu 04-Jun-15 18:02:37

Sounds like the school needs to help out a bit more here - has he had obs done at school (even if it stresses him at least its familiar!). Its not very helpful they are being so vague ! Sofia, if the support cant be got at school, rather than at home, what kind of support were you thinking of out of interest - homeschooling, 1:1 tutoring/mentoring ? Unfotunately I think the kids that need help but are not disruptive tend to slip through...

SofiaAmes Thu 04-Jun-15 19:14:55

I mostly just didn't wait for the school to give the kids the support. I also make sure to praise them for the things they do well at despite their learning differences. For example, I give my kids more challenging work in the areas that they excel in. When my ds was struggling with learning how to read, but needed more intellectually challenging books than See Jane Run, I gave him audio books and reading books that he was interested in like Goosebumps. My ds took a long time (relative to his peers) to learn how to read because he had some physical eye issues (weak muscles), so when he would complain that reading "hurt his head" I made sure to respect that and not push him too hard (the teacher just kept accusing him of being lazy). My ds had dysgraphia, so I made sure he started learning how to touch type at 5. By 7 he was typing all the take home assignments he could. My dd has some weird (everyone agrees it exists, but no one has a name for it) learning difference which means that she find doing math in her head and spelling extremely difficult. I made sure that she had a calculator and a dictionary whenever she sat down to do math or english (she excels in both subjects because of this).
My kids are now 12 and 14 and do a pretty good job of getting information in the way they need it from their teachers without too much intervention from me. The internet and the ability to get so much in so many ways online has also been an enormous help for them.

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