It had been five years since I was told by Plunket at my son’s B4 School Check that my son was “abnormal”. Yes seriously they used that word! He wasn’t making friends and hurt other children almost daily. His educators bandied unqualified suggestions around – perhaps he is just gifted, or maybe slightly Asperger’s. Then came the formal ADHD diagnosis shortly before his seventh birthday. However – after a lot of work at home and school – he was still struggling socially and some behavioural issues continued.
I sat quietly on the couch in a hotel room in Dunedin while my son, now aged 9, had his first two hour (cognitive) assessment with an educational psychologist, who had travelled down from Auckland. I tried to follow along with some of the tasks my son was being asked to do – recalling numbers forwards, backwards and sequentially, explaining how two objects are similar, and so it went on. MY head hurt!
I was so proud of my boy tho. He worked so hard, concentrating and following her instructions wonderfully.
His second two hour (educational) assessment was the following morning. This time I stayed for a short while, then snuck out for brunch with a friend, before returning towards the end. There was to be a parent chat directly following the assessment and I felt a little nervous.
One of his teachers at the local gifted and talented programme he attends recommended we get this assessment done. She has been an amazing source of support and advice, and with her expert knowledge, I respected her opinion so highly – and was STILL looking for answers – so it wasn’t an option not to, even though expensive.
Still, I was nervous.
I returned to the hotel room as they were finished up; handwriting, my son’s least favourite activity, was left until last. My boy chose to go and play on his tablet outside while the grown-ups chatted. The words came, “Definitely gifted… 99th percentile… dysgraphia… Asperger’s characterics… a maths age of 19 years.”
After what seemed a lifetime – in reality, half his lifetime – of professionals discussing the negative aspects of my son, to hear someone talk about his strengths and what he could achieve in life brought me close to tears. In that moment, the psychologist paused – to let me take it in perhaps, or looking for a response. I couldn’t. I was speechless. Particularly that last point. I knew my boy was clever but didn’t realise how far ahead he was!
I should have felt happy, but wasn’t. I felt more proud about the work ethic my son showed during the testing, than the result. My excitement hindered by the thought of another thing to research, to learn about, and advocate for my son to achieve his best in life. One more piece of the puzzle to fit together.