How Low Can You Go?

Two psychologists and one teacher can go low, very low, and extremely low in describing Robert’s results achieved, or rather failed, on the assessments they gave him. That happened during Robert’s 2010 evaluation by the former teacher and the former school psychologist.  It happened again this year.  Both the new teacher and a new school psychologist used as the most appropriate description of Robert the terms: low, very low, extremely low.

This time, I addressed such “description” of Robert during the last IEP.  I stated that “low” is a judgement and/or opinion with very negative consequences.  From 2010 on, the teachers with the blessings of their administrative supervisors kept writing in the IEPs that Robert was “too low” to have his progress assessed by any objective criteria. His progress could be only assessed by subjective opinions of the observing him members of the team.   I argued again, that there were times when Robert couldn’t read, didn’t follow directions, couldn’t write, couldn’t do any of the math operations and yet the teachers from the Private school he had attended in the past, were able to set MEASURABLE goals and check the progress objectively.

The consequences of using “low, very low, and extremely low” are  graver still.  It is not a coincidence that after the 2010 testing was finalized, Robert stopped participating in group lessons and was relegated to a separate desk, where day after day, he had to complete packets of word searches.

Words “low, very low, and extremely low” were used as an excuse not to teach Robert  and as an argument why Robert did not learn at school. (Although he kept learning at home.) Nobody said, that he was “too low” to learn”, but it was a clear implication of everything that has been written in the assessments and in the IEPs.

As I said, during this year IEP, I protested.  I stated, that I didn’t mind using age or grade  equivalency on different subsets of the assessments, as that would at least have given me some ideas how to understand Robert better, allow me to find those aspects of his development that affect negatively the other ones, and those relative strengths that could be used to build on. I couldn’t accept however, the word low repeated 10 times in a nine line long paragraph as the ONLY characterization of Robert’s skill.   Ten times!

There is no doubt that Robert has severe delays in his development, and that his IQ is well below the average. How much below? What  his scores tell us about  the ways he understands others, and about the obstacles others might have to understand him?  I am not afraid of the numbers describing his processing speed, short memory (or working memory), or reasoning.  I am, however, petrified of others using terms: low, extremely low, very low, as a way of not only dismissing Robert but also validating that dismissal in their own minds.

The expressions “low, very low, extremely low” don’t tell anything about Robert. They tell a lot, about the teacher’s and the psychologist’s knowledge of Robert.  And that might indeed be low, very low, or extremely low.

Although I am planning a separate post to address the fact, that for some psychologists, low IQ of a client means that he/she is a sort of stick figure, and not a complex and complicated human being , I feel obligation to state that Robert is indeed a person with  intricate personality that compounds ethics,  logic, and the ability to create his own social structure and  his own kinds of ontology and epistemology.