Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes a French fry is just a French fry

So, I took Iyyar to get his speech therapy evaluation last Thursday. It was about what I expected, although I didn't realize his Hebrew was quite as bad as it is. The therapist seemed really taken aback when I told her how long we'd been here. "A year and a half? And he's been in a Hebrew educational framework the entire time? He can't even put a correct sentence together." Good news: he qualifies for speech therapy with, uh, flying colors. Bad news: there is a waiting list of several months (months!! I am looking now at the original forms we submitted for all of this and they are dated July...) and even when his turn comes up, he'll be getting an hour a week of therapy with the expectation of an hour a day at home of 1:1 attention from a Hebrew-speaking adult.

Riiiiiiight.

The good thing that came from it though was that the speech therapist was nice, and I took advantage of this by saying, look, why is nothing happening here? I brought along the eval with the referrals for various services he got in mid-December, and I said, he has gotten none of this, nobody has even called us with an appointments, I don't know who to talk to and every time I call it takes an hour to be told someone will call me, eventually. Which they don't do. The therapist was, to give her credit, horrified by this and said "But he needs help now!" to which I was, with difficulty, able to respond by politely agreeing instead of by banging my head on the pint-sized table I was sitting at.

Sunday morning the phone rang, and it was the psychologist, telling me that she had never gotten any of the messages I had left (which I know isn't true, because the speech therapist opened up a screen that showed all the messages I'd left WITH check boxes next to them showing she'd seen them) and telling me that Iyyar's report was ready and did I want to come in next week to pick it up. I said, can you fax it today? and she said, well, it's a lot of pages (for the record: "a lot" in this case = three) and why don't you come pick it up? Next week? I said, how about today? And she said, ok, can you come in at 11? It was 9:45 and I looked at my watch and said yes I could, so I went straight out the door.

So, I don't want this to turn into a giant long post, but in a nutshell (coconut shell?): there were no surprises so far as the cognitive stuff, except that his Hebrew is really bad (which I knew at that point) and he has some specific learning/cognitive issues (attention/speed of processing/attention/organization of thought) that she seemed to think were worse than I did, but having seen the testing taking place I also knew that he'd been pretty stressed during the testing itself and that never helps. The cognitive stuff was all testing that had taken place while I was there; the psychological/emotional testing had happened while I was in the US, and Mr. Bigfoot had been there.

Yeah. That.

So... how much stock does the field of child psychologist generally put in child apperception testing these days? Because... well. First she started telling me that she'd shown Iyyar pictures and that how he described them gave a window to how he perceived the world. Okay, fair enough. Then she started telling me that he felt small and insignificant, exploited (exploited??) by adults, that he wasn't being nurtured adequately, that parental figures were distant and absent and that authority figures were frightening. I said... uh. Where are you getting this from? She asked me if I wanted to see the pictures and I said yes.

First picture: three little chickens at a table happily tucking into bowls of food. Shadowy hen in background. Iyyar said, as best as I can recall: "The baby chickens are eating the food. They like it and they're happy. The mother is walking." Interpretation: because he did not say that the mother gave the food, the mother is not being seen as a source of nurturing. Instead of feeding them, she is WALKING.

But... she was. I mean, I saw the picture. I would have said the same thing.

And the rest of the pictures? They were scary. As in, I found them scary and I am 38! There was a huge toothy tiger about to attack a monkey, and it didn't look good for the monkey. There were two tiny bears huddled together in a crib in a dark shadowy room with a huge bed, empty except for an Ominous Lump under the covers. There was a big lion in a throne with a mouse visible in the corner in a mouse hole.

Everything Iyyar said seemed totally reasonable to me. He described the pictures. When asked to come up with more ideas, he said things like "Maybe the mouse wants to be friends but he's afraid the lion will eat him," and "The bear is sad because he got his fur cut, but it's OK, it'll grow back." I thought this was normal. The psychologist didn't. She also kept talking about how fixated he was on food. And food, see, it's not just food. It's everything a baby needs from a parent. It's nurturing, understanding, feeling understood. And Iyyar is NOT GETTING IT. How does she know this? Because he kept talking about food. Also, his thinking was all concrete and not abstract (he's five. You know he's five, right?) and he identified in every picture with the small/weak figure and not the large/strong figure (cf. "five" above). Oh, and he was much more relaxed with Mr. Bigfoot (visit two) than with me (visit one).

I walked out not being sure whether to be devastated or bewildered. Because I got the really, really strong impression that she thought that Iyyar's issues were due to my being a cold and absent mother and his being afraid of authority. And I may be many things, and I am sure I have MANY failings as a parent, but cold and absent? I... really don't think so.

Fast forward to home. I asked Mr. Bigfoot about this. "Oh. Yeah. Well, he didn't really want to go, so I told him that when we were done we would go out for lunch. We went and had schnitzel and French fries at the place down the street right after. He ate a huge amount so I think he might have been kind of hungry while we were there."

Oh. What about the pictures?

"Yeah, he wasn't so into them. He wanted to color them in, and she said that when they were done talking about them he could draw a picture. So he was kind of going through them as fast as possible so he could draw. And get French fries."

It's hard to write it off entirely, just because, well, who could? I know Iyyar doesn't feel understood and it is absolutely the case that I don't understand what is going on in his head. And if someone is sitting there in an office saying, we've tested your son and the results show that You Are A Rotten Mother, I don't think many people could take that with equanimity. Also, I got the really strong impression that she didn't think much of me or Mr. Bigfoot from the first meeting. Not sure why; just a personality clash, I think. I have a hard time with people who don't ever ever smile.

Anyway. Yeah. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah. And French fries.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am thinking some very rude words right now, which I'd be saying out loud except that Stefan is sleeping and I don't want to wake him.

I don't buy any of that stuff with the pictures. Even if I accepted the field itself (questionable) clearly the interpretations are not including the whole picture, and I doubt she even considered the child who is so food-focused may actually be hungry. Feh!

Glad to hear the speech therapist, at least, was both nice and helpful. A pleasant surprise there. Good for you making the most of the opportunity! Best of luck with getting the rest of the help he needs actually going.

Oh, and you are TOTALLY NOT a cold and distant mother! Double feh.

~ Jasmin

Anonymous said...

you live in Bait Vegan, right? why don't you put up a sign in Michlalah (and other seminaries near by) that you are looking for a volunteer with good Hebrew to spend some one-on one time with him as back up for the therapy? this project might interest a special ed. student... you won't find someone for every day, but more than nothing maybe...

LC said...

ooh! putting a sign up for a quasi-tutor sounds like a great idea.

and yikes, but at least you were able to see the pictures and get the other side from your husband, so there is context for it all.

hopefully the speech therapist who actually works with him is either this one or someone else you can develop a rapport with. good luck navigating the rest of the system.

Carolyn said...

This reminds me of when we had to get my son evaluated last year. The psychologist concluded that he had low self esteem and anxiety because when he was asked to draw a picture of himself he drew a figure with no hands (no hands = feelings of powerlessness in the world of evaluation). I mean, really? I remember crying because she made it seem that his anxiety was my fault. I was also told to take him on lots of play dates - again not so easy logistically for us either.

In the end, his behavior at school changed dramatically for the better this year, without us really doing anything differently. His speech still shows the same problems that you are experiencing - both his Turkish and his English are weaker than other children his age. Everyone tells me it is normal for bilingual children, but if you can get extra help, I would.

Best wishes for the new baby.

Carolyn said...

This reminds me of when we had to get my son evaluated last year. The psychologist concluded that he had low self esteem and anxiety because when he was asked to draw a picture of himself he drew a figure with no hands (no hands = feelings of powerlessness in the world of evaluation). I mean, really? I remember crying because she made it seem that his anxiety was my fault. I was also told to take him on lots of play dates - again not so easy logistically for us either.

In the end, his behavior at school changed dramatically for the better this year, without us really doing anything differently. His speech still shows the same problems that you are experiencing - both his Turkish and his English are weaker than other children his age. Everyone tells me it is normal for bilingual children, but if you can get extra help, I would.

Best wishes for the new baby.

Deborah said...

Oblivious to the obvious, maybe? Wonder if she has children of her own.