The Most Important Test My Son Ever Took

Young MichaelParents notice first.

Their child’s not meeting milestones – usually in more than one area. And that’s when they know. Something’s not right, even as professionals tell them not to worry.

How will my child ever catch up?

A diagnosis brings much needed confirmation. But unfortunately, no two children with the same diagnosis are exactly the same. They are individuals with unique strengths and variable challenges.

Take four of my six children. Each has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Yet their symptoms vary greatly. The same could be said for Developmental Trauma, Autism, ADHD and every other brain disorder.

Nonetheless, watching your child struggle is heart-wrenching.

During the last three years of elementary school, my middle son fell further and further behind academically. With his self-esteem taking a serious hit, he became more and more frustrated. And the behavioral problems began. First at school, then at home.

Even though we read together before bedtime.

Even though we reviewed math concepts on the weekend.

Even though we reinforced skills during every car ride.

Most teachers understood the dilemma. However, several used the word “lazy.” Although we tried psychotropic medication, it reduced but didn’t eliminate his inattentiveness.

WISC chart 4

Like every parent in the trenches, I wanted answers. But more than anything, I needed HOPE.

Near the end of middle school, my son finally displayed the focus and patience to fully cooperate with intelligence testing – so the results would be deemed reliable. At last, I would have more accurate information about his level of functioning.

In my son’s case, the school psychologist administered the WISC-IV (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) It’s one of several available testing options. When I requested a review of the results with the school psychologist – as provided in federal special education law, I received facts. Not subjective opinions.

With new insight into my son’s diagnosis, the reasons for his immense struggles were clear.

Testing uses a bell-shaped curve. A score of 100 lies smack in the middle – with average ability ranging from 70 to 130. Scores below 70 indicate a mild impairment in mental ability. Below 55 a moderate impairment.

WISC chart 2

My son’s verbal comprehension was 81 (in the low average range), with perception reasoning a 70 (on the average/impaired border). But the smoking gun was his scores for working memory (62) and processing speed (53). One fell in the mildly impaired range. The other in the moderately impaired range. Overall, his GAI – General Ability Index – was 59.

Without question, my son was mildly impaired – even though he was quite skilled in “mimicking” conversations that he heard yet didn’t fully understand.

In other words, his brain was too slow to process the language in the classroom – especially in regards to new material. On top of that, he couldn’t hold too much information in his brain at one time – which made critical thinking nearly impossible.


From that day forward, my son received a slew of accommodations to compensate for his deficits in working memory and processing speed.

They included a calculator for computation, a list of steps for math problems, an outline for new material, study guides for tests, a scribe to help him start papers, an older student to help him organize at the end of the day and many more tailored to him – not anyone else.

And NO copying from the white board. NO timed tests. NO busy work sent home.

Intelligence testing might not give parents all the answers, but the WISC-IV came darn close for me. Hopefully, your next conversation with the school psychologist and teacher of record will be more productive than ever.  DCP



Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE

To follow Craig’s progress in writing a book about raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love

To follow Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page. Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold

5 thoughts on “The Most Important Test My Son Ever Took

  1. Thank you for this! Struggling with 2 autistic sons and an fasd daughter. Esp in expectations between myself and my husband. This may get us back -finally!-on the same page as each other. Thank you again!

  2. We have struggled with our county to obtain and IEP. A pneuropsycological assessment for or fasd sin with confirmed SLD in math computation, reading computation and a deficit in working memory. Still no IEP but hopefully he will start the 7th grade with a plan. Can you blog about your success with defuant behaviors. We are going through it ………weary mom and dad

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