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Developmental Delays Determined

By late July, my son's final tests with Child Find were completed. As I mentioned in earlier posts, he had done well in some areas but had difficulty in others. However, the psychological examiner noted that "the assessment results might be an underestimate of [his] true abilities and should be viewed cautiously" because of the several instances in which he refused to respond to requests and his attempts to avoid performing tasks.

I had asked about autism again during one of the test sessions. I was told emphatically that autism was a medical diagnosis that the education screeners at Child Find were not qualified to make. I did a journalistic end run to get an opinion from the screener. Promising "off-the-record" anonymity, I asked if Child Find worked with autistic children. Yes, they did. In the screener's opinion, how did my son compare with the autistic children? The screener said that it appeared that there were clearly delays, but in the screener's opinion, it didn't appear to be autism, again with the caveat that any true diagnosis must be made by a medical doctor.

I felt a small measure of relief. Perhaps my worst fears would not be realized. But the reports prepared for the IEP eligibility meeting, which we were given in advance, pointed to some serious concerns:

They found significant delays in my son's gross and fine motor skills, measuring in the first percentile in both areas based on results of the LAP-D test. Visual motor skills were in the very low range (61 on VMI-5), and the total language score of 77 on the PLS-4 test was also a significant delay. His cognitive development was considered borderline based on the WPPSI-III. It was also noted that my son was easily distractible and appeared to have difficulty trusting others or himself. (Where did that come from? We're nurturing, positive reinforcement parents!)

At the IEP eligibility meeting on August 1, my wife and I questioned the low score on the gross motor skills, which had not been a concern of ours. The screening committee members explained that the test measured age-appropriate behaviors and that our son was given low marks because he didn't try to catch a ball with his hands.

Well, what we really wanted to focus on were his language and fine motor skills anyway. We explained to the committee that we felt our son's development, at least in language skills, had improved somewhat over the course of the summer, and that he had finally made a breakthrough in potty training in mid-July. In short, we were feeling a bit better about his development, but would be grateful for the extra help through an IEP, for which it was determined he was eligible.

What took the meeting and, later the IEP, into a different realm, was our son's enrollment in a local Montessori preschool. His older sister, now a first-grader, had had a wonderful experience at the preschool, and we hoped the teachers there would help bring our son "up to speed," as it were. We were reassured that our plans weren't unusual, that most of the children in the Child Find preschool programs attended other daycare or preschools and Fairfax County school buses would pick him up and drop him off. The Montessori school principal, whom we've known and trusted for two years, said they'd be glad to work with Child Find, which they had done before.

It sounded like a plan was coming together, in theory. The evaluation results weren't exactly something to be elated over, but we had a good idea of what to work on. The next concern was: How would my son react to all this sudden change? We had a month to lay the groundwork.

(Previous posts in this series: Domestic Discord (11/13/07); Support for the Asking (11/6/07); Questions Unanswered (10/30/07); When Something's Not Quite Right (10/23/07).)

Next: Two First Days of School

By Mike Snyder |  November 20, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development
Previous: Traditions Old, Traditions New | Next: The Gifted Child


Glad that you got some answers. I wouldn't fret yet. When my daughter took the tests at child find, she was listed as delayed in all of the five major areas. After being in the preschool class for two months, the teachers assessed her delays only in speech and language and social interaction. She was not diagnosed with autism till much later and her diagnosis is still speculative to her developmental pediatrician. Glad your son doesn't appear to have autism and you are getting him the help that he needs. My daughter had no trouble going to preschool. She was all smiles her first day and still appears to enjoy it.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 20, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Hats off to you for being so "in touch" with what your son needs, and for being willing to admit you were concerned about your son. He is lucky to have parents that will work with him and love him.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I would be less concerned with the actual label than understanding what it is your child does well and what he doesn't, and then designing an intensive, multidisciplinary approach to provide as much assistance as you can as early as you can. The label has no particular significance: whether it's autism or PDD or ADD or something else, the issue is: where is your child on the developmental ladder and how do you get him up to the next rung? What are his strengths and how can you build on them to improve the areas of weakness? I would encourage you to check out the website for the Floortime Foundation --- -- which has a guide by parents for parents facing these challenges and Stanley Greenspan's book, The Child with Special Needs.

Posted by: fmjk | November 20, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I was catching up on your posts, again, thanks for sharing your story. When you get in with the developmental pediatrician, ask them to perform the CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale). This will let you know what you are dealing with, but, I wouldn't worry about diagnostic labels, as long as your son is getting the help he needs. My son with HFA is still catching up and may never be completely level with his peers, but as long as you put them in a situation where they can learn despite their delays, they should continue to progress. We have also had good progress with biomedical treatment.

Posted by: Leslie | November 20, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

What's important is that you're taking active roles to enlist other people to the cause of making your child's life successful. I have neighbors who are still sheltering their daughter who barely walks and doesn't talk at age three and I know in my heart if she had to fight for a teacher's attention verbally and ran after the other kids all day she'd be far ahead of where she is now even if she has real developmental issues. She'd be working with them right now rather than sitting on Grandma's lap listening to books.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't mean to be difficult, but as someone who doesn't know the developmental disability terminology, I'm completely lost reading scores and various abbreviations for tests. I don't know what the abbreviations stand for, let alone what they're measuring. If you want to talk about the tests and scores, please explain them.

I find this ongoing story to be interesting, but sometimes the topics become esoteric and they don't work for a general audience.

Posted by: Ryan | November 21, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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