by Brandy Pavia
I have been debating on whether or not to share the awesome news that we recently received. Like, big news. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone. The truth is, the news was so exciting to me, that I wanted to stop random people to tell them…but I’m going to venture a guess that Bob, the cashier at Wawa, wouldn’t have reciprocated my enthusiasm. Thanks a lot for the buzz kill, Bob; the coffee was good though!
I’m going to keep you in suspense for a little while longer as to the reason for my excitement. I guess I’m a bit theatrical when it comes to blogging, who knew?!
Before I started writing this post, I first had to ask Bean for her permission to share. Our number one rule is to always respect her and find out how she feels about sharing things about herself. No matter how excited I may be, it’s her news, and she is the only one who decides whether or not she wants to allow me to share. Her reply was a resounding, “yesh,” followed by a “get out, please.” Hey, at least she’s politely rude! So I got the green light to share, directly from the boss…and here we are!
Because finding the exact words that she wants to use may not always come easily to her, and the ones that do aren’t always intelligible, people often assume that she doesn’t understand things, or will talk about things as if she’s not in the room. In reality, while she may seem as though she’s not paying attention, she’s actually taking everything in, and absorbing her environment and the things that are happening around her. People will “dumb” her down, and she will play right along with them because she understands! She knows that if some people think that she is only capable of mediocrity, then why should she work harder than she needs to?! It’s quite brilliant if you ask me!
It’s because of these instances, that we know just how smart she is, and is the reason why we aren’t the least bit surprised by the news that we received.
(FYI, I’m still keeping you in suspense!)
We put in a request with her school to have her undergo an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Evaluation (AAC) to determine whether or not she is a good candidate for either a dedicated device, or software to help her communicate more effectively. In addition, we asked that the person administering the evaluation be someone out-of-district, so that we had an objective opinion. You may be asking yourself, ‘what’s an AAC?’ The short answer is that it’s a piece of technology (usually a stand-alone device similar to a tablet, or an app) that assists in enhancing communication by helping a person to correctly formulate sentences that express their wants/needs/feelings. The user will simply touch the word or photo that describes how they are feeling, and the device will put those words into a sentence, each time modeling the correct pronunciation and diction for them.
Thankfully, the evaluation went great, and the gentleman was very impressed with just how verbal she is. He explained that she’ll only need to utilize the device if and when she can’t find the words to describe how she’s feeling, or what she wants or needs. He concluded by telling me that since she is so verbal, she won’t need to rely solely on the device! This was the first time that someone, aside from family/friends, has referred to her as “so verbal,” and I was loving it!
That news in itself was amazing…BUT…it’s not the news that I’ve been keeping you in suspense for!
We also requested that the school psychologist administer an IQ test, as it was required in order to proceed with the AAC evaluation. This was a huge deal because if she scored low, she would be diagnosed with an intellectual disability (ID). Regardless of whatever the score was, she would still be our perfect Bean, and if it were on the low end of the scale, the diagnosis of an ID would open up even more doors to services for her.
When I got to the school to meet with the AAC evaluator, the psychologist excitedly pulled me aside. Before I go on, let me tell you a little bit about her. She is one of the most genuinely caring people I’ve come across in our school district. You know how you can just tell that their job isn’t just a job, that they truly care about the student succeeding? Well, she is one of those people. It’s more than just a paycheck for her. In the seven years that Bean has been in this school district, we’ve only come across a handful of those amazing types of people, and I couldn’t say enough great things about each and every one of them!
Anyway, back to the big news! The psychologist told me that she couldn’t wait to share the news, and that Bean did wonderfully during the entire IQ test. She was well behaved, listened to directions, and was focused! I was super excited by this news and thanked her for letting me know. Then she dropped the bomb of awesomeness on me.
“Brandy, she scored in the NORMAL RANGE!”
I stood there for a moment, processing it. You guys, the NORMAL range! I’ll be the first one to tell you how much I hate the word ‘normal.’ What even is normal?! I asked her what that meant, mostly because I just wanted to hear her say it. “It means that she doesn’t have an intellectual disability.” Not that it would’ve made a difference if she did have an ID, but it was just confirmation of what we’ve known all along, that she is so much smarter than people think she is! Once again, she teaches us a lesson, to never assume that just because a person may not communicate in the same way you do, doesn’t mean they don’t understand. That brilliance comes in all forms, and that most of all, that we should always presume competence. ♥️
Brandy Pavia is a working mom from New Jersey, with two amazing kids: an autistically awesome daughter, “Bean” & an adorably sweet son, “Bear.” Together with her husband, and their dog, Penny, (who is like one of their kids), she enjoys sharing her family’s adventures and encouraging others to embrace autism along the way!