Friday, April 25, 2008

AIMS Testing Complete

Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS Test) is a standardized test that all Arizona students must take, and pass, before graduation. The test is adjusted for each grade level, and the results are reported publicly in statistical analysis format – rankings are available to view by school, by district, by race, by sex, by grade, etc.

Calvin recently finished his first ever attempt at the AIMS test, and we as parents couldn't be more proud of him – for so many reasons..

He took the same test as every other 3rd grader in the state. The only modifications were in how the questions were presented to him (one at a time), and he was able to indicate his answers using letter cards, rather than darkening in a circle with a #2 pencil. (his proctor then darkened in the appropriate circle for him).

He completed the entire test. Every section. And for the most part did not require the allotted amount of time.

He did not have any coaching or verbal cues regarding the questions. Each question was simply laid in front of him for him to read on his own, and he could select his answer whenever he was ready.

He asked a couple of times to go back and change a prior answer (and each time corrected an incorrect answer.)

I don't think we'll ever get to see his individual results, and his teachers aren't allowed to give us any specific information. But we've heard "unofficially" that he did an outstanding job (probably better than most of the typical 3rd graders out there.)

Considering this is the first year he's ever been in an "academic" environment, and considering it was just a couple of years ago when we were told, in an IEP, that he didn't know more than 15 words *receptively* - this was a big accomplishment.

For Calvin, his teachers, his therapists (and previous therapists), and for Cheryl and me – this was really satisfying news.

Great job, buddy. I'm so proud of you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Music Therapy

When we first mention to somebody that Calvin gets Music Therapy, they almost always assume it's a bunch of kids sitting around in a circle and singing songs together, as if they're thinking "oh, the autistic boy likes to sing songs – how nice."

On one hand it makes me a little bit angry, because nothing could be further from the truth. Neurologic Music Therapy can have a profound effect on people who have difficulty controlling their bodies, such as people with autism, cerebral palsy, and those suffering from the effects of a stroke. (On the other hand, I can't blame them, because I didn't know anything about it before Calvin's diagnosis.)

Over the years, Calvin's NMT sessions became the most important hour of his week, and the people from the clinic were terrific with him. Cheryl & I began to get involved in any way we could, both with Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona (NMTSA) and with Kris' Camp, a summer camp which shares many of the same protocols as NMTSA.

Last month Suzanne Oliver, the Executive Director of NMTSA, invited me to join her organization's Board of Directors. It's one of the biggest compliments I've ever received. (it's also one of the most nerve-racking – I hope I don't goof it up!) Now I get a chance to give back even more to the one person, outside of our family, who has given, and continues to give, the most to Calvin.

I strongly recommend you check out NMTSA if you live in Arizona, and to look into NMT services in your own state if you live elsewhere.