I have received several calls of late from parents responding to me finishing my coursework for my Master’s in Strategic Communication at Seton Hall in New Jersey. Although the hooding ceremony is not until May it is a tremendous source of relief for all in my family who have been with me for this arduous journey since I was diagnosed at age 4. The look ahead to my future prompts a look backward: Who could have predicted where I would wind up today?
Could my early testing and diagnosis predict this outcome? Yes, we all strive when we see potential. We often believe that if we work harder and put more effort into something all will turn out well. A comment my mother heard from a lawyer representing a child in special education shook me. The lawyer asked the parents of a child on the spectrum what they truly believed was the possible outcome for their child. The inference being that a child on the spectrum could only go so far with this diagnosis, so what did they expect?
This led me to a discussion I have been having about my early diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed I took an IQ Test. The test was broken down into several different categories based on performance, resulting in an “IQ score.” The mean score is considered to be 100. A score of over 145 is often considered to represent genius, while a score under 70 is seen as implying intellectual disability. After taking the test, I received a score of 54, which is categorized as “severely challenged.”
Now a lot of people say young children can’t be tested accurately and that was certainly a factor for me. My mother wrote in her diary that seeing that number which equates with intellectual disability was one of the hardest days of her life. She had contemplated that her only child would not be anything but bright and that number certainly attested to a very different reality.
This number came up recently because I learned upon completing my Master’s that I received a final GPA of 3.8 on a scale of 4.0 to finish with distinction.
If I only had one moral to this story I would have to say that you can’t judge a book by its numbers—especially if the book has autism. Most adults I run into today who are out in the workforce express their hatred for tests growing up and I can’t blame them.
It seems that most tests today do nothing to be friendly toward individuals with autism. Think about how many standardized tests are being given out today. What is “standard” about an individual with autism?
I have to say how fortunate I’ve been to have the supports I had growing up. I may have never really been able to excel at tests compared to my peers but that hasn’t stopped me from getting to where I am right now.
My mother’s answer to the parent mentioned above was to give her son a call and note that I would be happy to appear to give expert testimony that a diagnosis of autism is not synonymous with failure. After all, if I could graduate with distinction from my Master’s program after an initial IQ evaluation of 54, one should not let labels or stereotypes of educational capability drive providing opportunities for an adult with autism.
All of us in our community need to defeat the stereotypes by believing in our possibilities, in our abilities, and then hopefully the funding for job opportunities, services and housing for adults with autism will follow.