Rodney and I, as JR’s parents have seen it throughout these past six years. What we thought initially, as wishful thinking or what I call “Momma Wishing” is in fact confirmed.
The confirmation of JR’s improvements came in the form of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, also known as C.A.R.S. The definition for the test can be found HERE. The scoring of the test is done by parents and the educational team. In JR’s case that would mean his teacher and behavioral consultant. JR’s testing shows marked improvement from just three years ago and huge improvement from JR’s first days (six years ago) at Vista.
He lags the most in expressive language which comes as no big surprise to any of us as he has never gotten functional language back after almost 10 years of some form of speech therapy, with most of it being delivered at Vista in the form of one hour sessions being delivered daily. We have a theory as to why there has been no marked improvement in this area but many gains in all other areas. We believe the vaccines have permanently damaged the speech center in his brain. And all though this is bad it is not the end of the world. Since JR has been using (May 2006 on loan from PaTTAN and getting his own via our school district in December 2007) the Dynavox communication system his communication issues have in fact been addressed.
His receptive language or what he understands has never really been a huge issue. Even when he was first diagnosed it took but five minutes of being with him for anyone to realize that he understood most of what was being said to him.
To be sure, there are other tests that are implemented for our children that do not show them in a very positive light. One of those is the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales also known as VABS. The definition for the test can be found HERE. This test is much harder for most parents to accept because, and this distinction is very important; the child with autism (this test can be used to establish the diagnosis) is being compared to his “typically developing same-aged peers”. When JR was given the test the first time (in 2000 and again in 2003 upon his enrollment to VISTA) he scored in the upper 70’s. Translated, that score put him in the moderately low adaptive range; which of course he was. Today he scores in the lower 50’s. Translated, he is in the low range of adaptive functioning when compared to his same-age peers. I don’t worry about this test too much anymore because of the fact that it does not paint an accurate picture.
The next standard test given to our children is called the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale also known as GARS. The definition for this test can be found HERE. Again, this is a test to determine the diagnosis of autism. The test can also be utilized to measure a student’s progress as a result of specialized programming. The big difference between this test and the CARS and VABS test is that this test is administered by JR’s school in the educational setting only. Parent input is not a part of this test. That is a choice that Vista by made so as not to inundate parents with large amounts of paperwork. The GARS-2 can be administered to parents in a home environment as well. The results I believe are more objective (or should be) than with the other two tests. Based simply on the logic that teachers and behavioral consultants are suppose to be more objective than we, the parents.
The next and final test is called the Scales of Independent Behavior-Revised also known as SIB-R. The definition for this test can be found HERE. This test is again performed by both parents and the behavioral consultant. Again it is based on the norm and the child is compared to his typical peers. And all though JR did fairly well with this test I don’t give this one any more credence than I do the Vineland test. A child with autism can be tested in many ways but the one true test is the one that gages his progress from year to year.
*Thanks to Lauren Herrold Bredickas for clarification on some points*