Friday, February 1, 2013

Take that, Graph!

I got my ass kicked by a friggin graph.

The other day Leo and I went to  meeting to discuss Maya's progress at school.  It's more or less like report card day.

Of course the way they do grades over here in the Netherlands is very different to the US and, in a special needs environment there are not official grades in the same way, but your child is measured against their educational goals which were set in the last semester.  The Dutch though, are big fans of changing systems to make this ever more complicated and give off the impression that they are always improving, but in fact, each new reporting system is more complicated than that last and really doesn't tell you much more.

They give you this 5 page report and go over it with you, answer your questions and then you sign it and that's about it.  The whole thing feels more like every other administrative exercise in the Netherlands, the purpose being more to make the doers felt like they did something, than the audience feel like something has been achieved.

Still, it is good to see that Maya has done well against the goals we set at the end of the last school year.  She's moved up another level in reading and one in math which is great and her social skills are improving.

One thing which is new to the report card is now they plot your child's developmental scores on a graph so that you can see from year to year how much progress your child is actually making and see what all those scores mean in a visual way.  The graph is set up as a simple dot plot type graph, where on the vertical axis is your child's age and the horizontal axis is your child's development score in each category until age 19, (the end of required education in the Netherlands.  The categories they grade you on are spoken language, language comprehension, reading, math, social skills with peers, social skills with teachers, practical skills.  The graph is further broken into 4 likely developmental outcomes, the lowest one is for children who will never be able to work, function or take care of themselves, the next is for children who will likely need to live and spend their days in a supervised day care type situation, the next is for children who will likely be able to work but with heavy supervision and who may or may not, depending be able to live on their own and the fourth is for children who could work with minimal or no supervision and might be able to achieve the lowest degree of mainstream post-high school education.

There is no scale higher than that.  Not in Maya's form of education. 

Maya's current development is right under the line of the highest possibility on the graph,  which basically means that unless she hits a developmental spurt, the likely outcome according to this graph is that her possibilities to achieve a 'mainstream' outcome are not possible and that the chances of her being able to live independently are low.

Now, none of this was a huge surprise for us, nothing anyone has said to us on this journey has given us any reason to believe that Maya will somehow spurt forward and end up at university with all the other mainstream kids.  The Dutch educational system always takes the pessimistic view.  That is the difference between Europeans and Americans, we always hope for the happy ending, they never fool themselves into believing there is a happy ending.

Still , seeing your kid as a line on a graph is sad.  In some way it reminds you of all your squashed dreams for your child all over again.  I pride myself on acceptance.  Accepting where Maya is now, acceptance that she might never get further than where she is.

I hate that frickin' graph.

While I accept Maya for where she is and who she is, and who she will be, and more important, what she may never be, I will not allow that graph to have power over me.

I will not give that graph the power to take away my hope or her hope.  

Because no one really knows what my girl is capable of and while I can accept that she may never get off that graph in her life, that doesn't mean that graph is a crystal ball.

My girl is flesh, blood, brain, body, light, love.  There is hope for her.


  1. It's only a graph, and as you said, it takes the worst possible scenario. I know your fears and how important it is for you to "know" that she'll be able to live independently. But we never "know" for sure, and certainly a non personal graph can't take into consideration parenting and all the other values that will help Maya along the way. I hate the graphs and numbers too. We get them with Matan, and I always feel it fails to take into consideration so many of his positive traits. Still, it's better to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised, than to live in La La Land. I think, but that's just me.

  2. You know, I am absolutely astounded that they set the bar so low. That is not fair.. they are giving up on the kids before the kids have even had a chance. My suggestion to you is to aim high and ignore the graphs!