Assessment is a 4-Letter Word


As I write this, I’m sitting in the parent waiting room of a therapy clinic, teary-eyed, while my daughter is being assessed. Again.

  • Assessed for cognitive function.
  • Assessed for speech and language abilities.
  • Assessed for eligibility for services.
  • Assessed by people who don’t know her and her brilliance.
  • Assessed to find out just how disabled she actually is.

As we close out the most ridiculous of years, finally, most people are breathing sighs of relief and speaking about their hopes and dreams that 2021 will be better. And while we are doing all of that, too, we are tired. You see, assessment is a 4-letter word when you have a neurodiverse kiddo.  

I understand that assessments are important, valid ways of justifying treatment, therapies, and figuring out what a child needs to be successful, but man, they are hard on families. Imagine constantly reading reports telling you just how behind your child is. Imagine having to constantly sit through meetings with complete strangers who tell you that normalcy will never be easy for her. Imagine just wanting your 7-year-old to be able to communicate her wants and needs with you the way other 7-year-olds can, instead of getting overwhelmingly frustrated with every word she just can’t seem to say. 

So, as I sit here in a building full of people writing reports about what she can’t do, let me tell you what she can do that you won’t find on any assessment.

  • This kid can backseat-drive like no one I’ve ever met. She’s pretty much memorized the entire map of Oklahoma City, knows where her favorite things are, and can direct you straight to them, even from across town. Lakeshore Learning Store? South on May, on the left, just past NW 63rd. Or in the words (and pointer fingers) of our kiddo, “That way, mama. Toy store!” Chick-fil-A? Over by Target, of course! Or in her words, “Chicken french fries! That way, mama!” Those pointer fingers navigate us to the best places. 
  • She remembers everything. That one house where she went swimming a year ago? Don’t you dare drive past the exit on I-35 and expect her not to ask to go swimming. 
  • This kid can put you in the Christmas spirit any time of year. She loves Christmas. As we drove around town on Halloween, we came across one house with lights already up, and she immediately went from chanting “It’s Halloweeeeen!” to breaking into the most perfect rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. 
  • When she really wants something, she will take your face in her hands, get as close as she can without actually touching her nose to yours, and whisper what she wants. It’s hard to say no to that adorable request.

So many things can’t be assessed or put into an official report on abilities and disabilities. Assessments aren’t a complete picture of a child. They are important tools, necessary to access the help and therapies he or she might need to be their best self, but it’s important to remind ourselves that snapshots are different than the big picture. 

And man, that big picture is adorable. 


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Kelli Bruemmer
Kelli is a native Okie with a larger-than-life personality and an unhealthy dose of sarcasm. She married Bobby in 2011, and they welcomed daughter, Maevyn, in 2013. Maevyn is autistic, and every day is a new adventure in discovering how her unique mind works. Life on their NE Oklahoma City acreage is never dull, and they enjoy RV camping and Sooner football. Kelli is a former law enforcement officer who now works full-time at the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office facilitating programs that keep people safe on our roadways. She also enjoys consulting for Beautycounter, advocating for tougher legislation in the US beauty industry, stifling inappropriate profanity, managing her RBF, looking for the nearest restroom, and trying not to sing Disney songs out loud in public.


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