The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

12 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL There is no one-size-fits-all for our unique and wonderful Foreign Service children. The evaluation and its conclusions and recommendations need to “make sense” to and be helpful to parents. This can require advocacy on parents’ part. Do not unquestioningly accept a result or recommendation that goes against your own gut feeling. Finally, know what you want from the assessment going in, and make sure you get what you need. (For example, do you need advice on educational trajectory? “Best fit” class models? A 1:1 instructor? Will a school’s proposed IEP be appropriate for your child?) 4. Incorrect assumptions will still be made, and wrong things will still be written about your child. Our approach has been to ensure that the most serious errors were corrected. We advocated strongly on those. Smaller issues we accepted and moved on. 5. Be careful when it comes to psychiatric evaluations. Having raised four daughters, we have found that their perspectives on how their life was going could change markedly from day to day, at times from hour to hour. This was particularly true of our daughter with special needs; and there were times she just needed to “vent.” Some psychiatrists were far better than others at sorting out a “bad day” from the signs of a deeper or more concerning issue. An inaccurate psychiatric diagnosis, however well intentioned, can have profound effects on a child’s future. After one very negative experience, we insisted on only using the center that had made the original diagnoses and educational plan for our child. This provided long-term consistency of support; the evaluators came to understand our daughter and our family’s context. That center had more than 60 specialists (speech, occupational therapy, and so on) and a director who designed the assessment plan and determined which experts’ input was needed, and then brought it all together. The director was able to cut through all the test results and various recommendations, find what was most relevant at the time, and use that to develop a forward plan. He was able to pick out the three to four things most relevant to our child’s learning struggles and to predict (when she was 7 years old) with tremendous accuracy what “fair” learning expectations for her would be. He gave our child a future. This individual is now retired; I hope other families find someone like him and his team to support them on their journey. There is no one-size-fits-all for our unique and wonderful Foreign Service children. I hope that the Bureau of Medical Services will provide families with the Special Needs Educational Allowance support they need to ensure all our children get the education they need to have a future that is appropriate for them. n