Monday, March 12

Our Fascinating Little Lab Rat

Porter and I went to the infant lab at one of our local  universities to volunteer for a research study earlier this month. The purpose of the study was to compare eye tracking between children with and without autism. In order to compare accurately between children, all participants are also given an extensive standardized intelligence test to match kids by cognitive age (instead of chronological age).

The eye tracking portion of it was a quick 5 minute session of Porter watching some strange videos while a camera recorded his eye movement. The cognitive testing portion lasted over 2 hours and somehow Porter just kept on trucking through it all. The researcher was really great working with him the whole time: encouraging, doling out high fives, and toward the end going at his pace to take little breaks when his endurance/attention ran out. For me, it was all so intriguing to watch how well he could follow direction and answer questions.

Today the researcher sent me a summary of the testing results. Admittedly Tim & I were a little filled with pride by his awesomely high language scores, but really it just quantified how good he is at the verbal chatter we hear all day long. It is a bit of a long, tedious read maybe for the general public but I wanted to post it up for grandparent enjoyment.  I am risking sounding a bit braggy without a doubt, but I do want to file it away in this virtual baby book. I also really encourage anyone else that has the free time to volunteer for studies. We have done it numerous times with both kids and the experience is always interesting and the doctoral students are so grateful. Here are some excerpts from the letter:

Thank you for your participation in our study on the social responsiveness and perceptual skills of children with and without autism. It was great to see you and Porter!

We are writing to give you the results of our assessment of Porter at 34 months of age. On March 1st, 2012, we administered the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL), a cognitive test that evaluates a child’s developmental level with emphasis on language, motor, and perceptual abilities. The following table lists the age equivalents Porter achieved on each scale. Age equivalent scores indicate the age at which 50% of children of a given age would be expected to score lower than Porter and 50% of children would be expected to score higher than Porter.

During the Visual Reception subtest, Porter matched shapes, letters and pictures but not words. He identified shapes that were shown to him, hidden, and then shown again among similar-looking shapes. During the Fine Motor subtest, Porter unscrewed a toy nut and bolt, strung three beads on a shoestring, built a four-block tower modeled by the examiner and cut with scissors.

During the Receptive Language subtest, Porter demonstrated understanding of spatial and length concepts by identifying the “longer” of two sticks over several trials and by identifying comparative concepts such as “same,” and “second,” e.g., “Point to the child who is second.” He also provided answers to general questions such as, “How many eyes do you have?” During the Expressive Language subtest, Porter counted twelve blocks, used pronouns, completed analogies presented by the examiner (e.g., “A man is big, a baby is little.”) and repeated sentences such as, “I like to ride in the car.” 

Scale :                       Age Equivalent
Fine Motor :                   36 months
Visual Reception:          48 months
Receptive Language:    42 months
Expressive Language:  50 months

As if we needed any more buttering up, they added this last line about our guy:

Porter is a very sweet and composed little boy. Throughout the assessment, he waited patiently for instructions, smiled frequently, asked questions about what was going to happen next and attended well to the examiner.

It will serve as a good mental reminder for me when he is in the middle of some complete fit over how I put his socks on wrong (or another major infraction in his world vision) that he is actually a sensitive perceptive boy and not just a tyrant.

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