The period of time before Covid took over our lives and consciousnesses has been referred to as the Before Times. Therefore, it follows that we are now in the After Times. Covid is still a factor, albeit less so than it was before vaccines, and who knows when--or even if--that will ever change, especially as variants evolve. So we adjust as best we can.
I’m very, very fortunate to have been able to stay home for the most part and remain safe over the last 17+ months of the After Times. Thankfully no one close to me got Covid, but my heart breaks for everyone with a different experience. I am deeply grateful to the brave men and women who have been risking their lives to support the rest of us. However, I had to stop meeting with clients. Although I’ve occasionally completed reviews of students’ educational records over these last months because I could do that by computer, I’ve had to turn down requests to conduct evaluations. And I’ve so missed working directly with students and their families.
Parents may wonder why when students have been back in classrooms with masks and social distancing, we couldn’t just do the same thing here in my home office. The dilemma for me has been that it’s essential that tests are administered reliably. (See this blog post.) In other words, they need to be given in exactly the same way as they were when the tests were normed. To be honest, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if there was a way I could do that during the pandemic, but in the end I decided that there was not. As much as I try to make the evaluation experience comfortable and emotionally safe for children, the reality is that in the best of circumstances they are still usually anxious being tested, anxious especially on tasks that are difficult for them, and anxious about exposing their weaknesses to a stranger. That’s just the way it is. Given that situation, I believe that wearing masks might only exacerbate the anxiety, even assuming that mask-wearing alone would be enough protection for us both--a big assumption because there couldn’t be social distancing when we sit across a small testing table. I did wonder if perhaps children have become so accustomed to wearing masks now that it wouldn’t compromise test results. Obviously, there’s no way to know if that's true, but I believe that it could interfere, at least for some students. Moreover, it is often difficult to hear responses to test questions even without masks when anxiety or embarrassment, or both, can result in low voices and mumbling; masks could muffle their voices even more. Unfortunately, an examiner has to be able to hear the answers clearly because even a one letter-sound substitution can mean the difference between a correct or incorrect response. So I decided after all not to evaluate students.
Until now. The good news is that vaccines are finally, finally available for ages 12 and up and hopefully for younger children by fall, so I’m looking forward to seeing families again soon. And I’m so very excited!
This has been a difficult, scary, painful period of time for all of us, but there’s now light at the end of the tunnel as we slowly re-engage with the world. Welcome back everyone! I’ll be so happy to see you again. Please let me know how I can help.
Dr. Andrea Winokur Kotula is an educational consultant for families, advocates, attorneys, schools, and hospitals. She has conducted hundreds of comprehensive educational evaluations for children, adolescents, and adults.