Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

February 8, 2011

Report Card Day

Yesterday was Report Card Day.

As a kid and young adult I always loved getting my report card.

I loved seeing how I did, what my teachers had to say, what little surprises my parents might learn about me and my behavior (which was almost always good with the occasional “talks too much in class”). I cared quite a bit about my grades – not obsessively – they weren’t all A’s – but they were good and I wanted to do well.

I was a good student. I loved school. Always.

(Okay, except those first two years in college. You couldn’t really say I was a good student then but I definitely loved the experience.)

Getting Simon’s report card is a bit of a different story.

When it’s Report Card Day I encounter a mixture of thoughts and feelings:


  • Seeing anything having to do with standardized or percentage-based numbers. Ugh. Just ugh. Usually I look at it, make a couple mental notes, and then move on to the next part of the packet. For Simon, like many students with delays/disabilities/issues, standardized testing (or any kind of testing really) is a major challenge. More often than not the test results say so very little about his actual abilities.
  • For as much as I work on my attitude and perspective and acceptance and the bigger picture, it’s still just hard to read about his struggles. I love him, the whole of him, and support and encourage him to do his best every single day.


  • Getting to see where he’s at with this goals. Each year at his annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting we, along with his teacher and his program director, come up with specific goals related to reading, math, writing, speech & language, and social skills. Most of his goals this year revolve around social skills, reading, and speech & language. His report card includes updates on his progress for each of those areas.
  • Anytime the teacher(s) include something personal. His speech teacher noted how “he comes to speech with a cheery attitude.”
  • It’s a reminder that things change and progress and get better and get more challenging and that’s just the way it goes. Whatever is the biggest issue right now will ebb and flow into another issue. I find it actually helps me keep things in perspective.
  • He’s doing just fine and is making forward progress at his own pace. We find ways to be proud of him every single day.


In addition to the “official” report card content, this was included in his packet:

The “M” next to “I enjoy reading.” is one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time.

I got a little choked up when I came to that one.

This is the first year a form like this has been included with his report card. What I love about it is that it gives him a chance to be self-aware – to acknowledge which things might be more challenging for him and which things he’s great at right now.

This is the kind of thing we hope for Simon.

That he can develop a love of reading and learning regardless of if he’s performing right at grade level. That he can learn to recognize what he needs to work on and celebrate the areas where he excels.

The more confidence we can build in his own abilities the better equipped I believe he will be in the long run.



  • 51.
    christine h said…

    I will be attending my 15 year old son’s IEP planning session for 10th grade next week. It seems like such a short time ago we were starting the whole process, changing from a Catholic to a public school to get more help, hiring a private tutor. School was easy for me, I was and am a reading junkie and it tore my heart to see my baby struggle so much just to identify the letters….in first grade. But here we are now, reading at grade level, doing better at writing, and excelling in physics! Guess that dream to be a “robot scientist” that started at age 5 isn’t so far fetched after all. And the best part, every teacher always says my son is curteous and respectful. I make sure my son is well rested and well fed for standardized testing day. Tell him to do his beste. And then I just don’t even give it any more of my time/energy. Those things are just so useless if you learn and test outside the box. I think Simon is very lucky to have you and Chris as parents. And I can’t wait to see where he lands in his very bright future.

  • 52.
    Jayne said…

    What an amazing post to share. Like so many others, I am choked up too. How wonderful to see Simon’s contribution to his reporting to you. What great successes and achievements for him to recognise and share. Well done Simon :-)

  • 53.
    Nicky from Canada said…

    It is so wonderful to read your post today, it is just what the doctor ordered. You and Chris have done such an amazing job with Simon and he is such a unique and wonderful creation. He is doing great and He will continue to follow his path and get there because of the support that you all give him.

    We always struggle with the typicaly ratings and working with Brody’s team (he is on the spectrum and Simon’s age) – he is a wiz on the computer, loves books and they have told us he is savant in puzzling and memorizing items with a glance, we know he has grade level comprehension but it is difficult to get this teachers (he is in a cluster program) to keep him interested and we seem to be doing more and more at home because they can’t keep him focused at school, we are encouraging the use of technolical tools more with him because it is such a driver but it seems to be a forever battle. I am amazed at the things that he does with photoshop, final cut, imovies – so drives him and fasinates him – I am in awe and hope that we too can get him to a good place where he can be what he needs to be. I know one day he will get there. Some days are just more difficult and this one has been one of them.

    But just wanted to say thanks, your post today just reminds me of how blessed we all are to be given the gift of nuturing these very special little boys!!
    God Bless

  • 54.
    susan ott said…

    This was a great blog today. As a teacher it reminds me to be very positive on report cards with ALL students, no matter how much they are struggling. They are still kids and we love them! I always try to stay positive. I love the self checking lists too. Thanks for sharing this.

  • 55.
    Jeni said…

    I teach seventh grade English and read your blog religiously. I have a twelve hour work day today – conferences. I’m missing my own four kids (ages 13, 10, 8, and 2) and had a little break between conferences, so I checked your website. Loved this post and your perspective. It touched me and will help me get through the rest of my long conference day. I love the kids I teach and love my job! Thanks for the inspiration and pick-me-up!

  • 56.
    Cinnibonbon said…

    Awe yay for you and Simon!!!

  • 57.
    Judy Webb said…

    thank you for sharing these very deep emotions. We have a 46 year old ADHD(he came a long way before all the initials). We have walked this road. I pray daily that Simon is Happy and reaches the highest level possible. I Pray that you and Chris continue to have patience and knowledge that you are doing all you possibly can to support Simon. God Bless your family.

  • 58.
    Shasta said…

    I loved this post! I’ve been a teacher for 11 years and teaching students to be self-aware and able to assess themselves is something that I value over many of the things that I am required to teach. My husband and I just had this conversation over dinner tonight. If I am able to help my students analyze and evaluate their efforts, their work, and how fix/address the challenges and determine strengths, then I feel like I have prepared them for the real world. Kudos to Simon’s teacher and to you and Simon!!

  • 59.
    Lori said…

    I am so proud of you. My son too is an amazing guy, struggling with adhd/inattentive. He is such a smart guy and becoming more self aware. I’d love to see how he’d fill out a self report. Its more important to celebrate success and build on strengths than focus on a number.

  • 60.
    Kary in Colorado said…

    Sigh. All I can say is enjoy this time, Ali. My son is now in high school–9th grade–and there are not very many bright spots. The teachers say the right things, and he tries so hard, but it is very difficult for “un-ordinary” kids to be successful. He is smart and capable, but he is a round peg that the schools really want to fit in their square hole, and even though it seems like they are trying to help, well–they really don’t get it. High school is really all about the grades and the test scores. He is our third child so we have shepherded kids very successfully through high school before, and it is so frustrating to see him struggle and become so discouraged. I hope Simon has a better experience. He will need all the confidence you can give him.

  • 61.
    Leora Henkin said…

    Go Simon Go is right Ali! Thanks for continuing to share your story with all of us. I think you guys are amazing. I love the self-report card, too!

  • 62.
    Liz said…

    Ali, this is truly awesome. I have tears. We are not only absurdly proud of Simon, but of you and Chris. Big Love from T-Town.

  • 63.
    Deb said…

    Thanks for sharing this. I relate to much of what you say as my daughter is also on the spectrum. Report times are difficult for us as my elder daughter gets mainly A’s and grace can’t understand why she doesn’t get all A’s. Love the self-evaluation part of the report. Yay, that Simon is loving reading!

  • 64.
    Jessie said…

    As I read your post all my years in grade school came flooding back. As a child I was diagnosed with dsylexia. I never enjoyed a report card until High School. I love the one that Simon got to do! How cool it would have been to do that and see where I was and that I did do well at somethings! Thanks for sharing! And GO SIMON!!! You can do anything with a great Mom!!

  • 65.
    Jenny A said…

    Ali, I’m another parent who also dreads Report Card Day for the same reason (my 10 year old Vincent has autism). But as the years go on, we too have just learned to celebrate what Vince CAN accomplish. Our report cards are based on Standards with the lowest grade being “Below Basic”, the middle being and the highest being “Advanced”. It gets really old seeing “Below Basic” on all of Vince’s grades. But his teachers are really great about telling us things like “Vince always keeps the class on schedule” and “Vince LOVES art”. And always always always without fail, every single teacher Vince has had tells me and my husband how much Vince has taught THEM. And that Ali is the best Report Card we ever get :) Simon is so lucky to have you, Chris and Anna.

  • 66.
    Jennifer Robinson said…

    My son’s teacher and school told me to change my expectations for my son about 10 years ago. We were told he may never learn to read (dyslexia) and he had very big sensory stimulation issues that were a real challenge everyday. We were told he was “on the spectrum…”

    Our son is 15 now. He is an amazing teen. We just received a letter from his school to congratulate him on achieving ALL A’s for first semester grades for his first semester in high school! And he was just recently offered drugs for the first time and came home to tell me how he REFUSED the peer pressure. And He is running track and has a part in the Spring musical. I never cease to be amazed by my amazing son. It’s quite the JOURNEY Ali (my OLW this year)! Love every minute of it, especially with our SPECIAL boys! I wouldn’t have mine any other way…

  • 67.
    Vickie said…

    Yes, indeed. Go Simon Go!

  • 68.
    Jessica D. said…

    I’m in “Teaching Exceptional Students in the Mainstream Classroom” and we always talk about standardized testing, grades, and students and parents perceptions. While I know it must be difficult for you to share, it is so insightful to read your story about Simon. Thank you for sharing your life with us!

  • 69.
    Liz Ness said…

    This is awesome, Ali (and so honest — I love that).

  • 70.
    Cynthia Miller said…

    Ali… as a new member to your website, I am reading your comments along with the comments of your dedicated followers. How wonderful to be able to be so transparent and share with others your daily love for your family. My son is going to be 23 years old. He was diagnosed with ADD in Pre-kindergarten. These things really weren’t shared 23 years ago. There was medication, you take it, and that’s it. I felt the burden was all mine. As an adult, he struggles with the fact that his buddies are in college and graduating. They are beginning new chapters in their lives. My son is not college material. However, he is a great friend, and while some of his decisions aren’t the best, I know he is sad. He has decided to try to enlist in the Army to serve our Country. I feel this is such a noble decision, and pray he is accepted. I am so pleased to see the changes that are available for your son regarding reporting. I truly hope they quit the standardized testing… as this is a measure of a general population… and our sons are anything but general.

  • 71.
    melanie said…

    Ali, thanks for sharing this.

    I too, loved the self-assessment. My son’s third-grade teacher did student-led conferences for her class. Those kids worked really hard for days before conferences on “reflections” — about how they were doing. He was so proud when he led “his” conference.

    It’s a lot of extra work for teachers to do those kind of things, but it’s so wonderful to see the kids express themselves in that way.

  • 72.
    Erin B said…

    As a K-2 self contained autism teacher, I myself struggle with the report card/progress report each quarter. It’s such a tiny little picture of my students and what they are doing or not quite doing. It doesn’t leave room to talk about the small victories, which can be so important for a special needs kid, especially those who are lower on the spectrum like my students. I’m glad I send home a daily journal where I can send home the little victories and tell parents the good stuff. I love the self assessment. I’ve been wanting to figure out a self assessment that works for my non-verbal/non-reading kiddos. I also always love your attitude and philosophies with Simon. It’s clear that Simon is a happy kiddo with parents who cherish and honor his strengths and special gifts.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Erin – Simon had a daily journal from preschool through grade 2 and it was the BEST thing ever. It gave us conversation starters and a whole other opportunity to connect with him about school and learning AND definitely helped us concentrate on all the good things that were happening. It really made us feel like we were partners with the teachers. The time you take to do those journals is SO SO worth it :) .

      How about some sort of happy-face picture schedule-type option for self assessment for the non-verbal kids? Or a thumbs up/thumbs down?

  • 73.
    Reyna said…

    Thanks for the warm fuzzies Ali. And congrats to Simon on his reading!

  • 74.
    Briel Schmitz said…

    Hello Ali,
    As an educator, I really appreciated hearing about report card day from the parent perspective. This post really meant a lot to me. I love the self-reflection report card–what a great idea and a wonderful keepsake for Simon. Thank you so much for sharing.

    PS test scores aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Really.

  • 75.
    Irene said…

    Oh Ali, I admire how honest you are. We had report card time last week and tons of emotions came to me. Most were ghosts from my own childhood (I have a learning disability). I was all worried about what the teacher might say about my son, my flesh and blood. I was worried that she wouldn’t see how fantastic and wonderful he is, that she wouldn’t “get him.” I spoke to my mom that evening. She raised eight and always has good insight. I asked how did she deal with it when I came home with bad grades. She, in her typically calm manner said: “I didn’t worry about it much. I figured whatever grade you made at least you were learning something. I knew there was something special in you.” Words of wisdom. I went to the parent/teacher conference much calmer and with no expectations. As for me, my story has a happy ending. The girl who standardized testing said was too stupid to go college went–and then went to Law school. I learned on my own schedule and at my own pace. One “F” I made in college was the hardest grade I ever worked for. Your Simon, my son, and everyone else’s child are on their own path. One mother to another, my heart is with you. Thanks for putting it all out there.

  • 76.
    Paula G said…

    I teared up too as I read your post…happy tears. My Aspergers child rocks my world every day. The wonder and beauty she brings doesn’t erase the worry and challenges, but her overall being gives me the right perspective 99% of the time. The hard times are when I see her yearn for or get frustrated over something that we have been working towards but success just hasn’t hit yet. A little voice inside me reminds me that to everything there is a season and a time, and there is no “right” way of being — each person on earth has a different way of being in at least one way. I admire Simon’s way of being. Our kids deserve so many kudos for being champions of overcoming challenges – they are better at this than many neuro-typical kids. Their accomplishments are huge! We have great reason to be proud! GO SIMON GO!!!! (I think his cheering section could fill a football stadium!)

  • 77.
    Sarah said…

    LOVE how he graded himself. What a great idea! Keep up the great work Simon (and family)… looks/sounds like a house with A LOT of love and support!

  • 78.
    Catherine said…


    I have no children, just four younger brothers… and I still got a little choked up reading your post today. I volunteered in college with kids in grammar school who were incredibly talented but never excelled on standardized tests. I loved those kids. They were my family away from home for almost 4 years. Simon just seems like such an incredible little guy. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • 79.
    Kristen C said…

    My son is in kindergarten and while his struggles with speech & language and OT began many years ago, we are just delving into the whole report card thing. We got his first report card in November and I felt so many emotions – scared whether as an older kindergartner he’d have to repeat the grade, concerned and happy with some aspects of it. Like the IEP, it brings a flood of emotions. Overall though, the report card identified areas that we needed to work on with Nathan, AS A FAMILY and I have seen huge progress since November, HUGE!! And for that, I am thankful.

    Your words resonate with me Ali!

  • 80.
    Lisa said…

    Go Simon! We’re all rooting for you.

  • 81.
    Meghan said…

    Ali, thank you for this post. I never comment on blogs but was so moved by your post (to tears actually). As a student I had an IEP, I struggled so much with reading, writing and communication. No matter how hard I tried I just could not seem to get it. I was lucky I had parents who were supportive and loving, like I can tell you are with Simon, and that is what makes all the differences and what is important. Not any number or percentage on a piece of paper. So even though there were challenges, knowing that they loved and valued me no matter helped get me through and gave me confidence at times when I did not have it. I learned that it was ok to struggle and to get help (that was a hard lesson to learn personally) and as a result gradually I developed a real love for learning. I learned that what was important was that I took away knowledge from my classes and the letter grade was just something on paper. As a result I have moved from the kid sitting in the front of the class because of their IEP to the adult standing in front of the class as teacher.

    I know it must not be easy as a parent watching your child struggle but know as someone who has been in Simon’s shoes that have the love, support and acceptance of a mother like you will have more impact on his educational experience then anything else. Keep up the great work and celebrating Simon. With the kind of love and support you have for him he is going to go further then you can ever imagine.

  • 82.
    Anne-Marie Cox said…

    Thank you so much for sharing you life and your family… your words are EXACTLY the words I would use to describe the emotions we went through every “report card day” with our son. He is 19 now… working part time and enjoying his life. It’s nice to know someone just gets it. I am so glad you choose to share. ;)

  • 83.
    Tamara said…

    Such a wonderful post and so delicately put. My son has high medical, behavioural and cognative needs. His ability to learn to read and write is very slim. I am a teacher and marvel at the way his teachers can find all the things he is good and great at and yet still strive hard to help him move ever slowly closer to some literacy skills. Lets hope the authorities in your country and can learn to appreciate that not all children are equal in the way that their learning can be measured.

  • 84.
    lyley said…

    Dear Ali-what exactly is standardised or normal anyway?I believe we are all born unique-my son was diagnosed with ADD at the age of five -it sent me on a whirlwind journey trying to find ways to ‘normalise’ his brain. In truth all it did was take the joy out of raising him. So who in this world wants to be normal anyway-we all try to find ways to stand out and yet when children are a little different they get put into categories. The Bible says raise a child in the way that he is bent-whichever way that is-count it a joy!

    PS My son is now twenty and is studying at a music college-its the way he’s bent! If only I’d known that all through his school reports…

  • 85.
    Peggy in Colorado said…

    Ali, thanks for sharing your beautiful and heartfelt emotions that came with reviewing Simon’s report card. Having taught for 30 years both as an elementary classroom teacher and a gifted and talented specialist, I have loved following Simon’s blossoming both as a learner and most importantly as a happy and loving little guy. You and Chris planted the seeds of success for Simon from the day he was born. I celebrated along with you as he overcame some challenges along the way and achieved things well beyond his years in so many other ways. For example, his simple joy and accomplishments with Legos demonstrates his outstandng spatial talents opening up so many possibilities for his future. You and Chris emulate what it really means to be engaged parents along with your many other outstanding parenting skills. Your gifts of love, time, experiences, caring and example to name just a few go a long way in providing your children with the necessary tools and keys to becoming all that they can be and reaching their true potential as happy adults doing what they are passionate about. Most importantly besides your love and caring you are your children’s BEST teachers as you show by example what it means to be doing each and every day what you both are passionate about and celebrating life. Also, what a joy it has been reading all of these comments so filled with love and concerns with other engaged parents, teachers and family who also want what’s best for their children so they to can grow up to be happy,loving and caring adults doing what they love and loving life to the fullest. For all of the negativity in the press about what we are failing to do for our children, this dialogue shows that there are so many things we are doing well. BRAVO!!! Keep up the great work!!

  • 86.
    Alison Exelby said…

    Well Done Simon and to you and Chris. Simon has great support behind him from you both and its great to see that. I dont look forward to reports for my son who has autism, but was pleasantly surprised as to how well he had done last year. Although I dont like to compare with his peers because he is different as are all kids it was really nice to see with all the test throughout the year he was at his peers level with most things and even above for maths….I was over the moon with excitment and so, so proud of him, it has been alot of work for him to get there but it was worth it. Come school prize giving he got a certificate infront of the whole school and all the parents too, there were tears of joy from me and he was so over excited by it all it was a moment to remember thats for sure.

  • 87.
    Lara said…


  • 88.
    Debbie said…

    I’ve been educator by profession for 32 years and I hate that we measure kids by a “standardized test”….people should not be “standardized”!!

    If you want to make a real difference let your politicians know that using a single test to determine the success of a child or a school is just ridiculous and No Child Left Behind is a joke.
    Let us get back to teaching kids and not the test.

    Sorry, that is my soapbox…

    I have learned much more from the “special kids” (especially the ones on the autism spectrum…what gifts they have in their view of the world) than I ever learned in any class I took.

    So….parents don’t look at the report cards,look at your child! And be amazed at what they have accomplished.

    • ….
      Pam said…

      I so very much agree with everything you said. I wish we could do all of these things!

  • 89.
    abbeyviolet said…

    Amazing, sweet and wonderful. Kuddos to you all!

  • 90.
    Liz said…

    Congratulations to Simon for making such good progress! Ali – every child finds their own niche in life, we are all very difference and have our own strengths – if we didn’t, the world would be a very boring place! Keep up the good work Simon!

  • 91.
    Lusi said…

    Ali, I still remember when you first announced about Simon being diagnosed with Autism. Back in that day I just remember thinking, “far out that must be so hard. I wouldn’t know how to deal with that!” You shared information. You bravely included us on your journey through the challenges and triumphs that your family experienced.
    Then a couple of years later, our second born was also diagnosed with Autism and our journey began.
    Thank you for sharing with us all! You gave me more of an education than many books or seminars could.
    Really, thank you.
    Our journey has led us to homeschooling which of course also comes with it’s own joys and challenges.
    I was just talking today with a friend about our son’s struggles with reading but we too know he’ll get there in his own time and we also fund other things to praise and encourage him on.
    We are currently expecting our 5th child and only God knows what is in store along the rest of our family journey.
    I hope you are able to still allow us to share in yours.
    Love Lusi xo

  • 92.
    Lusi said…

    ‘*find* other things ‘it was supposed to mean!

  • 93.
    Renee Walsh said…

    As the mother of a now adult son with ADHD I can so relate to your story today. I also dreaded parent teacher conferences. I particularly remember the one in high school where they wanted to classify John as emotionally disturbed and suggested sending him out of district to a special school in philadelphia. I broke down and cried.
    I always came home after parent teacher conferences and had a glass of wine. I remember well the year that he was 12 or 13 and had a glass of wine waiting for me on the kitchen counter when I got home. His sense of humor is his greatest asset!!

  • 94.
    Tammy Davis said…

    Oh, Ali! When I see Simon’s pictures, all I see is a happy, loved little boy. I realize you must be going through some major challenges. He is such a lucky guy to have the parents that he has. Even though I have never met you in person, it is so obvious how much you love your children and how good you are with them. Hats off to both of you! Also, the love that he shows for his little sister is phenomenal. Anna is one double-blessed little girl!

  • 95.
    Melissa said…

    I wish more parents were like you and see their kids for the wonderful people they are and not for what the parents wish them to be.

  • 96.
    Susan DR said…

    LOVED the self evaluation! What a great tool for the kids, parents and teachers. And I love that the kids are honest enough to not give themselves the highest mark on everything. Thanks for sharing today’s post.

  • 97.
    Chris said…

    I absolutely love how you love every aspect of your son’s life. The good, the bad, the challenging. And, I love how you capture all of this. Thank you for helping me see life differently.

  • 98.
    kelly libby said…

    Great post! Today is my little nephew’s 5th birthday. He was diagnosed a little over a year ago with autism. He is the best boy and such a blessing in our lives!!! Thanks, Ali, for sharing your special boy with the world.

  • 99.
    Wendy said…

    GO SIMON! Our son Charlie has ADHD and I have hated to admit it for years and rarely do. I completely know what you’re going through with “standardized” testing. Charlie’s abilities are so beyond the reflection these tests give and it’s sad and hard to swallow at times.
    I appreciate how you share your struggles as well as your triumphs! That’s a strength that I don’t have. Congrats on the self evaluation SIMON made on his own. I agree that if kids have a realization of what is expected of them they will strive to improve to the best of their ability.

  • 100.
    Cori J said…

    So nicely said…It is what every Mom out there is going through at some point in their childs learning journey. I know as a parent we have to be honest with ourselves so that we can better equip ourselves to help our children in the areas they need the help…. but it is so hard to see their struggles documented. We love them so much for who they are..issues and all and want so bad for the world to see the wonderful children they are.

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