Dec 11, 2011 0 Share

A Lumpy Assessment


Author's son wearing football jersey and oversized shoes.
Photo by Julie van der Poel

In an earlier column, I mentioned that Cameron was participating in a mentoring program with the Gallup organization, coordinated by Special Olympics. As part of this program, participants are asked to take a self-assessment called the Clifton Youth StrengthsExplorer. The StrengthsExplorer is designed to help children ages 10-14 identify their talents and build on those talents to achieve success. Cameron and his peers in the program are all over the age of 14, but based on their learning disabilities, this assessment is the proper tool for them to use.

I helped Cameron take the assessment by reading the questions to him. The questions are the type where you are given a statement, and you rate how much the statement applies to yourself: “Almost never, Sometimes, Almost always,” and the like. There was also an option to respond “I don’t understand this question.”

I actually had to take care when reading the questions to Cameron, because a few of them caused a significant lump in my throat. These were the questions pertaining to having friends and enjoying helping others. What mother doesn’t want their child to have plenty of friends and want to help those in need? But when Cameron responded to these types of questions, he inevitably chose “Almost never.” I so badly want Cameron to have friends that I have dreams about it! I recently dreamt that Cameron had been drinking beer with his friends. The conflict became whether to punish him for underage drinking, or give him a high five for having a group of friends! I woke up laughing at myself for creating this conflict in my subconscious. At the same time, I also felt a little sense of relief that I don’t have to face typical teen drama … just yet, anyway.

But back to the StrengthsExplorer assessment. As Cameron answered the questions I read to him, I was struck by how well he knew himself. He answered “I don’t understand the question” two or three times, but for the most part there was no hesitation to his responses. The results of the assessment are what really blew me away. I couldn’t believe how 10 minutes of basic questions had yielded such an insightful report on my son. Here is a summary of the results:

TOP THREE THEMES FOR: Cameron

ACHIEVING: You have more energy and more goals than other people. You love a sense of accomplishment. You are in a hurry to get started and make things happen because you almost always have a list in your mind of the things you want to get done. It is fun to achieve small goals and even more exciting to achieve big goals that challenge you. The more you get done, the more you feel like a successful person. And the more successes you have, the more you want to have. Finishing a project feels good to you because you love a sense of accomplishment. An award, a good grade, or praise can mean a lot to you because it feels good when your effort and ability are noticed. Because you are a hard worker, you always feel that you could and should be doing more.

DEPENDABILITY: Trust is important to you, and you care about being seen as responsible and trustworthy. People count on you to do what you say you will do. When you make a promise, you mean to keep it. You like being chosen to be in charge of getting something done because you know it means others see you as dependable and trustworthy. Sometimes, being asked to do more is like getting a reward because it means people believe in you. Maybe you have special chores or responsibilities at home or at school. Whatever job you are given, you want to get it done. Some people might say you act older than other kids your age because you are so responsible. You can be a good example to other people. Earning the praise of teachers and parents for getting things done and doing what is right feels good to you. People count on you to do what you say you will do.

ORGANIZER: Scheduling, planning, and organizing your world makes life better. People count on you to get the details right and pull a plan together. You like to create order in your world. Schedules help you feel in control of your life. Planning makes you comfortable and calm about what you are going to do. It is fun to think ahead, organize, and include all that you want to do in your plan so you don’t leave anything out. You like to think about both the big ideas and the details. It feels good to make something absolutely perfect, whether it is as simple as your hair or as complicated as a big project for school. It is important to you to be on time or even early so you are ready to start whatever you are about to do. Not only do you like order and rules for yourself, you like them for other people too. You help yourself and others by pulling all the pieces together.

There’s that lump in my throat again. But this time it’s because I’m bursting with pride!