Autistic son fails standardized tests, but it’s the letter teacher sent that left mom in a wreck

October 19, 2017 6:23 pm Last Updated: January 15, 2018 12:04 pm

Ben Twist is a 12-year-old boy with autism and epilepsy. As such, there are some areas of life that provide challenges for him, including standardized tests.

Despite this, Ben is highly capable in other areas, and his teacher, Ruth Clarkson recognized this. So last year, following the end of Ben’s key stage SATs, she sent a special message alongside the results.

Ben’s mother, Gail Twist, posted the letter on Twitter, saying she was “in tears,” but it wasn’t because of Ben’s poor test results.

The letter starts with “congratulations,” which is already an unexpected statement, given that Ben failed the exams.

“Dear Ben,

I am writing to you to congratulate you on your attitude and success in completing your end of key stage SATs.”

The teacher did not congratulate Ben’s grades themselves, but his attitude going into the test and in class in general, as well as his many other skills. It would have been easy for Clarkson to point out errors here, but she chose to point out progress instead.

“Gil, Lynn, Angela, Steph and Anne have worked so well with you this year and you have made some fabulous progress.

A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities.”

Ben Swift’s reaction to starting classes at Lansbury Bridge School (Gail Swift/Twitter)

Had Clarkson ended the message here, it would have already been a great act of kindness. Many people fail to recognize the flaws in standardized testing and believe that it is an infallible system that accurately measures every student across the board.

Still, Clarkson decided to keep the positive message going.

“They are important and you have done so well but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.”

The list is as follows:

  • “Your artistic talents
  •  Your ability to work in a team
  •  Your growing independence,
  •  Your kindness
  •  Your ability to express your opinion
  •  Your abilities in sport
  •  Your ability to make and keep friends
  •  Your ability to discuss and evaluate your own progress
  •  Your design and building talents
  •  Your musical ability.”

Clarkson concludes with:

“We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man.

Best Wishes,

Mrs. Clarkson”

Gail told Q13 News in Seattle that she didn’t mind people sharing the post, to encourage others to view children in such a positive, encouraging light.

Her tweet gained at least 5,795 retweets, over 12,000 likes, and 586 comments. Suffice it to say that her message has been spread far and wide!

While her original post about the letter was from July 2016, the mother of three is still quite active on social media. It looks like the Swift family and Ben have a bright future ahead of them!