Rocky obviously is loved. Her siblings painted her bedroom in the family's West Phoenix home to look just like the set of "Elmo's World," the popular Sesame Street segment designed for 3-year-olds. For her 5th birthday, her mom threw her a dance party — complete with fog machine and disco ball. But when it comes to dealing with Rocky's cognitive challenges, her family admittedly is at a loss.

Revering signed up Rocky (her given name is Jessica; Revering nicknamed her in utero, after suffering from kidney stones during pregnancy) for "early intervention" services through the state when she was a baby but by the time Rocky got to the top of a waiting list for speech therapy, she'd aged out of that program.

Rocky Cruz goofs around with her mom, Valerie Revering, in their West Phoenix home.
Jamie Peachey
Rocky Cruz goofs around with her mom, Valerie Revering, in their West Phoenix home.

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The Reverings enrolled Rocky in a public preschool, where some therapy would have been available, but were unhappy with the program, so they left.

Revering works as a massage therapist. Rocky's dad, Manny Cruz, works for the nonprofit Abandoned Mine Safety Organization. He ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for state mine inspector; he's now running for mayor of Glendale. If he wins, the family will get good health insurance, Revering says, which would be great because she currently can't afford the deductible to get Rocky tear-duct surgery and a hearing test, which the family's pediatrician says she needs. ALTCS would have taken care of these and other needs, which is a big part of why the entire family crammed into a hearing room in early May to make the plea for services.

The judge clearly was not impressed. The only real question in the hearing was whether the tool used to measure Rocky was administered accurately — not whether the family disagreed with the tool itself.

Johnson reviewed Revering's answers to the questions on ALTCS' tool at New Times' request. She agrees that Rocky's mom responded accurately in almost every case. The test simply is too easy (or difficult, depending on your perspective), they both say.

Consider that, in Johnson's experience, Rocky can't take a basic hearing or vision test. Rocky scored zero on a literacy-screening test, as well — even though it was modified for her lack of verbal skills. She was shown a picture of an apple or a house and asked to point to what she was seeing. She couldn't.

It wasn't that Rocky was distracted during the tests, the school director adds.

"The reason they didn't get any response is that she was unable to do anything." (Test results Revering shared from a public preschool assessment are similar.)

In the fall, Rocky will leave The Family School. She can't stay in the 3-year-old room — and she can't move to the building that houses the pre-kindergarten program. The area isn't secure enough, and it doesn't have facilities for a kid who's not potty-trained.

"We have never had a child that had the level of delay that was significant enough that we could not move them to the next building," Johnson says. "For her own safety, this is as far as she can go."

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