Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Parents often ask us if a diagnosis of their child’s communication, language or social status is really necessary. Understandably so, a new diagnosis can be scary and would often spell lifestyle changes which may be difficult and uncomfortable. Some concerns could appear valid, such as parents wondering if the child would be discriminated against or would find it difficult to gain acceptance into a school of their choice in future.
A diagnosis – Painful but Essential?
A diagnosis is essential for clinicians' own communication amongst ourselves. We need a diagnosis to communicate with one another about the sort of challenges the student is facing. A diagnosis would mean that we start to prepare our treatment plans targeting certain weaknesses in mind.
For example, knowing that the root of a child’s language disorder is because of autism spectrum disorder allows us to plan for a wider scope of targeted goals. We could include social language goals to help the child build his sense of self. We could also prioritise fostering co-regulation (relationships with each other) so that the language can successfully blossom. We could pay more attention to parent training, since helping the child build episodic memories would be a goal of high importance. For us therapists, a diagnosis makes it simpler to communicate with one another.
Professionals and Students as Advocates
A diagnosis is most definitely not meant to be a life sentence of sorts for a student. Perhaps, it is due to our understanding that the brain has so much plasticity to change – that we don’t think twice about providing a diagnosis. In our work, we’ve had our own longitudinal case observations that often show us unexpected outcomes of what a child has started out and what he is achieving ten years from now. The diagnosis becomes just a starting point of where he was and how far he has come in his journey. They don’t stick when they have overcome the condition. The students could even become advocates of the condition itself.
What does it mean for Parents moving ahead?
These are what one could use to tap into diagnosis:
Don’t believe everything that you are reading about the diagnosis. A diagnosis is intended to serve as a guide to help you eliminate all the things that you could be worried about - for the kid. It is advised that you should collaborate with your therapists to understand further what the diagnosis would mean for your child – in the present time and not more than a couple of years from now.
Don’t plan too far ahead – e.g. Don’t have a 5-year plan based on the diagnosis. When your child is undergoing therapy, things may change. Don’t plan for entry into a special school if you find out your child’s IQ score is below the average score. Things are likely to change with intervention.
Work with the therapist to help in communicating with the school if there is a lack of understanding of the child’s condition. Schools have come a long way these days in adjusting to the different learning needs of students, so it may not be a good idea to keep under wraps the diagnosis of the child. Having said that, do work with the therapist so that we establish the individual’s needs.
A diagnosis is by default strictly confidential and can only be shared with different people upon gaining the permission of parents. If parents do not consent to the diagnosis being shared, professionals are respectful of that.
Once you have established what the diagnosis is – and navigated around the fact that within the diagnosis, there are variations, engage with your therapists to better understand your child's uniqueness. The information should progress toward informing you and your family, bringing more clarity which could reduce frustrations. Knowing what your child has will enable you to make informed decisions in the future.
by Prudence Low
Speech and Language Pathologist