If you’ve been on the journey of trying to figure out exactly what is going on with your child when something just isn’t right, you know it can be a long and winding road.
In the case of academic challenges, this road is usually paved with meetings, paperwork, school bureaucracy, and repeatedly having to explain what’s “wrong” with your child in order for anyone to take you seriously! Unfortunately, it can sometimes take years before an intervention is put into place.
For even the brightest of children we can’t really know that they have a language-based learning difference until they begin to use spoken or written language in an attempt to communicate. Even then, it may take years to finally nail down exactly why your child is struggling in school.
Some parents eventually give up trying to figure out what's going on and others may never seek out answers at all either because they’re intimidated by the process and don’t know where to get started, or some caregivers might convince themselves and their child that they're just not trying hard enough.
Language barriers and socioeconomic status might also come into play. Testing can be time consuming and depending on your school district or insurance, it may also be very costly. Parents and caregivers will undoubtedly ask themselves: Does a diagnosis matter?
The answer is YES.
Once your child receives a diagnosis, you now have a road map for what kind of support your child needs and what kind of support you’ve been providing that isn’t necessary.
Prior to receiving a diagnosis, you and your child’s teachers may have been fumbling a little and throwing things at the wall to see what would stick. Academic support and intervention may have been provided but it is a sad truth that from school year to school year, communication gets dropped and many children start receiving the same kind of ineffective support all over again.
It's a lot harder to have your child fall through the cracks on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. They follow your child from year to year and your school is legally bound to provide the identified supports necessary to help your child.
Once you receive a diagnosis, you will know who to go to for help and how to get it. You can work with a team of educators and specialists to re-dedicate your child’s support time towards using strategies and supports that have been proven to be effective through years of research.
It can be so hard to imagine putting a label on your child that will in some ways become part of his or her identity. At the very least, we just want our children to be healthy and happy. Envisioning them navigating life with this invisible label may cause you to worry about their self-image, personal relationships, or even their future career. You will also have to manage and adjust your expectations about who your child is or what they're capable of. But you’re actually setting your child up for more distress if you avoid seeking out answers simply because you don’t want to “label” them.
If you’ve thought that having a label isn’t going to change them, that’s actually not true.
Receiving the proper support for the challenge(s) now that it’s been identified can allow them over time to become more confident and better equipped to deal with the adversity they will undoubtedly face.
We do live in an ableist society, but that is slowly shifting. If you look at Target ads that include children with Down's Syndrome or the 2022 winner of the Gerber Baby contest (Isa who has a limb difference) you will see that the world your child is growing up in is not the same one you grew up in.
Your fears for what the diagnosis will do to your child's life are valid, but they shouldn't prevent you from seeking the diagnosis altogether. The love you have for your child is powerful, and so is the wealth of knowledge and support you'll be able to obtain once you receive a diagnosis.