Previously I have written about the process of assessments for our children, and how we can navigate the concept of “labelling” them. Now I want to talk about what happens afterwards, once we have all the information (which is usually a LOT of information). Usually one of two things will happen following an assessment. Sometimes, families will come in with an idea in their mind about what is going on for their child. Whether there is a strong family history of Autism Spectrum Disorder; or they have quietly suspected since toddlerhood that their child is likely to have ADHD; families will at times suspect a diagnosis, and the assessment process provides them the validation and confirmation they were looking for.
Other times, families will come in for an assessment on the recommendation of school or a GP or Paediatrician, but not really understanding what the issue is. In these cases, diagnoses such as Autism; Global Developmental Delay or ADHD can come as a shock, and the reports can be extremely confronting and overwhelming. Like I said earlier, assessments are extremely comprehensive, and produce a huge amount of information which, if you aren’t expecting it, can be hard to take in. In these situations, it is common that that parents will grieve.
When we think about grief, we associate it with a significant loss such as the death of a loved one. However when we are faced with an unexpected diagnosis of our children, we also grieve. Not because we have “lost” them, but often because our idea of what their lives will be like suddenly changes. The first thing I want you to understand is that this is a normal reaction. The second thing parents will often to is blame themselves. Here it is really important to remember that in most cases, there is literally nothing that parents could have done to change the outcome. As a clinician, I certainly don’t look at parents of children whom I have diagnosed and “blame” them.
One thing I encourage all of my clients’ parents to keep in mind is that the diagnosis they leave my office with in no way changes their child. At all.Many parents say that they avoid diagnoses because they don’t want it to “change” them. However, a child is still the exact same person they were beforehand.The only difference is that we now have a way of conceptualising their difficulties, and understanding them.This understanding allows us to adapt to them, whether that is to adapt their environments; their learning; or our responses and interactions with them as parents; to something more workable for them and the family as a whole.Once we understand what we are working with, we are better equipped to be able to develop targeted strategies to manage, and of course play to our children’s strengths which leads to improved outcomes for everyone involved.
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