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Hesitancy to "Label" Your Child with a Diagnosis?

Will my child be treated differently with a formal diagnosis? Hear what one of our psychologists has to say.

Last week we talked all about cognitive assessments and how they can benefit our kids. One overwhelming issue that parents will often raise is “but we don’t want to label them!” This week we are going to look at labelling: what is it; and when is it appropriate?

The fact of the matter is, parents bring their children for assessments because they want to know what is happening in their brains. If we suspect our child has a broken arm we can get an x-ray. If we suspect they have wisdom teeth we take them to the dentist. However, if we suspect Autism Spectrum Disorder or a Learning Disorder we do a cognitive assessment. Like it or not (and personally I don’t like it), there is still a stigma around mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders. No one ever second-guesses labelling their child with epilepsy or vision impairment, so why do we do it with neurodevelopmental and learning disorders?

Just like a diagnosis of diabetes wont change your child, nor will a diagnosis of Autism; after the assessment they are the same child they were beforehand. The only difference is that after the assessment, we as parents are so much more informed. In the case of learning disorders, we finally have an explanation as to why they struggle to read when they are great in other academic areas. Or we can understand that our child has an attention deficit and isn’t being “naughty”. Or we learn that our child has been masking significant social deficits at school all day, which explains why they drop their bundle when they get home in the afternoons.

The thing to remember about “labels” is that they are designed to inform intervention.Whether it is medically (it’s much easier to treat hypoglycaemia than “I feel fatigued and sick sometimes”); or neurodevelopmental (it’s easier to respond to an attention deficit than continually reprimand an off-task child); it is far easier to work with the bigger picture. Sometimes parents can worry that an official diagnosis can become a self-fulfilling prophecy (or that their child will use it as a “crutch” for maladaptive behaviours), however I find that the overwhelming response from families following assessments is “why didn’t we do this sooner?”.

If you are interested in discussing any of the points further or would like to hear about a particular topic, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to and we will answer any questions you may have.

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