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The 21st century has seen a lot of progress for people with learning disabilities and psychiatric disorders.  We’ve learned more about learning disorders due to ongoing research.  And the quality of education has been improved for students who have learning disorders. 

Needless to say, many stigmas and misconceptions still exist about learning disabilities and disorders. The stigmas that seem to be the most prevalent are as follows: 1)Learning disabilities are an excuse for kids, 2)Kids with learning disorders are not as smart, 3)Kids are handicapped, and 4)Kids can outgrow learning disabilities.

These negative beliefs make it difficult for parents as they try to navigate the educational options for their child.  Their fear judgment about seeking a diagnosis can be increased. For some people, their fear is that their kid will be treated unfairly. Bullying and maltreatment can also be a concern for parents.  Some parents may worry about limited educational and career opportunities for their child.

There is one option that gets drowned out in the midst of all these fears; the option for seeking out a diagnosis.  It’s an option that comes with it’s complexities.  And yet, avoiding a diagnosis altogether for children who struggle can do more harm than good. 

Effects of Not Getting a Diagnosis

Some people believe that if their child is diagnosed with a learning disorder the child will be treated more fairly.  They want to protect their child from maltreatment by teachers and peers, and give them an equal shot at getting into college.  They see it as setting their child up for success.

Unfortunately, a lack of a diagnosis doesn’t actually set the kid up for success.  So much of what is feared as the result of a diagnosis could happen without a diagnosis.  This can be attributed to the differences in how kids with learning disorders process information.   

Kid getting therapy
Child working with a counselor

For starters, a child’s peers are not going to register that they have a learning disorder; their classmates will only notice that the kid functions differently and think it’s weird.  This puts the child in question at risk of being bullied or teased. 

Additionally, teachers and administrators at the schools don’t have all the information about learning disorders.  Some teachers may try to accommodate for the student as best they can, while others may feel inconvenienced by creating accommodations.  Without an accurate understanding of what the child is going through, teachers and administrators aren’t able to provide the right support.

Students with learning disorders have a different wiring in their brains affecting how they receive and process information. This affects their daily routines making seemingly simple tasks harder for them to accomplish.

Kids are all too aware when they are not meeting expectations. It will feel to the child that they are exerting extra effort compared to their peers in order to learn.  And when they don’t meet expectations, they consider the failure to be their fault. The defeat these kids feel ends up destroying their confidence, their self-esteem crumbling to pieces over the years. It can take years into their adult life to rebuild their self-esteem. 

If kids don’t receive adequate support, though, they risk of facing more severe mental health problems on top of their existing learning difference. These include anxiety, depression, and chronic mood swings, all of which can lead to greater problems down the road. They become more at risk of dropping out of school, turning to substance abuse, struggling in college, not holding a steady job, and even suicide.

The Case for Seeking a Diagnosis

Seeking a diagnosis doesn’t eliminate all the problems a student may face. But what it can help you do as a parent is understand how your child as an individual learns and operates.  Through this information of how they function differently, you can find strategies to help them learn the skills they so desperately need to succeed.  So let’s go through a few scenarios.

Learning disorders affect how hard kids need to work in order to learn something. This includes acquiring academic knowledge and creating effective study habits and staying organized.  By seeking a diagnosis, you can better help your child create effective study habits through an understanding of how they learn differently.

Social interactions are also affected by learning disorders. Kids with learning disorders find it more challenging to read social cues, self-regulate, and interact with their peers.  A feeling of social disconnection can cause kids to become anxious or depressed (or both). However, by opting to understand the learning disability your child has, you can better support them and help them learn how to connect to their peers.

A diagnosis can also be a way to communicate to teachers that a kid needs accommodations made.  There are still many adults who refuse to make accommodations for a struggling kid unless there is a diagnosis. And not all teachers are aware about every single learning disorder.

Without an evaluation, your child could get labeled negatively due to misunderstandings. They’ll be seen as lazy, unmotivated, stubborn, disrespectful, irritating, and possibly less intelligent by the school staff.  These perspectives could limit what classes your child is able to take.

These labels can be more damaging to a person’s development than the actual diagnosis.  Students remember years later the negative comments made about them. An official diagnosis could be instrumental in educating others about the needs of your child. It could be the ticket to having conversations with teachers about what your kid needs and how they can best support them in the classroom.

If kids do happen to have a learning disorder, early intervention is highly recommended. Early intervention plays a role in helping kids learn good habits and combat their struggles.  With early intervention, kids can have some of their potential problems mitigated.  Their quality of life can be greatly improved.

Conclusion

It is already widely accepted that children with learning disabilities and other disorders process things in a different way. With our world designed to accommodate for neurotypical individuals, this presents a challenge for neurodivergent youth. Kids will continue to struggle both at home and school without the support they require.

While it may seem frightening to get your kid diagnosed, keep in mind that avoiding the label altogether may do more damage in the end. With a diagnosis, your kid will most likely be afforded the opportunities they deserve. Seeking a diagnosis may put you in a place of learning what your kid needs and also being able to educate others. It may be what allows you and other adults to prepare your kid for the future they deserve.

To Diagnose or Not to Diagnose?: The Case for Seeking Professional Help

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One thought on “To Diagnose or Not to Diagnose?: The Case for Seeking Professional Help

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