The 21st century has come with a lot of progress for kids with learning disabilities. (By the way, for the purposes of simplifying word usage, I’m using learning disabilities to refer to both things like dyslexia and psychiatric disorders.) More research and discoveries have been made about learning disorders and we have improved the quality of education for our special needs students. While I’m not entirely a fan of the term “special needs,” it’s the only term I know to use, but it has such a negative stigma. Unfortunately, there are still many stigmas and misconceptions surrounding these learning disabilities and disorders. The stigmas I’ve heard expressed by ignorant folks are learning disabilities are an excuse, kids with learning disorders are not as smart, that kids are handicapped, or have limited potential.

These negative beliefs make it difficult for parents as they try to make a choice that they believe is best for their child. They may fear judgment from other adults of having a kid with a learning disorder. Some people fear that their kid will be judged harshly and not given equal opportunities. Bullying can also be a great fear for parents. I’ve had parents come to me expressing fear that their kid will be limited opportunities for college and career choices. Some people also have religious reasons for avoiding a diagnosis. These are all valid concerns. But, I’d like to make a case for actually getting a kid diagnosed with a disorder. I feel that avoiding a diagnosis for a differently wired kid can actually do more harm rather than good.

For starters, a lack of a diagnosis doesn’t mean that a kid will be set up for success. Many of a parents’ fears will happen to the kid anyway due to their differences in processing information. They may get bullied by peers, denied entrance into certain classes, fail out of college, and not be able to hold a job. Also, kids with learning disorders have a different neurological wiring in their brains that affects how they receive and process information. This affects their daily routines making seemingly simple tasks harder for them to accomplish. What this means is that kids require professional intervention to manage and overcome their issues.

Learning disabilities affect how hard kids need to work in order to learn or do something. This includes not only acquiring academic knowledge/skills, but also developing effective study habits. Homework may get misplaced consistently and time management may feel overwhelming. Kids are all to aware when they are not meeting expectations. It will feel to the child that they need to exert extra effort compared to their peers in order to learn. I’ve worked with many kids and I can tell you that they become unmotivated to learn anything new when school feels so hard. And when they fail to pick up on the skill, they will see it as a failure on their part. The defeat the kids feel will absolutely destroy their confidence, their self-esteem crumbling to pieces over the years. Take it from other parents, but it can take years during their adult life for these kids to rebuild their self-esteem.

I would add social interactions as another important reason to seek a diagnosis. The social skills of kids with learning disorders suffer. It’s harder for them to read social cues, self-regulate, and interact with their peers. All kids want social connection. A feeling of social disconnection can cause kids to become anxious or depressed (or both). Grades may start to drop to as their inner emotional world takes a dark turn. When kids with learning disorders receive help for their disability, they will be able to develop stronger social connections with other kids thereby leading to them living a happier life.

A diagnosis can also be a way to communicate to other people that a kid literally needs accommodations made. It’s disheartening to watch, but there are many adults who refuse to accommodate for a struggling kid unless there is a diagnosis. And quite honestly, not all teachers are educated about every learning disorder. But, your kid will get labels attached to their identity. They’ll be seen as lazy, unmotivated, stubborn, disrespectful, irritating, and possibly less intelligent by the school staff. And this gossip gets spread around the school. These perceptions could limit what classes your kid is able to take. They can also be more damaging to a person’s development than the actual label. Kids remember years later the negative comments made about them. An official label 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.

It is generally agreed upon in the mental health community that if a kid is thought to have a learning disability they should receive intervention immediately. Early intervention plays a role in helping kids learn good habits and combat their struggles. Not all kids receive this support, though, due to a number of factors. Some kids don’t even get any help for their learning differences during their childhood. If kids don’t receive adequate support, they run the risk of facing more severe mental health problems on top of their existing disability. 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. Even when these now adults discover the reason for their past struggles, it can take years for their self-esteem to recover.

It is already widely accepted that kids with learning disabilities and other disorders process things in a different way. With our world set up to accommodate for those who are considered neurotypical, 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 scary to get your kid labeled with anything, 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.

The Case for Seeking Professional Help

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One thought on “The Case for Seeking Professional Help

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