What’s In a Diagnosis?

ImageIn  preschool, my daughter was the only one who couldn’t sit in circle time without rolling all over the floor. Riding tricycles with her classmates in a big indoor playroom, she was the only one who said she could hear chairs moving across the floor in the room above.

But it wasn’t until three years later that her first-grade teacher gently pulled me aside, looked me right in the eye, and said she was concerned. She advised me to get an assessment.

It was time for me to let in the message that my daughter needed to be diagnosed and her needs better understood. It was time to move beyond the words and phrases used to describe her (“fidgety,” “sensitive,” “unfocused”) and get something formal.

Why did that matter? Does a label or diagnosis matter? As parents helping many other parents over the years at Matrix, we have discovered the following about what’s in a diagnosis:

There can be positives…

  • A feeling of relief
  • Connection to doctors and professionals who specialize in that diagnosis
  • Ability to focus services and interventions
  • Family and friends can become more understanding
  • Insurance may pay for services
  • Clarity for an older child who may wonder, “What is wrong with me?”
  • Chance to find other parents dealing with the same diagnosis
  • Connections to organizations that specialize in information, help, and support

…and negatives:

  • Many emotions: worry, fear, grief, embarrassment, denial
  • Your child now has a “pre-existing condition”
  • Realizing your assumptions about the future — or your child’s potential — may be incorrect
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Finding out about stigmas attached to the diagnosis
  • Your child may be pigeonholed into a program by a label/diagnosis without consideration of needs

When a diagnosis comes early in a child’s life, either at birth or shortly thereafter, it can bring overload at a tender time. Alyssa DiFilippo, our Parent Advisor – Early Years, has written a moving essay about learning and accepting a diagnosis in the most recent Early Edition, our publication for parents of children birth through 3.

Whatever your feelings about seeking or receiving a diagnosis for your child, remember that Matrix is here for you, providing referrals, advice, or emotional support via the Helpline, 800.578.2592. The Matrix website includes information packets about a variety of diagnoses, including AD/HD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and speech and language disorders.


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