I often get asked questions regarding a child’s specific diagnosis and what it does or does not mean for the child. This is such a good question, and I wanted to further discuss and explain it. A diagnosis can represent a lot of things; for some, it can be a scary and uncomfortable thing which raises a lot of questions and concerns. For others, it can provide some relief and some answers, as it helps us understand why our child may be developing in a certain way, in addition to ways we can help our child. At the end of the day though, a diagnosis is just a term used to help provide some understanding for us; it is not a defining characteristic of the child. When given a diagnosis it can help a child (or adult) by providing them with more resources. For example, some insurance companies will not provide services (Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, etc.) unless a child has a diagnosis. This can be a way for an insurance company to verify that a child does, in fact, need services. Having a diagnosis can also help a child receive more services in the school setting, such as giving them sensory breaks throughout the day and providing them with specific resources and supports so they can better learn and understand the information presented in school. A diagnosis does not define the child and does not dictate their future.
There can sometimes be a stigma when a diagnosis is given, and it can cause us to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. For example – My child was diagnosed with ADD so that means they will not be able to sit still and focus in class, and they will get bad grades as a result. Or my child was diagnosed with a Developmental Delay, so they are always going to fall behind their peers. I encourage you to stop yourself if you feel yourself going down this rabbit hole. A diagnosis can help us understand how we can better help our child, but the diagnosis does not necessarily dictate how that child will act, grow, or develop. Simply because everyone is different, they grow and develop in different ways. Regardless of what diagnosis a child has, every child wants to play, grow, learn, and love – a diagnosis does not take this away from them.
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Michael Jankowski, MS, OTR/L
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