It is a scenario that parents have experienced again and again: someone says your child may benefit from a diagnostic evaluation. Perhaps you went into your pediatrician’s office for your child’s well visit and walked out with a referral for a diagnostic evaluation, or perhaps your child’s teachers have expressed some concern about his or her language, communication, or social development. Maybe you did not have any concerns and, in hearing this recommendation, are instead flooded with emotions. You feel completely caught off-guard and terrified, and are even second-guessing the credibility of your child’s pediatrician or teacher. Other times, parents themselves begin to have concerns for their child’s development. This can cause high anxiety for parents, who may start to second-guess their own gut feelings and try to push away those scary thoughts of something being “wrong” with their child.
When children are born, parents have a vision in their minds of who their children will be and what they will become. The need for a diagnostic evaluation can erase those visions in a matter of seconds. Parents start to envision the stress not only involved in the evaluation process in and of itself, but what it would mean for them and their child should an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis emerge from one. What could this mean for child’s future? For my future? What about stigma? I do not want my child “labeled!”
It is important for parents to know that all of these reactions are completely normal. However, it is even more important to recognize the benefits of a diagnostic evaluation, which far outweigh these concerns. For a young child, early detection and diagnosis is an integral part in paving the way toward intervention and, ultimately, improved prognosis. Early intervention is so critical because the foundations of a child’s neural pathways are literally being constructed during early childhood. If interventionists can target areas of weakness early, the better chances a child has in overcoming these issues because of the brain’s plasticity at this age. Such services early on can help to reduce future stress for not just parents but for children as well.
While early intervention is correlated with success, a diagnostic evaluation for an older child can also lead to improved understanding of why he or she may be struggling socially, behaviorally, or otherwise. This can once again set a path forward for appropriate services to assist in enhancing any areas of concern, whether that be specific therapies or school accommodations. Most importantly, at any age, parents are able to develop a deeper understanding of their children, increasing opportunities for connection and access to tools to better serve them, which help to improve overall quality of life for everyone in the family. The initial anxiety inevitably turns into relief that your child is connected to the services they need to thrive.
By Allison Maletsky, Psy.D.
If you’re interested in learning more about diagnostic services, visit our diagnostic services page and hear more about the diagnostic process from our licensed psychologist. If you are looking to begin the process, please fill out our screening form and the staff at Verbal Beginnings will be in contact with you shortly.