Dear Dr. B,
My child’s teacher has suggested that I have my child evaluated for some possible difficulties that are interfering with school success. At this point we don’t know if we are dealing with an attentional disorder, learning disabilities, or even potentially something as serious as an autism spectrum condition.
I’m concerned, however, that such an evaluation will lead to a diagnosis and that the diagnosis will end up labeling my child. Yet I want to do what is best. What would you suggest?
Label Averse Parent
Dear Label Concerned Parent,
I understand your concern and it’s one that I hear often. There are at least two different ways to consider this scenario however.
Let’s be thankful that your child’s teacher raised their concerns with you. That was an act of love and one that allows you to made the best decisions in the interest of your child while not relying on the school, who services hundreds of children, to determine when your child’s needs meet a certain threshold to warrant further investigation.
I hear your concern about “labeling” your child with something like ADHD. To some degree, I think this was a greater concern years ago when the resources to help children with additional needs were not as prevalent. At that time, children with such needs were more likely to be labeled and then shunned. Now, however, an accurate diagnosis is the first step to acquiring appropriate help if and when it is necessary.
Furthermore, a diagnosis helps but a framework around the signs and symptoms you’ve already been trying to manage already. Once you have the diagnosis, you can get a better understanding of what the source of the difficulty is, what an expected prognosis is, and what treatment will be helpful. From that standpoint, a label as you refer to it, can be very helpful.
We’ve all heard the cliché’ “Knowledge is power,” and while that has some merit, I believe it’s more accurate to say “Applied knowledge has power.” In this case, what I mean is that, once a child (or adult) has been evaluated and an accurate diagnosis is made, we have knowledge that then allows us to seek appropriate intervention. In the school system and in the medical and mental health communities, until a diagnosis is made, no intervention can or will occur. So from that standpoint, a label is helpful.
On the other side of the argument, I’ll be very honest with you and tell you that if I never had to give another patient, parent, or insurance company another diagnosis, I probably wouldn’t. I know I just told you about advantages of an evaluation with a resulting diagnosis, but ultimately, the advantage or disadvantage comes from what we do with the information. Too often I see people use such a diagnosis (or label as you called it) as an excuse that limits their potential.
I hear comments all too frequently to the effect of “I’ve never been good at that because of my ____(insert label here)” or “It’s just my ____(insert label here).”
The enemy likes to give us labels to steal from us, demean us and limit us. Unfortunately, those are lies that we all too readily come into agreement with.
The labels you want to teach your child to identify with are the ones his or her Heavenly Father declare in His word. I find that all too often, the people I speak to don’t know what the Bible says about how God views (labels) them.
Teach these truths to your children now so that these are the labels that they can use to combat the lying labels of the enemy:
-You are a child of God and highly valued (John 1:12)
-You are beautiful (Psalm 45:11)
-You are an overcomer (Romans 8:37)
-You are a masterpiece and you are destined for greatness (Ephesians 2:10)
-You are forever loved (Jeremiah 31:3)
-You are wonderful (Psalm 139:14)
-You are worth it (John 3:16)
Children wonder where/if they fit in whether they have been given a diagnostic label or not. As parents, your primary role is to teach them and model for them their identity in Christ. That is the only label that matters. Teach them:
-They not only fit in, they are accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6).
-God has already promised that they are not only a citizen of heaven (Eph 2:6, 19, Phil 3:20, and Col 1:12), -but also a joint heir with Christ (Rom 8:17, Gal 4:6-7).
Often our kids feel unworthy, like they don’t measure up. They need to know we ALL feel that some days. Those are lies of the enemy who seeks to demean and devalue them. Teach them:
-God’s truth says that they are a loved child of God (John 1:12, Rom 8:14-15, 16-17, Gal 3:26, 28; 4:6-7, 1 Thess 5:5),
–they are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 2:20, 1 Peter 1:3, 23)
-they are a friend of Jesus (John 15:15).
–Jesus makes them worthy (2 Thess 1:11-12).
Let’s face it, we all wear labels, whether they are official diagnostic labels or just those our teachers, bosses, spouses, or we ourselves have given us. Let’s be an advocate for our children, use wisdom, get them the help they need, and be appropriate models for them, teaching them which labels are accurate and line up with God’s truth!
Because of Him,
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
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