It feels like an alphabet soup.
ADHD, OCD, ASD, SPD and the list goes on.
Kids are being labeled with acronyms at an alarming rate. But let's not discuss medical trends or debate social issues. I'm guessing you're here because you're a parent worried about what's best for YOUR child.
Do labels help or hurt? Should you get an official diagnosis or not?
(My son has sensory processing disorder so that is the lens through which I'm looking at this issue.)
The Pros and Cons of an SPD Diagnosis
Time and Money
The first reason is totally pragmatic. It takes considerable time, effort, and usually money to get the medical community to stamp some letters on your child. As a parent to multiple special needs kids, my new mantra has become, "Nothing is ever simple." If you decide to get a diagnosis, realize that you may be in for a battle.
Parents of special needs kids are well aware that most diagnoses come with a social stigma. People think they know the entirety of a person because they know their diagnosis. That's obviously not true, but it can cause heartbreak and isolation. People may not "get" you or what your life is really like.
Depending on your child's age, getting a diagnosis may cause your child to feel like their weird. They may become depressed at points, thinking their fate is sealed. The label may seem all consuming and they could find it hard to have a positive self image. This is certainly not impossible to overcome, but something to consider as you discuss your child's struggles with other adults.
You'll Gain Confidence
Before getting a diagnosis, you will always be second guessing yourself. The rollercoaster of being convinced that something's wrong but not sure if it's a medical condition or just the way you're parenting will leave you constantly riddled with fear. Sometimes you need to be told that your child is different so you feel the freedom to parent them differently.
You'll Gain a Tribe
Having a label gives you a quick way to find other parents traveling similar journeys. The power of having someone else say "Me too!" can be so empowering. The insight and encouragement you can glean from others is invaluable. Looking for where all the cool sensory parents hang out? I LOVE this group of supportive parents!
Even other friends and family who don't have a child with the same diagnosis are likely to be more understanding. Looking for a way to explain SPD with other folks? This brochure is customizable and handy!
You'll Gain Direction
Arguably the greatest reason to get an official diagnosis is the clarity it brings to the situation. Your course of action will change based on what the underlying issue is.
Sensory processing disorder? Get the best sensory input! Food sensitivities? Do an elimination diet. Parenting inconsistencies? Start being more firm and loving.
But just wandering in the dark is a recipe for failure. A diagnosis lays the foundation for proper action.
For our family, the best choice was to get an official diagnosis for our oldest son. It opened up the world of SPD to us. (There's so much to learn!) We formed a plan, found a tribe, and had the confidence to help our son navigate this sensory world.
BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, I'm convinced that our second child also has SPD and we haven't attempted to get a diagnosis for him. Our reasoning is that since we already know how to meet his sensory needs, wouldn't gain very much with the label. I already have confidence and support (and we certainly don't have extra money lying around.)
So there you go, one family, taking both approaches. We wish your family the best as you navigate this decision.
This post is not meant to diagnosis or give medical advice. This is simply one parent's thoughts on a tough parenting issue.
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