Tag Archives: Atypical Kids

Doing some research and helping come up with a prioritized action plan can help you cope with your child's diagnosis.

Chin Up – Diagnosis is Not the End Game!

Doing some research and helping come up with a prioritized action plan can help you cope with your child's diagnosis.
Doing some research and helping come up with a prioritized action plan can help you cope with your child’s diagnosis.

Hearing your child’s diagnosis for the first time is an experience that will stay with you forever. Even if you have long suspected that something isn’t right, knowing it for sure can throw you into a state of paralysis.

It’s a neurobiological response: the enormity of the news temporarily overrides your ability to act or make decisions. Your mind is swamped with frightening questions: What does this mean for my child, for our family, for me?

More families are going to have to confront diagnoses such as ADHD, autism spectrum, and learning disorders such as dyslexia. This is partly because the DSM-5 has broadened the definitions of some disorders, as I mentioned in my last post.

But parents should know that any diagnosis is only a reflection of their child’s developmental process at one point in time. With appropriate interventions, a child who displays a certain set of behaviors at age 5 can be very different at age 15. Or age 25. Children can and do grow and develop.  Keep that in mind as you are absorbing your child’s diagnosis.

3 Steps to Accepting Your Child’s Diagnosis

1. Be aware of your feelings.  Your reactions to your child’s diagnosis are hard-wired, based in the same evolutionary part of the brain that triggers fear when an animal is threatened. If you are initially feeling paralyzed or in denial, it’s a normal response.

Your emotional reactions to your child’s condition will have a big impact on the child’s well-being, so from now on try to be mindful of how you are feeling and how it is affecting your behavior in the presence of your son or daughter.

2. Ask yourself, “Does this diagnosis fit with the child I know?” If what the doctor is saying is not consistent with what you know about your child, something may be off. No one knows your child better than you do.

It’s true that most parents go through a phase of disbelief and denial about a diagnosis, but underneath the denial there is usually a feeling of, Yes, that’s him. He always struggled with language. Or, Yes, his frustration level has always seemed unusual to me . . . He has always seemed like he doesn’t really know how to make friends. . . He isn’t reading and all his friends are. . . .Yes, there is something wrong.

If the diagnosis feels accurate on a gut level, it probably is.

Occasionally, however, the doctors don’t get it right. But most often, they do get it right, but it makes you angry and your instinct is to push back and say “That’s not my kid!”  I will discuss anger as a reaction to having an atypical kid in a future post. But, for now, take a mental note of your feelings and keep alert.

Maybe you wonder if you should  get a second opinion? If you don’t trust your own instincts, seek the opinion of someone else who is frequently around your child—a spouse, grandparent, sister, aunt, neighbor, or best friend. But also please remember that professionals who are trained in diagnosis and treatment have your child’s best interests in mind and don’t give out diagnoses randomly.

3. Take action: Work with your diagnostician to prioritize an action plan. Many children are diagnosed with more than one condition. The parents will receive a list of recommendations that can be 5 or 10 items long and include things like a psychiatrist for medications, an educational therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, soccer coach, and family therapy. And you will get books and articles to read as well as recommendations for several ‘cutting edge’ therapies. It’s a lot to take in!

Obviously, parents cannot do all these things at once, and they end up feeling horribly overwhelmed.

So go back to the person who diagnosed your child and ask for a prioritized action plan and a timeline. What is most important? What needs to happen when? For instance, many people recommend tackling intensive remediation during the summer, but you know  that this won’t work for your child. She needs to be outside playing.

Ask the diagnostician to consider the needs of the whole child rather than just writing prescriptions. If the diagnostician cannot do so, you may want to take your results to another therapist or doctor and ask that person to prioritize your plan.

In this blog I’ll continue to give you advice on managing your child’s treatment and —just as important—keeping yourself calm, focused and cared-for during the months ahead.

So, chin up, chest out, right foot forward, you can do this!


Has your son or daughter recently been diagnosed with one of these conditions? How did you react? Tell me your story in the comments — and don’t forget to sign up for blog updates in the sidebar!

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Special Needs Kids: Seven Attitude Adjustments Smart Parents Can Make

Parents of children with learning differences know that their kids need an adult champion—someone to support them when they are discouraged, research the best teaching methods for their learning style, and help them navigate the school system.

It is estimated that there are approximately between 10-20% of students with learning differences, either a learning disorder, attention disorder, autism spectrum or a mood disorder. Standing behind each of these students is a loving and concerned parent who is trying hard to make the right choices. Right?

Nurtured kids become successful adults

Children with learning differences can and do grow up to become successful, productive adults. The primary challenge for parents is to keep their child’s self esteem strong while maintaining a realistic assessment of his or her strengths and struggles.

A child with dyslexia may have difficulty reading but may be unusually creative—she may be a dancer, an artist, a filmmaker, or a storyteller. A boy with ADHD may be hyperactive and impatient with classroom rules, but he could grow up to be highly successful on his own terms, like so many well-known innovators, celebrities, and athletes.

The potential is there—how do parents foster it during the school years?

After working with atypical children and their parents for more than two decades, I have seen that the parent’s attitude has a tremendous impact on how their child experiences school.

Six parental attitude adjustments that can make all the difference in your child’s life

1. Be aware of your own emotional process.

Parents of special needs kids have legitimate emotional struggles. If you are going to be an effective advocate for your child, you must understand your own emotional journey through feelings such as denial, anger, depression, and isolation, until you reach optimism, positive nurturing, and acceptance of your son or daughter.

A therapist who specializes in parents of atypical children or a support group that focuses on the needs of such parents (as opposed to focusing on the kids) may help you adjust to the inevitable ups, downs, and frustrations that come with your role. It’s normal to feel these emotions—you just need to be aware of them so that they don’t control you.

2. Remember to cheer!

Maintain a positive attitude toward your child, realizing that success is measured in small steps. Be on the lookout for little triumphs that may seem modest to you but are a big event to your child.

3. Deal with your disappointments on your own time.

Your child needs a positive, encouraging guide through childhood and the teenage years. If you are feeling disappointed, embarrassed, or frustrated, try not to display these emotions to your child or become angry at him.

Parents need support from a group, an individual therapist, or just a close friend with whom they can openly vent. I also strongly urge my clients to develop self-care routines. These could involve yoga, exercise or dance classes, or meditation such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

Don’t isolate yourself. You are not alone! At the very least, join a support group. You may be surprised at how much it helps.

4. Be there.

What your child needs most is your presence, so try to give her quality time every day. Children with learning disabilities particularly need support in the hour or so after school and during homework.

It’s best if all of the homework duty does not fall on one person, so try setting up a schedule with your partner. An older sibling or another relative might be able to step in one day a week.

Apart from homework time, you can boost your child’s mood and self-confidence by devoting a few minutes each day exclusively to chatting, laughing, and listening to her take on the world.

5. It’s not fair to compare.

Never compare your child to another child. It isn’t fair or motivating, it is painful and disheartening. We all have differences. Embrace your unique child and nurture his talents! Most of all, enjoy him for who he is.

6. Trust your instincts.

Parents have a sixth sense about their children, and you should honor yours. When parents confess a worry to a pediatrician or a teacher, the common response is, “Give your child more time.”

Regardless of what they say, if you feel that something is amiss, get your child evaluated. Early assessment and intervention can be critical factors in helping special needs children.

7. Do your homework.

In addition to fine-tuning your own emotional report card, you will need to maintain and update your child’s paperwork: make sure your child’s IEP is up to date, find out if his or her needs are being adequately met by your school’s interventions, schedule parent-teacher meetings when you sense there is cause.

The summer is time to get some remediation boot-camp in weaker areas of need.

Together, you and your child can be a unified force for success in school and beyond.

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