The debate of whether or not to “label” a child is not a new one. However what has changed is the enormous benefits to the child by having one of these diagnosis’. I recently attended a debate about the “over diagnosis” of our children. Sixty percent of the audience believed our children were over diagnosed. An interesting statistic that I recently followed up with our paediatrician who, at the forefront of childhood mental illness knows that she does not see or diagnose anywhere near the 5-7% of children in Australia, who are believed to have a disorder, that will effect them for the rest of their life.
So what is happening to all of the kids who are not getting a “label”. Well, you know them. They’re the kid that constantly interrupts the class at school; the one who appears to have no boundaries in the supermarkets; the “genius” who’s memorised the train timetables for the entire state but can’t cross a road; the quirky kid in the playground who would rather play with a pile of well organised stones than kick a footy. They may stand out a little now, but what happens to them in the future?
As one of the doctors at the diagnosis debate so correctly pointed out, there is no medical condition that gets better on it’s own. The same goes for childhood mental illness. But why are we so afraid to talk about it? Why is there so much stigma attached to having a child diagnosed? Is it the commonly perceived and often incorrect assumption that these conditions are the result of bad parenting, poor diets or the wrong environment? If you had an elderly parent showing all of the symptoms of chronic depression you would get them medical help. So why aren’t parents seeking a diagnosis to help their children now, instead of waiting for the truly scary statistics to kick in.
It is believed that one in four 16 to 24 year olds have a mental illness. You can guess where a lot of these problems have come from…a lack of diagnosis and intervention of mental illness as a child. You don’t grow out of Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD does not get better on it’s own. Taking away the red cordial doesn’t work either, trust me, I’ve tried! Twenty five percent of children with Aspergers Syndrome develop depression in the teenage years. These problems don’t go away, they get much, much worse. Don’t get me started on teenage suicide rates and the percentage of males in prison with untreated ADHD!
As a society I agree that we need to be more tolerant to the uniqueness of children. However, we also need to be aware that children need a diagnosis before they can get the help and understanding they need. Parents, if you’re worried see a paediatrician but please don’t wait until they’re failing at school and have lost all of their friends because their social skills are so awkward or violent that even the sweetest kids in school struggle to understand them.
Early intervention is proven to be the best strategy to help kids with mental and neurological health issues, but early, means early. By seven years of age they’re hard wired. As my children’s occupational therapist with tell you, modifying their behaviour in the later years, becomes a lot more difficult and a lot less successful. The breakthroughs and success my boys are now experiencing can only be accredited to the hours of occupational therapy, behaviour modification strategies, paediatrician guidance, psychology sessions and the understanding approach from teachers and society who are informed. All of which can only happen with a diagnosis.
So why am I such an “expert” on this? Well, I’m not. But what I can tell you is, that of my three sons diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the only one who can now lose a game or competition without going into major meltdown mode is also, the only one who had early intervention, early. So what does having a diagnosis really mean? Simple, it means HELP! Help for you and help for your child. Forget what popular society thinks about “labels”, you only get one chance to raise your child.
If your child is struggling, get them help now, and if needed, a diagnosis.
In case you’re wondering who has which label….Master 9 has Asthma, Allergies and Aspergers Syndrome(AS); Master 8 has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Master 4 has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and third child syndrome (LOUD)!
I myself don’t have a diagnosis; although my husband believes that my morning cup of tea ritual presents like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as it has to be just right. There’s a reason for this though as some days in my crazy house it may be the only thing that goes right!