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Labels and Categories: Is Your Child "Special Needs"?
It’s a drama that plays out over and over in every city across the country, sometimes between Kindergarten and Grade 2. A child’s teachers are concerned that the child is not up to standard and ask the parents to speak to the child’s doctor. The parents reluctantly bring up the subject at the doctor’s office, and the doctor speaks directly to the teacher. Suddenly, the acronyms start flowing: does the child have ADHD? And the CAPD? Maybe it’s DDS-NOS?…and the only thing the parents think is “Our child is not a label”.
Not only is this thought perfectly natural, but it is absolutely correct. No child is a label, and in fact assigning a label to your child is going to affect how their life progresses for much of their foreseeable future. The important part for any parent to remember when learning that their child may not be quite typical is that the label can – and in many cases is – a positive change for a child who really problems.
An honest story
A man named Michael was kind enough to share his story of his struggle with a child he had who needed help:
“My name is Michael and I spent a year insisting that my son didn’t have ADHD. I didn’t even believe ADHD was real – we’ve heard so many stories about how it’s overdiagnosed, and so many kids are on Adderall and Ritalin or whatever – so how could my kid actually get it I told his teachers he was just a boy, just a little rambunctious, and they could handle it.
“Then one day, six months into the school year, her teacher called us in for a meeting, and she had a breakdown in front of us. Our son already had an IEP because he had speech delays. , and they had quietly used it. IEP so that our son was helped by seven people each school day. He had a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, three assistants and his normal teacher…and he was always completely unable to make it through most days.”
“We were taken aback, but that was because we didn’t want to face the fact that our son might have issues beyond his speech delays (which he easily overcame in kindergarten). So we started researching. My mother-in-law is a nutritionist, and she gave us loads of advice on ADHD and diet. We tried dozens of diets, several different levels of physical intervention… at one point I woke up two hours before school so I could fit a full-size dictionary in this four-year-old’s backpack and have him run a mile with me before he got in the school bus. Nothing. By the time he got to school, he was out of control again like he was never exhausted.
“Finally, two years after we first heard the diagnosis, we submitted to a prescription. It took another few months to find the right medication at the right level…and literally three months later, they released our first grader. from special ed and put him in a real class with kids who weren’t problematic. He loves school now, and he’s testing two higher levels in math and reading than his peers.
“Ultimately, having our child tagged — openly acknowledged by everyone involved as someone who needed help, but did pretty well once he got it — was the best thing that’s ever happened to him. I’ll never regret it.”
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