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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Diagnoses Are Wonderful- Why I'm Not Scared of Labels


Recently a close friend of mine got her youngest child diagnosed with ADHD. Not long after that, her oldest child, who already had mental health and behavioral diagnoses got diagnosed with Tourettes syndrome on top of everything else. And her middle child already had been diagnosed with ADHD. When her youngest was diagnosed, she felt like crying. "Can I not have even one kid without problems?" And then when her oldest got his latest diagnosis, it felt like a punch in the gut on top of everything else. 

Today I read in a parenting group that I'm in that a mother feels like her world is coming to an end because her sweet, adorable, loving kid is getting diagnosed with autism.

A friend of mine who has a son that is clearly autistic didn't want to get him diagnosed because she "doesn't want to cause problems for him in the future".

I get it. I really do. When we first suspected my second child was on the spectrum, I was in denial. There were people I knew that were austistic that were abusive individuals and I didn't want my kid to turn out to be abusive. I didn't want an autistic kid. I gave rationalizations about all these things that other people who knew autism pointed out seemed like autism, because I was in denial.

5 years later, I not only embrace the autism diagnosis, I embrace any further diagnosis my children may get. And I embrace any diagnoses I myself may get. This goes for physical or mental health diagnoses. When I was about to write this post, I searched to see if I'd already started writing it, and discovered that a year ago I wrote a post about the benefits of telling your children about their autism diagnosis, which does cover a lot of similar things, but since I'm in a different place right now than I was then I figured I'd revisit the topic and expand it to include a lot more labels- what the benefit of labels are, and why diagnoses are wonderful.

So lets start off with one basic statement. That might be hard to internalize, but its something that I think people need to repeat to themselves until it sinks in.

A diagnosis doesn't change who my child is. Your child is the same sweet lovable adorable kid he or she was prior to the diagnosis.

Period.

If you thought your kid was absolutely amazing before, your kid is still absolutely amazing. If you struggled with your kid before, this new diagnosis won't make anything harder.

Nothing has changed about your kid.

The thing is, a diagnosis is an answer. An answer as to the why's about your kid or yourself.  And a means to understand your kid or yourself better.

And once you have answers, if needed, you can find solutions. 

For example, if you know that your kid has ADHD, it means that you can pursue medication to help your child focus better in school. If your kid gets an autism diagnosis it can help you understand why your kid does certain behaviors, and it can either help you be more patient with those behaviors or help you find work arounds.

When my autistic kids were behaving completely inappropriately- hitting, kicking, and being physically violent, because I knew they were autistic, I didn't think "Ok, they're misbehaving" and try to discipline because that wasn't what was happening. They had a needed that wasn't being met, and it obviously involved something physical. So I was able to problem solve and come up with a solution, giving deep massage and also joint compressions.


By having a name for what is going on with your kids, you now are able to understand why and how your kid ticks, and find things that work for your kid, with their nature, and meeting their needs.

Before I had my mental health diagnoses I didn't have a name for what I was going through, I just thought there was something wrong with me, that I was "bad" and "problematic" and "unlovable". Once I got my diagnosis, I was first able to understand that the reason I was the way I was was because of trauma I went through, so first, its not my fault. And then, once I had a diagnosis I was able to identify certain behaviors and thought processes going through my mind associated with my diagnosis, and I was able to do research about how to handle those situations. And then I was able to pursue the right types of therapy to help me heal. Without a diagnosis, I would have just been treading water (or drowning) instead of actually swimming to shore and reaching land.

Similarly, I'm going through a search process for some physical issues I'm going through now. Multiple specialist appointments and blood tests and are getting me somewhere, but there's still a lot more mysteries that I need to figure out. Some people have mentioned potential diagnoses that I'm looking into, and others are saying why catastrophize and assume its something bad. For me, I don't care how "bad" a diagnosis, not having a diagnosis is worse because of the worry of what it could possibly be, as well as being unable to find a treatment. I am looking forward to the day that I get a diagnosis that explains these issues I'm having. 

Kids who feel weird about being different know they're different even without a label. By giving them a label, it can allow them to find a peer group of like people, and feel more accepted.

And on a last note, some people don't want labels because they're worried that having a label will cause their kids to be mistreated. From experience, even if you don't have an official diagnosis, if the behaviors are obvious enough to get a diagnosis, the kid will be treated differently by the same people that will mistreat someone for having a diagnosis.

I know, being thrown new information about your kid or yourself can be unsettling. But just remember, the diagnosis changes nothing about you or them. The label just will help you understand them or yourself better, and then be able to find the tools to help you overcome your challenges and succeed in life.

How do you feel about labels and diagnoses? Do they scare you? Do you hate them? Do you love them? Why? If you have a diagnosis or your child does, how has it changed your life?

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this fantastic post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My son was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (now known as ASD) when he was 30. It made such a difference. He said that now he knew he wasn't mad or bad. He has been able to claim disability benefits and he tells people why he sometimes has meltdowns and other problems. I love this label as it has made a difference to all our lives. This is a good post so thank you.

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  3. Tourette Syndrome is not the same as ADHD/ASD. In Tourette Syndrome diagnosis is always a good thing. It doesn't need to be treated unless the person wants treatment but it helps explain behavior that you can't stop. Unlike ADHD and spectrum diagnoses the person is always aware of what they're doing and generally tries to stop it but can't.
    I'm from the group that went from age 9 to age 30 without knowing why my body did things that it did that I couldn't control. Diagnosis brings an answer. And today it also brings help in school.
    As for the woman who is upset TS is often genetic and ADD and OCD are often comorbid so not surprising

    ReplyDelete
  4. I agree with everything you wrote!
    Life can be difficult (and not only now during Covid) enough without having to worry about uncertainty - as it this very uncertainty can likely overwhelm one's brains/emotions Having a name to what is going on you/child/myself, often is just a relief even if the diagnosis is a label.
    I,myself was diagnosed many years ago and I was also in hospital because I had difficulty dealing with emotions and the realities of my life circumstances.
    I was also guideed through the Social and Welfare Services in my city/paperwork for Disability from the government. Since my original diagnosis in 1980, that included Borderline Personality Disorder, I also suffered from asthma,migraines and morbid obesity.
    Over the years lived my Life to the best of my ability: I had a few part-time jobs,I got married and had a daughter.
    My Life realities and learning how I need to cope with my past life experiences - caused me significant emotional reactions to the extent that people would comment to me negatively/rebuke/mock me; inevitably I would often react even worse...over the years I have learned to 'behave' and not to always react immediately. For me, this is all too often a daily inner struggle but i am improving and working on being better.
    As I got older my life experiences were difficult.I went through a divorce, was a
    single parent. Unfortunately, for me, it was very hard. I made many emotional mistakes.
    My daughter being in my life - this, after my having been through emotional problems while raising her; I often overreacted to her normal behavior when it was I who was the problem,and not her!
    I suffered various consequences from social workers intervening on the behalf of my daughter - all as a result of my abusive misbehaviors. My daughter now being in my life; talking with her daily, contributed greatly for us to have a better mother-daughter relationship. The newly learned coping mechanisms that I believe, are for me, to be connected to how I decided to limit my relationships other people. By this, I mean my many friends IRL of those whom I see or talk to on a regular/frequent basis.
    Only at the age of 53, I finally realized that I must limit how many friends I will interact with whether online or not. This has improved my lifestyle.

    ReplyDelete

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