Expert Advice

Dads ask: “My child has been diagnosed as neuro-diverse, now what?”

The word alone “diagnosis” often sends shivers down the spine of the person whose ears are piqued to hear it.  But the word itself has two meanings. The first is, “The identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms.”   This meaning implies that there is a sickness or an  issue that must be fixed.  The second Oxford definition is a little more gentle. This definition says diagnosis as “the distinctive characterization in precise terms of a genus, species, or phenomenon.” Here, diagnosis is more a statement of fact, even implying that a distinct characteristic is not a fatal prediction.

When called by a teacher or school administrator with the diagnosis that your child has been identified with some unique characteristic or learning style, using the words or the label as a catalyst to challenge  rather than a  predictor of inevitable failure,

When receiving the news that your child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autistic Spectrum Disorder or a Learning Disability,  a wave of emotions and questions often arise.

Here are some of the questions dads and parents in general ask:

Is this my fault?  Will I be able to handle this?  How will this effect my marriage, the other children, my career?  Should I tell my family and friends? Will my child ever be successful, independent? Do I have what it takes within me to parent a neuro-diverse child?

It is important or remember that ADD, ADHD, LD, ASD,   as well as anxiety and depression,  are brain disorders and not an individual’s choice.  Your child is who he or she is not because of anything you did or did not do.  Their diagnosis is not a punishment, it is merely a fact. Knowing it helps inform you that there may be some unique steps that you will have to take, or some outside resources that you may need to tap into in order to give your child the best chance for success. 

It is important to remember that the child did not choose their brain to be that way either.  They are not purposefully trying to make life hard.  They need your love, your support, your acceptance and your guidance in order to accept their own diagnosis and embrace the good and bad that comes with it.

Now is the time to learn more, instead of avoiding research

It is important to remember that you are not the first and that you will not be the last parent to receive such diagnostic news.  Therefore now is not the time to shut down and turn within yourself.  In fact, it is the time to get the data and to begin to research. Look for opportunities to lean on your partner, your family, your friends and other individuals who are steps ahead of you in the process.  All of these people exist and can be an amazing support system to you as you process the information. This is particularly important as you begin to make choices about how to proceed. Also remember  that there is a continuum of each of these conditions. That means there is a range of possible interventions and a variety of possible solutions.  Getting the data about the exact findings that led to the diagnosis is very important.  Further, knowledge is power and will help inform your decisions.  Be wary of jumping to a conclusion that may lead you to making a rash decision or feeling helpless. 

Your child is unique

As there is no one size fits all, you will have to be patient as well. Several things may have to be tried and, and, as your child ages, different options and choices will arise.

It is important to remember that there is help and there is hope no matter what the diagnosis.  We live in a time that there are many people doing good research all over the world and best practices are being shared.  School systems, institutes of higher learning and even employers are more knowledgeable about individual differences and the capabilities of neuro-diverse humans. One thing that we know for sure is that because we are dealing with the brain and child development, there is capacity to teach skills and train our brains.

“I’m angry and upset that my child is going to struggle”

It is important to acknowledge your own feelings and deal with your own emotions as you navigate the path.  Remember that your child is watching your reactions. If you are feeling scared, frustrated, angry , etc., find a healthy way to deal with these emotions.  There are people you can talk to and groups you can join. Work on finding a family or individual therapist or expert that you can reach out to help you make decisions.  Looking after yourself and your own social, emotional and mental health is very important.  Do not neglect it.

Learning about the diagnosis will help you be your child’s coach and advocate. Understanding the way your child thinks will help you know when to say no, and when to be more lenient.  Your job as a parent is to help your child accept who they are as well.  You do not want to pass on a sense of shame, guilt or anger.  You want to understand the diagnosis so that you can encourage good behaviour and supportive practices. Do not use the diagnosis to enable all actions as “they can’t help it” bad behaviours. This is going to take teamwork, patience and resilience.

Finding Answers takes time

Finally, and most critically, remember that no one has all the answers.  Find that works for you and your family.

LEARN.

BE WILLING TO TRY DIFFERENT THINGS.

SELF-CARE.

Reach out if you would like to discuss any of these issues privately LMATLOW@ME.COM

Keep up with everything DAD
Join our email list to get the latest blog posts straight to your inbox
Invalid email address
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.

Written by Leanne Matlow

Leanne Matlow is a CBT Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator, Mental Health Workshop Provider, Author and SPACE (Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotion) Provider. She is also the creator Mental Health Empowerment Day (MHED).