In the special needs community, children are given labels based on their disability. The most common diagnosis a child may be given are Autism, ADHD or Specific Learning Disability; in fact, the most common eligibility for an IEP in this country is Specific Learning Disability. Ask yourself this question….does the label your child has be given accurately define all their areas of need? In many cases it does not; many children may have one diagnosis but also exhibit symptoms from other disabilities as well. Maybe your child has a Learning Disability but they also have Sensory Processing issues as well. Your child may have a diagnosis of Autism but also exhibits symptoms of ADHD or ODD too. For some children, they might have any of the three most common disabilities and also experience struggles with Mental Health. I think it’s safe to say that most children have multiple areas of need.
Why do I bring this up? Because I’ve heard parents and school districts excuse whatever new area of need that a child must overcome by saying, “It’s just their Autism or their ADHD.” That statement is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned; assessments must be done in order to investigate all suspected areas of needs, even if the child does not have a diagnosis for it. For many children who have been diagnosed with Autism, ADHD or Learning Disability their needs will continue to evolve as the work gets harder in higher grades. You should always request a new psycho-educational assessment to be sure that your child’s difficulty in academics is appropriately addressed.
Another area of need that is not always appropriately addressed is Mental Health; Depression, Anxiety or PTSD just to name a few. I know there is a crisis in this country regarding funding for Mental Health but ignoring the symptoms is NOT an acceptable option by parents or schools. As we all know from recent events that have happened in this country, including where I live in the Los Angeles area, Mental Health problems in many cases begin in childhood. Because so many children are given a label at such early age, we as a community must not ignore all the other areas of need that follow after the label has been given.
When a child is given a “label”, it’s only the beginning! Parents and schools must continue to investigate all areas of need without dismissing them as a by-product of the initial diagnosis. The more information a parent or school knows about a child, the greater chance they will receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In addition, if we as a community address the areas of need early enough, hopefully children with special needs will have the opportunity to lead a productive independent adult life.