Why Does My Child Need a Diagnosis?

-“I don’t want to label my child.”

-“Teachers are biased against diagnosed children.”

-“My son doesn’t act like most kids with _________ (particular diagnosis).”


These are statements that I hear on a routine basis, and they are all valid points. Any diagnosis that a child or adolescent may have carries a certain stigma to it. This is human nature. As a neuropsychologist, one of my biggest tasks is to develop the most appropriate and effective diagnosis for any child. My goal with writing this blog is to help identify the importance of an appropriate diagnosis.

How A Diagnosis Can Help Your Child:

First and foremost, an appropriate diagnosis will help explain and answer the “why” questions. Why does my child continue to struggle to read? Why is it impossible for my child to sit still? Why is it that my child cannot make friends? Once we identify the “whys,” we are on our way to solving the problems.  An appropriate diagnosis is intended to help develop the most effective means of intervention. If I diagnosis a child with Dyslexia, I know that traditional teaching of reading and phonics wouldn’t do much good. I would know instead to utilize an empirical approach consistent with the disorder at hand.

All interventions, whether we are engaging in occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, or psychotherapy, need to be shaped by the diagnosis at hand. Research-based interventions define expectations for the child depending on the classifications. If I have a child with Dyslexia, for example, I would prefer to use a multi-sensory approach to reading, such as the Orton-Gillingham reading program.

A diagnosis will also help identify future hurdles that one might expect from a particular child. It serves as the framework for expectations for later development. This way, we can create preventative measures for the child and not have to rely on failure to dictate when we should intervene.  For example, if I diagnosis a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when he is in first grade, I would likely expect him to struggle in third grade and beyond with more complex tasks that require organization, planning and integration of multiple sources. We would hopefully be aware of this possibility and ensure that the child can cope with the above tasks when they fall upon him or her.

Does a diagnosis cause bias? Absolutely. Diagnoses create stereotypes or expectations about how one should act or behave. How is this combated? Provide information and education about the specific child’s concerns. Just having a diagnosis alone is not sufficient. It is much more relevant to express to all helping parties the child’s specific areas of strength and weakness.

1 reply
  1. Dori J. Mages, MSW, LCSW
    Dori J. Mages, MSW, LCSW says:

    Excellent article, Greg!

    I truly believe that giving a diagnosis helps parents and teachers frame a perspective as to how to understand a child’s struggles, behaviors, and needs. While a diagnosis can certainly lead to biases, it can give a “reason” behind why a child struggles in certain areas of his everyday life. I frequently caution my clients that just because they have a diagnosis, it isn’t an excuse to not learn appropriate coping skills to manage the struggles they face. Rather, they need to challenge themselves to learn to manage themselves despite their diagnosis. The help is always here for them whether they need weekly sessions or occasional tune-ups to assist them through particularly struggling times.


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