Isn’t it lovely when you can go to your doctor, get a simple swab or blood test, and know exactly what is wrong and how to fix or treat the problem? We are so used to modern medicine being able to give us answers immediately that we have come to expect an easy diagnosis.
This is not the case with learning and behavioral concerns. I have seen the real truth in this as my sister struggles to find answers for my niece. She has always hit most developmental milestones at the appropriate time, but she has also always been a quirky little girl. There is a suspicion of Autism Spectrum, but getting that diagnosis, educationally or medically, is not easy. There is no blood test or swab that gives a definitive answer.
For many children who have good cognitive ability, getting a diagnosis, whether Autism Spectrum, ADHD, or Learning Disabilities, can be difficult. Even though we know that there are some concerns, the child doesn’t check enough boxes for a diagnosis. This can also be true for students with low-average ability. Perhaps you have had one of these children as a student. You knew there was something going on, but finding a diagnosis was not a simple straight forward path.
What can we as educators do to help families find a diagnosis if one is needed?
Be honest. Make sure that in your efforts to be kind you are still honest and specific with your concerns. Give parents and evaluators specific examples of concerns rather than general impressions.
Document, document, document. Keep track of your concerns and document frequency, times, and triggers to behaviors if you can.
Be persistent. Continue to communicate with parents and professionals about concerns.
Be helpful. Help parents find sources for information and evaluation. If your local public school district evaluation is not available or didn’t yield results, connect with other professionals. Contact local chapters of LDA, Autism Speaks, or CHADD for advice on other avenues for diagnosis.
Pray continually. One of the joys and advantages of being Lutheran educators is our opportunity to pray for our students, parents, and ourselves. Pray for wisdom. Pray for answers. Pray for God to remind you and the parents that God has a plan for this child and it is good.
Be understanding. If you and the parents are seeking a diagnosis, you are doing it for a reason. Be understanding and compassionate towards this student. Accommodate what you can even before you get a diagnosis.
The answers that we seek are not always easy to find. Think of Matthew 7:7–11. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. May God bless your efforts as educators and give you the wisdom to do His work and His work and His will with all of your students