Parents hesitant to get child help for fear of ‘labeling’

OKLAHOMA CITY – It often starts in the early years when parents begin to realize that something is not quite right with their child’s academic progression.

Instead of getting a diagnosis such as ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome, a parent may be hesitant to do anything at all out of fear of “labeling” their child.

“There’s still a certain amount of stigma that is attached to having a psychiatric diagnosis,” Dr. Willis Holloway said. “So people are generally concerned, particularly people who have children, about their child being labeled early in life and whether or not that label will fix to that child and follow them the rest of their life.”

Because of this, parents often struggle with getting a diagnosis or requesting special education services for their child.

“We understand in the beginning there might be denial,” Dr. Sabrina Salmon said, with the Oklahoma Department of Education. “There’s a grieving process that parents might go though when they’re getting this news.”

Experts warn a child could identify themselves too much with a condition or use it as a crutch.

“For sure that is a potential problem, because if a child sort of establishes a psychiatric condition as their identity and that becomes the manner in which they conduct their lives, it is likely that it’s going to be very difficult for them to be successful,” Holloway said.

Success depends on not only the parent but sometimes a team of educators who put together an education plan that works best for an individual student.

IEPs or individual education plans, are often as unique as the child.

“That’s one of the places where it’s important to have a label or a diagnosis, because sometimes you can’t access the services you need unless you have an appropriate diagnosis that will allow the school to accommodate for your educational needs,” Salmon said.

“We don’t talk to them in terms of their diagnosis,” Holloway said. “We talk to them in terms of the person, because five people can the have exactly same diagnosis and they can be completely different people.”

Professionals say benefits outweigh the possible consequences as long as a disability or condition is acknowledged but not overemphasized.

If you suspect your child needs special services at school, contact a doctor for a diagnosis as well as your child’s school for a special education evaluation.

You can also visit http://oklahomaparentscenter.org/ for parent resources.