When your child has a learning disability, the road to diagnosis can seem long and feel lonely. However, once you get that diagnosis, your work is just beginning. It can feel quite overwhelming to know what to do after diagnosis. Here are some starting points to ensure your child gets the best possible services after his diagnosis.
The first step in dealing with a new diagnosis is getting informed. You need to learn all you can about your child’s diagnosis and what it means, especially about how the brain works. Chances are you came from the doctor or therapist armed with pamphlets of information. Read these, and then dig a little deeper using resources available online and in other locations.
Find the Professionals
Next, take the time to learn about treatment and therapy options in your area. These may be based out of the school, or they may be in the community. Make appointments with your child’s doctor to discuss your options, and if your child is in school, make appointments to discuss your child’s diagnosis with the support professionals. For young children, make appointments with your state’s early intervention department. This will arm you with a team of professionals who are ready and able to help you understand and embrace your child’s differences.
Talk to Your Child
If your child is old enough to understand her diagnosis, take the time to talk to her about what you have discovered. Chances are your child will already be aware of the fact that she is not the same as her peers, and many children feel relieved when they have a label for what they have been experiencing. When talking to your child, answer any questions she might have, and try to remain positive, even if you are frightened about the future or the new “normal” that is coming to your family.
This initial conversation is the first step in helping your child grow into a self-advocate. Teaching your child to ask for help and state needs clearly to others is a key component to developing a successful learner and a successful adult. This is a skill that children with learning disabilities need, and it starts with the first conversation about what you have discovered.
As you talk to your child, be aware of the emotional side of this. As overwhelmed and emotional as you feel, remember that your child is experiencing even more intense emotions. After all, it’s your child who will live with a lifetime of consequences from the diagnosis, and that brings strong emotions. Be emotionally supportive as needed.
Start Discussing School Strategies
Once you have a diagnosis, it’s important to meet with your child’s school as soon as possible. Your child’s school will want to develop the IEP or 504 plan, and you will need to discuss recommended accommodations or assertive technology options that would help your child succeed.
The first days and weeks after a diagnosis can feel incredibly overwhelming. Soon, however, you will realize that your child has not changed. Now you simply know what you need to do to best help your child succeed. So take a breath, start your research and let the team here know what has been the most helpful as you started this journey.