Frequently, parents will tell me that they are frustrated with the lack of progress or change they see in their child despite the many treatments and interventions they have tried over months, or even years in some cases. Often, they have a difficult time explaining the reasons for their child’s difficulties. Is it ADHD, given that teachers are reporting lack of focus and effort? Is it dyslexia, given that their child has never liked to read? Maybe it is ‘emotional’ or ‘lack of confidence’, given that their child appears to be increasingly struggling with self-esteem issues with every passing year? Or, maybe it’s something else, such as ‘high functioning autism,’ because their child has been struggling to make friends? It is not unusual for the children and adolescents we see to have collected various diagnoses along the way, put forth by different therapists and doctors, or by school district staff. At other times, there are no clear explanations or diagnosis…. Just a lot of confusion, frustration, and discouragement.
I often suggest to parents that before they invest their time, resources, and efforts into specific medical or educational interventions it may be helpful to determine what are the underlying issues in the first place and then determine whether this is truly what their child needs. Many difficulties can masquerade or look like specific conditions. For example, an anxious child may be feeling so nervous when it comes to schoolwork that they are unable to complete tests or schoolwork without parent’s or the teacher’s help because they fear making mistakes. They can become overwhelmed and shut down when faced with extensive reading or writing demands, making them look like they are not proficient readers and writers. In class, the teacher might perceive them as ‘ADHD’ because they are slow, inattentive, or oppositional when it comes to doing their work, and barely complete any work without assistance. They may have meltdowns when working or playing with their peers, as their anxiety makes it hard for them to be flexible when conflicts arise. Without a proper evaluation, this child may be misdiagnosed as having a learning disability, an oppositional/defiant disorder, ADHD, or even an autistic spectrum disorder. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis leads to the wrong treatment approach.
If you are finding yourself in this situation, it may be helpful to consider obtaining a comprehensive evaluation to rule-out conditions that may look like specific diagnoses at first glance. Often, scheduling a consultation with Dr. Beaulieu is the right first step for the families we see, to determine if testing is the best option at that time. You may also talk to your pediatrician about your concerns, and determine if a referral for testing may be indicated before specific treatment options are attempted.
Oakland Neuropsychology Center
Office: (248) 644-9466
4190 Telegraph Rd, Suite 2700
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302