My Child has a Diagnosis, Now What?

 Diagnosis. Photo by Jason Rosewell

As a parent you are an expert on your child. You know when something doesn’t seem quite right. However, getting an official answer to the question “what’s wrong?” can take a huge amount of time and energy on your part. Finally receiving a diagnosis can be a relief, but it can also leave you wondering what to do next. After devoting so much of yourself to determining the underlying cause of your child’s current distress, looking towards the future can be overwhelming and confusing.

Some Common Childhood Diagnoses:

  • Attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • anxiety disorders
  • mood disorders
  • learning disorders
  • conduct disorders

Following these 10 steps[1] can help you better understand the diagnosis you have received and help your child get the support she needs at home and at school.

  1. Learn all you can about the diagnosis.
    The more you know, the more you can help. Hear an expert explain the basics of the diagnosis, including how it can affect daily life. Get answers to common questions parents have about the diagnosis. Also, get an idea of what your child is experiencing. Understanding can help you be as supportive as possible.
     
  2. Investigate treatments and therapies.
    Talk to your child’s doctor about treatment options. These may include counselling, behavior therapy or social skills groups. Ask any questions you may have about other treatment or therapy options.
     
  3. Discuss supports and accommodations with her school.
    Schedule a meeting with the school and provide a copy of the report from the specialist or pediatrician. Even if the school has done its own evaluation, having an outside diagnosis and recommendations can help with developing and Individualized Program Plan or Instructional Support Plan (IPPs and ISPs). Discuss which informal supports or classroom accommodations might be appropriate.
     
  4. Talk with your child about her diagnosis.
    Help her understand how it might affect her in certain areas, including in social situations. But also let her know that the label doesn’t define who she is and that many successful people have overcome similar challenges.
     
  5. Teach your child to self-advocate.
    Talk through some of the ways your child can ask for help when her diagnosis makes it clear she needs it. Self-advocacy is a skill that can offer benefits throughout her lifetime.
     
  6. Understand the common behavioral and emotional issues.
    Many kids with common childhood diagnoses feel things intensely and have trouble managing their emotions. Learn why that happens and how you can help.
     
  7. Know the signs of mental health issues.
    Kids with one diagnosis have a higher risk for other mental health issues. Know the warning signs and talk to your child’s doctor if you have any concerns.
     
  8. Learn more about challenges and ways you can help at home.
    Many kids with common childhood diagnoses have executive functioning issues. Learn how these challenges affect everyday life. Discover different strategies that can help your child with organizational problems and impulse control.
     
  9. Find support.
    You’re not alone in parenting a child with a mental health concern. Visit your local Parent Link location or Family Resource Center to learn about services near you. And connect with parents like you in our community.
     
  10. Keep in touch with your child’s school.
    Symptoms can change over time. So might what your child’s teachers see in the classroom. Communicating with her teachers and specialists regularly can keep you on the same page about whether her supports and services are working.

Next Steps

If you are concerned about your child's mental health or have received a diagnosis for your child that you need support with, Edgar Psychological can help.


[1] adapted from Walters Wright, L. (2018). My Child Was Just Diagnosed With ADHD. Now What? Retrieved from understood.org: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/add-adhd/my-child-was-just-diagnosed-with-adhd-now-what