After the Diagnosis: Now What?

My two-year-old was a rambunctious toddler who walked on his toes and ran around the house usually in a diaper. He drooled so much that his shirt would get soaked, so he frequently removed his shirt and ran around basically naked.

At the time, my wife and I were living in the United States, and it was suggested to take him for an evaluation. At the evaluation, it was determined that he would need speech therapy to deal with the drooling; physical therapy to deal with the toe-walking; and occupational therapy for low muscle tone. This two-year-old had a range of sensory integration issues that needed to be dealt with.

While it was emotionally draining and traumatic to find out our son had these issues, it was also a relief to finally know what was going on with our child. But now what?

My wife and I met with a service coordinator who helped direct us in getting the necessary treatment.

Some parents find out their child’s diagnosis at birth (i.e. Down syndrome), while others find out the hard way – via developmental delays. Statistics show that the earlier a child receives treatment for his/her issues, the more capable they become as teenagers and young adults.

We acknowledge the problem. What now?

We acknowledge the problem. What now?

What happens after a child has seen a psychologist and an evaluation has been made? Some parents may feel a sense of relief knowing their child has been officially diagnosed; other parents may be in denial, disagree with the diagnosis and hide the findings.

The best response is to acknowledge reality and plan a course of action – including finding the best people to help their child cope with their issues.

Is help from the school enough?

Once the diagnosis has been made, the first line of defense and action is the school.

Does the school act on the suggestions from the evaluation? In a well-organized school setting, parents should set up an appointment with the principal and yoetzet to discuss their findings. Then, hopefully, the yoetzet (counselor) will look over the recommendations in the evaluation report and discuss them with the child’s teacher.

Unfortunately, that is usually where it ends. Let’s be honest: most regular education teachers and rebbes have limited knowledge and experience in the area of special needs or psychological disorders. Moreover, to have to deal with this in the context of an already oversized class is impossible. Parents can advocate, but only to a certain extent before the teacher starts to view them as being disruptive and begins to ignore them.

Game changer (and life changer)

Fortunately, the school is not your only resource. There are many psychologists, psycho-therapists, educational experts, yoetzim, coaches, etc. But which one is right for your child, and how can you ensure that your child’s “whole” environment will benefit from the therapy?

Finding the right course of action therapist-wise is very individualized and usually comes via a personal referral.

As a best option, it is recommended to hire a private consultant to advocate for the child. The advocate can then break down the goals written in the evaluation into smaller attainable tasks that the teacher/rebbe can implement without too much trouble. The child’s progress can then be quantified and tracked.

In addition, periodic follow-up visits with the teacher/rebbe are instrumental in assuring that the goals are being addressed and there is progression to future goals. School years are the most important time in a student’s life; how a child succeeds in school emotionally, socially and educationally will determine the person he/she will become in the future.

No matter what, start now

If due to financial or other considerations, private consultation cannot be an ongoing benefit, here are a few things that parents can do to help their child achieve maximum progress following their expensive evaluation:

1. Hire an educational consultant on a one-time basis to break down the recommendations into mini-attainable goals for the parents and the teacher/rebbe to work with.

2. Have the school yoetzet come up with her own goals (based on the recommendations from the evaluation) and implement them into the classroom and home environment.

3. Have a machberet kesher (communication notebook) in which the teacher/rebbe can discuss relevant issues such as progress in goal attainment that occur on a daily basis and send it home to the parent. This can serve as a mode of coordination between the parent and educator.

4. In severe cases, parents can request from the misrad hachinuch to assign a “shadow” to their child to help the child conform to school rules. Be aware that shadows are not trained and therefore will need hadracha (training) from someone.

In conclusion, I hope this article helps clarify the steps needed after the evaluation. As parents, we all want the best for our children. Each child is his/her own world and everyone is different, there are no clear-cut answers that seamlessly apply to everyone. With patience and guidance hopefully your child will receive what he needs.

Ira Grotsky

Ira Grotsky holds duel degrees in psychology and Special Education and works as a mainstreaming specialist and Play Therapist. He has helped many individual with ASD, ADD/ADHD, Anger Management and Social issues.. Ira maintains a private practice in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh.and Modiin. He can be reached at [email protected] or 054-441-0256.
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