To Label or Not to Label: Pros and Cons for Seeking Educational Diagnoses

To Label:

1. Diagnostic testing may reveal learning gaps
2. Getting a diagnosis / label may qualify an individual for help in school and tutoring services at some colleges.
3. Having a label may make it easier to explain atypical behavior or achievement.

Not to Label:

1. While diagnostic testing may lead to learning gaps   (i.e. a person can’t add two digits to two digits, this person does not understand cause and effect in reading), it often limits expectations to what a person with that label typically can do.
2. Before getting a label one should find out what kind of services will be offered and how it will impact the learning of the individual. In school settings, the emphasis is usually to accommodate so the individual can fit in with the mainstream.
3. Often having a diagnosis provides little in the way of resolving the issues. Recommendations are often very limited.

While a diagnosis that affects learning often has a health component as a part of the underlying cause, we should be sure that in treating that health issue, we search its underlying cause or causes. As an example, one should remember that ADHD is not a deficiency of a drug such as Ritalin. Those types of drugs do not get to the underlying cause of the typical behaviors of ADHD. They may control symptoms, but do not resolve the underlying causes.
Before making a decision, explore alternatives that are capable of providing resolution to the underlying causes to the difficulties rather than merely provide accommodations.  Since the 1930s there has been an alternative to the mainstream, the neurodevelopmental approach. This approach uses a developmental profile, looking for missing pieces in development. These gaps indicate to the neurodevelopmentalist that specific brain stimulation is required to encourage development. When that occurs, the reason why a label may have been assigned disappears.
The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (Dr. Temple Faye, Glenn Doman, Dr. Robert Doman and Carl Delacato, PhD), are considered the founders of this approach. There are a number of organizations that have developed from the ideas and experience of the Institutes.  Generally parents are instructed in how to do short, frequent activities to stimulate the needed areas in the brain. Occasionally, you will find organizations with programs that will provide these services to the parents.  Other organizations may offer a combination in center and at home activities. Families should determine which of these options best fit their needs and circumstances.

All of these programs fully embrace the concept of neuroplasticity that has been accepted in more recent years in the mainstream. Neuroplasticity recognizes that the brain is much more flexible in its learning capacity through out life than previously thought.  Key to success of these programs is determining the underlying cause and stimulating the brain in a specific way consistently

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