Treating a Child's Individual Needs Rather Than a Child's Diagnosis of Autism

As Dr. Rachel Taylor, Executive Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Analysis in Los Angeles, California framed it, "Parents can sometimes fall into the trap of circular reasoning."


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<p>Of the numerous, and endless, anxieties that a parent encounters, first and foremost is maintaining and protecting the health and well-being of their child. And with a constant inundation of information, and misinformation, parents are often faced with difficult decisions, specifically when it comes to a diagnosis such as autism. Should I be worried that my child isn&#39;t speaking yet? Why won&#39;t my child look at me when I play with them? Does my child have a learning disability? Is my child &quot;normal&quot;?</p>

<p>Each and every one of those questions are valid and important, particularly given the push for universal <a href=""><u>screening</u></a> in children as young as 18 months of age. Furthermore, the vast majority of research demonstrates that if a child has a developmental or learning delay of some kind, early intervention, in the form of behavior, or <a href=""><u>ABA</u></a>, therapy, is the most effective, evidence-based method to address those deficits. However, given all of this information, when does attaching a label to a child help meet that child&#39;s needs, and when does it hinder them?</p>

<p>The answer, as with most things in life, is complicated. On the one hand, a diagnosis of something like autism or ADHD at an early age can help secure needed support and intervention, such as the aforementioned ABA therapy, as well as other interventions such as speech therapy, from funding sources like <a href=""><u>regional centers</u></a>, insurance companies and school districts. In most cases, funding for those services will not be available long-term unless a formal diagnosis is provided, and the number of services accessible is dependent on the specific diagnosis. For example, regional centers in the state of California will grant a range of services to children under the age of 3, regardless of diagnosis, including behavior, speech, OT and respite services. Subsequently, if more services are merited, a formal diagnosis and reevaluation must be applied for families to access that same range of services.</p>

<p>On the other hand, rushing to apply a diagnosis to a young child, can be a hindrance, especially before they are of diagnostic age and any formal evaluations and assessments are conducted. In addition to the potential stigma of attaching a diagnostic label to a child at a young age that will follow them throughout school, the diagnostic process can be especially trying for the parent of that child.</p>

<p><em><strong>As Dr. Rachel Taylor, Executive Director of the </strong></em><a href=""><strong><u>Center for Applied Behavior Analysis</u></strong></a><em><strong> in Los Angeles, California framed it, &quot;Parents can sometimes fall into the trap of circular reasoning. &#39;Why does my child flap his hands and not make eye contact with me? Because he has autism. Why does my child have autism? Because he flaps his hands and doesn&#39;t make eye contact with me.&#39;&quot;</strong></em></p>

<p>In short, this circular line of thinking can cause more harm than good because, on top of increasing the anxiety level of parents, it focuses on treating a child&#39;s label rather than treating a child&#39;s needs. As any behavior therapist, speech pathologist or teacher will tell you, they will work with a child not to remove their diagnosis, not because they&#39;re &quot;special needs,&quot; but to help address their specific deficits to bridge the gap between chronological and functional age.</p>

<p>Parents can be of more help to their children, and their own state of mind, not by constantly focusing on those same questions day in, day out, or by comparing their child to other children they see in their community, but rather by asking themselves what they can do to help their child and speaking to and working with service providers if necessary. And at the end of the day, if all those actions are taken and a diagnosis is warranted, then the parent or caregiver can rest assured that they did all they could to secure the fundamental supports for their child from an early age, to help ensure the health and wellbeing of their child.<br />
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<p>Article written by:</p>

<p><u><a href=""><strong><em>Pasha Bahsoun, M.A., BCBA</em></strong></a></u><em>, earned a&nbsp;Bachelor&#39;s of Science in Psychobiology from UCLA and a Master of Arts in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, where he researched and implemented various approaches to educating children diagnosed with autism, including through social skills training and the use of educational media.&nbsp;Pasha&rsquo;s thesis was titled, &ldquo;The Use of Educational Media with Children Diagnosed with Autism,&rdquo; in which he worked with the PBS television show &ldquo;Super Why!&rdquo; to develop games and programs catering to the developmentally disabled. Pasha currently serves as the Director of Social Skills, BCBA Supervisor at the Center for Applied Behavior Analysis.</em></p>



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