Preparing to receive evaluative news about children can be stressful for parents. This news may come in the form of results from a medical test, neuropsychological evaluation, educational testing, or performance feedback. In our practice at NeuroBehavioral Associates, we have the opportunity to meet with parents face-to-face and, during COVID, through ZOOM, to review the results of comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations.
Receiving Difficult News Can Sometimes Be a Shock for Families
As a parent, you have invested resources and time in having your children complete assessments. The information that you receive afterward can be confusing, complex, and — understandably — sometimes unwanted. Maybe you already have a reasonably accurate understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. If this is the case, then the findings, including diagnostic formulations, may be unwelcome, but they are not a particular surprise.
However, there are times when parents are surprised by the findings. In these cases, parents may feel many emotions, including distress and sadness. They might even be resistant to hearing the difficult information regarding their children’s needs.
Our Team Is Prepared to Help You Cope with the Unexpected
In order to support a productive conversation that will lead to positive change for a child, it is necessary to understand the frame of mind of the parent. At NeuroBehavioral Associates, we try to develop an idea of each family’s understanding of developmental issues, diagnostic conditions, and the testing process. When we suspect that news will be difficult to hear, we first start by explaining the strengths that are unique to their specific child. This information can be reassuring, and helps promote a framework for a productive conversation.
Before reviewing any test findings, numbers, or labels, our staff provides an overarching statement about the findings. We use specific language, short, declarative sentences, and allow parents time to process and respond to the information.
It’s Normal to Feel Overwhelmed by a Diagnosis or Finding
Hearing for the first time that your child has a diagnosis of a neurodivergent condition, such as autism spectrum disorder, can be quite daunting. You might have certain preconceptions about autism, learning disabilities, or mood disorders. As you sit there, taking in this information, you might mentally begin a split second calculation about how this news could change not only the course of your child’s life, but your expectations as a parent. (1)
As a health care team, we are honest in our approach to these conversations. We know that we cannot predict the child’s future solely from the examination, but we can provide parents with needs and help them recognize opportunities.
After the Diagnosis: A Deeper Conversation
After you’ve begun to accept and process evaluative information, our team will look to your child’s specific scores and score profiles. We will allow ample time for discussion of recommendations.
Years ago, Dr. Culotta installed a separate screen in his office to share information with parents regarding brain function, research findings, or intervention strategies effective for the challenges experienced by their children. We know that most people only recall about 30 to 40% of what they hear in a doctor’s visit. That’s why we offer the opportunity for summaries throughout the session. We always defer to questions from parents before moving to a new topic.
Second Opinions: When the Information Is Just Too Difficult to Hear
There are cases in which parents are simply not receptive to a particular diagnosis. If such cases arise, we offer our confidence level in the conclusions that we have reached and suggest that they “road test” these findings with other clinicians, educators, or physicians.
For example, we may suggest that they send the report to their pediatrician, therapist, or IEP team leader and ask for feedback. It is not unusual for parents to call or email our professionals after several months
and indicate that the findings are, in fact, consistent with the way that others have viewed their child.
Potential Biases in Medicine: An Understandable Concern
We understand that it is important to recognize that there have been systematic biases in medicine that may make it difficult for people to not only accept results, but to trust that the results and recommendations are truly within the best interest of their children.
There is a history in our country of government-based medical experiments that have taken advantage of racial groups such as Black populations. There is a higher rate of IEP designation of children of minority groups with
emotional disorders versus a learning disability or attention disorder. There have been conflicting arguments that minority populations are both overrepresented and underrepresented in special education classes.(2)
These systematic biases should be recognized and discussed openly in order to build trust with the parent and allow the findings to have a positive impact on the child’s life.
In the end, if an assessment does not result in a positive change in the life, course, or circumstances of the child or adolescent, then its value is
Scheduling an Appointment with NeuroBehavioral Associates
NeuroBehavioral Associates provides comprehensive neuropsychological assessments for children, teens, and adults with known or suspected learning, attention, or neurodevelopmental disorders.
NeuroBehavioral Associates remains open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We are providing in-office, low-contact assessments, and telehealth services. Call 410-772-7155 or email us today to schedule an appointment or ask about our services.
- Ali, D. (2015, June 11). How to Handle Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis. Parents. https://www.parents.com/health/autism/symptoms/handling-your-childs-autism-diagnosis/
- Journal, J. W. P., National. (2015, July 6). Is Special Education Racist? The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/07/the-racial-imbalances-of-special-education/397775/