Podcast #4: From Diagnosis to Action: A Guide for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Confused about what happens after finding a therapist for your child with special needs? This episode unpacks the next steps, specifically focusing on developmental assessments. Host Madhavi and child psychologist Isha Singh address common questions and anxieties parents face. Learn the different reasons for consultations, why assessments are crucial, and how to navigate anxieties surrounding diagnosis. Gain clarity on the process, understand how assessments unlock your child’s potential, and discover resources to support your journey.

Introduction

Madhavi Adimulam (host): Welcome to our podcast! Today, we’ll explore child development and the challenges and joys it brings to families with special needs children. I’m Madhavi, mom to a 25-year-old with autism, Varun. Joining me is Isha Singh, a seasoned child psychologist with over 15 years of experience. Together, we’ll share insights and guidance for families like ours.

Initial Consultation: Understanding Your Child's Needs

Madhavi: Let’s discuss what happens after a parent finds a therapist or therapy center. Isha, can you explain the ideal next steps and their order?

Isha Singh (psychologist): Sure. So, after finding a place like Ananya, parents typically come for a consultation. The primary purpose is to understand the child’s concerns. Why did the parents bring the child here? Sometimes there’s a referral from a doctor or a friend, but usually, the parents have noticed a delay and want to discuss it with a psychologist or therapist.

Isha: Sometimes parents have pre-diagnosis reports or assessment reports they want us to review, like a second opinion. If there’s a developmental delay, we discuss available services and how we can progress here. Sometimes assessments are incomplete, with just observations by another professional. Then I recommend a detailed assessment.

Isha: Third, parents might have a complete report and want therapy progress reviewed. The fourth option is when parents find us through a reference and want a second opinion or just to see if their child is progressing like others. They want a professional opinion about any potential concerns.

Madhavi: True. Sometimes parents are lost and just want to talk to someone. Maybe a very established professional diagnosed their child, and they just want confirmation. Hearing news of a developmental delay is a shock. They need time to process it. So, what typically happens after the consultation?

Consultation Outcomes

Isha: If there’s a report, we discuss further steps like therapy services – what’s available, what’s needed for the child. If no therapy or assessment has been recommended, and there are no observations, I recommend starting with a developmental assessment.

Developmental Assessment

Isha: A developmental assessment covers all six areas of development. It’s a one or two-hour observation of the child doing various activities. Then, we write a detailed report in six to seven hours. It’s handwritten, not computer-generated. We explain the signs and symptoms of any autism or other childhood disability, and the child’s developmental age.

Isha: This detailed report helps plan therapy specific to the child’s needs, not generic.

Madhavi: The whole idea of assessment is to identify areas of delay. Addressing these precisely helps the child. These areas are interrelated. For example, parents might see a speech delay and only ask for speech therapy. However, other delays might be present but not obvious.

Isha: An assessment helps us understand those less obvious areas. In most cases, it’s unlikely the child only has a speech delay. We still need to investigate. Parents also need to understand this might require multiple visits. The child might be upset or unfamiliar with the new place on the first visit.

Isha: Sometimes, we ask parents to come back a few times to familiarize the child with the place. Then, we can do the assessment over a few hours. Afterward, we discuss our observations with each other and prepare a report. It’s a time-consuming process requiring expert people like speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and me as a psychologist.

Isha: We might have heated discussions, agreements, disagreements, but ultimately, we come up with a holistic report. This report takes a few days to prepare, and it’s not computer-generated. It requires a lot of effort, which is why we charge a fee. It’s not just about income generation for Ananya; it’s a mandatory step to help the child.

Isha: No child should receive therapy solely based on what you see without an assessment. Children’s behavior can vary from day to day. Even after the assessment, if parents decide on therapy at Ananya, we recommend observing the child for two more weeks before creating a therapy plan. This allows for more observation.

Isha: My need to observe is never-ending. Parents might ask if I can observe more for a more accurate report and better goals for the child. Observation is an ongoing process, just like development and assessment. We reassess children every six to eight months to realign goals with their development. Parents shouldn’t shy away from assessments.

 

Help Your Child Thrive

Understanding the Importance of Assessments

Madhavi: You mentioned names like autism and ADHD. For some parents, these diagnoses can be scary. Can you elaborate on the role of assessments in providing clarity and dispelling fears?

Isha: Absolutely. These diagnoses are simply a roadmap to understanding the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Imagine a child who struggles to make eye contact or doesn’t respond to their name. An assessment helps us understand if these are signs of autism or just temporary behavioral traits.

Isha: With a proper diagnosis, parents can access resources and support groups specific to their child’s needs. Think of it as a starting point, not an endpoint. The assessment allows us to create a personalized therapy plan to address the child’s unique challenges.

Benefits of Early Intervention

Madhavi: That makes sense. So, these assessments aren’t just about labeling a child, but rather about creating a roadmap for their development?

Isha: Exactly. Early intervention is crucial for children with developmental delays. The sooner we identify the areas of concern, the sooner we can intervene and help the child reach their full potential. Research shows that early intervention can significantly improve a child’s long-term outcomes.

Addressing Parental Concerns

Madhavi: We’ve talked about the benefits of assessments, but some parents might be hesitant due to anxieties or financial limitations. How can we address these concerns?

Isha: Those are valid concerns. Let’s address the financial aspect first. Many government schemes and NGOs offer financial aid for developmental assessments and therapy. Parents can explore these options by contacting their local social services department or searching online resources.

Isha: As for anxieties, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed or scared after receiving a diagnosis. However, remember you’re not alone. There are many resources and support groups available. Talking to other parents who have been through similar experiences can be incredibly helpful.

Isha: We, at Ananya, also provide pre- and post-assessment counseling to address parental concerns and anxieties. We explain the diagnosis in detail and answer any questions you might have. Our goal is to empower you to make informed decisions about your child’s care.

Conclusion

Madhavi: Isha, thank you for sharing your expertise on developmental assessments. This conversation has been incredibly informative for parents like myself.

Isha: Thank you, Madhavi, for having me. Remember, early intervention is key. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Madhavi: Absolutely. And to our listeners, remember, you are not alone. There are resources and support available. Seek professional help, and together we can create a brighter future for our children.

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