A diagnosis is termed the identification of an illness, through examining the symptoms.
It is a common question parents come across, even at times when you did not expect it. However, it has these days become more common, as there is now more awareness of particular mental health diagnosis than there used to be. Assessing your child when challenges occur is really important.
Some challenges that may cause a parent concern and possibly consider a mental health assessment for their child may include;
Challenges with social interactions
Limited to no speaking
Low muscle tone
Poor coordination in play activities
Challenges with coping with changes
Difficulties in trying new activities
Your child not reaching milestones, such as crawling, walking, talking, eating
Challenges understanding emotions in themselves or others.
It can be overwhelming considering if your child needs a mental health assessment, and can even be a battle with your values, partner, families and teachers/schools. It is highly recommended to have a support person to assist with these thoughts or concerns you may have. It is important to note how long you have had these concerns for, and most importantly to reach out to see if any other adult in your child’s life has had the same concerns, such as parent, caregiver, teacher, daycare teacher, or friends.
Often parents compare their child to another child’s development, and then begin to feel that something is wrong, or that they have not done everything they can as a parent. This is important to unpack and seek support about to investigate these concerns and know that you have done everything you can do. Parents should know it is never to late to start with therapy, strategies or seeking support for you child or family.
What to know?
In thinking about taking your child for an assessment you should consider what the goal of the assessment is. Such as, ‘Is it around understanding your child’s needs’, ‘Finding the best way to support them’, ‘funding support’, and/or ‘knowing how to best work with your child’. A diagnostic assessment can often help us to understand why, what, and how to support your child.
It is important to prepare information around your child and the family before going for an assessment. Information they will ask parents/caregiver or guardians can include:
Childs birth and labour
Childs development, including any trauma, illnesses or accidents
School- friends of your child, does your child experience bullying
Fine and Gross Motor skills, social skills, self-care tasks, independence, sensory processing and academic achievement/IQ of your child.
If you are considering an assessment, and you have support around this decision; it is recommended that families seek a professional opinion.
To begin the process you visit your General Practitioner (GP) who will refer you to the Public mental health system (District health board), if that is what you want.
You can also look into private mental health assessment options, however this often comes at a high cost.
Who can assess my child?
Using the Diagnostic Statistic Manual 5 (DSM-5) there are a number of professionals that are able to clinically assess your child that is within their scope of practice, these include
Authorised autism specialists
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD association
Autism ASD associations
Mental health services
If diagnosis and mental health is not something you agree to do for your child, this is also okay. There are several support services that can provide therapy for your concerns, and that work on goal setting with families to achieve what you want to work on.
Connecting Together offers screening for mental health diagnosis such as Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, sensory processing and more. This can provide an indication of whether there may be an underlying diagnosis however it does not clinically diagnosis, as this is not within the scope of an Occupational Therapist to clinically diagnosis. With this indication you could then carry out an assessment if you decide, or you could begin therapy for your child and family.
Connecting Together creates goals with the child and family , working through these in therapy sessions, reviewing the goal progress every 3 months, providing strategies to family and schools, and supports you in the process with any questions that come up along the way.
Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a message if you feel your family or child could benefit from this service, any questions or enquiries you may have, and lastly a contact number I can access you easily on.
Poroporoaki hoki inaianei,
Melissa Walker-Tate (Occupational Therapist).
Connecting Together Ltd.