Treating a child’s individual needs rather than a child’s diagnosis of autism (Source:

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’t speaking yet? Why won’t my child look at me when I play with them? Does my child have a learning disability? Is my child “normal”?

Each and every one of those questions are valid and important, particularly given the push for universal screening in children as young as 18 months of age. Furthermore, the vast majority ofresearch demonstrates that if a child has a developmental or learning delay of some kind, early intervention, in the form of behavior, or ABA, 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’s needs, and when does it hinder them?

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 regional centers, 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.

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