Special Needs Children: Should I Label My Kid?
For some, it's a godsend. For others, it's a stigmatizing professional opinion—and sometimes even a misdiagnosis. Read about kids who were labeled with a disorder, and what it meant, for better and for worse. Plus, read one mom's moving letter to her special needs son’s school principal
“WE'RE GLAD WE SAID NO”
“The Truth Shocked Us”
Diane Lansing's* youngest son, Colin*, first showed behavior issues and speech problems at age 2. Over the next two years, a dozen doctors gave him ever-changing diagnoses: ADHD, PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, which relates to socializing and communicating), mixed receptive/expressive language disorder, SID (sensory integration disorder). All the possibilities gave Lansing a headache. Literally. “How could one kid have so much wrong?” wondered Lansing.
The San Diego mom declined the ADHD meds Colin's physician suggested. Eighteen months later, however, another doctor recommended lead testing, as symptoms of lead poisoning can mimic ADHD. They discovered that the entire family (both parents, Colin, and his older brother) had contracted lead poisoning from their dinnerware. Because he was so young, it hit Colin hardest.
The family underwent chelation therapy to remove the lead from their bodies, and Colin needed speech and occupational therapy for several more years. During that time, the Lansings were shocked at how little teachers expected of Colin. He was automatically assigned to the remedial math group (despite having always done fine in math), and during class storytimes, Colin wasn't encouraged to join in. “They didn't expect him to be interested, so they didn't bother,” says Lansing. His mom still wonders what would have happened had his condition been lifelong, rather than just temporary.
Now 11, Colin excels in school, football, and basketball. “But if we had accepted any one of those diagnoses, who knows?” says Lansing.
“Our Doc was Wrong”
Bridget James took her then 2-year-old son, Park, to the doctor because she thought he had strep throat. The pediatrician noted his language delays. He commented on the way he played with a toy he'd brought. Then he said Park was likely autistic.
After this visit, his parents enrolled him in early-intervention services near their Salt Lake City home. However, their gut told them the doc was wrong. James, who read that diet can affect kids' behavior, had him tested for food intolerances. Sure enough, food dyes and dairy popped up. And Park lived on cheese and yogurt.
Within five days of going dairy-free, “I kid you not, Park began looking in my eyes again. He wanted to read books together—something he hadn't done in a year,” she recalls.