The Opportunity Costs Aren’t Worth Waiting For Your Child to “Grow Out Of It.”
What kind of nutcase gets their child kindergarten tutoring? Only an overly anxious, hyper-competitive Tiger Mom would do a crazy thing like that! At least, that’s what I thought when the idea was first suggested to me. But I was wrong.
When I was first told that I should get my kindergarten child a tutor, I laughed out loud. But then I quickly realized the learning professional was serious. She had administered my child’s neuropsych evaluation. She thought that some of the results suggested he would have difficulty learning to read. He was too young to be diagnosed with Dyslexia, but she thought we should get a tutor now rather than wait a couple of years to see what happened.
That was some of the best advice I have been given to date.
Wise Words To Live By
When I initially pushed back against what seemed to be utter nonsense, she offered some wise words:
It’s better to graduate out of services than it is to fail into them.
I could wait until third or fourth grade when it would be crystal clear that there was an issue to be addressed. But by then, he would have racked up several years of demoralizing struggles and hundreds of days of feeling bad about himself and his performance. All while not really learning how to read. Or, he could spend those same years making incremental progress and building up a foundation of achievement.
I took a leap of faith and found a tutor. And it turned out not to be so crazy after all. Even if it had turned out that there was no Dyslexia, the tutor was still helpful. None of that time would have been wasted. But waiting would have been harmful.
So her wise words became a mantra. Not a daily one, but something that floated around in the back of my head. Hanging out until needed for Child №2.
It is interesting how there are some conditions that aren’t supposed to be diagnosed until you have reached a certain age. Presumably to avoid over-diagnosing or false diagnosis. So perhaps in the aggregate, it works out. But, for specific individuals — not so much.
Child №2 had issues from a very young age. He was a delightful, exuberant child but a child with issues. For now, I will skip the drama and cut to the lightbulb moment when he was diagnosed with ADHD. He was 4.
Some folks might be skeptical about the existence of ADHD symptoms in young kids and such a relatively early diagnosis, but the results speak for themselves. Before his diagnosis, he was on the edge of getting booted out of his preschool class (unless I wanted to pay a facilitator to sit with him in the class all day). After he was diagnosed and started an appropriate treatment program, he became “available for learning.” That’s what one of his teachers said when she stopped me in the hall to express her wide-eyed amazement.
Obviously, he had always been capable of learning, but there were obstacles in his way. Once those obstacles were addressed, he was not only teachable; he was actually learning.
Avoid the Opportunity Costs of Delayed Diagnosis
The child who is diagnosed with ADHD at age 6 or 7, or 11, also had ADHD when he was 3 or 4. It’s a neurological condition. Not something you wake up with after a bout of too much screen time and sugared cereal.
Not too long ago, French researchers published a study in the Journal of Attention Disorders that looked a the healthcare trajectory of kids with ADHD. The researchers found that the average age that symptoms were first noticed was about 4 1/2 (four and a half). But, the average age of actual diagnosis was not until years later, at age 8.
Not surprisingly, the delay in diagnosis was viewed as the main source of concern by families and researchers alike.
So what happened during those intervening four years? How much unnecessary stress and anxiety? How many negative associations with school developed? How many impressions of a child — by himself, his peers, and the world around him — had become cemented and resistant to change? Even if the child himself changed.
The researchers concluded that the extended delay in diagnosis represented a significant loss of potential opportunities. Delayed diagnosis creates the potential for increased (and unnecessary) functional impairment, poor educational outcomes, and increased social dysfunction. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
How Does This Apply To You In The Here and Now?
The researchers were focused on identifying systemic ways to address the issue of prolonged delays in ADHD diagnosis. For instance, through better training for first-line healthcare providers. The audience for this particular post, however, consists of individual parents and family members who have a strong suspicion that something’s not quite right. You know who you are.
You are not doing anyone any favors by waiting to see if your kid will grow out of it. Least of all, your child.
(This article originally appeared on Medium.com.)