Advantages and disadvantages of a formal evaluation

As noted in an earlier post, making an informed decision about seeking a formal diagnostic evaluation is a process.  As with any difficult decision, researching advantages and disadvantages makes sense.  Here are some ideas to ponder, as told to me by my clients over the years.


Advantages of a formal diagnostic evaluation

  • Clarity in diagnosis leads to clarity in treatment
    • An accurate diagnosis will allow you to write accurate treatment goals, and allows you to find the optimal treatment providers.
      • It is likely that the outcome will be Autism + something (anxiety, depression, sensory, OCD…). Be prepared for multiple diagnoses, and the need for multiple providers.
    • Let me be clear that it is my opinion that if you are raising a child on the spectrum, you have some level of obligation to find services for your child. I have met adults who were not provided with treated as youngsters, and their outcomes tend to be less optimistic than children who received intervention earlier in life.
  • You finally have an explanation to hand people
    • When you or your child are having a “moment of autism,” you can hand that explanation to teachers, onlookers, or family members. Rather than “this is a bad behavior” you have the phrase “this is an expected element of autism.”  That handy little phrase sure seems to cut down on accidentally identifying something autism-related as a moral shortcoming!
  • You can learn more, quickly, about how you experience the world
    • If you feel certain that you have a diagnosis on the spectrum, you may feel more motivated to read books, seek similar others, and better understand yourself. Doors open when you know the right words to search (asd, spectrum, OCD, etc.).
  • You can “find your people”
    • Clients have repeatedly told me that “finding their people” was the most important aspect of getting a formal diagnosis. Meeting others on the spectrum, having the special connection that comes from a similar way of understanding the world, and being able to feely discuss sensory, social, and communication concerns is fantastic.
      • “Finding your people” applies to parents as well. Find the connections of similar parents, similar parenting styles, similar children will serve you well!

Disadvantages of seeking a formal evaluation

  • Evaluations can be expensive
    • Depending upon providers in your area, your access to insurance, and a variety of other factors, getting an evaluation can be a spendy affair. You may need to take time off from work or school, travel, or pay out of pocket.
  • You can’t “unknow” information
    • Your evaluator will ask many questions, and some of the questions may be uncomfortable. At the end of the evaluation, the team will let you know about diagnostics, referrals, etc.  Sometimes people are afraid of the results, or the referrals.  Once you “know” a diagnosis, you can’t unknow that information.
  • You have an explanation to hand people, aka a label, and not everyone can see past the label
    • In some instances, people are reduced to a diagnosis or a symptom, and that is both inappropriate and uncomfortable. A person with ASD is a PERSON with something going on.  They are a highly textured, unique individual, not a label.
  • You might not be happy with the outcome
    • Sometimes people really, really, really want a specific outcome, and they don’t get it. Sometimes they want to secure a diagnosis, or sometimes avoid a diagnosis, but a thorough evaluation will not be influenced by your hopes and dreams.
  • You now have a responsibility to address this (if you are a parent)
    • Similar to the “you can’t unknow information,” if you are a parent, an evaluation and the accompanying referrals imply a responsibility to access treatment for your child. Delaying the diagnosis doesn’t mean your child doesn’t need services.  Getting a diagnosis does really seem to imply responsibility.
      • As one parent told me, “I didn’t get an evaluation because I didn’t want to raise a child with special needs.” Too bad, so sad, that particular child had “special needs” that went untreated until adulthood, and that was truly not the best course of action.

Choosing to pursue a formal evaluation is a big decision.  Think it through, and then make the choice that is right for you.

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