“The child you take home is the same one you brought in.”
By Chris Kelsey, Board Member, Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network

Parents’ first experience of their child’s developmental evaluation by “the experts” can be pretty scary. They know their child well, and they know that he or she might not perform. They also may feel apprehensive about what they’ll hear regarding I.Q., developmental level, or functionality.

Parents should be reminded that an evaluation is a snapshot in time of what their child can do. Its true value is to assess where the child is now, so that appropriate services can be recommended. Having this information is helpful in seeking further resources – sometimes financial ones, and always developmental ones.

But the first hurdle for parents to face is the bundle of feelings that hearing the information may evoke in them. They may enter a time of grief. (They may not call it that, or immediately recognize it as that, but grief is very likely lurking around the corners.) The compassion that professionals extend during this process will long be appreciated.

As we know, the first stage of grief is denial – perhaps disbelief that the evaluation results are accurate. We have known people to go from doctor to doctor, or place to place, hoping to hear news that is easier to accept. In part, this is because embedded in denial is hope – and hope is good. At the same time, getting started with services as early as possible is a vital key to a child’s success in life, and as parents we don’t want our internal processes to stand in the way of our child’s progress. So the best advice to parents is to go with the recommendations, and keep a close eye on how the child responds. (Parents may also decide to dive into the Internet and learn all they can!)

Parents should be reminded that an important thing to remember is that the evaluation is descriptive of their child’s abilities and responses at the time of the evaluation. “The experts” are experts in their fields. Parents are the experts on their child – they know his or her personality, spirit, temperament, sense of humor, likes and dislikes, and levels of tolerance. And these are essential factors for long-range success in any treatment program.

As for the future, even after going through the second, and third evaluations, parents may revisit some of the feelings they had the first time around. But they’ll have more perspective on the process, and on the results. They will know that the information they hear will be useful, and that their advocacy on behalf of their precious child will make all the difference!

Chris Kelsey has an M.A. in counseling psychology and is the retired Director of Early Childhood Intervention for Forsyth, Stokes and Davie Counties in North Carolina. She serves on the boards of both Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network and Family Services Inc. in Winston-Salem.