Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Labels Without Testing

Everyone has an opinion on labels. Whether pro or anti, both sides have to admit that labels, at their heart, describe a specific set of characteristics, which make them useful in specific settings. The question becomes whether or not one can, or even should, use those labels in their appropriate settings without the testing to back them up.

I have a lot of suspicions around Mad Natter, his abilities, his disabilities, his capabilities. Each of these suspicions comes with its own label, one that makes it much easier to describe Mad Natter to the people who are helping me with his medical care, and allows me to connect more easily with the resources and people who will help me best help Mad Natter. But... without testing, I'm loathe to actually use these labels.

Each of my suspicions has, in turn, been borne out by later testing. I wondered if my son was gifted when he was in preschool, making mental leaps well beyond the other children in his program, and they weren't even that unusual for him. Several months later, rudimentary testing confirmed Mad Natter was, in fact, gifted - and not 'just barely,' but solidly gifted - even at three years old, on a measurement meant for six year olds.

The following year, I suspected some sensory issues. Sure enough, an OT evaluation confirmed exactly that, leaving Mad Natter with a formal diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder. Once we started working on a sensory diet, and kept up with it, new suspicions arose. What if Mad Natter had ADHD as well? He would often tell me that he rather enjoyed being sick because "it slows my brain down so I can think." Sure enough, this year came the diagnosis of ADHD.

Now, despite having a 100% track record on diagnoses for my son - and not oneshow far from the "norm" Mad Natter is. I know other children he is eerily similar to, and I know how far from the norm those children are. I know what markers and hallmarks are indicative of his differences, and I know what his milestones and markers suggest that difference to be. And yet, without the number in hand, I'm almost afraid to say it. Like if I don't have Someone With Letters After Their Name to confirm what I suspect, it doesn't really count.
from anyone willing to diagnose anything just to make a parent happy, mind you - I'm loathe to say "out loud" my suspicions of just

Now, some of this comes from a history of people not trusting my judgement until Someone With Letters agrees and actually says so - or until it becomes prevailing theory. I occasionally find I parent more than just my son - I end up parenting various friends and relatives as well, managing their well-intentioned fears and concerns around our raising Mad Natter - because despite being the one person in the world who knows my son almost as well as he himself does, I am still not considered a credible source. Kind of makes it hard to jump in with a speculation, to wonder out loud, to consider the implications of that suspicion if it, too, is borne true.

Welcome to impostor syndrome. I know what I know, but I doubt what I know, because I'm not really a credible source, my information isn't really that accurate, my research isn't truly that extensive, I don't have letters. All the more confounding is that knowing and recognizing the impostor syndrome right in front of me doesn't help me push past it in the slightest. And so I wait. I sit with this "secret" and I wonder if it's really possible, if there is any way to truly find out, and in either instance, what it would mean for us if I were right - and I do it silently, in my head, because I still can't believe I'm actually a good source.

Strange how the mind works, isn't it?