When I assess a child my focus often centers on where skills (and the skills can range from cognitive/academic to emotional/social) are breaking down for the child, which then guides goals and “next-step thinking.” The skills can range from those in the cognitive, academic or emotional/social domains.

Parents will place great deal of emphasis on the label, as in, for example, “Does my child have ADHD? Dyslexia? A Social Anxiety Disorder?”

Admittedly, I am less focused on labels (e.g., ADHD, LD, Dyslexia, Anxiety) and more oriented to where the skill deficits fall.


From the parents I will hear things like the following:

  • “The teacher says he has some trouble focusing – I wonder if it’s ADHD.”
  • “He doesn’t like to read – I think he may be dyslexic.”
  • “I can’t read his penmanship; I think it is dysgraphia.”
  • “Math is hard for her. Do you think she has dyscalculia?”
  • “She gets nervous when she takes tests. Maybe she has an anxiety disorder?”

I don’t know how it happens, but every ten years or so we have a syndrome that somehow seems to become front and center in people’s consciousness or awareness. In the 1990s going into the early to middle 2000’s ADHD/ADD seemed to be on everyone’s mind.

Right now we are squarely in the decade of dyslexia.

All of the issues of concern occur on a “spectrum,” from very mild and just slightly below average to more severe and significantly below average.

So, if an eight year old boy is a little unfocused, does that make him ADHD? Or if a seven year old is a bit of a weak reader, does that mean she’s dyslexic?

Unlike something like the results of an x-ray or a blood test, with these issues (and virtually all psychological variables) there is no “yes, he’s got it,” or “no, he does not have it” proposition. (Trust me, there are many times I wish there were, as it would make my professional life that much easier.)

Since these concerns are all “spectrumy” (a made-up word), that means there is no x-ray or one test for any of them. Assessment becomes a weighing of variables where the evidence tilts in one direction or another.

Mind you, I am not suggesting these disorders or disabilities do not exist, but I am cautioning about quickly jumping to what I call “disorder or disability thinking.”

I understand that the label provides some level of comfort in terms of an explanation for the skill breakdown. The larger point is that before we jump to those labels, let’s target the skill breakdowns with good, sensible interventions and see how it unfolds. There are many who tend to self-diagnose themselves and find solutions that sometimes might not be a necessity at all. For instance, if you notice, CBD products are to be used only in a limited quantity and under the right supervision for very few problems such as anxiety and stress-related issues. However, if everyone keeps using them saying they are depressed in the wrong quantity, it can leave lasting damages to the body and they might also be in a position requiring them to be answerable to the law. Each country has its own regulations and rules when it comes to the usage of CBD. As an example, you can check out CBD oil UK law here, if interested. Coming back to the main context, when it comes to any health-related problems, we need to be sensible in the approach that we take.

Then, after a reasonable period of time for allowing the intervention to work, if the child is stuck or not making great progress, you can more confidently view there being a “disorder” or a “disability.”

Copyright, 2020 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick. Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com.

To purchase a signed copy of “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to https://shutdownlearner.com.


To purchase a signed copy of “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to https://shutdownlearner.com.