"Tell It To Me Straight, Doc..."

September 25, 2020

With about 500 blog posts under our belt, we look for inspiration where we can find it.

Those of you who follow this blog, know that we strive to talk in “down-to-earth, plain language,” which is the overriding, mission of the website (www.shutdownlearner.com), the books and the blogs.

Parents, rightfully, come to me frustrated, worried and concerned.  They are looking for an answer, usually a “diagnosis.”

Even though many in the field seem comfortable with offering  a  definitive diagnoses, I am hopelessly muddling in the gray zone. Or as I explain to parents, as I push back on the label, “Well, you know it’s a ‘pie-chart’ of variables.”

Or to really make things really clear, I refer to what’s going on with their child, as a “soup-pot of variables.”

In other words in this “soup pot” (or pie chart) you can have a, helping of dyslexia, mixed in with a dash of impulsiveness,  a sprinkling of oppositional behavior and occasional meltdowns, coupled with a tendency to be socially annoying.  Oh, wait. We forgot to mention the pervasive spelling and writing issues with inattentiveness.

So, you tell me, what should we call it?

Thinking about the “pie chart,” brought to mind a kid I saw recently who stopped me in my tracks.

Nine year old, Liam, had been brought in to see me to assess his school struggles.

Midway through the testing, Liam stopped what he was doing and looked up at me. “Tell it to me straight, Doc,” he said.  “Do I have ADD?”

I have to admit, I almost spit out my coffee when Liam asked that question.  He’s nine years old!!!

How have we gotten to a point where a nine year old is asking whether he has a neurological disorder?

To answer Liam I did my usual tap dance, trying not to answer the question directly, mumbling something like, “Liam, listen, there’s nothing wrong with you.”

While shuffling papers, I continued, “We’re just trying to find out why school’s been so hard for you, so we can give you pointers on what can be done about it.”

Liam remained unmoved.

“Yeah, but do I have ADD?”

At that point, I probably squirmed my way into another part of the office, looking for something else for him to be doing to distract him from the question.

How could I talk to Liam about the “pie chart of variables,” no less the “soup pot,” so I chose the path of least resistance.

I avoided answering him.

Reflecting on the interaction, I don’t think I’d want the session on Psychology TV!

“Answer the child directly,” the viewers would comment.  “Tell him in straightforward terms whether he has the disorder or not,” the chorus would chant.  “Stop squirming and beating around the bush. We thought you were a doctor!  What’s your problem?”

My problem is I can’t see things in “black or white,” “this or that” terms.

99% of the time there is a pie chart (soup pot) to understand.  The different pieces are rarely of equal size or proportion, but they are there.

Takeaway Point

Hey, Liam, if you are reading this, there’s nothing wrong with your brain.

We just need to work on a couple of things.

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