Having your son officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (on the autism spectrum) may seem like a good idea at the time, but until society makes some progressive leaps, you may want to consider putting the stops on the diagnosis.
An alternative is to see a psychiatrist for a diagnosis, have him or her document it on paper and then file the paper away in a safe place for the future if case you need it. Tell the doctor beforehand, you don’t want him to discuss the diagnosis in front of your son. Try to create the feeling of going for a “check up.”
In most cases your son can still receive the help he needs without the label. You can still help him with communication, social skills and academic issues without the label.
Here are five reasons to avoid, delay or skip an official diagnosis all together – especially if your son is also intellectually gifted and/or his Asperger characteristics are “mild.”
No. 1: Asperger Syndrome is not a disease. He does not need to be treated as a person would with a medical or mental illness. His brain is wired differently than your brain. Some parts of his brain experience less activity than those same parts of your brain. Someone might get the (not-so-bright) idea to try to medicate him. One drug approved for use by children/teens with Asperger Syndrome, which I’m not naming, has a long list of side effects such as weight gain and impotence.
No. 2: You don’t have the right to affect his identity and personal self image with a label. Labels are for manufactured food products – not for people. If you were a teenager today the adults in your life might label you bi-polar, obsessive compulsive, a person with oppositional defiance, a person with an eating disorder or depression. How would any of those labels have changed your life?
No. 3: The school administrators or others may begin looking for and creating problems. My friend has a child with brain wiring issues and is diagnosed with a variety of things. Every time the labels are used to try to defend or get the child help — it just brings more problems and gets them even further away from their goals. If your child has mild characteristics or is gifted, you may be better off passing him off as eccentric or shy.
No. 4: You don’t need to put a name on something for it to be real. Some psychologists say you should deal with each individual characteristic or behavior, but you don’t need to point out, “He’s saying or doing X because he has Asperger.” If you need to explain him to others, you may say his brain is wired differently or he is extremely intellectual and right brained. Even if you try to keep an official diagnosis hush-hush, someone will eventually talk about the diagnosis in front of him anyway. Frame it or describe it in a way to others that you would not mind having repeated to your son.
No. 5: Over diagnosis. Asperger Syndrome, some people believe, is being over diagnosed by medial professionals. Your son may be misdiagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he really is just introverted, socially clumsy or what we used to call a “nerd” or a “geek.” Gifted children sometimes have Asperger Syndrome and sometimes they are just gifted. It’s extremely hard to distinguish especially when they are young.
Even if you son goes through a phase when his Asperger Syndrome characteristics are more profound, you need to understand he will grow, change and evolve. The awesome thing about people with different brain wiring is they can and do mature, change and grow – they just take a different path to get there!