What to do when all the symptoms seem the same
You may have already read one or two articles (yes, there are many) in which I mentioned that my children are my main source of inspiration for my writing. Once again, this is the case.
Last week, during an important meeting intended to put together a profile for my child (his strengths, his challenges, details of his daily life), I realized just how difficult it can be to determine which symptoms can be associated with which diagnoses... The symptoms we observe can be associated with countless assumptions. How can we make sense of it all? I am a mom and a specialized early childhood educator and I had trouble sorting everything out. I really felt like a poorly shod shoemaker.
The first question I asked myself was: what is the goal of this process? The answer was spontaneous. The goal was to help my son. Did we want an official diagnosis? Not necessarily. I did however want my questions answered. I wanted to discover the source of the behavior I observe and manage daily. Is it ADHD, anxiety, opposition? For now, we just do not know.
You may have already felt this way about a child who attends your daycare. You may have felt lost among the many symptoms you observed, but didn't really understand. That's normal. How can the source of a child's difficulties be identified?
The first thing that you must understand is that only a healthcare professional can confirm a diagnosis. For this reason, you must be extremely diligent as early childhood educators when you believe a child has certain difficulties. You may have doubts, an impression, but until a professional has completed his evaluation of the child, you cannot confirm anything.
You can however act on the symptoms, the behaviors you observe. If, for example, the child is anxious in a specific situation, take the time to reassure him. If he is agitated and has difficulty remaining seated, find tools to help him. Keep in mind that your interventions can only help.
Speak openly with the child's parents. The behaviors and symptoms you observe are most likely present at home too. Work together to establish an action plan to help the child and make your days easier.
Actively participate in the data collection process. Write down any observable or measurable behaviors that may be helpful during the evaluation process. Know that you may have to be involved in one or more steps of this process. With the "ecosystem" approach, everyone who plays a role in the child's daily life must actively participate.
At times, you may not know how to act. You may worry you are doing too much or too little. A child who has special needs will most likely have a great impact on your daily activities. Use common sense and trust yourself, one step at a time.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator