Is My Child Normal?
By Phillip E. Morris, PsyD
November 28, 2021
Let’s face it, being a parent is hard. You never get time off and the fringe benefits are few and far between. So why parent, why do it? Simple, because you love your child. They are everything to you. They bring you joy (and frustration), meaning, and purpose. They are an extension of you. They carry in their cells the literal DNA you gave them. They carry the morals, values, belief systems, and behaviors you instilled. They even look like you, act like you, and think and feel like you. They are their own person, but they also have so much in common with you. They are often a reflection of you.
So, it is understandably difficult – and humbling – to admit your child may be different. That they are not like the other kids. That your child acts differently, talks differently. Different does not necessarily mean bad or wrong, it can sometimes simply be just that – different. Your child may be unique and idiosyncratic. A round peg surrounded by square holes. Then there are situations in which different means more than just unique; this is when getting an accurate diagnosis is fundamentally important.
If you worry your child may be more than just different, that they may have a psychiatric disorder or behavioral condition, then it is time to seek professional help. This can be hard for many reasons; the biggest being no one wants to admit their child has problems, that they need professional help. Once you get past the humility, the first step is to talk with your pediatrician. Meet with them to discuss your observations and concerns. A pediatrician should listen and offer advice, suggestions, and an explanation. Although, some pediatricians may brush off your concerns, telling you to not worry and say invalidating statements like, “ADHD is over diagnosed anyway” and, “Aren’t we all on the spectrum somewhere?”. A great pediatrician will refer you to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These professionals will be able to offer more.
Counseling is undoubtably helpful and there are times in which medication may be needed. Another first step can be to get psychological testing. Some – but not all – licensed psychologists conduct testing and evaluations. These tools unpack the question, “Is my child normal, or is something wrong?” A testing psychologist has the training and experience to appropriately diagnose your child. There are numerous, well-established tests psychologists can use to help figure out what is going on with your child. They can run tests for ADD/ADHD, Autism, and learning disabilities like dyslexia. There are tests to identify emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar. The tests will help identify the roots to your child’s struggles and can answer the question, “Is my child normal? Or do they have a disorder?”