“It is generally not useful to diagnose most boys with disorders before the age of seven,” say Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, and Michael Gurian in Raising Boy By Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive. “But this does not mean you shouldn’t seek help at any time if you are worried.”
Within the last two decades, we have seen a marked increase in the diagnosis of developmental disorders in children, most notably ADD, ADHD, and autism.
The reason for this is three-fold:
- There has been an actual organic increase in the development of these brain disorders.
- The ability to diagnose developmental disorders has improved considerably.
- Children are being diagnosed with disorders they do not have.
Each of these considerations must be taken into account if and when you’re worried that your son may have a developmental disorder.
Certainly, there is the real possibility that your son’s inability to focus could be a sign of ADD, for example. However, it could also be a natural reaction to his environment, particularly if he has trouble focusing in school, but can focus just fine at home or during extracurricular activities.
In other words, the challenges facing your son may simply be an expression of the design God intended for him.
“The single most helpful thing a family can do for a child who may or may not have a brain disorder is to alter the pattern of devotion to design in the care given the boy,” Dr. Jantz and Gurian state in Raising Boys By Design. “A boy who is ‘troubled’ may simply be a high-demand boy who needs more of your and your family’s devotion.”
Unfortunately, we do boys a tremendous disservice jumping to conclusions, particularly the doctors and counselors who do not hold the proper credentials or perform the necessary tests to make these diagnoses.
A developmental disorder should only be diagnosed by a child psychiatrist or child psychologist who performs neuropsychological batteries on your son. These are a series of tests that take several hours to complete. So if anyone tries diagnosing your son without these tests, seek a second opinion.
SIGNALS OF A DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER
- Trouble focusing in all environments
- Concern of more than one parent or caregiver regarding academic or cognitive development
Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Significant difficulty controlling body, voice, actions
- Does not look people in the eyes
- Hits angrily more than most boys
- “Goes internal” more than most boys
Sensory Processing Disorder
- Finds clothes uncomfortable to wear
- Finds it difficult to handle loud noises
- Suddenly goes out of control for no apparent reason, though it can be traced back to sensory overstimulation
- Has delays in more than one area (i.e., both speech and motor)
- Seems overly angry
- Violent responses
Again, only a qualified child psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnosis a developmental disorder through neuropsychological batteries. However, these are clues that should signal to you the need to seek a professional opinion.
“Our choices in parenting will impact our child’s present and future and potentially hold eternal consequences,” says Dr. Jantz. “As parents of faith, we recognize that our children belong not only to us but first and foremost to God.”