Dr. Jerome M. Schultz, author of “Nowhere to Hide,” offered this response to that question in a webinar he did for us about kids' anxiety and school. It was so clear and direct – such a perfect reflection of the message we teach parents – that I've transcribed his response for you here:
“Somebody has to teach the kid. There are a lot of kids sitting in public and private schools across the United States, where kids have no idea what's wrong with them. And some people don't like it when I talk about what's wrong with them because they don't like to look at a disability model. But if you ask a kid who has a learning disability that's never been explained to her what's going on, she'll think something's wrong with her – most often she'll think that she's dumb.”
Unless we sit down with kids and pay them the respect of teaching them about how their own brains are functioning, and what's challenging them, and why, we're missing an incredibly important opportunity to get kids working on their own behalf. We can do that in developmentally appropriate ways.
People sometimes say, “I don't want to tell my child that she has a learning disability or ADHD because it has a negative connotation.” I would just ask you to think about what language these kids are using to describe themselves in the absence of something that's perhaps a little more objective and a little more scientific. We don't want the diagnosis to pull kids down and make them depressed. We want the diagnosis to inform them so that they can take a greater self-advocacy role.