Good News

Parents, Professionals, and Diagnoses

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My last article was a little reflection on my own daughter and music, my gifts, and “my wish.” In my conversations in recent weeks with parents of clients, I wanted to write a little on professional dealings with parents. Last week, you got a glimpse of one of the “twinkles in my eye.” In conversations with parents, we must remember each child is the “twinkle” in each parents’ eye.

Parents often begin the process knowing something is not quite right. Giving a name or a label answers the question and can be a starting point in a better direction, but may also be a point of plummeting devastation for shocked parents. A parent who does not have a child with autism, aspergers, or some other diagnosis has in most cases only ever heard the name of the diagnosis, if at all. The name, the diagnosis, often represents to a parent an unknown dark cave. In this day and progressive age (especially concerning recent developments in neurological brain processes and brain plasticity), I continue to be astonished at comments of professionals such as “your child will never…”, or comments on predictions of inability due to a score. These scores, based on abilities of typically developing children, will generally give a parent an idea of all of the things in which their child is deficient, how far behind their score puts them on that day, or a generalization of their abilities, all this due to a score based on something that they cannot yet DEMONSTRATE.

There is nothing like taking a parent’s dream of possibilities, crumbling it up, throwing it down, and stomping on it. There is nothing like taking a child’s greatest strength, a loving parent, and ripping a path of determined possibilities, openness, and a will to progress, and yanking it away, unplugging life support. Teachers, doctors, and health professionals; we are not trained psychics. We cannot read futures. We make mistakes, we are better at somethings than others, tests do not tell all, and do not factor in a parent’s determination and spirit. Is it possible that the lack of development in children prior to the one we are discussing has been limited by our own narrowness and our own skills and lack of will, education, or willingness to try new ways? It happens all the time with typically developing children. Parents need to have a name: a starting point, not an ending one. They need to hear, and we need to see the strengths their children do have. Then parents need a helpful direction in which to go to continue their child’s development in weaker areas. Parents need to see and hear that there is possibility. I wonder which is easier to say: “This is what your child can or can’t do”, or “this is what i can or cannot do for your child, this is the limit of my abilities.”

To each parent, each child is their wish, their gift. To end the possibilities for a parent is to end the possibilities of a child. If we are in the profession of development, limiting a child to what they can do defeats the purpose of the profession. For a list of famous people with diagnoses who have done great things for society, check out

Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC






  • Kathy Custren

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. As an advocate, I work with families to get the services and supports they need in order for their young person to be successful. It is best to focus on the different skills and abilities they have and work on those possibilities, than to work from the defeatist/victim side of how “dis”abled someone might be. 🙁 Change happens all the time, and who are we to limit what is possible? There are many choices to be made along the way. ~ Blessings! 🙂

    • Antoinette

      Any time I see clips of success on the internet I try to share it so that others see what is possible.Sometimes it is just what we all need to keep hope going. Thank you so much for your comments!

  • laura

    I am a PT working with children on the spectrum with special needs. I love your article , especially the part which questions which is easier to say that the child will not be able to do… or the specialist will not be able….

    Hope springs eternal and who are we to squash that.
    We need to try new things, continually trying to change program and strategies, find some keys to unlock….

    • Antoinette

      Thank you so much for your comments! Hearing veiws from other professionals which are similar to mine are extremely supportive and valuable to me! Thank you!

  • cheryl

    I agree to a point. We should never quash dreams for what may be possible. I work with high school students and find that parents want more and more because they are still in denial about their child’s disability. By high school most developmental goals have been met or will not be met. Social skills and planning are things that can still improve. It is very disheartening to work with a child on something that is beyond that individual’s ability and then have to continually tell parents ; goal not reached. Stress develops and then an adversarial situation usually arises. District offices do not want law suits so they give parents what they want- outside therapy at a significant price and there is generally no progress. If parents are realistic there is generally a very good relationship and the student makes progress but when goals are unrealistic it creates this negative situation. I love my students for who they are- not what they can become if a magic wand is waved. Those few sets of parents make the job much more demanding and stressful than it should be.

    • Antoinette

      Iam very sorry but I totally disagree.Your case may be different, and I am sure that there are parents in denial, but they must be even fewer by high school age . I do not know your situation, but this phrase is what I have heard in many wrongly perceived situations. I have yet to work with a parent that does not know what their child is capable. (Not to say they do not exist)If they need therapy instead, than that is what they should be referred for. Instead of telling a parent, your child can not do this, maybe a better phrase is that, this is not what I can do for your child, I can do… I also disagree that goals will not be met. The older the child is, the longer it takes, but developmental goals are always possible. How about re-doing the goal, something on the way to the intended goal that a child can reach, then continue building from there. Sometimes a teacher is asked to teach a child at a level the teacher is not trained for which is not a loose, loose situation for all. It does not demonstrate the teachers competency nor the child s.Tthe teacher may be an excellent teacher in the area they specialize in, however sometimes there is a better fit for the child.I think when a professional gives a better direction for a child to a parents that is a great teacher.

      • Steve Altabet, PH.D.

        Being someone who does diagnostic assessment for a living, a diagnosis is not enough. A good strength-need profile is crucial for any assessment. By giving a broad of positive abilities as well as challenges, educational/treatment programming becomes much more geared toward what the person with Autism needs to be successful. This is especially true in high school where choices about transition planning for adulthood are made. Goals should be consistent with the person’s capabilities and interests, otherwise they will likely be pointless, causing much frustration and lowering self esteem. If a goal is not being met, sometimes it can be met by altering the approach (especially if the person is close to achieving the goal, but other times it may be the goal that needs to be adjusted. There are many ways to achieve an outcome, even if it is not exactly the outcome that was originally envisioned.

  • Mimi Stiegel

    In my work with children since 1972, their potential is being derailed by the education system and the medical system. I question your quote, “We are not trained psychic.: How is a “psychic” “trained”? One can only wonder what would have been “quashed” or squashed or prevented if Eisnstein, Tesla, or Jung would have gone through the “systems and labels that are now in place. Not good! 🙁

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