We will not begin to address the politics and/or ethics of diagnosing children at various ages. Suffice it to say, the treatments based on the child’s assessments must address the needs to the best of our ability and to justify payment for the intervention.
That said, children who do best in school have parents who are fully involved and supportive of their academic efforts. For a child with special needs, problems can arise when parents are removed from the treatment and not empowered. When a child starts to receive services “in the least restrictive environment” (i.e., regular school, part-time/full-time integrated program, or special education school) there is an increase in the development of richer teacher-to-child ratios; all the way to a 1:1 setting or in the home.
What too often happens is that the need for 1:1 services fails to dictate a broader program of interventions to address the underlying motivations of the behavior. There is a broad failure to address these motivations and to systematically wean the teacher from the child, or vice versa. There is a total failure to address the need for generalization and/or independence in the special needs child. Frequently, there is a systemic failure to teach special needs children to adapt to change and learn to cope, delay gratification, and monitor their behavior, if possible. In fact, as parents and/or clinicians, we can experience anxiety about allowing separation and facilitating independence to the best of their ability.
On a broad scale, the special needs child often receives multiple treatments and interventions. At the end of the day, parents are often left untrained, unskilled, and unsupported in addressing their child’s needs on their own. Parents are left with the thoughts: “What should I be doing? How should I be doing it? And when?”
The gap between school and home intervention, clinician and parent, is oftentimes large and not bridged in any meaningful way. This is particularly crucial when a child begins to demonstrate social, emotional, and/or behavioral manifestations.