What are the pros and cons of telling a child about their special needs/learning difference?

Not all learning differences are obvious and many are a secondary issue. And often times they are misjudged. There are many different conditions, like spina bifida occulta, that present these secondary issues, such as learning, behavioral and social challenges. Knowing many people with children that struggle with these and many other challenges, and are telling the children the diagnosis – and not telling them, has me thinking. Which is the better route for the child.

I for one think educating children in an empowering but factual manner will help them to feel less abnormal and more like it is just a part of who they are (a wonderful part of who they are). In addition I feel that growing up and being exposed to the worlds prejudices, in turn absorbing them then finding out that they are one of these people looked down upon can be dangerous. Where as if they grow to except (embrace) themselves from a young age they might come to feel more sorry for the ignorance of others and not themselves.

So my question is: Which of the two options will draw out the child’s potential and bring about the best quality of life possible? If you happen upon this post please leave a comment. I am in a position of guidance and endless resource to a person very dear to me and would like to think beyond my experiences and gain a well rounded view before I step into this roll.



4 comments on “What are the pros and cons of telling a child about their special needs/learning difference?

  1. I think this is an excellent question. It was continually on my mind when my son was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. On one hand, he needed to be super educated as to what was happening to him, but not get too scared about potential future scenarios. I think education is key, but so is a spirit that one does not have to be a victim to his genetic makeup. Fear has a way of stripping you of blessings and hope, but empowerment comes when you know the truth and finds ways to work with it. Nothing “wrong” with having a disability as long as it doesn’t completely “disable” you. I’m sure you know what I am talking about, mom to mom.

  2. Thank you for your reply. Yes, I completely agree. And to add, I think the more a child knows the facts of their situation the better they will be able to self-advocate. The most difficult part of getting these facts out as a parent, for me (my daughter had leg-perthes), is not attaching any preconceived emotion or discrimination. Like fear or pity. As a parent and knowing the struggles the child will face out in the world, I almost have to hold my breath so not to expose them to these two true disabilities. If we take away these I feel the child will grow knowing anything is possible. Case in point, just look at Pistorius. Dubbed ‘the fastest man on no legs’. In an interview he said his mother told his brother to put on his shoes every day and told him to put on his legs. It was as simple as that. And yet I know that could not have been ‘simple’ all of the time. Bless her heart. Thank you again for your comment. Every child has something, I commend the parents that wake up and try everyday! All the best ~Kellee

  3. Thank you for this post. It is a very valid question. I am a parent to a young child so this makes me think. I believe a child should be empowered with knowledge.
    Also, like the mother in your comment above, it is important for the parent to normalize the situation and be a strong model for the child to look up to. E.g. “if my parent is strong, I can also be strong”.

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