Playing the system to get vital resources
It has come to light that children are being deliberately diagnosed with behavioural and emotional conditions to ensure that they receive extra additional resources.
Just this week, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has said that this practice is happening all over Ireland. As a result children are being labelled as having certain conditions, ADHD, for example so that they can avail of extra teaching support.
I don't know a single parent who would approve of this, unless there was a significant need and this, deliberate misdiagnosis or playing the system was the only logical way to get it. The medical professionals who are making these diagnoses are doing so, in order to ensure that children, who have a genuine need for these resources actually get them.
The fact is, that children must be formally diagnosed as having ADHD before the Department of Education will sanction a resource teacher - but if their need is not specifically related to this condition, and they still need this support - then how are they supposed to get it?
Those who simply go on a waiting list might then be half way through their education before they are offered extra support, if ever. This practice has grown legs in the USA where it is called 'Diagnosis for dollars' and given how strained public finances are in this country, it is no surprise that any available loophole would be exploited by professionals and parents who are desperate.
While ensuring that additional educational support where required is vital, thought must be given to the long-term impact of wrongly labelling a child.
A diagnosis of ADHD or other behavioural or emotional condition are likely to follow a child throughout their education and into adulthood. To be described as having a very specific disability or special needs is not a matter that can be taken lightly, and while the intention might be to look after the best interests of a child, intentional misdiagnosis could create other difficulties down the line. Having the provision of such resources dependent on a formal diagnosis is the problem.
While a diagnosis is vital to ensure the best care and support is sourced for a child, it shouldn't be a requirement when it comes to education and resources services should not be delayed on the basis of this.