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Does My Child Need A Special Needs Evaluation?

April 02, 2014

According to, out of four moms, one wonders whether a special needs evaluation is needed for her developing child. Can it be that 25 percent of the population has special needs that significantly impacts one or more areas of day-to-day living?

Research says no – it is not true. Only one in seven Canadians has special needs.

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Why are mothers so concerned? Have we truly arrived in the generation of ‘helicopter parenting’? Or does mother really know best?

According to the data on, “The prevalence of parent-reported childhood developmental disabilities jumped 17 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This works out to nearly 10 million children.” Again, what accounts for this rapid increase?

The rationale behind the 20 page special insert in Parents Magazine is that regardless of whether a child has special needs or not, our societal awareness of the developmental spectrum has grown. This encourages more self-diagnosis.

Dana Points, Editor-in-Chief of Parents magazine states that, “as special-needs diagnoses become increasingly common, it’s important that all parents better understand how their children are co-existing in our schools and communities. By sharing experiences, cultivating understanding, and maintaining an open dialogue, every parent can help kids of all abilities thrive.”

While there is no universal definition for ‘special needs,’ an inclusive working definition exists in the Ontario Human Rights Commission working document. Briefly, it states that children with special needs may have the following symptoms:

1. Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and includes…diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device
2. A condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability
3. A learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language
4. A mental disorder
5. An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

The definition also includes diagnoses which:

• Do not actually result in any functional limitations but, due to discrimination, makes others believe their disability leaves them less able.
• Persons who have recovered from conditions but are treated unfairly because of their past condition.
• Persons whose disabilities are episodic or temporary in nature.

This brings the conversation back to the question of whether mothers are being overly cautious in requesting additional testing for their children. The answer is no. However, as our awareness is raised to include the vast number of people who meet the above criteria or have experienced these symptoms in the past or future, articulating that there may be a concern with a child shows that the societal awareness of diversity has grown. Expressing a concern is the first step to early intervention and underscores that if a person does have a disability, their quality of life is the best that it possibly can be.

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As Parents magazine sees it, our awareness and proactivity as a culture toward acceptance of children with different needs and abilities drives a “massive change in how we view children who are not developing as expected, or, in other words, children who have special needs. From growing numbers of special-needs PTAs, playgrounds, camps, and toys to Pinterest’s “Special Needs Blogs” board (3,500 pins and counting) to plotlines of the TV show Parenthood, physical, mental, and behavioral conditions that were once hidden away in specialized schools and doctors’ offices are now woven into mainstream society in ways we haven’t seen before.”

How do statistics like the one at the start of this post make a difference? They show that mothers of children are more responsive to the needs of their children and more empowered to reach out to their doctors, educators, media, and communities, in order to build a safe network of caregivers and advocates for children of all abilities.

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