Our kids (and families) aren’t defined by a diagnosis…

shutterstock_146517839I had a conversation last year with a parent  after their child received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder…they gave me permission to share my part of our discussion with our blog readers. While this conversation pertained to a child with Asperger’s, the same principles apply to a full range of mental health or developmental disorder diagnoses. 

Your child is not defined by their diagnosis. They’re the same kid they were when they got up this morning, with the same strengths, weaknesses, gifts and talents. As Christians, we’re defined by who we are in Christ. Your child’s diagnosis is not their identity.

As a clinician, a diagnosis is a mental model we use as a framework for organizing our observations about a child we’re treating…a tool to help us consider what we might be able to do to help. Sometimes the label helps us to qualify a child for educational or rehabilitative services, or predict responses to specific treatment options. One of the comments I share with residents and fellows who come through our practice pertaining to diagnosis is…“I don’t care what you call it as long as you know what to do about it.” What matters is that the people caring for your child understand them and meet their needs.

600817_10200479396001791_905419060_nYou also need to keep in mind that psychiatric diagnoses are very subjective and open to interpretation…I was at a remarkable lecture last night with a clinician who will be training psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors to use the DSM-5 when it comes out in a couple of months. Statistically speaking, two psychiatrists evaluating the same patient are FAR more likely to disagree than agree on the patient’s diagnosis. Your child’s diagnosis is not necessarily carved in stone.

I understand that it can be very hard as a parent to have a concrete reminder on a piece of paper that your child is “different.” I get that the mention of Asperger’s churns up all the fears you experienced when your child was 2 1/2 and you first suspected that their social development wasn’t progressing as expected. But the help recommended for your child certainly seems appropriate…they could certainly benefit from developing a more positive (and realistic) self-image and from learning tools and skills to help them to manage their emotions more effectively.

Most importantly, there are no accidents. God had a plan for your child’s life this morning, and I don’t think God’s plans for your child are contingent upon whether or not the psychologist thinks they meet the criteria for Asperger’s. God probably has a plan to use you and your experiences to help other parents and families going through similar experiences. For as much as we love our kids, God loves them infinitely more. God has a plan for them…and His plan isn’t going to be thwarted by a diagnosis.

Updated July 5, 2014


KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry has assembled resources to help churches more effectively minister to children and adults with ADHD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression and trauma. Please share our resources with any pastors, church staff, volunteers or families looking to learn more about the influence these conditions can exert upon spiritual development in kids, and what churches can do to help!


About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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3 Responses to Our kids (and families) aren’t defined by a diagnosis…

  1. mark215 says:

    As always, well done, Steve! Your comments about God’s love and His plan for all our lives is spot on! God bless you and everyone at Key Ministry!



  2. Cindy Yahoo says:

    As a counselor, I often encourage parents to have a psychological done to get a better assessment of the child’s needs. Doctors often refer to a psychiatrist. This post made me lean toward a full psychological assessment. Your thought please?

    I love this newsletter, by the way, and read/share it regularly!

    Thank you, Cindy Dooly, M.S., LPC

    Sent from my iPhone


    • drgrcevich says:

      Hi Cindy,

      The issue is with the nature of the criteria themselves…I used the term “psychiatrist”, but the field testing conducted to validate the diagnostic criteria in the DSM includes mental health professionals of all disciplines…psychologists and counselors included. The challenge of overcoming the lack of consistency with which diagnoses are applied impacts the entire field, not simply psychiatry. I’d refer based upon the needs of the family and the specific skill set of the professional.

      Glad the blog is helpful!


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