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Why We Shouldn't Compare Our Children's Diagnoses

In the day and age of social media, it has become all too tempting to look at what others are doing, where they are going or have been, what they are wearing, eating, listening to, reading, driving and just about everything else. We are also prone to comparing our lives to their lives — our parenting techniques, the extracurricular activities of our children, their grades and so on.

As parents of children with disabilities, we may even be tempted to compare the diagnoses of our children. Our friends and families may even do so, knowingly or unknowingly. For example: “Sue’s daughter has autism too, but she does really well in school.” We may even hear them say things like, “I’m sorry Johnny is sick and in the hospital, but it is not as serious as Toby’s illness.” We, as parents of our children with disabilities and health conditions, must remember and ask our friends and family members to remember that our child’s diagnosis is a matter that is not to be taken lightly or compared to another.

The first day of hearing that your child has or will have X diagnosis can affect you in very unexpected ways. For some parents, this diagnosis may sound like a foreign language because you just are not familiar with it and what it will require of you to care for this child you love so dearly. We begin to research; we must learn all we can about this unexpected path we are now traveling. Whether, the diagnosis is cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, sickle cell disease, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone), or any number of rare illnesses/diagnoses, they show themselves differently in every individual. For example, my child has cerebral palsy, which presents itself in a few forms and can affect different parts of the body.

Knowing that CP can affect everyone very differently, there is no reason for us to compare our child to the next or to assume that one form of CP is “better” or “worse” than another. The same rule should apply with other diagnoses — CP isn’t “better” or “worse” than, say, autism. Children with one condition may also have another; for example, many kids with CP also have epilepsy, scoliosis, lung restrictions, blindness and/or hearing impairments. When your child is sick or in need of any type of surgical procedure, it is serious to you, your child and your family. It is not a time to be making comparisons.

What we all know as parents — as parents of children with disabilities or parents of “typical” children, is that we all love our children. We want the best for them — in our homes, in our communities, in their schools and at their doctors’ offices. If they happen to be hospitalized for any reason, we want them cared for in a manner that will get them back to their “normal.” We want our children treated fairly and with respect and we want them to treat others the same way. We should not want our children compared to any other. They are unique beings, as we all are.

Getty image by Chinnapong.

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