Receiving a Diagnosis For Your Child: The Emotional Impact on Parents

Take a look at this really interesting article in the Guardian newspaper written by Michael Schofield, a father whose daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His heart felt-story takes you on the emotional journey he and his family took to get to a diagnosis.

Although childhood schizophrenia is very rare, Michael Schofield’s experiences will be familiar to any parents who have received a serious diagnosis for their child, such as autism, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) or even a learning disorder.

The Impact of Receiving a Diagnosis

Solnit and Stark’s (1961) highlighted that, “once the initial diagnosis has been conveyed to the parents, there is a tendency to think the interpretation of the child’s needs is completed when it has only just begun” (p.526).

It is well documented that receiving a diagnosis can evoke a range of emotions. Sometimes parents report feeling relief, finally knowing what is ‘wrong’.

But the news can also be traumatic.

A common reaction is to worry about the long term impacts upon the child and the family. Amongst many other concerns parents may wonder: “How will school be able to meet my needs?” or “Is there any funding to support me?”.

Carpenter (2005) commented that, at the point of diagnosis of a child’s disability, “families are frightened, disturbed, upset, grieving and constantly vulnerable. The role of the professionals involved with them is to catch them when they fall, listen to their sorrow, dry their tears of pain and anguish, and, when the time is right, plan the pathway forward” (p.181).

What Next After Diagnosis?

Post diagnosis, the focus is usually on the child (quite rightly), and parents are often forgotten in the mix. Some parents work very hard to ensure the best interventions and support are put into place.

However, in an attempt to survive, parents often forget about their own emotional needs. If you have ever felt like you need some emotional support consider seeing a psychologist. (At Melbourne Child psychology we offer counselling support for parents of children with a wide range of issues including ASD, AD/HD and other developmental disorders or challenges.)

A psychologist’s role is to listen to your experience and impart psychological insights to help deepen your understanding of the diagnosis and of yourself. And, as Carpenter says, when the time is right, guide you to problem-solve and find a way forwards.


  • Carpenter, B. (2005) Early Childhood Intervention: Possibilities and Prospects for Professionals, Families and Children. British Journal of Special Education, vol. 32, no. 4, pp 176-183.
  • Solnit, A.J. and Stark, M.H. (1961) Mourning and the Birth of a Defective Child, Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, vol. 16, pp. 523-637.

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