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Dealing with a diagnosis

Hearing the news that your child has a learning disability can be a huge shock, and brings new emotions and challenges

Being told that your child has a learning disability can be a distressing experience. One of the biggest challenges is coming to terms with the fact that your child's future will be different to the way you imagined it.

You may feel disbelief, disappointment, self-pity, shock, anger, numbness, guilt and denial.

Some parents describe the period after diagnosis as a period of mourning, while others feel like it is like a bad dream, or that they are living in a bubble outside of reality.

Your emotions may vary wildly, and parents have told us that they were quite frightened by the feelings they had at this time. This is perfectly normal, and you are not alone.

Parents often blame themselves, or even one another, but it's important to remember no one is to blame.

When you receive a diagnosis, you will probably receive a lot of information all at once, and you may find this too much to take in. In fact, it may be weeks or even months before you feel able to find out more about your child's condition.

Digesting the information

Try to deal with the information piece by piece as you need it, and don't be afraid to ask the people working with your child to go back over anything you might have missed.

Some parents find that getting as much information as possible about their child's condition helps them to cope and plan for the future. Others find their emotions are enough to deal with, and prefer to get to know their child as an individual before finding out more about their learning disability.

It is also important to remember that, with time, your emotions will become easier to manage. Many parents have told us that after a diagnosis they discovered strength, determination and positivity that they didn't know they had.

The mixed emotions that follow a diagnosis can take a long time to come to terms with, so finding ways of coping are very important. Most importantly, don't forget yourself. Having family and friends to talk to at difficult times can help to relieve emotional stress. If you need a break from your caring responsibilities, you should contact your social worker or health visitor for advice and support.

"I'm pregnant - Down's syndrome diagnosis"

View a thread about diagnosis on FamilyHub from a user who's expecting her first child and has just received a diagnosis of Down's syndrome.

Hear her story and what advice and support some of our other users have offered.

View thread

How to get the support you need

Contact Mencap Direct, our advice and support helpline, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.

Or why not take a look at FamilyHub? This is our online community for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability, and is a place for sharing experiences, advice and support.

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