Beware Dr. Facebook

The other day I saw a mother reach out for help on Facebook. She wanted recommendations for a good practice to take her child to for evaluations.

After several replies, mine included, referenced special education laws and provided a few local practices, it devolved into diagnosing.

Different people shared their own child’s symptoms and conditions.

They then proceeded to comment about what the child in question might or might not “have.” All based on a short list of the child’s symptoms and characteristics. I saw everything from “nothing is wrong” to “your child probably has Asperger’s.”

I kid you not.

And every person who offered their expert opinion wrote that their children sounded so similar.

So now, this mother, who just wanted guidance about where to get her child evaluated and advice about who should pay, has several “diagnoses.” Some of these are scary sounding. Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, normalcy.

Beware the people who want to offer their opinion about your child’s medical condition or educational needs.

Unless they hold degrees in the appropriate fields and have seen your child in real life, they are not qualified to offer their advice. Not about a medical condition. Not about education needs. And definitely NOT how the teacher runs the classroom!

Getting advice on Facebook is important, especially for military families.

Often, Facebook is the primary research tool for us when we move. It is how we find new hairdressers, get the gouge on schools, and decide which medical practice to use. These are all vital when we move to a new area of the country, or around the world.

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However,  the litany of Facebook “experts” willing to comment and advise you about very specific medial or education questions are where we, as parents, need to draw the line.

Just tell me which doctor’s office you use, remind me of special education laws governing evaluations, and wish me well.

Now, not only have the people scared the living daylights out of the OP, but she might go into any evaluations or meetings with a heavy bias toward or against something. That could be the teacher (They SAID she was wrong!) or the diagnosis (He’s normal! But they SAID it had to be Autism!) or the school (They SAID the school should be doing that!).

No one has been done any favors.

The teacher has to live up to whatever standards the “public” has set about what is and is not okay to do in the classroom. The school has to defend its policies about everything and is on the defensive. Additionally, the parent is in the position of having to justify her actions and position to people who are experts in the education field.

And if the diagnosis comes back as something better, worse, or if there is no diagnosis, everyone is pissed off, upset, and generally at loose ends.

Here’s how to be helpful on a medical or education related post that seeks answers:

  • answer the question and only the question
  • only answer IF you have something valid to add to the conversation
    • you hold a degree in that field or have professional experience with that particular field
  • do not answer if you are going to judge or compare the OP’s situation to your situation

That’s it.

It is literally that simple.

Unless you have something productive to say AND/OR have credentials in the field, stay out.

Don’t tell them about that one time that your kid also had trouble and it turned out to be ADD, so clearly it must be that. Or that one time that your grandma had a funny looking mole and it turned out to be nothing, so clearly they are fine, too.

So now that we have that cleared up, please feel free to go about your business.

~Meg

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