Why have a label?

Labels are not bad or good.  They are a form of name. A means of being able to understand or know how to use something.  They help you understand what category they are in.  McDonalds, Nike,  oak tree, rose, alligator – they are all names or labels.

So why do so many people have problems with labels such as autism, dyslexia,  learning disabled, and ADHD?  There are definitions of these labels, books written on how to understand and help them, and a profile to make sense of the “whys” of their behaviors.

I have been told by parents and schools, that labels such as these limit children.  That they are not needed for providing help to children.  I have also been told that they are just excuses for laziness, poor parenting/or teaching, and bad behavior.  It seems to me that these are just other labels for the same problems, but with an entirely different set of interventions put into place.

I have also seen people accept these labels but not do anything to help children.  Instead they say that the children can’t help themselves, can’t achieve, can’t be encouraged to reach higher levels because they won’t be able to succeed.  I have seen that with children with Down’s Syndrome, who when moved to a different school or situation, then begin to learn.  I have seen the same with children in the autism spectrum, when interventions and strategies that have been shown in research to allow learning and achievement, are implemented and indeed these children do learn and achieve.

I see a label, or diagnosis, as part of that child’s profile.  Their profile helps the adults around them know where to look for understanding of how that child functions, processes, and interacts with their world. The profile allows the adults to develop interventions and strategies to help that child maximize their potential, not limit it.  The profile allows the adults to predict potential barriers and work around them.

Let’s embrace labels as a means of being better helpers to children. Let’s look at labels as means of helping children achieve despite neurologic wiring differences that make learning and succeeding more work than for their peers.  We all use labels.  Let’s just make sure we use them correctly and positively.

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