From the very beginning of our homeschool journey, we were told that labels are bad.
Labels force a child into a box, they said. Labels hurt. Labels give kids excuses for not doing what they should do, and you wouldn’t want that would you?
Labels are self-fulfilling prophecies, making smart kids do poorly. And everyone knows labels are made up words that teachers use to get kids put on medications.
Mrs. H: “Mrs. Perkins, I’m afraid that she just isn’t ready for Kindergarten. She doesn’t seem to understand when I give instructions to the class. She just sort of does her own thing until I give her direct instructions.”
Me: “What you mean, she’s not ready? She’s the second oldest student in your class. She’s ready.”
P could sit still and do what she was asked. She could already tie her shoes and she wasn’t even six yet. She could write her name and count to twenty.
Well, twen-teen, but she meant twenty.
We knew something wasn’t right but we just didn’t know quite what. There was no label to describe our daughter, who could stare out the window for two hours, scarcely moving, but couldn’t sit through her morning cereal without fidgeting and usually spilling it.
Eventually, we did have her tested and she received a label. We never saw it as a bad thing but rather, more of an explanation. As I read up on ADHD and saw all of the correlations between what the books were saying about people with attention problems and my daughter, it shone a light in what was previously a dark place. It helped me understand her.
It happened again with D1 was labeled—repeatedly—as medical professionals, Speech Pathologists, Neurodevelopmental Psychologists and Occupational Therapists all evaluated him over a period of years, from birth to age 11. His labels have changed but each one has brought a new phase of help, and understanding, into our daily lives.
What we’ve learned about labels is that all the hype sold to us nearly 20 years ago was bunk.
Everything in the world has a label! Things are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, clean or dirty, easy or difficult. People may be happy or angry, sweet or sad, lonely or overwhelmed, and yet these words alone do not create an entire reality for a person.
Labeling a child with ‘ADHD’ or ‘Autistic’ doesn’t create a reality either. On the contrary, it often brings relief.
A big forehead slapping “OH! Now I understand!” It doesn’t have to carry a negative connotation for you or for your child.
And if you’ve got a special needs child, I have a new statement for you: Labels get us services.
Without a diagnosis, my child would not have been able to obtain Occupational Therapy for 11 years. He would not have learned to crawl but rather would have continued to struggle, face down, unable to bear weight on his arms due to very low muscle tone in his trunk.
He would not have qualified for the Speech Therapy that he needed for 10 years, which enabled him to learn to speak clearly. Labels gave us gifts and provided him with the services he desperately needed.Seeking a diagnosis for a child isn't bad. Labels get us SERVICES.Click To Tweet
Years later, a label gave us that forehead slap—the big Oh! Wow! I get it!—Because learning he is on the Autism Spectrum quite literally caused all of the pieces of the puzzle that is my son to fall together into a picture that made SENSE.
And most recently, as he attended a very intensive program for people who stutter, he had to own that label as they were to introduce themselves during speeches with “My name is…. and I’m a stutterer,” or in my son’s case “My name is… I’m a stutterer and I have Autism.” It helps him own it and breaks barriers in the process. This is self-advocation at its finest.
Do you struggle with labeling a child who is obviously needing help?
Labels may explain certain behaviors, but they are not an excuse for bad behavior. They open doors to things like PT and OT, speech therapy, RDI therapy, and hippotherapy—that’s a therapeutic horsemanship program and can be helpful for kids with certain challenges.
Without a diagnosis, these things are unavailable, or just out of reach financially because medical insurance doesn’t cover things without it.
The truth about labels is that they are not the end of the world. On the contrary, they can open up the world to a child who may not have had the opportunities before.