Why 'Labels' Can Provide Access to Adequate Supports for Kids Who Need Them


Labels can be convenient. They describe things and help them fit neatly into a descriptive box. But there can be a few problems with labels and kids with disabilities. Our kids often don’t fit neatly into that descriptive box. Even if you find a good descriptive box, there is a lot of prejudice and misconceptions about those boxes.

Some parents worry about getting their child diagnosed and worry about the effects having a “label” may have on their child. They may be afraid it will mean their child will be treated differently, or that because of the label they will never be allowed to be everything they are capable of being.

I once had a little boy in a class I taught at church and there was clearly something different about this child. The parents had him evaluated, but refused to share with anyone what his diagnosis was. This was a problem. If we knew, we could have been much better equipped to help this little boy and provide the appropriate supports. But instead, we could only guess, and our guessing frequently didn’t yield success.

Whenever I find a parent asking, “Should I get my child tested? Should I share the results?” My answer is almost always a resounding, yes! A diagnosis gives you information. Your child may benefit from therapy. A diagnosis will help give you access to the needed supports or a different kind of help. Without the diagnosis, getting the services or needed help can be much more difficult.

My daughter has a diagnosis of dyslexia. Without having a diagnosis, understanding how to help her learn to read would have been much more difficult. It didn’t just affect her reading either, because the first couple years the school relied heavily on word problems to teach math. My daughter was convinced she wasn’t any good at math, when the exact opposite is true. Because I knew there was an actual difference in the way her brain processes reading words, I was more patience with her struggles. I also knew I needed to learn how to advocate for her in school, so that she can reach her potential, and so that the teachers could understand how to better teach her. I want my daughter to reach the great heights she is capable of. I just needed to figure out why things were so hard for her, to help her do that. Getting the diagnosis helped me do that.

Does she have a “label?” Perhaps, but she isn’t the label. Labels are for things, not people. People are so much more than a diagnosis or a label. We all need to look beyond the label to see what each person is capable of.

A version of this post first appeared on An Ordinary Mom.

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