Why We Need to Embrace Not Fear Labels
A common fear I hear from parents and caregivers is not wanting their child to be labelled. There can be so much resistance to getting a child assessed or accepting the diagnosis due to this unnecessary fear. Yet we need to embrace not fear labels.
The label is key to opening the door for supports. Without a label, people will make assumptions (often incorrect) about the child and their abilities.
I get the resistance to labelling. There’s the fear of people not seeing the child behind the diagnosis. But there’s a greater risk of not getting the supports needed without the label.
In my advocacy work, I often hear from parents and caregivers who know their child may have a disability, but don’t want to go through an assessment. Why? They are afraid an autism, ADHD or other designation will hold their child back from reaching their potential.
The opposite is true.
I’ve heard many stories of kids struggling for years with reading, writing and/or math, only to find out the child has dyslexia, dysgraphia and/or dyscalculia. This means years of the child getting frustrated and thinking they were stupid, to later find out they have a learning disability that requires specific supports.
Once the child has the label, parents, caregivers and educators can tailor the supports to meet their needs. And more importantly, the child can begin to understand how their brain works and the supports they need.
While this may seem simple, it rarely is.
Some comments I’ve heard from parents and caregivers include:
I’m holding off on having the assessment as I’m not prepared for the answer
I don’t want my child to be seen as different
I’m not there yet in accepting the diagnosis
I need time to process. When I’m ready I’ll get my child assessed
…and so much more
One common theme with the above statements – a lot of use of the word I. I’m holding off, I’m not ready yet, I need time to process.
As a mom, I get it. It can be hard to change the story you’ve created about your child.
But here’s the thing. You need to put the I in the background and focus on what’s best for your child.
Instead, think about their needs. They need to understand how their brain works. They have a right to the supports they need to be successful. They deserve to know the full picture.
I tell parents and caregivers to look at a learning or developmental disability diagnosis like you would a diabetes diagnosis. If your child was struggling with fatigue, weight loss or gain, constantly feeling unwell, you’d be pushing the doctor to figure out what’s going on. Once the child was diagnosed with diabetes, you wouldn’t wait to put them on the medication they need or inform the school of their medical condition. Rather, you’d do what was needed to make sure they’re cared for and healthy.
The same approach should be taken with a development or learning disability. Time is of the essence, and we need to focus on what’s best for the child, putting aside our own fears and insecurities.
Labels also bring understanding. An understanding of your child’s uniqueness, abilities, strengths, stretches and areas of growth.
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