The Dangers of Labeling a Child

Labeling children is a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, as with handling any sword, particularly one with two edges, it is likely to result in bloodletting.

On the one hand,it is impossible to get needed educational or psychological services in today’s world without being assigned a label which allows you access and funding. Parents of children with learning and/or behavioral problems will often go to great lengths to get a label such as “Autism Spectrum Disorder” that will provide their child with special supports and services such as therapies and medications. Without the label, no supports are forthcoming.

On the other hand, labels stick forever. I have seen files over 30 years old that still have front and center an old “Borderline Schizophrenic” diagnosis underlined and starred. After all that time, with no other supporting evidence, the label has dogged them and stopped them from getting jobs, educational opportunities, and even worse, self-esteem. Whatever good the label may have done for the person in the past in terms of giving them access to education or services, now the label has become the person.

Other labels don’t even have the potential for benefit seen above. Undoubtedly many of you have suffered from racial labels, gender labels, and left-over educational labels. How many of you were “slow-learners?” Were you in the “Turtles” reading group? Did you live in “that” neighborhood? All of these are examples of labels that children contend with, absorb, and ultimately live for the rest of their lives. These labels then, define the person not just in other people’s minds, but worse, by the children themselves.

As I write this, one of every one hundred and fifty children IN THE WORLD is being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder! Only ten or so years ago, this same diagnosis was applied to only one in ten-thousand. It is reaching the point that the question might well be asked: If so many people have the label, what value does the label have other than to certify mass deviance in our up and coming generations? Labeling then is not just a danger to our children, but to our society.