The Dangers of Labeling a Child

The knowledge and insight I have attained over the past eighteen years working with the school system, medical professionals and society in general has allowed me to put many things into perspective. I see certain aspects of life in a way I may not have seen them had my life taken any other direction. I have been blessed with four children, each of whom has what has been deemed a “label”. We choose to call it a diagnosis.

In my experience, receiving a diagnosis was the greatest gift ever given to my children. I don’t care much for the term “label”, but if my kids are to be labeled to get the services they need then so be it. I simply don’t see a down side to it. I know there are parents that may not agree with me but if a child is to receive the services and benefits they may need, those in the position of providing said services have to know just why they need it.

Without the word “autistic” on my son’s IEP we would have never received the occupational therapy he needed or the speech services and behavior modification therapy when he needed it. He would have been placed in the wrong classroom settings. Now that he is eighteen it will allow him to receive SSI benefits and medical aide, it will help him meet his goals of higher education and obtain job assistance and training so he may have the future he deserves.

Without those labels so many fear my children would not be in the wonderful schools they are in. Before, when their IEPs simply said Learning Disabled or PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disability not otherwise specified) they had very limited resources available to them. They needed much more than they were being allowed within the school system.

My son can explain it better than I, he will be graduating high school this year and he has an autistic spectrum disorder. He is high functioning and quite limited at the same time. Thanks to his diagnosis he was afforded the opportunity to learn and thrive and prepare for the future that awaits him. The following are his words. He actually has volumes to say on the subject, this is but a sampling of his thoughts.

“First of all, a label is something on a soup can or a bottle of aspirin. I don’t know why people started calling a diagnosis a label. If a person is autistic then people need to know that. Even if they are on the highest end of the spectrum they deserve to have any services they may need, even if it is at some point in the future, such as financial help, transportation and job services. They cannot receive those services if they do not qualify due to lack of a label.

Secondly, I am proud to say I am autistic and have nothing to hide from the world. Parents who say they don’t want to ‘label’ their children are in fact hurting them, they are telling them that who they really are should be hidden, like it is something to be ashamed of. I am glad I am autistic. I see the world in a different way than most people and I plan on helping others try to understand things the way ‘we’ see them. A parent should never be afraid to tell someone that their child is autistic. If their child was blind would they make him pretend he could see? I don’t think so. That would be ridiculous. I don’t see the difference.

I am thankful that my mother raised me to be proud of the way God made me. She always makes sure that I know how proud she is of me and that makes me feel good about myself. I have a friend, I didn’t have one for a long time but now I do, he is autistic as well but he is different than me. He is just now learning to be who he is because his parents tried to hide who he truly was from the world and he thought that there was something wrong with him when in fact, there was never anything wrong with him. He was just different than they were. His analogy for it is this, if a blond haired, blue eyed child was born to dark haired, green eyed parents should they dye his hair and make him wear colored contacts? No. That would change who that child is and what they will one day become.

One very common misconception is that we, people who live on the autistic spectrum, want to be changed or cured or fixed. Are there directions for that on the label? We do not think there is anything wrong with us, we sometimes think there is something very wrong with everyone around us though. I have never spoken to another autistic person who wanted to be something or someone other than who they were. Even some very low functioning autistic people express a contentment in their ‘world’. Our world is accepting and open, yours is not. The only autistic people who truly wish they were different are the ones who were taught that they should be.

Ignorance is intolerable and the world is ignorant to the autistic community. Hiding from the truth is paramount to ignorance.

Thank you for listening and being open minded and understanding.”

I agree with my son. What he has to say can be applied to any form of disability and should be, a label is only scary if you allow it frighten you. It can in fact empower you . . .