I often hear from the media or professionals that “we shouldn’t label children” and this gets me somewhat frustrated.  I’d argue that that’s exactly what we should do but as a starting point not an all-encompassing description.  I sometimes wonder why people take this view-point at all and when I’m feeling cynical I’d say it was because of their own agendas.   In my experience the “let’s not worry about labelling him” or the “let’s concentrate on what he can do rather than what he can’t” tend to be the sort of attitudes that come from people who don’t understand or want to acknowledge the severity of the disability or its impact on the family.

I’d really love a label for my son.  It would give us a starting point.  Somewhere to go to when considering how to treat him both medically and personally.  He often shows quite distressing behaviours but we don’t know whether that’s part of his ADHD, ASD or SPD.  You treat one and you run the risk of making another worse.

I’m not really sure what’s wrong with a label.  Consider mine;  Wife, mother, daughter, sister (not that descriptive) carer, Support worker, horse lover and keen rider, coffee drinker, sporadic and reluctant runner, Archers follower and you get a bit of an idea about what I’m like and what’s important to me (maybe I should add blogger) And that’s all I’d like for Jacob.  A bit of an idea of what’s going on with him and understand better how he works, and what’s important to him. You wouldn’t think that because I’m a huge fan of “the Walking Dead” that I only watched zombie/ apocalyptic horror box sets, (Actually there aren’t that many good ones anyway!). “Mad Men” is the best thing I have ever seen!  What I’m trying to say is that one part of us is not the whole of us.  We are not defined solely by our work, hobbies, TV viewing, opinions, medical or developmental disorders.  They are just part of what we are.  After all, we are all complicated…. Just some of us are more complicated than others!


3 thoughts on “Labels

  1. I understand what you are saying. Our son is now 18 and all his life he was ‘different’ and we looked to different services every now and then for support and we got ‘he is just very bright, you need to cut your cloth’ which we knew but it hearing that was no real help. Eventually, when ‘life happened’ and the proverbial hit the fan he was given an adhd diagnosis with the emphasis on the hd (we called it ‘high definition’) and it allowed him and us to make sense of him being different. My son doesn’t use his diagnosis much but for us then, and now, it helps to appreciate how he is and to keep patient with him in so far as non-saints can when his difference is challenging on those who live with him as much as he himself finds himself challenging at times. So, as one parent to another, yes labels can be helpful. As a counsellor I once worked with someone whose life completely changed when they allowed themselves to accept their deafness (they had been brought up as ‘normal’, their parents didn’t want the label to define them … all well intentioned but). I am not very tall, this is a label, helped me to accept the fact that I was never going to be able to compete in basketball with my two elder 6ft 3″ brothers. Good luck with Jacob.


  2. Thanks so much for writing this. I think the difference between disability (and other minority) labels and common labels like wife, mother, sister etc. is that people who are in the majority or “normal” would like everyone else to think of themselves or their children in “normal” terms. Like, I get told I wrongly seek an autism diagnosis for myself, but it’s perfectly okay for my parents (who are th eones who deny my autism) to call me “extremely intelligent”, because that’s supposed to be a good quality and autism is a disorder. However, regarldess of your opinion on disabilities like autism, the fact remains they are a significant part of my and your son’s life and being. I also believe that people, like you say, would rather not understand disabled people’s problems/challenges and would rather avoid labeling them so they can ultimately deny these challenges even exist. I mean, they can’t deny your son has a learning difficulty I assume, like they cant’deny my blindness, because these are too bloody Obvious. They can deny the additional disabilities, like autism, and disguise their denial as support for the child’s/person’s strengths.


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