What’s in a label?
A label describes the name of a product, or the ingredients in your food. The label can offer more information on what you are looking at.
But what happens when that label is given to a child? What does that label do? Does the label help or hinder a child? Does it actually provide peace and comfort to the parent to finally know what word describes the child, or does the label prove to cause more angst than necessary? And who gets to decide this label :: The school LSSP, an outside educational diagnostician, the pediatrician, the neurologist, the speech, physical, or occupational therapist, the teacher, the parents, or a psychiatrist?
How can so many people be qualified to decide a child’s label and then what happens when they disagree?
Labels Describe What is Wrong
In the last four years we have heard the following labels when discussing Pandora :: apraxia, food aversion, communication disorder, dyspraxia, ADHD, dyslexia, developmental delay, low tone, processing issues, delayed motor planning, executive dysfunction, cerebral palsy, and autism.
I have to tell you, none of these labels have helped Pandora. A label, when given to a child, describes what is wrong with them. A label for a child is a big word in which your child shows symptoms or behaviors that can be checked off under this big word. Sometimes the label is accurate, and everyone agrees. Sometimes, like in Pandora’s case, with each label comes huge disagreement.
Why is it so difficult to figure out what is “wrong” with Pandora? Perhaps it is so challenging because there should be more of a focus of what is right with Pandora.
Overcoming the Challenges of a Label
Pandora is hard working, sweet, kind, generous, dedicated, loyal, and she is an example of where grit and perseverance can take you. For her, the sky’s the limit.
Pandora’s EEG and MRI tell us what she cannot do, but somehow she IS doing it. All her labels, regardless of who gave them to her, tell us what is going to challenge her, but with each challenge she wins. Pandora doesn’t know her label; Pandora doesn’t know science says she shouldn’t succeed in something. Pandora knows love and understanding from all the adults in her village.
As a parent of a labeled child, I feel frustrated. Frustrated that each label comes with shock, discourse, a new action plan, and eventually possible removal of the label because it no longer fits and now she wears a different label.
Labels can be helpful for education as they can help decide modifications and accommodations. The issue with education is that every label qualifies a child for something different. Does your child need preferential seating or does your child need a modified curriculum? A label lets the school know which direction to go. But what happens when your child’s label changes? How are you supposed to know what they need? How do you prepare for a future when you cannot agree on today?
Labels Are Sometimes Necessary to Succeed in the Present
Even with all the labels that have come and gone, Pandora continues to succeed. She can do so many things a typical six year old can do, so do we need a label for what she cannot do? The rhetorical question unfortunately has an answer :: Yes.
Yes, we need the label for school and for doctors, and therapists. We need the label to make an action plan for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
In a labeled child’s world, the parents focus on the now, on today’s struggles and triumphs. There is no time to look for tomorrow because we are hyper-focused on the present. And perhaps that is the lesson in the labeled child’s world :: the present. Whether you take the definition of present meaning now or meaning a gift, the word is trying to tell us the same thing. Now is the gift.
In our world, in her friends’ world, in her family’s world, and in Pandora’s world, we do not need a label. She does not need a label to tell us what is “wrong” with her. Because in the end, to this world, to all these people, Pandora is a perfect version of herself. There is nothing wrong and everything right.
Pandora gives her smile, her hug, and her loyalty, and everyone around her learns quickly Pandora is a present in this very present.