There seems to be this big debate in the special needs parenting community over labels and our children. There are strong arguments against labeling our children and some good arguments on the other side of other camp. I believe that every child and circumstance is different so families have to decide for themselves where they fall on this issue. I believe that labels have a place and a purpose so I’ve learned to embrace them for my son.
The boys and I were out at the pool over this summer when someone decided to lecture me about labeling my son. I can’t remember the details of the conversation but it started off like this:
“Did I hear you say that your son is Autistic?”
“No. I said that he is on the Autism Spectrum. He has ADHD and SPD.”
This person then proceeded to accuse me of harming my child by telling him that he has these things that really didn’t exist. That I had put the idea in his head. And (my all time favorite) that I was destroying his self esteem and ruining his chance at ever being successful. I half listened to this person go on for about 15 minutes, then smiled, collected my boys and headed for home.
You see this isn’t the first time that I have been through this kind of conversation. And actually this wasn’t even one of the worst. It’s a topic that often comes up when I mention that my son is on the spectrum. I’ve learned not to let it bother me and I make sure that my sweet boy is never within earshot.
Being on the Autism Spectrum does not define my child. The labels just help me understand him better.
Embracing Labels in the Special Needs Parenting Community
When I first started this journey into special needs parenting I was extremely scared, frustrated and confused. I knew that there was something going on with my son but I didn’t know exactly what is was or how to help him. This is one reason that I think that labels are helpful, it gives us a name for what’s going on with our children.
Having a name (or label) for my son helped me mother him better, and helped me to advocate on his behalf.
- I was able to see that his differences were not something to fear or to view as negative. In fact I often refer to my son’s SPD as his superpowers. He views and experiences the world in ways that most people do not. Sometimes that means that he is overwhelmed must mostly he’s just extra sensitive to God’s creation.
- I was able to find services to help my son learn to cope and manage some of his symptoms and behaviors. I can remember a time when my son would be in tears in the car because the radio was too loud (for him) and causing him physical pain. Or the trauma of having to switch from pants to shorts in the summer because he didn’t like the way the grass felt on his skin. Through the help of occupational therapy, yoga, and supplements my son has a much easier time functioning in a world that can often overwhelm his senses.
- Having a label has also helped me help my son see that he is not alone. For a long time my son would tell me that he knew he was different but he didn’t want to be. Once I understood more about his SPD and ADHD I was able to help him work through some anger issues and find books about other children that are just like him.
Overall labels have been a blessing in my home. My son knows that SPD and ADHD are things that describe parts of what he does but they do not tell him (or anyone else) who he is. Only God can do that! I don’t believe that acknowledging my son’s place on the spectrum will do him any harm at all.
Where do you stand on the label debate?
Some of my iHomeschool Network sisters are also writing about labels and special needs parenting. Check them out!