Posted on 29 Comments

What is wrong with a label?

What is in  a label?

If I had a £ for everyone who said that they didn’t want their child labelled, I’d be doing quite nicely by now thank you.   I have to wonder why we have such an aversion to labels, or names, or public affirmation of issues.   Many do accept the labels their children are tagged under, but for every one who does, there are many who don’t.

– Is it a Scottish thing?

– Is it a larger than life British thing?

– Is it one of those stiff upper lip Britishisms that has us refusing to admit that our children may “have” something.

– Might it be that we might be blamed for it if they do?

– Could it be that we are in denial and don’t want to admit there is something wrong with our children?

– Should it be that we ignore what is right in front of our eyes?

Isn’t a label a reason for people to call our children stupid, or thick, or spazzer, or idiot, or dumbo, or something else as equally offensive?

Perhaps denying that there is anything specifically wrong means that we don’t have to face the problems that are staring us straight in the face.  Keeping the denial going means that we can pretend we have the illusion of a perfect family can’t we?

– What if we use the label?

– What if other people learn about the condition that a child has been labelled with?

– What if the label teaches others patience.

– What if the label means that academics and medial staff have to take notice and provide some help.

What is so wrong with having a label?  I have endometriosis, I was infertile and I am a food addict.   I am not ashamed of any of those so why do I hide them in real life?

My children now have labels.  In my stupidity when they were younger, I remember hearing the most ridiculous words coming out of my mouth.   I would start by saying ” I know he has issues, but I don’t want him to go through life with a label.”

Nobody will fight our choices if we choose not to have, or to use the labels, but at what cost to our children?   Are the labels beneficial to them and are we really just digging our heads in the sand and hoping it will all work out alright in the end?

Why is it so wrong for so many to have their child come under a  label?





29 thoughts on “What is wrong with a label?

  1. I totally agree with this unfortunately without that label you don’t get anywhere . I wrote a post along the same lines .

    great post and well said

    1. Thanks. I do think labels need to be had. I wish it was easier for the kids to bear them though.

  2. Thanks so much for linking up to the Britmums special needs roundup, an absolutely brilliant post and one I can empathise with completely. I used to say I didn’t want Aleyna to be “labelled”, what I didn’t realise is that I DID need her to be diagnosed. Not having a diagnosis can be a huge barrier to the system.

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for commenting.. x

  3. Having just come from an autism awareness information evening that I organised at my sons high school. These questions have been going through my head too. While his school and fantastic and are incredibly inclusive, they won’t use labels. I feel this hampers the school populations comprehension of why there are lots of kids who are different in the school. This leads to bullying…

    Have been away from a while but glad to have rediscovered your blog. 🙂

  4. Very well put. I have 2 children labeled dyslectic. I am happy that they have ‘a label’ and school helps them to keep up, although sometimes I do worry that they use it as an excuse not to try at school. They are in a small village school at the moment where no one teases or makes fun of them. I do worry this will change at secondary school.

  5. Interesting post. I think the important thing is probably to differentiate between labels (and diagnoses) and stereotyping. All labelling can lead to stereotyping, through lack of knowledge or experience. But… having the label in the first place is generally necessary for others to become educated about whatever it is.

    1. I do think the labels are necessary and sadly, as with anyone who is different for any reason, they will be used out of context by some.

  6. I thought I might be the lone voice here, but maybe not. Two of my three children have diagnosed learning disabilities, enough to interfere with schooling and enough, on one occasion, to require a lawyer. (Another tale.) I’m used to labels. Ours is LD for short, altho’ people are very kindly now calling them “learning differences” or “learning challenges”, which, to be honest, I find slightly patronizing as they’re all saying the same thing. It’s a bit like people saying “Well, we’re all learning disabled to a certain extent”.
    No- we’re not. Not when it means you can’t copy from a blackboard, understand the written questions never mind know the answer, and can’t even think about a spelling test.

    Anyway, my point – altho’ the labels certainly helped me as the parent, – finally able to get them the help they needed, it hasn’t always served my kids. They have school friends say “Learning Disability” using air quotes and raised eyebrows,; they have been accused of cheating by peers because they are allowed extra time on tests; and they have begged me not to go storming into school because they don’t want to be the poster child for LDs.
    It’s a very mixed blessing, the label thing.

    1. I agree that labels are a mixed blessing. There are many who see labels as a way of making fun of people who can’t stand up for themselves.

      1. All too often..

    2. I thought I had replied to you, but i must have clicked off before I hit post. Learning difficulties is easier to live with than some labels out there, but as they are hidden things, siblings tend to be taunted as well when they fall out with other children at school and they end with the slanging choice immortal words of the week about their brother and his little foibles. I am familiar with the air quotes, but more from adults than children. It isn’t easy for them is it?

  7. Can I admit to never having thought of this before? I wasn’t quite sure what you meant by labels until I read more into the post. Now I’m wondering where I’ve been!

    1. Hopefully happily and blissfully unaware of the potential and pitfalls of living with labels.

  8. ..Is it embarassing to have a “label”. Blogging > Excellent post.

  9. I think a label and a diagnosis are two different things. Many of us have a diagnosis of some sort, but when it becomes a label, I think it could become a problem.

    A diagnosis of something leads to support and awareness of that person’s needs, as well as treatment, sometimes.

    However, a label ‘he/she is such and such’ can lead to other people limiting their expectations of that person.

    1. Aren’t diagnosis and labels the same thing? They are to me. I didn’t want a child labelled as disabled, but for their own good they had to be. The autistic diagnosis is a label around their neck to anyone who knows about it. They are no longer just Johnny, they are Johnny with Autism. Johnny with Autistm gets help at school.

  10. Absolutely nothing wrong with a label! I completely agree with CJ’s comment. Without a label our children would not get the help they need. Labels shouldn’t bring shame or embarassment. Instead it should bring understanding and support.

    1. It took me a while to come to that frame of mind. I am now happy with the labels that exist in our family, but it took a while to be comfortable with them.

  11. I think the label is crucial. It is the misuse of the label that is the problem. The label should never be an excuse for shoddy treatment, be it by other children, parents or the education system. It should be a tool to help, not a reason to shy away

    1. You are right. We should not shy away from them, whatever we think, but try to educate those who do not use them appropriately.

  12. I think labels are a blessing and a curse. If my daughter wasn’t labelled as asthmatic, she’d be forced to do things which would cause her great harm so I am eternally grateful for that one. However, my son is somewhat smaller than his classmates and according to the docs always will be. He is upset by labels such as midget and dwarf, and has got into fights and arguments because of those names. I don’t know which way is the best way, I just think you have to live with the ones that make you comfortable,

    1. I agree. How other people use the labels is where the issues arise. A label in itself is one thing. What others do with the label, or how they use a “fabricated” label to torment someone is completely different.

  13. I don’t see a problem with labels; I mean we are all labelled to some degree. I think with disabilities such as autism these can be seen negatively so people shy away from using the labels. I’m not justifying their behaviour because I think people need to realise that labels can be a positive thing for the child and family.

    For me I actively sought an understanding of my children which meant accepting the labels of autism and aspergers. I have never had a problem with this because those labels helped my children get support and understanding and protected me from claims that I was a negligent parent when my son started to suffer from school refusal.

    The only other thing I would add is just because we accept a diagnosis and label for our children doesn’t mean we have to constantly use it to everybody. I have no need to constantly tell people my son is this and my daughter is that. They are who they are and loved and respected for who they are. I only ever need to use their labels in dealing with professionals or when the need arises.

    1. Thanks Deb. Those are very good points indeed.

  14. People who deny their child a label are denying their child support as well. They might not think it, but it’s true. I get very irritated when I hear of people refusing to have their child diagnosed, because they really have no idea what damage they’re doing.

    If I wasn’t labelled with epilepsy, I’d be dead now.

    If Amy wasn’t labelled with autism, she’d be sat at the back of the class and probably wouldn’t even be able to write her own name.

    Get your heads out of the sand, people, and accept that a label is another way to access support for the child you claim to love unconditionally.

    CJ xx

    1. Perfectly put. It is exactly why we should be proud of our labels so that we can get help for ourselves or our kids.

  15. I think it’s something most of us say at the start of the whole diagnosis process… basically in denial, not wanting to admit that there’s something seriously *different* with our kids, you know?
    I remember saying the same thing at the very start of Max being diagnosed. Now I shudder at the thought of him *not* being labeled, and not having the support we get!

    1. Denial certainly exists. Sometimes on our part, but sometimes on authorities part too and if they are telling us that our kids need help, then we should listen as it has to be searingly obvious before they tell a parent. I am always sad when I see parents ignoring what is pretty obvious in their kids.

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