Living with a label

Have you noticed how the ‘words’ ADHD and ASD have become so common in recent years? It’s fantastic that the children who have these challenges are able to get the help and support they need. But there’s also the flip-side, where these children have to live with their label.

We need to be a little cautious about wanting to put a label on every problem we encounter. I’m not talking about the labels for problems that exist and have been diagnosed, I’m talking about when a person has been given a label for whatever reason, how it’s very easy to start fulfilling the label unconsciously.

Like when you go to the doctor because you believe you have something seriously wrong, and you feel terrible, until the doctor tells you it’s a mild infliction that is easy to solve, and you suddenly feel absolutely fine again 🙂

Young people are given labels about both their abilities and their disabilities, but what is important, is that we still consider them as a whole, complete, perfect, young person. Those labels are things that assist us in helping them when they need help, but shouldn’t help us identify further failings, challenges or difficulties that we’d never seen before. We don’t need to go looking for trouble!

Sometimes our desire for certainty is so strong that being able to go “there’s another symptom of that label”, helps us to make the point seem more solid and more certain, but it’s not actually helpful. It’s not necessarily doing that young person any favours.

If we create environments that help support that young person through the bits that they find challenging, then we can really start to shrink the potency of the label that they’ve been given. If you know a young person who has recently been diagnosed with “a something” or being given a label of some kind, a useful way forward is to focus on all of the things that you can fix or that are good, instead of focussing on the label. All of the workarounds that you can put in place and everything that you can possibly do to help them function, feel and behave as a normal, everyday individual, so that the label doesn’t become an identity for them.

Think about all the ways in which you can change their circumstances, their schooling, their interactions, their routines or all of the things that you might need to consider to make their life liveable to the fullest without that label getting in the way.

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