The problem of labels

The problem of labels.

The problem of labels is that it is such a complex and emotional question. Some people agree with them and others do not. But where would you start with labelling a person?

You see, if you think about it, it starts from when a child is a very early age in life. You know what I mean. “Oh, she’s the slow one….he’s the clumsy one….they’re a monster….she always does this wrong….he’s a trouble-maker.” I am sure you have heard these and more throughout your life. But then, what does it do to that child? They become replicas of what they hear people say about them.

Do you really want your child to turn out as a slow, clumsy, or not clever person? I am sure you don’t want them labelled as any of those things. Every child is precious, and are unique in their character and understanding. But then, aren’t we all? Did you know that not only do we all have individual fingerprints, the ridges on the roof of our mouths are all different too? My dentist told me that the other day. How amazing is that?

Again, this problem crops up with health issues. My son is on the autistic spectrum. Now, here is a conundrum in itself. Do you think of him as an autistic child or love him for who he is and think of him by his name, or the “label” that he has? There are so many different variations in opinion as to whether or not your child should be known as autistic before they get to school or not.

I knew from when my son was born, that he was different. I don’t know how I knew it but as a mother, you know. There is an instinct inside you that tells you something is different about your child. So many people told me I didn’t know and that I was wrong. But I knew.

The nursery Johnathan went to when he was 3 years old asked if they could call the educational psychologist about him. We had no objection and it led to him being diagnosed as high functioning autism (basically Asperger’s).

We could have refused for the educational psychologist to be called and that would have meant it was a lot longer before he was diagnosed as autistic. I had mixed feelings about getting the “label.” In some ways it would make life more simple when he was poorly and didn’t know what was wrong. Doctors wouldn’t look at me in surprise when I told them he didn’t know what he was feeling anymore.

On the other hand, did I want him labelled before he went to school, not particularly. Did I want to shout it out to the world? Not on your life. But we had to account for the differences in him when we were out and he didn’t behave like others expected him to. So we had to tell others.

There is a label on him and one I cannot ignore. However, I cannot ignore the illnesses my husband and I suffer. Someone asked me if I referred to him as Asperger’s or an Aspie. I looked at them and said “his name is Johnathan.” We don’t introduce ourselves by our illnesses or disabilities but speak our names.

At the end of the day, labels do not define a person or their ability to function in life. It is their behaviour and manner of living. Yes, that may cause us to have to adjust our ideas of what they can and cannot do, but that’s ok.

Having a son who is on the spectrum really woke me up to the difficulty of labels. We needed that label in some cases (like with medical staff and teachers) because it gave them more understanding of him and where he was coming from.

I love my son dearly and his excellent attributes, bur I realise there are situations and circumstances where it is both important and necessary to use the medical label he has and that’s ok. But he is not the high functioning autistic boy to me. At the end of the day, he is my son, Johnathan and that is all that matters.

Labels can be emotional.

Labels can be emotional
I know you know this truth
Labels have been put on you
Giving you some fear or doubt

But is this the end of you
Can you change from these labels?
Some of these can be altered
If you work to change them

Everyone has an actual name
That they can be called by
A label doesn’t change that
They are just who they are.

Medical terms are different
Helps them work you out
And give you the best treatment
In ways that help you out.

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