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.

Knowing someone or knowing someone?

‘’Knowing someone or knowing someone? I have been thinking about different levels of knowing people – friendship, family, acquaintance, partner, life partner, people you have maybe seen on the tv or in books or magazines but you haven’t met them and have no anticipation of being able to meet them.

Anyway, I thought I would start with the Queen. Now I know ABOUT her, the things I read, what I have seen on the TV, what she shares publicly and the letter I got for sending her a poem on her Golden Jubilee. I know a lot about her BUT I do not know her or plan to meet her. I know quite a lot about her but I don’t know what she does with her private life other than what she is willing to share. I have no idea how she relates to her family in private or public.

On the other hand, the total opposite of that is Kevin, the man I married and plan to spend my life with “until death do us part.” With him I know what there is to know about him – the closest to someone you can ever be in life. This is the total opposite to what I know about the Queen. Kevin and I know each other personally and nobody knows us as well as we do, not even our son Johnathan.

Now you also have acquaintances – both in business and personal life. This kind of relationship are people that you meet in life but you don’t actually get to know them. You have more of a nodding acquaintance with them than anything else. You may or may not have seen them but you basically know of their existence and can talk to them on a basic level.

And then we have friendship – let’s start with those you know in real life first. There are different levels of friendship that you have with people and some of them you will share one or more aspects of your life. Sometimes you will share the same kind of information with a person as another, but because they are different, you will share your lives in different ways.

But some you meet online, in social media and it is a different relationship altogether. You don’t often plan to meet them in real life so sometimes that makes people more likely to share information and sometimes less likely. It depends on who you are and who they are.

Lastly we come to family. Just because someone is family, doesn’t mean you know them and vice versa. I can say I don’t know all of my family members – probably the same can be said of everyone in the world. In fact, if you want the honest truth, I can say that I never really knew my family members. My husband and our son are the people I have the closest relationship with in the world. And I would say the feeling is mutual with the two of them.

So when you think about knowing someone or knowing someone, you need to decide the level or type of friendship you would like or can have with them. I cannot ring the Queen up and chat to her about the craftwork I do. However, I can speak to friends either online or in person about crafts and it is a mutual joy shared.

Knowing someone comes with many different levels. Am I able to have the same friendship with two people? No. We are all unique and so will have different friendships with every person in the world. What you need to do is decide the level you would like with another person and see if they feel the same way about you and want that level of friendship or not.

Have you ever thought you wanted a certain level of friendship with somebody else and then discovered they don’t want that same level of friendship with you? Personally, I have been disappointed with friendship when the other person simply doesn’t want the level of communication I would like to have or vice versa.

Labelling people is such an easy thing to do

Labelling people is such an easy thing to do. Often while I am out you hear people say, “Oh that’s the naughty one!” Or something similar. Trouble is when you start doing this, you start seeing them through those lenses and everything becomes bad and naughty.

On the other hand, you can hear people labelling adults too. Sometimes it is easier to do so, so that other people can identify who you are talking about. That kind of labelling isn’t really a problem if you do it to identify someone to another person.

But there can be a problem when you label someone as being bossy, or impatient, or always late or things like that. People are not “just” the disabled person or the one who is continually smiling. They are more than the label you put on them.

I have encountered many different attitudes with regards to seeing me in a wheelchair. Some see the person, but I have been to appointments with one of my carers and people will speak to her, but not to me. Sometimes the chair becomes an impediment to creating relationships, but that shouldn’t be the case.

When people are labelled and seen just as the label, you are in danger of not discovering the gifts and talents they have. You could have called out something inside them and encouraged them. People have different interests than just what you can see.

I love it when someone looks at me and supports me in what I want to do. My husband has always been there for me and given me the space and time to do what I want to do. It is great to have a supportive environment and Kevin has even encouraged me to do things that I feel I am unable to do and I discover that, to my surprise, I can do them.

Labelling a person doesn’t mean that is all they are. You need to look past the label you have placed on that person and see who they are underneath that label.

My son got a diagnosis yesterday and although it opens up help and support for him, the label itself doesn’t change him. We see him as he is and the different gifts he has are there to be encouraged and developed. He is a highly intelligent boy who loves to be outside and loves to learn. I never want him to lose his joy of learning.

So when you see a person and instinctively label them as just one thing, think about it for a minute. A few seconds and being mindful is all it takes. The label doesn’t define them. You can look beyond that and find the real person inside. Don’t be fooled by the label, but make a conscious effort to see beyond it to the person inside.