Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Drop the Labels!

12/20/2016 | Published by: Kelly Mastin

Can we talk about labels?

Disability labels. Functioning labels. Eligibility labels. We use a lot of labels. But are they necessary?

Labels open doors. They get our children the therapies they need and the school services they need. Labels are necessary.

Recently, my daughter’s doctor told us about a unique clinic that would benefit my daughter. But she needed a certain label or diagnosis in order to be considered. That label was necessary, too.

My daughter receives special education services at school. Labels are necessary for her to get the services she needs. She has eligibility labels and codes in place that are necessary.

So, yes, labels are sometimes necessary. But as parents we often use labels that are not necessary. We often overdo.

I often hear people refer to someone as “high functioning” or as “low functioning.” These labels are not only overused, they are unnecessary and confusing. They serve to either emphasize a person’s disability or to lessen a person’s disability. They continue the segregation of individuals with disability.

Instead, let’s embrace our child’s disability that makes them unique. Let’s not further label them with a meaningless, superfluous term. Instead, let’s say what we mean.

Let’s instead discuss the specific support our child needs in order to accomplish certain tasks.

  • Don’t say she is “low functioning” when you really mean that she doesn’t use conventional language to communicate.
  • Don’t say a child is “low functioning” when you really mean that his sensory system is sensitive and that he benefits from having something to chew on or spinning when he’s excited.
  • Don’t say a child is “high functioning” when you really mean that she has the ability to sit quietly during class or speak in complete sentences.
  • Don’t say she is “high functioning” when you really mean that she can dress herself and fix her own breakfast or can navigate the school hallways independently.
  • Don’t say he is “low functioning” when you really mean that he needs support to be successful in school or at work.
  • Don’t say he is “high functioning” when you really mean that he can read and play an instrument.
  • Don’t say she is “low functioning” when you really mean that she cannot hold a pencil or needs assistance to walk up a flight of stairs.

Say what you mean. Be specific. Drop these meaningless labels of “high functioning” and “low functioning.” Let’s decide to be the change. Be vocal. Be purposeful. Only use labels that are meaningful and necessary.

For more thoughts, visit this blog by Kathy Snow, Life Beyond the Label. You can read more about Navigating Daily Life on this website. 

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