Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The “label” thing

Autistics, Aspies, Special Needs, a Disorder, my Daughter, my Son, Other:

What do you label your child? Or better yet, what does your special needs child (or adult) prefer to be tagged with?

This is not a hostile post, but I’ve noticed that people call their child (or themselves) with at least one of the aforementioned tags. And it’s interesting to note.

Personally, I’ve never liked hearing the “autistics” and “aspie” label, it has always rubbed me the wrong way--not sure why, but it just does, but I’m not a person with autism or asperger’s. However, I have read recently through another blog that a few people with Asperger’s syndrome do not like to be called aspies--someone actually said that, for them, it was like being called the “R” word. Interesting.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like labels and I have not labeled Nick with autism. That is, he does not know that he is on the autism spectrum--like his sister. He does not know what PDD is, nor does he know about MR or even that “R” is used in a derogatory manner--by horrible people. I know this because he has never come home and asked what the R-word means, but he has come home and asked me what: dork, butt head, idiot, nerd …all mean … No, I don’t like it either, but he hears it and wants more input. And it was lesson one in labels.

He knows his sister has “autism” because she is on the severe end of the spectrum and we use the label as a mere explanation for why she cannot talk and has behavioral issues. And why she had to go to a residential school.

Nick doesn’t question labels for himself. He just knows that he has an aide in school because he needs the “special help” and he wants the help, for now. But I am thinking that this may change for him. He might want a further explanation for the “special help” -- someday. Or perhaps some “bully” might offer him an explanation for him and open his eyes further into the world of labels.

I do know that my brother wanted an explanation for his “disorder” because of a childhood troubled by bullies. But he never got this conclusive label until he was an adult. He pursued it and was tagged with ADHD. And to me -- his sister, and someone who understand disorders -- I was relieved for him; I was relieved that he had the "diagnosis." It provided him with the explanation for his behavioral problems growing up -- the remedy; the “why” he was so different from the other kids; the mystery solved. It was a revelation for him and a diagnosis that happens to come with its own label -- like a present. Or is it?

I suppose it’s up to him if he wants to use the "label thing" -- it’s his label. I guess the choices are that he could ignore it and continue on with life with satisfaction that he understands more about himself and his DNA, or he could use it and tell the judging world that he has a disorder so give a little won’t ya

To note, he has always used the I have “special needs” tag before he was diagnosed and sometimes I believed he used it as an excuse for fearing the world or not getting what he wants. And, as of late, I’ve often wondered if he’d switched to the I have “ADHD” tag to let the world know that he’s now "officially" at some kind of a disadvantage than his competing peer. Or perhaps he’s learned that a “label” really doesn’t get him very far.

I don’t know.


Mama Mara said...

I think every kid is different, just as you have found in your own circumstances. My son Rocky was SO relieved when he learned that he had a form of autism. It helped him understand why so many things were harder for him, and he stopped thinking he was bad or stupid or defective in some way. For us, autism means that your brain works differently.

Whatever works!

Maddy said...

Likewise with Mama Mara. I also use it as an explanation for 'unusual' behaviour as it can often be shorthand to get me out of a tricky situation where I don't have time to explain because I'm concentrating on 'dealing' with a particular situation.

Meanwhile I have to work on eliminating other labels, stereotypical typecasting of Mister speedy, Mister inert and miss pre-teen wannabe.

Best wishes

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

The day Nigel asked me, "What's wrong with me, Mom?" after a series of behavioral meltdowns at school, I told him that he had autism. And he still refers to it that way - having autism, or as he calls it "my difference." I think that being aware of it helps him to understand why he needs the interventions that he receives.

Em said...

Well, since our son is 18, he is very familiar with his label for his primary diagnosis and his co-morbidities. We have had plenty of discussions about this. Hopefully he doesn't feel that he label is who he is..but rather, by knowing, it gives him power to ask for supports and options that are helpful to him.

We tend to say he is a kid with aspergers. He will sometimes label himself that way. And sometimes, when his limitations are frustrating, he refers to it as "assburger pie".

Holly Nappi Collins said...

You are all right. We are all different. And we raise our kids the way that feels best for our kids... Nick is still so oblivious that I think less information is more... for now..

And Em, you are right, I wouldn't want our kids to think that they are their label and feel that they are less or at a disadvantage -- I think my brother did and still does..and it worries me.