Every other quarter I teach a graduate class on disabilities and special education. I ask the students to write a paper discussing diagnostic labels. In special education there are 13 disability categories. Do we need these labels? What do you think and why, I ask them? I read pros and cons of labeling and most of the students write very convincing papers from whichever side they take on the issue. So I thought I needed to write my own response. Wouldn't it be nice to have a world in which we didn't need to "label" anyone as having learning, mental or physical disabilities? Let's just treat everyone in a way to address and support strengths and needs. I want schools to provide a variety of learning supports based on individual assessment. Wouldn't it be great!!! But how do we make sure that we access the research that is available to provide support that is grounded in science? My daughter was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder after numerous treatments and medications. I don't want her to be known as the "girl with bipolar" but I do want the doctors to tap into the newest research and the best medication and treatment for her. I want her to know her strengths and talents and to embrace and manage any of the symptoms of bipolar.
I want the same for children and young people with learning disabilities in reading, with Asperger Syndrome, with emotional behavioral disorders, with ADHD...I want the correct diagnosis so as to identify and provide the best support and treatment for every child. Not to "label" a person but to give every opportunity for the fullest potential and choices. Labels can be so negative, diagnosis can shut down dreams and increase fears. I want diagnostic labeling to add to knowledge and support for each person and embraced in a way that adds support and takes away fear.