The Great Stuff
Woman, Mother, Business Owner, Educational Psychologist, Wife, Daughter, School Governor, Trainer, Friend, Book Clubber, Crossfitter, Snowy Owl are amongst the labels I have and would describe myself as in different scenarios and situations. These all describe me, but none of them define me. They all cross over and each one contributes to the other, but none of them singularly truly describe who I am. Even as a list this does not define who I am (almost all of them describe the things I do). There are many more things to think about, my personality, my life experiences, my goals and aspirations along with many other tiny fragments of detail that build to make the picture of me. So the label that sums it all up is Amanda. My name. Me, Amanda, comes before any of those individual labels or definitions.
Boy number two is no exception to this. Over the last several months, another label of periodic paralysis has been added to his diagnosis list, and investigations are underway for another label linked to sensory processing.
Labels pose a dilemma for me. Both in my personal parenting life and within my professional life.
In almost all cases, I am involved to help give some advice and support to help move a situation along. In many cases the adults around a child are searching for answers as to why a young person may be having some difficulties at school or with their development. This can very often lead to the search for labels.
The problem with a label is that it can lead to definitions and if the label comes first the child can be lost. Boy number two could be described as having special needs, or having a disability, or having verbal dyspraxia or as being ataxic. However, none of these labels describe him as a person, they merely give you a list of his medical diagnoses or developmental difficulties. The danger of looking at the label first or using the label to define him is that the person is almost forgotten and assumptions are made. Just because a label or diagnoses is known, it does not mean to say that you know about that person.
We strive to develop our children’s independent thinking and are keen that as they grow, they will not define themselves by any one thing.
Whilst having a label for something can be extremely positive for a young person, in order for them to be able to understand themselves and be comfortable with themselves, making sure that they do not define themselves by a diagnosis is very important. The person comes first and the label or labels come second.
A label can provide an understanding as to why something might be happening, but it can also mask other issues that surround a difficulty. A label certainly doesn’t fix a problem, but can guide the way support is put in place.
As I write, I am no closer to getting off the fence that I am sat on. However, I do want to encourage all of those around a child that is experiencing something for which people are searching for answers, to pause for a moment and question what they are doing. Sit back and reflect as to whether you are searching for a fix, or searching for an answer or searching for ways to guide support.
Remember what is fantastic and great about that young person and let that be the start of any journey.
What is fantastic and great about boy number two? His pure joy at riding in the car with the roof down in the dark, his determination, his love of horses, his empathy, his relationship with his brothers, his efforts, his creativity (who knew that a branch could be a plough and a strimmer?), his cheekiness, his love of cooking, his great big smile and so so many more things.
Fight against a label being the definition of a person. Always start with the great stuff and let that be the golden thread in anything you do.