Aspie, HFA (High Functioning Autistic), Dyslexic, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Bipolar Disorder), PTSD…
This is a sampling of the labels that apply to varying members of my extended family. I have a love/hate relationship with labels. Labels can be both liberating and confining based on how I relate to them.
When I received Daniel’s diagnosis, my first response was relief. All of the issues we had been struggling with suddenly made sense. The struggles with sensory issues, the difficulty potty training, the language struggles, the unusual sentence structure were all “normal” for someone with Daniel’s specific diagnosis.
Then there was the momentary panic. What if Daniel becomes confined by these labels? What if he is prevented from taking advantage of opportunities because of these labels? I determined that this was not going to be the case in our family.
The Asperger’s label has been a blessing in some ways. I have discovered it is a efficient way to change people’s paradigm. When we bring up the diagnosis, people are suddenly interested in helping rather than freaked out by Daniel’s oddities. They are willing to talk to me about problems rather than excusing themselves completely from interaction with Daniel. It opens the conversation.
The Asperger’s label has done wonders in the bureaucratic world of the public school system. Suddenly disturbing behaviors like Daniel’s personal space issues, were not viewed as Daniel being naughty. Teachers approached Daniel with a view to teaching him how to correctly interact rather than punishing him for being bad. Daniel started to make progress.
The Asperger’s label has also come with challenges at school. Frequently, less than proactive administrators have wanted to shuffle Daniel off into a self contained “special” class where he won’t require as much maintenance. There is where my determination comes into play. Daniel loves science and social studies. He excels at math and science. I remind the school that he tests high in these areas. He is legally entitled to be able to take full advantage of studying these subjects at the appropriate level for his ability. He can not be forced to study in a class below his level simply because that class has specific accommodations. I have also been fortunate to work with really amazing teachers who have supported me 100% in working to give Daniel the best possible opportunities. As a result, Daniel has been able to study in a “main-stream” class while receiving the accommodations he needs for his dyslexia, sensory issues and social struggles associated with Asperger’s Syndrome.
In speaking with Daniel, I remind him that Asperger’s is simply a description of his set of strengths and challenges. He has to take that description and use it as a tool. He has to take advantage of the strengths it gives him. He has the responsibility to find tools to support his weaknesses. He is responsible to work to bridge the gap for his own benefit.
The Asperger’s label can be used to our advantage or it could be an excuse for settling into our limitations. In my opinion, labels are just another tool. The deciding factor is the determination and attitude of the individual.
How have labels worked against you? How have you used them to your advantage?