It’s one of the first things you’ll have to deal with, probably before you even go down the route of formal diagnosis. Sure, your child has some challenges, and finds some things tough. But do you really want to slap them with a label of autism? A label that will follow them around, one that will impact probably on most areas of their life, maybe for the rest of their life?
It’s a hard choice for some parents – of course, they want what’s best for their child. They want access to the help and support that comes from a diagnosis. But they don’t want the snide comments, the sneaky looks, the feeling that others are ‘making allowances’ for their child. They don’t want their child labelled as disabled before they’ve even had the chance to find out what they can do.
And, of course, we totally understand that. Most people who have ever been in similar situations would. No one wants that for their child.
However, one of the best ways to think about this is by trying to ‘re-frame’ the idea of having a label as being a negative thing. We are all labelled. All pigeon-holed into different categories. From our first social experience at school, we are labelled. We’re a girl, or a boy. We are into sports, or we’re an artist. We play music, or we compete in the maths championships. My point is, every one of us is labelled pretty much from birth. So, labelling in itself is not the issue.
The actual issue is not wanting our child to be perceived as being ‘less than’ other children. Our fear of labelling our children is actually a fear of other people’s attitudes towards disability, and how our child will be viewed and treated by others as a result of their disability.
But, it’s not your job to change other people’s mindsets. It’s not your job to educate them, although you may choose to as part of your day. You can’t change how other people think. And there will always be someone, somewhere, who has such vastly different views to your own that you can’t possibly hope to educate them round to your perspective.
What is your job is to help your child. Get them access to all of the help, the support, the tools, they need to succeed in life. To do everything within your power to help them to reach their potential. Whatever that potential may be, we firmly believe that everyone should have the chance to reach that.
Unfortunately, in the society we live in, labels are necessary. Without them, it is unlikely that your child will be able to access some of the fantastic support that is out there. Support and other services are, unfortunately, few and far between all too often. And it is those with the identified need, in other words the label, that will get priority for them.
If you think about it, your child will be labelled whether you like it or not. They have probably already been labelled as either male or female, and labelled further by their interests. If and when their autistic behaviour starts to become more obvious to those around them, they will be labelled because of that. We believe that it is far better to ensure that an accurate label is used (i.e. ‘autistic’) rather than let others form their own inaccurate opinions about and labels for our children.
After all, ‘autistic’ isn’t an insult, but left to their own devices some labels that some choose to apply to our children may well be insulting.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this – comment below to have your say. Don’t feel comfortable posting publicly? Send us a message and we can always post anonymously for you. And don’t forget, we can let the discussion spill over to our Facebook page too to get as many people as possible involved in the debate.