Sometimes Labels (GASP!) DO Help


Epstein Family Photo
Epstein Family Photos

This is what we special-ed teachers fight for and something in which I firmly believe. Each child is unique and we need to discuss how to reach & teach each one. Labels are most frightening in terms of expectations, as we fear a child’s progress may be limited by low expectations due to the label ascribed.

However, sometimes complete denial of labels can be harmful both for the students and the teacher.Labels give information. Information regarding problems to expect and years of experience of useful strategies on dealing with these difficulties. Information that won’t be available if a teacher doesn’t know to look for it for fear of labeling the child (the parents’ fear and that of the school system).

Having clear, consistent classroom routines, knowing not to take it personally when student misreads social cues or reacts badly to an unexpected event benefits both the student who exhibits traits on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and the teacher.

Preparing in advance 10 ways to explain/demonstrate new information in small chunks can make all the difference to a  mentally challenged student. Not to mention to the teacher’s reaction to the student.

Knowing that a student exhibits uncooperative behavior in group work and class discussions because he/she has a mild hearing problem can prevent a student from getting a different label – problematic.

Labels can be dangerous for a student in terms of suffering from low expectations and prejudices. Ignoring labels completely entails risking the students academic progress (not giving the teachers the tools to enable the students to fulfill their potential) and of students being percieved simply as “problematic”. It’s a thin line, but one that should be addressed in schools.

While we teach children, not labels, we teachers need to be armed with tools that answer our students needs. And for that, we need to know which tools to employ.


2 thoughts on “Sometimes Labels (GASP!) DO Help”

  1. I agree with you Naomi. I think part of the labelling problem is what people confuse learning styles with. Learning styles are not labels but (as you said) simply information to help both learners and teachers navigate the tricky notion of learning. When they become just lables, then they are being misused. Thanks for this lovely post!

    1. Glad you agree, Marjorie. It’s such a frustrating and wasteful process to reinvent the wheel each time!

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