What is in a label?

Diagnostic labels specify the kind of challenges that one is facing in their daily lives. For children, these challenges are in the areas of learning, socialisation, behaviour, communication, processing of information and so on. Today, with the kind of awareness and subtle acceptance of these challenges, children are being diagnosed for challenges concerning their learning and behaviour at a much higher rate. Labels are becoming ever so prominent, and with everything in life, I believe there are positive and negative aspects to this labeling.

Don’t get me wrong. I use to be a major proponent of labeling. It was the way I believed we should start working with children with additional support needs. But over the past few years, this notion in me has gradually changed. I have come to realise that it is not the label that matters, but the child in front of me and his/her challenges. I am starting to understand that while it is an advantage to have a label in that I comprehend their needs, the crux of the matter is that when I am sitting with a particular child and learning about his / her difficulties, the person who they present is what is important.

This is definitely a topic for debate. Hence, I would like to outline some positives and negatives when it comes to labeling children. This is my way of creating conversations about what it means to put a diagnostic label on a child and I feel we should discuss this more openly.

Positives of Labeling

  • To understand the symptoms presented in front of us.
  • To move the unnecessary blame from being on the child to the label.
  • To highlight the occurrences of a particular disorder in a given population.
  • To provide the appropriate accommodations for children in a school setting.
  • To provide a sense of understanding for the parents and child on what is happening

Negatives of Labeling

  • To risk an opening into further stigmatization of the child from his/her peers.
  • To risk a focus only on the symptoms of the label and ignore the presenting concerns.
  • To increase the risk of over diagnosis
  • To risk over medication
  • To risk the child losing his/her sense of choice and blaming everything on the diagnosis.
  • To avoid taking into account, any other factors that could be responsible for presenting behaviors.

So this has been my understanding of the effects of labeling and its pros and cons. I would like to hear from you too. Do write in the comment section or you can message me on your Facebook page.

Journey of Self-Exploration

A Workshop at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru

On the day of the workshop at the IISc, Bengaluru, I walked in early and found myself in awe of the green and beautiful campus. Honestly, I was nervous about standing in front of some of the country’s top students and asking them about identity, belongingness and their understanding of body image. The serene environment at the campus went a long way in calming my nerves down.

Naomi Menon, Founder, InclusivEd at a workshop in Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

Held on 2nd February 2019, the workshop was for undergraduate students on self-exploration and what that meant. We started with Professor Anjula Gurtoo talking about how our names were a big part of our identity and our understanding of ourselves in relation to the world outside. When the students shared their own thoughts about this, it was evident that some of them didn’t like their names because of what it meant or how it stood out. The intention behind this game was to recognise how our names constitute a very big part of our identity and sense of self.

We then moved to the next part of the workshop, where we wanted to created a sense of belonging within the group to understand how we are not alone in our thoughts, feelings or behaviours. I facilitated the ‘Line Game’ which was a series of 20 questions that students were asked to answer and then to identify how they were not alone in their answers. For some, it gave an insight into what they’ve been feeling about themselves and also a deeper evaluation of how they could relate to another person even if they do not know them.

Naomi Menon, Founder, InclusivEd at a workshop in  Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

The last segment of the workshop was on body image which has become such a integral part of all our lives and dictates how we present ourselves to the outside world. I facilitated a discussion between the students and it was an opportunity for them to speak openly about their ideas and feelings surrounding body image issues. It was great to see the students being open and honest with each other about what they liked or did not like about themselves.

It was an enriching experience for students as well as for me. We learn a lot from each other and I only hope they continue on this journey of self-exploration.

At InclusivEd, our endeavour is to support children through an Inclusive approach to learning. Follow us on Facebook to know more.