I have sat across the boardroom table with many parents sharing my observations of their child’s behaviour and learning concerns.  It is often a difficult conversation for all involved, no one wants to tell a parent their child has been struggling in certain areas and is not progressing or that the problematic situation has escalated to the point that a team and strategic plan must be developed. Parents often get defensive, the typical lines I always hear are “I never see that behaviour at home,” “He’ll grow out of it,” “You just want my child to be labelled as……….” Now these statements might be true, but in all fairness to yourself and your child, take the time to listen, investigate and hear what exactly is being said. You might not see those behaviours at home because the environment and expectations are usually different. It would be useful to examine what developmental milestones your child should have mastered according to their developmental age. If it is suggested that you take your child to the family doctor or be encouraged to sign papers to have a social worker or pyscho-educational consultant to test/observe your child so they can be labelled… that’s ok! Here are 3 reasons why your child being labelled isn’t as bad as you think it is.

  1. It Helps To Understand Why Behaviours Are Happening

If you went into your local grocery store and nothing in the condiments’ aisle was labelled, would you be able to identify what everything was? How would you know which Mayonaise was low fat or regular, which hot sauce was mild or extremely heat?  We often rely on labels to provide us with information every day. It allows us to make an informed decision on how to proceed with the information on the label. The same goes for your child. When it can be identified that your child has a disability, limitations, etc., it gives the school a better idea of why certain behaviours have been occurring. As you can imagine a child with post-traumatic stress disorder may share similar symptoms as a child with Autism but these are two very different “labels” that would require different supports to help a child. Formal assessments can help staff members at schools to make informed decisions on how to proceed and ensure that your child achieves academic success.

  1. Your Child Will Get Individualized Support And Services

It is assumed if your child is diagnosed with ADHD, a learning disability or any other behaviour, cognitive or mental disorder, they will be singled out, judged and treated differently in the classroom by teachers. In a way you are right, they will be treated differently but in a positive way. Most teachers understand that their students are all unique and learn differently. Obtaining a label to identify your child’s behaviour opens the door to individualized support and services. Students can now be eligible for various classroom supports: an Educational Assistant, Individual Education Plans (IEP), safety & behaviour plans, specialized classrooms, and other additional in-school support services.  These are all strategies used with parents’ permission to ensure children are successful at school.

Here are 2 scenarios:

A) Teachers are concerned that your child is learning significantly below their grade level and are worried that he/she might have a communication or learning disability. With a diagnosis and parents’ consent they can provide your child with an individual education plan (IEP), this means if your child is currently in grade 5 but has been tested and is working at a grade 3 level in Math, the teacher can now legally change your child’s learning expectations to meet his/her specific needs. More specifically, your child who was having difficulty reading and writing money amounts to $1000 (a grade 5 math Ontario curriculum expectation) can now be more successful at achieving an obtainable goal of estimating, counting, and representing the value of a collection of coins and bills with a maximum value of $10, a grade 3 Ontario curriculum expectation. A label that explains why your child is having difficulty will allow him/her to receive specialized instruction and be eligible for in-school support services.

B) A teacher has concerns about a grade 1 student who is only able to say a few words, cannot identify his name, letter or colours, continuously runs out of the classroom and sometimes hits other teachers and classmates. With formal testing and assessments, a doctor or psychologist may find that this child has Autism. This label of Autism now allows this child to be eligible to receive support from an educational assistant who will be able to assist directly in the classroom and if needed provide the child with individualized programming and support.

  1. Opens Doors For Family Resources And Support.

I empathize with a lot of families who discover that their child is facing tremendous challenges. These challenges will result in lifestyle changes for the entire family. I mentioned that your child is eligible for in-school support as a result of being formally diagnosed. This will also allow parents, guardians,and siblings to benefit from valuable support programs outside of the school. There are many agencies and resources that offer help for the family. Furthermore, the family can now have access to government funding such as special services at home to help pay for support services. Once again without being officially “labelled” it is very difficult to tap into these valuable life-changing resources.   Marlenespence.comoffers autism and behaviour consultation. We provide consultation, resource materials and educational tools to parents that have questions about their child’s diagnosis, local resources as well as how to navigate the educational system.



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