Labeling: 'Autism', 'Special Needs', 'Disability' are they defining labels?
This is something that is close to my heart, and something that seems to come up constantly. I have had many people tell me that by having my son diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) I have now made him an outcast. Now I truly believe that this because of lack of understanding on their part.
If you allow the diagnosis of Autism to be all that defines a person in your eyes then yes it is an unhealthy 'label', but that just shows your ignorance. My son, for example, is Autistic, yes, but he is also caring, funny, playful, loving and full of laughter. His friends are important to him, his loved ones even more so. Each is individual, just as if someone was gay or straight, its just their sexuality not their identity.
In my sons case, yes, he can struggle with some day to day activities, yes he lives with visual schedules, yes he has therapies which he attends rather than certain classes at school. But hasn't your child ever had to miss a bit of school to see a dentist? Hasn't your child ever had grommets to help with hearing or glasses to help them see? What about at night; did you ever have to sit with them because of anxieties that kept them from sleeping?
Well its the same except my son has to deal with these things outside of the safety of his home and his parents loving arms; instead he gets strange looks if he cant speak properly for his age, or he gets uncomfortable and makes noises whilst flapping, gets too close to other children as he doesn't understand how close is too close, or he gets over excited or cries easily. He is left to work these things out on his own, or bottle them up and meltdown at home, or meltdown on the spot if its bad enough.
I've actually had one parent say that it wasn't fair that we can access funding and therapies but other children who don't have special needs cant! That it should be offered to everyone not just because my son "thinks differently". Never mind the fact Autism is a little more complicated than that and still doctors can't pin point the exact cause of this neurological disorder. This statement is simply beyond comprehension and I truly believe unless you have experienced what parents of special needs children have endured whilst waiting to access a therapy with a long waitlist or sat up for hours at night going over the family budget over and over again to work out how it is you will be able to afford the $150 an hour therapies you have no idea.
Yes it would be great for everyone to have equal rights and access to the same services, but some of these services and funds assist these special needs children by giving them a chance to have a equal right to the same life that a child without those limitations has; there are always those people who abuse the system so is it really fair to make the already scarce services scarcer?
So I generally ask them this, if you or your child was sick with a flu, asthma, or even something such as depression or anxiety, would you not seek a doctors advice and diagnosis and possibly even treatment? Would you leave your child to feel bad and not seek any sort of help because of a risk of being 'out casted' or 'labelled' either permanently or temporarily by ignorant people? or would you seek the help you or your child required, accept the diagnosis and move forward with possible treatments etc?
None of these people or their families asked for these diagnoses, and many parents who receive a diagnosis for their child often suffers through their own heart break and loss; loss of hopes and dreams they may have once had for their child growing out of these 'quirks' or 'behaviours', the pain of watching your child frustrated as they struggle with being non-verbal or hours of intensive therapy, knowing their child is different and that other kids can be cruel, and perhaps even a loss of a possibility of pursuing a career, as depending on the severity of their child's disability, they may now find themselves a full time carer unable to return to work.
Many of these special needs children are just trying to live a life, to be happy, to be understood and play a part in society. You will find that if you take the time to get to know someone with a special need, they are actually really amazing people and their families are, from my experience, really welcoming. Once you stop judging and starting listening and accepting, you see people in a whole new light.
A person gets a diagnosis to gain understanding of themselves and why they feel, think or act the way they do. It is for themselves and their families to live better lives not to label themselves. You can make it an easier road for them if you look beyond the disability or special need and see the person for who they are. Because you would want someone to do the same for you.
Because id rather be fighting for people and families dealing with special needs than standing on the 'ignorant' team!