I was recently reminded about how we are taught and conditioned to label things from an early age.
Watching T complete his recent graphing assignments for virtual learning made me think about how we teach kids early on about sorting things into categories and labels.
To be clear, sorting and labels have a purpose and help us make sense of the world. The school activity was also innocent – sorting by shapes, colours and by like objects.
Labels, in the context that my mind went on a tangent on, can be limiting and damaging.
For starters, I often think about the label of a diagnosis, such as FASD, and the stigma that can shape T’s life.
In the early days, the hubby and I never shared T’s prognosis for fear of negative reactions.
Now, we are open about it because we know it helps open up doors to accommodations, such as a school IEP, and support services, such as a dedicated CYW in the classroom.
But I am mindful that a label can conjure up negative stereotypes.
I read with frustration about a recent SNL skit that poked fun of individuals with FASD.
It made me angry, because SNL used their huge platform to further marginalize individuals with an invisible disability that is already little known and understood.
It reinforced to me that labels are not the problem. It is the awareness raising – or the lack of – that is the problem.
It reminded about how behaviours can often be quickly labeled as good or bad. But in the world of neurodiverse children, we need other considerations such as disregulated, overwhelmed, or needs accommodations.
It’s not so black and white – speaking of even more labels!
Last week, on an unrelated note, T asked the hubby to do a different hair style. He wanted his hair shaved on the sides and back and to grow the top out.
He recently watched the movie, Tangled, and was smitten with the female character Rapunzel.
My initial reaction in my head was no. But I stopped myself from reacting and supported his request.
It reminded me of two other moments in the past year: when T asked for pink crocs and the hubby suggested a different colour and when he asked for an Anna doll from Frozen for Christmas.
It’s very funny how those moments make us pause, whereas when T asked for a Nerf gun this Christmas, we went with the flow.
It reminds me how even the hubby and I, whom I consider open minded, are also conditioned to label things; in this case, traditional associations between masculine or feminine.
T did get his Anna doll – the crocs were not available – and it got equally rough-housed as with his other stuffies, trucks and toys. He is non discriminating that way!
It really is so silly to even have to pause at these moments. They remind me that I, too, have a lot of conscious unlearning to do.
Thinking back to T’s prognosis, at the end of the day, I want a clear diagnosis for him – whatever it may be – so we can help him move forward in a clearer path.
As T and life reminds us everyday, a prognosis or diagnosis does not define us.
Labels should not define us either in such rigid and black and white ways. Life is richer and livelier in pinks and technicolor.
With love, support and accommodations, T will undoubtedly define his own path in life.