Labels Don’t Define Us

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.

27 thoughts on “Labels Don’t Define Us

  1. When I was giving presentations for families and professionals, I always reminded the audience that LABELS are for jars, not people… so often professionals used a “label” and determined everything about the child before even meeting the student!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We often expect and hold professionals to a higher standard, but yes, I agree with you that even they could be susceptible to labels and pre-determining a child’s ability before even meeting them. Thankfully, we have many in T’s lives who have been open minded too!


  2. Thanks for this post Ab. It is an awakening to those who don’t see the danger and stigma of Labels. It’s disappointing that comedy platforms like SNL makes fun of the marginalized and those actively needing help and protection. Making fun of other people is bullying and society allows like it’s normal. But yes, Labels don’t define us. We are better and more dignified than those who brand people with labels to feel good about themselves. Sensitiveness and kindness, that’s my hope for this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I try to be open minded and keep in mind that comedy serves a purpose but in this case, it really was both misguided and mean.

      Agree with you about spreading more kindness in this world as well! 🙏

      Hope you enjoy the rest of your week. February is just around the corner!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gary. For sure, it is very unfortunate and sad that those who have the power to make decisions that affect our children often don’t understand the reality. It often gets lost in politics or economics. I know you can understand this frustration from your part of the world. 😑🙏


  3. You label T a pest. This is a negative label. I have never seen it used in a positive way. Pests you control, you get rid of.
    Some day I hope he claims the label of an advocate. I hope he claims the label of a leader. I hope he is a member of the developmentally disabled advocate community.
    And I hope he learns there, if not before, that even when your dad calls you names it is not okay. It is hurtful.
    When I was little I learned that I was an annoyance. That my needs dismayed people, upset them. I learned without anyone telling me that I was Other, I was Bad, just for being disabled. I never forgot this no matter how far I’ve come.
    I hope T never learns that. And I hope he never sees this blog because if he does, he will know what you really think of him and what you told strangers – that he is a pest.


    1. I’m very sorry for your negative experiences, Ekie.

      These are the same experiences my husband and I work very hard every day to mitigate for our son.

      For anyone that looks beyond the title of my blog, it will be very clear that I am one of the two strongest champions and advocates for my son – celebrating his successes, highlighting his strengths and advocating for a better world for him. The other strongest champion being my husband.

      All the things you wish for my son – leader, self advocate, connected with his peers in the wider community – are the very same things my husband and I wish for him and that we work so hard for every day. Thank you for sharing your positive wishes for T.

      I am sorry the title of my blog has triggered negative memories. It is unfortunate that you have misunderstood and are misinterpreting my feelings and actions for my son. I am doubtful anything I will say can change that. So I will end off on a respectful note to wish you the best and please take care.


  4. Yet you label T as a pest. Pest is not a good word. Your blog name is also mean. Just because you say it with love doesn’t mean it’s not.
    Pests are controlled. They are eradicated. Some day T will find this blog and he will read it. And someday he will likely be part of the wonderful self advocates with developmental disabilities community, and we will teach him that it is not okay to let him be called names, even when his father thinks it is.


    1. Hi Ekie, thank you for sharing your comment. I can understand your perspective and why you would be upset at the word “pest.” You are correct when you say it is meant from a context of love – and nothing else.

      You make incorrect assumptions about my feelings for my son. Life with my son may be filled with challenges but our family life is one that is anchored by love.

      I can only speak, write, and advocate from the perspective of a parent and everything I write about – the positives and the challenges – reflects the truth of life as a special needs parent.

      Lastly, there isn’t anything I’ve written here that I would not share with my son one day. We have an open, loving, respectful and honest relationship with each other.

      I hope you take good care and thanks for visiting.


    1. Thanks Diane and let’s hope! 🤞🏻 And he looks like with his hair longer on top. He’s had the same hairstyle since he was a toddler so it’s good to have a change. 😊


  5. I completely agree about how labels can be useful and help us identify patterns and make sense of the world around us. But they can also be misleading or dangerous when you don’t have a deep understanding of what it is you are trying to classify. That’s disappointing to hear that SNL poked fun of individuals with FASD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Linda. The SNL skit was very disappointing for sure but glad to see people speaking up against it. Sadly, I don’t see the show addressing or issuing an apology for it.

      On a brighter note, hope you are enjoying this beautiful Sunday. About to head out for walk #2 with T!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s too bad. I get that their platform is all about humour, but it’s just sad when it’s at the expense of making fun of others. It looks lovely outside!! Even though it’s cold, at least the sun is out. Enjoy the snow!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Ab, I became so emotional after reading this last night that I needed time to think.
    You touched on many valid key points & basically expressed what I’ve been feeling & thinking of how I plan to utilize my platform VOICE. Is it safe to say through your expression that “labels” & “culture” are the similar? My ultimate goal is to stop stigma period.
    Thanks so much for sharing this, you motivate me my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Tammy! 😊 We all can play and have a role to play to help spread awareness and light and to minimize stigma. Your plans for VOICE sound amazing and I wish you all the best with your important work. 🙏🙏🙏


  7. Your post makes me think – do we really see what it’s front of us, or do we just view the world through labels? Anyway, T is lucky to have you and the hubby help him look beyond those labels. Wonderful post Ab. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks AP. Honestly, I do think it’s a both… that’s certainly like that for me at times. And hopefully as we get older and wiser, we see the nuances and depth more!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a thoughtful post. You’ve made me think of the times my son has wanted to wear his sister’s sparkly shoes and Wonder Woman costume. I always say “yes” – but it also gives me pause and I make attempts to dissuade it when someone of the older generation is around who might not accept it so readily.

    Labels, categories – all things that help our minds sort. Which as you say, is fine in benign school exercises but malignant if applied elsewhere. I love how thoughtfully you navigate this as well as T’s diagnosis/prognosis as you guide him on his own path. He is so lucky to have you and your hubby as parents! ❤

    Hope you all have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wynne. You’re definitely not alone. It is so silly when I do think about. If it was the other way around and a girl wanted to dress up as say, Superman, it’d be less of an issue. A lot of conscious unlearning for sure.

      Thankfully we all made it to the weekend! I hope the three of you are fully out of the woods soon too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your point about turning it around is so interesting. A lot of unlearning for sure.

        My son has made it through his days of isolation but my daughter has one more so we are almost there. Thanks for thinking of us!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I appreciate this thoughtful and reflective writing Ab. I agree we truly need correct diagnosis to access the appropriate supports. It makes all the difference. I think the need to engage in “conscious unlearning” is a universal need and wish everyone would make this a priority. I am also truly disheartened to learn of SNL’s skit. Overall, sending you and yours good thoughts for the weekend ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks LaDonna. It makes me sad and pause sometimes to think about kids and youth who often go through life not knowing or being diagnosed and how hard that must be or them and their caregivers. As challenging as things can be with T, we’re thankful we at least have a sense of the “Why” which makes everything else make sense.

      Boo to SNL indeed. I’m not a stickler and I appreciate a good comedy skit. But this was just distasteful and mean.

      On that note, it’s a wonderful weekend over here so far. Hope for the same for you!


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