Is labeling young children with learning disabilities damaging to their self-confidence in life?
Is labeling young children (1st and 2nd grade) with learning disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders, Nonverbal Learning Disabilities to just name a few) damaging to a child’s self-confidence in his/her school and/or social life?
That would depend largely on how it is approached. If treated in a negative "poor baby, you're disabled you can't learn anything/it's so hard for you to learn" or "you're so slow you need to stay in this class so you don't have to try so hard" kind of manner then yes, it can definitely be damaging to both self image and self-confidence.
On the other hand if it is approached in a positive manner in which the child is taught to recognize and work with their strengths as well as learning to recognize their weaknesses it need not become a situation of becoming so out of control as to be self-defining.
This is a difficult question. If a child has a learning disability, sometimes it can be helpful to explain they have a disorder, and that they are not just stupid/dumb. If the child is supported, and regularly has his/her talents commented on and praised, this can also help with their self esteem.
Children with learning disabilities are often aware they are "different" from their peers. They may be told they are dumb by bullies, or they may just be aware they have more difficulty completing classwork than their peers. If it is explained to them that it is not their fault, but that they have a disorder, and everyone is open about it, they can learn from an early age that there is nothing wrong with having a disability, it just makes them special.
For example, let's think about a child who has dyslexia. This child may be frustrated because s/he is having trouble reading. You can explain to this child that they are having trouble reading, not because they are stupid, but because they have a disorder called dyslexia. You can explain what dyslexia is, and discuss how many other people in the world have this disorder. End the discussion by saying that even though the child has dyslexia, and will have trouble with school work because of this, s/he is still very special because of his/her talent for painting/piano/athletics or whatever his/her talent is. Explain that having dyslexia will not stop them from achieving what they want from life.
Of course, you need to take into account the individual. S/he may not be old enough to have such a serious conversation at this stage. If you know the child, make your own decision as to whether they could handle finding out about their disability now, or if you should leave it until they are older. They should definitely be informed at some stage.
It's also important they are told they are not "dyslexic" (or whatever the disorder is) but they HAVE dyslexia. Dyslexia is not who they are, it is what they have. (I wrote a hub about this if you're interested).
These labels enable schools to get extra funding to help a child who needs more attention than an average student. The extra funding pays for materials or a special aide to work with the child one-on-one. This is probably a good thing; however, my experience of watching my nephews, my neighbors and my own children leads me to the conclusion that these labels do damage a child's self-confidence. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of being less than ones peers. Some kids can shake off the stigma associated with these labels and others use it as evidence of why they cannot succeed.
The answer is BETWEEN the two extreme ends of the continuum. As one of the other people who have answered your questions says, it depends on how this is approached.
If we use the language to our advantage, we will easily convey to the child that they feel 'different' because the reasons are x and y, and at the same time distinguish between labeling the child's identity and stating the facts of behaviors.
Quoting another responder hereto, if a child "has dyslexia", for example, let's look at the very language this responder uses: HAS dyslexia. If we think in this way, we've made dyslexia a static entity. Static words imply that the entities will not change - wood will always be wood and chair will always be chair. So if the parent's thinking and parlance is that their child "has dyslexia", the parent has already accepted that the dyslexia cannot be changed.
In contrast to this, if we think that a child "is reading poorly" or "isn't spelling very well" or "is finding writing difficult", then we've converted static language into PROCESSES. The nature of a process is dynamic and dynamic implies movement. Movement = the fact that we teach ourselves to think that we can do something about the dyslexic tendencies.
In fact, I'm the very person who can help children with any of the abovestated difficult behaviors in a natural, fast, easy, and effective way. If you have any comments, please contact me. www.leadingedgeoflife.com
Yes it can be very damaging. The label generally helps in no way other than funding for the school. Which may not be the right thing for the child.
Understanding the learning weaknesses is very helpful but they don't always fit into the categories. Some of these diagnosis are completely subjective
I know of several children in my classes that I can say with a great deal of certainty they are undiagnosed Aspergers, etc. Whether diagnosing it would be helpful or not is up in the air.
I can say for certain parents don't want me to tell them what's wrong but they do want me to tell them how to fix it.
You might check out this hub on the subject
http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Learning-Di … y-Epidemic
Oh, yes, this is no different from a physical, visible difference or disability. As someone who both has learning issues and teaches children with them, I can say unequivocally that labels can cause children to lose self esteem. BUT the good news is that such an outcome doesn't have to occur. It depends on how adults treat them. Dr. Ned Hallowell, my hero, has a fantastic article on this very subject. You can access it from his website, drhallowell.com. Good question - thanks for raising it.
I think you have to be realistic about it. My son tried to pretend he was not legally blind when in fact he could not see the blackboard at all and while he was extremely gifted in other areas, it was important that he realize that it was 'okay' to say he couldn't do something. There is a fine line between singling children out and making them more obvious to the world around them but then by the same token, it is also extremely important for children with disabilities to be able to ask for help or learn different methods of coping.
We hestitated about getting a label for our child because of stigma and for it being used as an excuse for not trying. I have been aware my son has Asperger's for over 2 years, but he seemed to be coping in school etc, so we didn't worry about it.
The past year, he has been bullied relentlessly, as his differences are becoming more obvious as he gets older. My son is easily frustrated and will scream if provoked. We saw him getting targeted by teachers as a "difficult child", "problem child" etc. So he was getting a label anyway - even more damaging than a diagnostic one.
Only recently he acquired an official label - too late for this school, as our son now hates that school. I have written about our experience in my hub Why I am Considering Homeschooling My Child.
His self-esteem was suffering as he realised he was different from other kids. With the diagnosis, we can help him understand why he finds certain things difficult and provide extra support in those areas.
We have found a new school that is very experienced and understanding with meeting the special needs of Asperger children. Unfortunately, they are unable to take him yet (do not have a best match teacher available until beg of next year), so we will do distance ed on medical grounds and transition to the new school.
In our case, not getting a label will be more damaging in the long term.
I don't believe it is the labeling of a disorder but how it is approached. I do believe early intervention is key. Either way it's tough. The child will wonder why they are different, if not diagnosed but if they are "labeled" they still will go through their school years questioning why they have to be different than their peers. I have gone through this myself as a child with learning disabilities, never diagnosed but feeling different. Being embarrased and ashamed. I went through this with my daughter who the specialists didn't want to label her at a young age. She was 7 years old when she was finally diagnosed with mental retardation and autism. I have been going through the same thing with my son now just not as severe as my daughter. He knows he has a learning disability and he hates it. Just into his teens it is affecting him more socially now. Worried of what others think and say about it. I try to encourage him to use his strengths and help him with his weaknesses. I want him to know there is a reason behind his learning problems in which he can not help but encourage him to work through them and not give him a free pass through life because of it.
Labeling can be bad for the child if that is going to be considered as an automatic block to the child's full potential being achieved. On the other hand, one can always go for an evaluation and ensure that the child is made aware that the condition is not a disability or reason to not be able to achieve all that the child wishes to.
In that respect, giving the child an environment that is nurturing and helps him to overcome the obstacles presented due to the condition is important to his well being and growth over time in every field.
Its interesting, i think, that relatively recently, it was decided that children with disabilities should be called
"children with disabilities"
I think that simple order reminds us, and children, that the child comes first and that a disability does not define who you are.
I think that the focus shouldn't be so much on the label, as on giving the child the best education possible. Imagine how damaging it could be if that child didn't get diagnosed, and didn't recieve the best education possible? Children with significant special needs can require accomodations to help them learn as best as possible, and having a disability go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed could mean that the child doesn't recieve the necessary accomodations - I think that would be much more damaging in the long term.
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