Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No More Labels - Just Eligibilities

I frequently visit with parents about labels. As an educational diagnostician, I am required to justify placing or keeping students in special education by giving them a label. If I don't identify a disability, I can't offer services.

Parents are concerned about labels. They are concerned that their child will be seen as a diagnosis, not a person. I try to explain that this is something the school is required to do, but labels have such a negative connotation, it's hard to overcome.

Labels can be hurtful. Educators rejoiced at the recent federal law that eliminated the term "mental retardation" on favor of "intellectual disability". Let's move away from labels towards eligibilities.

Eligibilities have many purposes. They get you services, both in and out of school. Educators and medical professionals get some information about why a particular student is struggling and what help he or she may need. Funding for many programs are based on the number of eligible students in different categories.

No one likes to think they've been labelled. We are so much more than one description. Let's start using the term "eligibility" so we can remember this is just something that gets people what they need.