Do Labels Matter?

Just a few minutes ago, I found a great post on Our Stroke of Luck about having a child newly diagnosed with autism and still realizign he’s him. I struggled with my comment in a way, because I didn’t want to say that autism doesn’t matter. It’s still a part of who an autistic person is. But it’s not all. As Owen’s mother writes in the post, he’s still adoerable.

I am sometimes told I overemphasize how different I am from other people. I am trying to lessen this habit, because, even though disabilities are a large part of me, they’re not all there is. I am also ssmart, have a cynical sense of humor, and am pretty strong-willed. I am a crafter, a blogger, a wife, an activist and a student. I know I’ve written about this before, but I keep struggling with this identity confusion thing.

One of the commenters on the post said that labels don’t matter, love does. I disagree with the first part of this sentence. Labels are what define us, they’re just not always negative labels or disabilities. All the qualities I listed above, are labels. Of course these labels make up a whole person, but it can be hard to see yourself or others as the whole person without using the labels that make up you or someone else.

I know what the commenter meant. A disability diagnosis doesn’t make the disability real (and no diagnosis doesn’t make it unreal). Especially if you were born with your disability or acquired it early in life, there’s no way of knowing what you would’ve been like without it. A diagnosis may be a relief, knowing that your or your child’s struggles are not due to laziness or all in your imagination. It may be depressing in the sense that this same reality – the diagnosis and accompanying prognosis – may shatter your dreams. It is an art to find the right balance between accepting and challenging your or your disabled child’s prognosis. Labels should matter, but not so much that they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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