Sunday, 6 December 2009

Giving J a "label".

I have been pondering a bit since my letter from the community paediatrician - his impressions were as posted before, dyslexia, dyspraxia and social communication disorder. As the OT said "that's quite a label" and it's this thought which gives me some disquiet. J definitely has some problems which were picked up at nursery. To me though he is and always was just J with all his little foibles and idiosyncracies. The problems he displayed in nursery were exactly the same as the ones he displayed at home but in the context of a crowded nursery and now a classroom can be irksome and hard to manage for the teacher and teaching assistant. This is why J has so much 1-1 support and I am grateful he has this. Seeing the paediatrician was supposed to be another opinion for the education service - a different perspective and a way for them to add to the picture of J's needs to see if a Statutory Assessment needs to be carried out. What concerns me is:
  • Children with any sort of label have a set of behaviours which apply to that label. I wonder how much of this is the actual underlying problem and how much of it is a child behaving in the way expected of him for the diagnosis.
  • The SEN label may become applied right throughout his school years with his educators having a lower expectation of him as a result. This is fine if his educational attainment would be low no matter what but it is NOT okay if he has potential which is missed as a result of the lower expectations.
  • The other issue is that J is a carbon copy of me and except for the reading issue I was exactly the same at school. I found it hard to read social situations too and as a result was bullied and totally unable to cope with this. The difference is that although I saw educational psychologists I did not get any sort of label as I might have done now. I read well but coasted through school as I struggled to apply myself - once I was adult enough to do so I never looked back and studied various subjects throughout the next 20 years including gaining a degree.
  • J has always achieved some things later than others. He spoke very late but babbled almost constantly to himself in a nonsense language showing that language development was there and would it did when he was 3.5 years old. And dyspraxia? J crawled at 5.5 months old - hardly dyspraxic wouldn't you agree?
  • Children seem to be given all kinds of labels these days. I've lost count of the number of children diagnosed with ADHD (and with which I was determined the paediatrician would not label J ). My friend had a daughter with ADHD - true ADHD - she rarely slept longer than 2-4 hours and even as an adult  still requires medication.

When did difficulties in behaviour and in skills become worthy of a medical diagnosis? I am not someone who says these things do not exist - they have always been there but have we gone too far in the desire for a label?  I think we might have done especially if you consider that once a label is applied it may well be there for life and affect the child as an adult trying to live a normal life with the label of whatever around his neck.

So despite what the paediatrician has said I am placing myself firmly on the "let's wait and see" line. Despite my previous post I am keeping an open mind on dyslexia following the response from a blog reader. It's possible J could be dyslexic.... I don't think it's a case of ABT (Ain't Been Taught) as if this was the case then few of his classmates would be reading either and all indications are that this is not the case judging by the number of "free readers" among his peers (free readers are those who have progressed through the reading program and are now allowed a free choice of books to read and feed back on).

I am happy for J to have a label if it's the right one and if it will guarentee him the support he needs in the classroom. Otherwise I'd like the medical profession to keep it's labels for those who need them and I'll continue seeing the OT service who are offering practical support to J and the SENCO who is assessing and applying various techniques to help J in the areas he struggles. I am equally happy for J to go into the social communication group (something which might have helped me as a child) especially if it helps him to make sense of his world and means he can build up good lasting relationships with his peers.

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