Not the “right” label but the “best fitting” label

Labels. The special education world is just chock full of labels. Sometimes these labels are used strictly for funding purposes – such labels are often drawn directly out of the latest DSM and correspond to some diagnosis listed there. But other labels are used to help people (parents, teachers, administrators and – oh my! – even the person with the label understand what is going on, find resources and find people with similar issues. Of course, people are complex and labels are simple. So…. it’s not the “right” label, it’s the “best-fitting” label.

Take me, for example (the example I know best!). My best-fitting label is nonverbal learning disorder (NLD or NVLD). Is that label “right”? Well…… People with NLD are (get this) not supposed to have any sense of humor! (Where do I go to return mine?) Also, we’re not supposed to be good at math. I am, no kidding, a statistician! So maybe the label isn’t right. But it’s a better fit than any other label I’ve come across.

That’s because the key aspect of NVLD is that we are not good at nonverbal stuff. And I am not good at nonverbal stuff. It’s also because, when I discuss my issues with other people on NLD lists, they often say things like “Yeah, me too!” – and I often say that to them. And while I have some characteristics of autism and Asperger’s and dyspraxia and who knows what else, those don’t fit as well.

So, when you (or your child or your student) is labeled, don’t expect to get the right label. But try to get the best fitting label.

The only really right label for me is Peter.

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