Labels in Disability Inclusion - Are They Good or Bad?

I created and regularly add to a list of books for children and teens around disability inclusion. I invite you to discover some new books to add to your own lists. And, of course, if you have suggestions of books that I can add, please share them here in the comments.

For more about some of the books I find most notable read: Books That Teach Kids and Teens About Disabilities.

This post was sparked by my recent read of counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  
"Twelve-year-old Willow Chase lived with her adoptive parents in Bakersfield, California. There in the midst of the high desert, she grew a garden in her backyard, her sanctuary. She was excited about starting a new school, hoping this time she might fit in, might find a friend. Willow had been identified in preschool as highly gifted, most of the time causing confusion and feelings of ineptness in her teachers. Now at her new school she is accused of cheating because no one has ever finished the state proficiency test in just 17 minutes, let alone gotten a perfect score. Her reward is behavioral counseling with Dell Duke, an ineffectual counselor with organizational and social issues of his own. She does make a friend when Mai Nguyen brings her brother, Quang-ha, to his appointment, and their lives begin to intertwine when Willow's parents are killed in an auto accident."
There is a powerful excerpt that has stuck with me:
"I was taken to see an educational consultant that autumn and the woman did an evaluation. She sent my parents a letter.

I read it.

It said I was "highly gifted."

Are people "Lowly gifted"?

Or "medium gifted"?

Or just "gifted"? It's possible that all labels are curses. Unless they are on cleaning products.

Because in my opinion, it's not really a great idea to see people as one thing.

Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.

We are all imperfect genetic stews."

Why is it that we rely on labels so much? 

I find myself wondering if there is an alternative. I don't think that there is. And are labels really all bad? I believe that there are also aspects of a label, classification or diagnosis that can be helpful - such as enabling one to receive specific accommodations, ensuring that one receives appropriate medical care, or even just in helping to understand one's strengths and challenges.

I think the greater issue is that "it's not really a great idea to see people as one thing." When we reduce someone to ONLY a label, when we can't see past a classification to appreciate one's gifts, when we pigeon-hole people into boxes based on those labels - this is when we tread on dangerous ground. This is what we need to seek to avoid and undo.

What do you think? Are labels completely problematic, or is there some positive value? 


Be sure you never miss a post from Removing the Stumbling Block:

Debunking 4 Common Myths About Disability Inclusion

Debunking Myths in Disability Inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block

If you look, you will find the word “inclusion” in the dictionary. But there is no universal definition of inclusion as it applies to educational settings.

To include is to make something fit as part of a whole, but real inclusion is so much more. It is working to ensure a true sense of belonging, and when our focus is on education, inclusion is ensuring that ALL students have equal access to curriculum and meaningful learning experiences.

Nevertheless, there is no blueprint for how to make this happen on a practical level in schools. As a result, each state, district, school, and even teacher may have a slightly different understanding of what an inclusive classroom is, let alone how to create one in practice.

There are so many myths and misconceptions that have become barriers to the widespread implementation of inclusive education. Below are four of the most common. 

Reforming Professional Development to Meet the Goals of Inclusion

We need everyone to advocate for inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block


In secular education there is a cry for reform in the methodology of professional development for educators. Teachers are increasingly expected to reach their learners in authentic and meaningful ways through such practices as project-based learning and innovative uses of technology. Despite this, most professional development continues to be offered in a "one and done" fashion, with someone lecturing on a given topic and no follow-up offered. Tom Murray, in an article called professional-development reform: 8 steps to make it happen illustrates this point by writing, “Every year, school districts around the country waste a tremendous amount of time and money on ineffective professional development. The traditional model of “sit and get,” where a one-size-fits-all approach is utilized, yields abhorrent results…Professional development must undergo radical reform, from a model that’s outdated and ineffective to one that’s differentiated, meaningful and engaging.”  Differentiated, meaningful and engaging; that’s exactly the kind of education we want for our children, right? So why wouldn’t we want the same for those facilitating that education?
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