So in today’s day and age, educational research is flourishing. So many people are getting involved in researching the good points and bad points of a new method or theory. It has also opened up a whole new research area into behaviour, norms and the abnormal. In turn this has spiked a lot of controversy with people becoming divided upon whether this is a beneficial research area or whether it just creates more of a problem than from where they started. 

I would love to do some research in this area but for now I shall just put across my views of other people’s research about how this kind of research impacts on children. So, first of all when I say ‘research’ in this blog what I mean is looking into patterns of behaviour across a wide set of children and seeing whether there are any similarities. From the similarities it can be determined whether there is an underlying disorder or whether the specific child is unique and perhaps just needs some further attention to curb the disrupting behaviour. This disrupting behViour can come In many forms such as intellectual disability, emotional disturbance of a learning difficulty. A disorder is defined as:

‘The breakdown of peaceful and law-abiding public behaviour’

I feel this opens up the first most damning reason for not defining a disorder and creating a label for the said child. A disorder feels very final, a label that is hard to shake no matter how much support is given to the child to help their behavioural issues and set them on track. What if a child is on the borderline of a diagnosis – and is diagnosed – but in the subsequent years grows out of it, should they still be labelled with the disorder? Should they ever have been labelled with a disorder in the first place? 

Below I have summarised the negative effects of labelling a child:

  • Teachers expectations – a teacher will be told that a certain child has a disorder and immediately a expectation of that child is formed. They will be badly behaved, a disruption for the class and will need extra attention. Obviously this is not the case for every child with a disorder and children not labelled with a disorder could be equally or even more badly behaved. But the effect of teachers expectations could have a very severe side effect for the child – being treated differently could cause them to act differently (in line with the labelling) reinforcing the behaviour problems and therefore the label.
  • All children have bad days 
  • Labels say the problem is the fault of the child 
  • Children that are labelled are DIFFERENT
  • Labels cause stereotypes and cause a lot of behaviours to be assigned to a child due to the label but with no evidence of them from the child.
  • Too little too late – intervention is needed quickly but not available until a diagnosis from all the right people is confirmed.
  • They are unreliable 
  • Labels initiate blame upon the parents

On the flip side of the damaging effects of a label they can have very benefiting uses. I feel the best use of a label is for the child, especially an older child. Perhaps it helps them to understand that they aren’t just odd but in fact there is something different about them that deserves a label. A label also can create a community – if you know what is wrong with you it is quite easy to find others with the same labels – you find out similarities and most of all how to deal with these differences. If a label didn’t exist then it would be hard to explain what the differences were and whether there was anyone similar – this method would be too abstract and enevitbly end up in a dead end. So most importantly it raises the moral of the child that they aren’t odd but within a specialist group and there is help out there. Without s label perhaps these differences would go unnoticed as a problem that could be solved and could have been seen as a different personality. 

  • Enables a child to be helped once they have a label
  • Professionals can communicate and understand more about a disorder from the similarities of students 
  • If labels were removed something else would just take its place to help us define differences between students.
  • Labelling can help the public understand – this way it can spark social concern and therefore support for children who need it most (determined by the label)
  • A label may help the child integrate socially – without a label they may be seen to be annoying or abnormal. But with a label these behaviours can be associated to something and become less abstract.
  • The most important benefit of all – it helps aid research to find the best teaching methods and tools to help these children in education.

I would love for those who have been affected by what I talk about here to comment and share your own experiences and whether they line up with the research I found and have presented here.

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