Soup cans revisited

The most common apparent use of the “labels are for soup cans” catchphrase seems to be with regard to medical diagnoses. One blogger on the issue of childhood learning disabilities is considering it as a title for her forthcoming book, where she plans (I gather) to make the argument that when we “label” a child with ADHD or other “disability” we actually do more harm than good, as the child will then begin to define him or her self by the disability.

Well, I do see her point. It’s easy to use diagnoses as excuses or as descriptors of self.

“I can’t help acting this way – I’m bipolar.”

“I can’t go to college, I’m dyslexic.”

“That kid won’t ever amount to anything, he’s got ODD.” (oppositional defiant disorder – a pathological resistance to authority, like a rebel with a brain-chemistry cause)

I see the point, but I disagree with it. Again, “know yourself.” Okay, if you are into looking for excuses – you will find them. But I like my descriptors – even the negative ones, even the medical ones. They give me a path, a way to define what’s “wrong” with me so I can work with it or around it and accomplish my goals.

I have adult ADHD. This diagnosis is not an excuse to not go to college – in fact, I’m in postgrad work now. It IS the information I need to structure my study area with minimal distracters and schedule my study time with regular breaks.

I have social anxiety disorder (SAD). This doesn’t mean that I sit at home alone and avoid interacting with people – it means that I need to put some effort into identifying my anxiety attack triggers and take some preventative measures, like focusing on learning people’s names or finding one person to draw out and listen to.

I have fibromyalgia. Again, I don’t sit around on the sofa and whine about how I can’t do anything because of my “condition.” I take the appropriate medication, watch my diet and exercise, and when I have to exert myself past my tolerance I manipulate my schedule so that I can recover appropriately afterwards.

I have both sleep-onset and sleep maintenance insomnia. Therefore I blog 😉

My husband has major recurring depression. My son has severe ADHD. My niece has cystic fibrosis. One of my staff may have lupus. My friend has diabetes. One of my faculty has dyslexia. There are coping strategies for just about everything that you can “label” a person with, medically. I don’t understand the mindset that a diagnosis is a negative thing. If I didn’t know that I had SAD, for example – I would think that I was just a socially awkward terminal moron, and I probably would hide at home and avoid contact with the human race as much as possible. There are months-long blocks of time in my past where I did exactly that, come to think of it.

How can you address an issue without knowing what it is? How do you help a child with a learning disability learn if you don’t acknowledge that learning is different for everyone? If I work with a dyslexic child but refuse to openly acknowledge the dyslexia, that doesn’t stop the child from getting the idea that something is “wrong” with him or her. Just the opposite, in my experience. If we don’t address the problem and talk about how to work around it, the child self diagnoses and self-labels. Usually as “stupid.”

You have to diagnose before you treat. I’m no doctor, but I’ve watched enough House to get that much.

1 Comment

  1. Rochelle said,

    October 5, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I’m pretty sure you’re blogging because you can’t sleep but I enjoy reading what you have to say. I wish I could write as well as you do.

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