I always kid my sister about her "awareness" to labels. Whenever we go to garage sales, she is looking for labels......Old Navy, Gap Kids, Oshkosh, Carter's, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Levi and so on. Or she'll say things like, "I paid $30 for a brand new pair of Nikes!".....not shoes.....Nikes. LOL. And I think a lot of people do the same thing. Why do we do this? Because we know what to expect from the label. We already know about how it will fit us, how long it will last, or how great of a price we got! It's not that we got around looking at each other tags to see if we are wearing a great brand name, it's that we are familiar with the label & it helps make our shopping a bit easier.
There is a lot of discussion when it comes to labeling kiddos with special needs. My personal feeling about using a label is that it is similar to shopping for name brands. Strange to say, I know. But here is why....
1. When Ethan's behavior is turning heads or we begin to receive questionable looks, I can explain it all away in a few words. "My son has autism." Most of the time, this is followed by a look of understanding or the start of a conversation (which I love) about autism. Occasionally, I will receive a look of pity or a harsh comment, but honestly that has been a rare occurrence. My family is currently planning for a road trip, and I came across these cards like this one to pass out in community settings, if need be. I actually kind of love them! The one pictured here was created by thirtyhandmadedays.
2. It provides the needed services! Having the diagnosis of autism has opened us to a whole new world of opportunities and resources for Ethan. Early Intervention, Ethan's current (and amazing) preschool, Easter Seals, AutismSpeaks, our park district's special needs program and more! All of these have been available to us due to having the "label" on paper. Ethan is able to have MORE help! I love it!
3. It has helped Corey & I to connect to other parents of special needs kids. Being a parent of a child with autism can be lonely because no one else in your world understands what it feels like or what your daily life is like. But, if I look up an "autism support group," I am able to find other people going through similar things, and.....once again.....support is there.
Is Ethan defined only by this label? No. Will I feel differently about this label as he gets older? Possibly. Does having this label lead to negative treatment. Absolutely. But, at this time our lives, wearing this label is MORE beneficial than not. And, even though every person on the autism spectrum has different challenges as well as their own unique super powers, I believe that wearing the autism label can help the lines of communication in our society. When others hear this label, they generally know what to expect, what behavior that looks like and....what I love......how to be helpful, loving and supportive. Society is becoming familiar with this label, and that is making living with autism easier. So this mama is wearing her label proudly!!!!