Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Looking Beyond the Labels

We are a unique family. Probably unique in several ways (Isn't every family?) but one of the ways I want to write about today is the presence of all the labels we live with in our house and my love/hate relationship with them (the labels, not the people.)

In our family we carry the following labels - ADHD (3 people), mood disorder (2), Noverbal Learning Disorder, also known as NLD (1),  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD (1), Intellectual Disability or ID (1).  And some days I think maybe we could throw a few more labels in there just for good measure but I'm really not sure I want to pursue it. 

On one hand, I know these labels are necessary, and help to identify what is going on and give a clearer idea of what we can do to help make things better. 

But, there are also times when these labels frustrate me. They frustrate me because once a label is applied it is far to easy to look at the label rather than the unique, wonderful person who is really there. It is so easy to get so caught up in medications, and therapies and services and appointments and evaluations of every kind and to lose sight of the child. It can also become easy to use these labels as excuses instead of expecting each child to be the very best version of themselves they can be. 

More and more I find myself looking away from all these labels and everything that comes with them and simply asking God who it is He meant for this child to be and how I can be an instrument to help them become that person. And often  that does include therapies and medications and I have no problem with that. But I also believe it is only a small part of the total person.

Of course, this means I have to spend time truly understanding and knowing each child. Sometimes it means working really hard to find ways of doing things that will work for this person. Often it requires looking at some things from a totally different perspective, a complete paradigm shift. And that's okay. That forces me to grow and learn and change and become more than I would ever have become without this mental exercise. And then, because I know how hard it can be for me make that shift, I have a better understanding of how hard it for the child to make the shift from his/her way of perceiving the world to understand mine. 

I often remember what a doctor told me one day when I was on a quest to make things "better." He reminded me that end of the day (or month, or year) regardless of the official diagnosis, each individual is just that, an individual, and they deserve to be loved and respected as that unique individual. Not as a label, but as a person.  

So my goal is to help each child, whether they have a "label" or not, to become the person they were created to be. I want to provide them with a life that is rich and full of experiences that stretch and enrich the mind, body and spirit. I want to see each of these kids soar. 

Jeremiah 29:11 applies to each person equally regardless of labels.

"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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