As with all aspects of education, in this case special education, I like to accentuate the positive. Many times, parents fear the idea of having their child labeled. In fact, I am one of those parents, however, like most I have seen why labeling a child in order for them to receive special education services is a move in a positive direction. Labeling the child doesn't harm the child at all, in fact it helps him/her. Labeling a child allows professionals to communicate with each other because each categorical label provides a general idea about that child's learning characteristics. This gives professionals and parents a point at which to convene and organize a suitable program for the child. Through the years, labeling has led to the development and improvement of specialized teaching methods, testing accommodations and modifications, and behavioral plans and interventions that can benefit all children and all teachers whether in special education or not.
Labeling is indeed required to be included in special education. Given the current law, to receive special, education services, a child must have a disability which is the nature of the "label" and in most cases must also, be further classified into one of the state's categories, such as: autism, deaf or blindness, developmental delays, emotional disturbance, hearing impairments, intellectually disabled,m multiple disabilities, orthopedic disabilities, other health impairments (OHI), specific learning disabilities, speech and/or language impairments, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairments. The Individual's with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows children ages three to nine to be identified as developmentally delayed and therefore receive special education services without a specific disability label.
Some worry, that using labels to identify children with specific learning needs stigmatize them and may be a harbinger to their denial of participating in activities in the mainstream. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said that children with disabilities have the right to participate in their school’s extracurricular activities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Also, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights said that students with intellectual, developmental, physical, and any other disability must even be allowed modifications and aids as needed as long as they do created an unfair advantage to sports teams for example, and only serve to even out the playing field for all participants.
In reality, we all use labels every day to simply categorize things for example: those with blue eyes, those with red shirts, toddlers, the clarinet section, foreign cars, american cars, in each instance the "label" helps us to better understand what we are referring too. The same is true in labeling a child for special education services. The label simply helps identify what the child needs in terms of education. The child, like every other child will continue to grow and change. Every child is unique with his/her own individual qualities. In no way should a label for special education classification make that child any less valued or qualified for a high-quality education both during school hours and during extra-curricular activities.
Parent and Educator Links:
What You Need to Know About Students with Special Needs and Participating in Interscholastic Athletics
Feds: Schools Must Open Sports to Kids With Disabilities
Mitt Aubin's Book Review: