Inappropriate Labels

My son, who has Autism, was given the educational label of “Emotionally Disturbed” to receive services at school.  This happened back in the spring after he was evaluated by the Delaware Autism Program (DAP.)  Basically, to make a long story short, he wasn’t “Autistic enough” to go to their program so he cannot have the educational label of Autism.  Never mind that he has a diagnosis from a neurologist, a developmental pediatrician, and the psychologist at the Children’s hospital.  Oh no, those medical people don’t know squat, do they?  And forget about the MOTHER who has read, educated herself, and happens to be living with the boy who has Autism.  She doesn’t know diddly either.


Definitely disturbing.  So much that I haven’t really been able to let it go.

Can you tell?

I did add an addendum to his file stating that he has a medical diagnosis of Autism and added copies of his latest reports from said neurologist, developmental pediatrician, and psychologist.  I figured his new teacher would read his file before he started school.  Back in November I was disturbed to find out that she hadn’t read the whole thing (the addendum was most likely at the end.)  She didn’t know he had Autism until I mentioned it (and I mentioned it over the summer, thinking she’d read his file.)  She didn’t know that DAP holds the key to the educational label of Autism in our tiny state.  I filled her in.

Something else that has been niggling at the back of my mind is that the special ed teacher told me she read his Functional Behavior Analysis (which we wrote when the psychologist gave him the emotionally disturbed label) over the summer but has not had to implement ANY of it and hasn’t looked at it since.  He isn’t a behavior problem in the class.

Emotionally disturbed my ass.

Oh yes, I find this disturbing.

Recently I reached out to a couple Moms I know with boys on the spectrum to ask what labels their children have, and what I found out disturbed me even further.  In one case a boy with Aspergers has the educational label of Autism and the other has the label of Learning disabled.  All it took to for the child with Aspergers to get the educational label of Autism was a letter from his regular pediatrician stating that he is on the spectrum and how it could affect his schooling.  The other with the educational label of learning disabled was given that label because his biggest struggle was with adaptive behavior.  This is a child who taught himself to read at 4 years old!  He is not learning disabled!!  The school psychologist told me that the Roc didn’t qualify for the learning disabled label because he wasn’t showing any academic issues.  Well, he certainly cannot read!  And he definitely has issues with adaptive behavior!!

So now I’m seriously disturbed by all of this.  What an injustice to him to have the label “Emotionally Disturbed” following him around, tacked on behind his name at the top of his file.

So today I put on my advocate hat and called the school’s special education director.  Of course, I got her voice mail.  I took a deep breath, retracted my mama bear claws, spewed out a little introduction, and requested more information on how the district determines the educational labels they give their special needs students, as I have not been able to locate it on the state’s website, as well as a time to meet to go over a more appropriate label for the Roc.

We will see how quickly she gets back to me.  I always end my messages with a cheery:  “I very much look forward to speaking with you regarding this matter, talk to you soon!”

Oh yes, I look forward to stating the Roc’s case on this matter.



16 thoughts on “Inappropriate Labels

  1. holy crap – E.D.?!?!? are you KIDDING me?!?! As a former school psychologist on the child study team for pre-k and elementary school kids, (and a doctoral level clinical psychologist) i find this label a bit… emotionally disturbing…

    i guess its GOOD he’s getting services, but i dont know if being mislabeled will bite him in the arse later, ya know?

    Im sorry for this. why does everything have to be a fight w/ the school district?????

    all the best!

  2. That is a problem is there isn’t a consistency within or between schools on how a child receives services. I’m looking forward to reading more.

    I’m giving a Special Education Advocacy Resource book on my site if you want to leave a comment telling me you’d like to be entered.

  3. No way!! How can they just label kids willy-nilly like that? Fine, they don’t think he needs to be in the specialized program, but he still needs specialized support. Support that is APPROPRIATE to his true diagnosis!!

    ROAR indeed, you go get ’em!

  4. This reminds me of the battle I am currently waging in order to get an IEP….he’s not “academically challenged enough” to deserve that!

    His whole life is academically challenged. Just cause he reads, writes and has the vocabulary of a young adult doesn’t mean he’s learning squat!!

    Go Momma Bear!

  5. Ah, yes, the vagaries that is DAP. Don’t know if you know that each district has its own DAP evaluation team. We ran into this, too. I’m curious if these other moms you mention live in the same district? Are their children the same age as Roc? LOTS depends on the teachers, the school administration…planetary alignment, too, I think! 😉

    Seriously, the system is NOT consistent. I’ll email you our experiences with DAP here in our district.

  6. I don’t like the labels that the schools have. Here they have questionnaires they fill out to determine what label the kids fall under. I can’t stand that. Good for you for call the Special Education Director. I sure hope that they call you back promptly. I am trying to remember what labels they have at school for Dakota. Autism, OHI (Other Health Impairment) and I don’t know if there is anything else. His behaviors are pretty much controlled at school.

  7. Definitely mislabeled – that is just unacceptable. If the school’s sped director isn’t high enough – go district. I’ve had to go to our district’s sped director several times for various issues over the years, and she usually got it done. And remember, we fellow mama bears have got your back!

  8. “Emotionally disturbed” is a BS label. I can see why it would be upsetting. If someone has diabetes, we don’t say they are pancreatically “disturbed.” Ugh.

    It has all kinds of negative connotations.

  9. You make me proud….Go get em girl !!!!

    Government bureaucracy run by bureaucrats that don’t have the time, training or tools to do their jobs right.

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