How does every baseball game begin? It begins when the umpire shouts, “Play ball!”
What makes those words so important is that they provide context. They let everyone know what we’re about to do and how we’re going to do it – by the rules. It gets everyone on the same page and keeps them there. Without context the players may as well wander around the field making it up as they go.
What does this have to do with autism? The term autism, adhd, dyslexia or any other term provides context. It gives everyone involved a sense of what we’re dealing with when it comes to supporting a person with autism.
I had a conversation recently about a very bright boy who frequently experiences melt downs in class. This boy has had no assessments and therefore has no supports to help him manage the classroom experience more effectively. Why? His parents don’t believe in labeling.
Labeling is a double edged sword. On the one hand labeling can result in a person being limited by stereotypes and low expectations. On the other hand, failure to label can deny the person the necessary supports to help him move beyond the confines of the label. Those who fear labeling are often concerned with the former and don’t consider the latter.
The result is parents acting as though denial is the key to eliminating their child’s challenges. But all denial does is eliminate every opportunity to prepare their child to succeed in spite of those challenges.
If a parent believes that their choice not to label their child prevents their child from being labeled then they are experiencing an Olympic class dose of naivety.
Trust me, a child who frequently melts down in class because of no supports is being labeled – by staff and peers alike.
Ready to play ball? Great, then you’re ready to learn how. Only by determining that baseball is the game do you know you need someone who understands baseball well enough to teach you how to play it correctly.
The same goes for autism, adhd or any other special need. The label provides you with a sacred opportunity to discover the knowledge and skills each person with that label requires to move beyond the label as best they can.
Of course, not everyone will become a homerun king and you don’t have to be to be allowed to play. What you do need is a coach, supportive teammates and adoring fans who will always cheer for you no matter how often you stumble, fall or foul out.
When you understand the context, it’s easier to agree to the rules – because unless we’re all playing as a team it’s difficult to win.
Thanks for being you.
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