I am deputy and SENCO in a primary PRU and I recently read a blog which discussed whether we should be labelling children ADHD, ASD etc or meeting their needs as unique individuals. From a personal perspective I incline to the latter view but the pragmatic SENCO in me favours the former. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, children are excluded because they present challenging behaviours but in many cases they have underlying issues which are undiagnosed. If a ‘label’ had been applied at an earlier stage then the child could have received the help and support they needed in mainstream; it is distressing for a child with acute ASD to be placed in a BESD setting as strategies to manage behaviour alone are at odds with strategies for ASD particularly when the child has sensory issues.
Secondly, when children come to us without a ‘label’ and struggle to…

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  1. I think this is the crux of the issue – without the label, it’s difficult to access the support they need. Also, I have read accounts by adults ‘with’ Aspergers (in particular) who say it was a massive relief when they discovered that their feeling of not fitting in and not operating in the same way as many of their peers had a label and they weren’t just simply ‘wrong’. It can be comforting to know all of those feelings are recognised and not just your individual traits. I don’t think that labelling is mutually exclusive to treating every student as an individual, the label can just be a shorthand to starting to understand a student and their behaviour + what may trigger them. However I am dubious about some of the labels – ODD in particular which just seems to be an excuse for rudeness in my experience. I am also sceptical about the increasing tendency to label all sorts of behaviour – once it is labelled, it can be ‘treated’ and in the case of ADHD especially, with very profitable and heavy duty drugs. The drugs often seem to be used as the only means of dealing with ADHD when really they should only be a short term aid whilst students learn other ways of controlling their behaviour. It is one of the things I feel most uncomfortable about in SEBD teaching – that the classes can be unteachable in a classroom setting unless students are drugged, but then how far are we colluding in giving potentially harmful drugs to young children. There are no easy answers – it is a complex area and I don’t think blanket label/don’t label statements are particularly useful.

  2. I agree but what has been missed here is that without labels cherryl et al would be out of a job!! I’d be out of besd job! It’s all very idealistic and I am by no means a cynic; however I am a realist. Years of experience tell me who has a problem and who hasn’t and it needs addressing. If you have a child with sensory ASD issues no amount of telling them they need to get a grip will work; this isn’t empowering it’s just plain cruel! In mainstream schools children are being labelled naughty when they have complex issues; should we be saying pull yourself together? No! This is how kids end up in PRUS! How does NOT labelling help ? Sorry but this makes my blood boil! I am constantly fighting against notion that kids are just naughty but fellow professionals in same line of work endorsing this view!! Not helpful. BY the way is ‘ naughty’ not a label ?

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