Wednesday, June 22, 2011

J Is for Judgmental

It's time to link up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. The letter we're writing to this week is the letter J. J is for judgmental.

As moms, we tend to be a bit judgmental of each other's parenting. I don't know why--we just are. I did a post recently on this topic (see here).

So why am I tackling this topic yet again? For the simple reason that I couldn't come up with any other J words, and I think I can squeeze out some other points about how people can be judgmental. In this case, I'm going to blog about people being judgmental on the internet.

I've been lucky. I've been blogging since February 2010 and have had only one outright negative comment on my blog. That's amazing! I do get the occasional person who doesn't agree with my viewpoints and will respectfully say so. That's fine! I never mind difference of opinion--as long as it's respectfully stated.

There have been a few times where people have commented about not liking the whole idea of labels. I've also seen complaints about this on autism community boards. These folks are against parents getting their child assessed and label with a diagnosis such as autism, Asperger's, ADHD, gifted, or any other label. I think they feel it's demeaning for the child to have a label--that it negates who they are as a person. I think some people also see the label as a means to put their child on medication--to take away their individuality. To essentially not appreciate who their child is.

When I started this blog, it was important for me to celebrate the uniqueness that my daughter brings to the world. I'm very proud of her and everything she's accomplished. I'm sure my regular readers know this about me and the blog.

I also want to stress that no parent wants to put a label on their kid--they really don't. They do it as a means to get services. Without the label, you can't get help. The therapies needed for autism are extremely expensive and would be prohibitive for all but the very wealthy.

Why do we feel the need to pursue these therapies? Why do we not just accept our children for who they are and deal with our own issues? The answer is extremely simple: we want our children to be happy and to have as many opportunities available to them as possible.

Before we sought out a diagnosis for our daughter, she had extremely limited social interactions. She looked like she wanted to join other kids and play, but had no clue how to go about it. My daughter had huge tantrums if any kid even approached her, because she was afraid they'd take a toy she was playing with. She'd also have huge tantrums if she had to end an activity she didn't want to end. She'd have huge tantrums over things that didn't go her way. She spent a good chunk of her day tantrumming and miserable.

Flash forward 3 years: we had our daughter assessed. They psychologist put the autism label on her, which opened up the door to getting a year of behavior therapy after school and a behavior aide in school. My daughter is mainstreamed 100 percent and is excelling academically. Here's the really cool part: my daughter is more socially engaged and has succeeded in making many friends. She's great at sharing and shows empathy to her family and friends. She's learning to manage her emotions when things don't go her way and while she can still be quick to cry, she recovers very quickly. Tantrums are now extremely rare. We actually noticed huge improvements within the first year of behavior therapy.

None of these improvements would have happened without the label. Should we have just left our daughter alone to find her own path? I don't think so. My daughter is SO much happier than before. She still marches to her own drummer and maintains her wonderful quirkiness. But I now feel like she'll be able to lead a somewhat normal life. I feel she'll go to college and graduate school. She'll have friends and someday marry and have her own kids. The improvement in our lives has been nothing short of amazing!

For me, this is a no-brainer. But when I see those judgmental comments, criticizing me for labeling my daughter, I'm just left confused. Sorry if the labels offend you, but they serve a very vital purpose.

Deal with it!


  1. IN this country or most, you get no services for a discount or free if you don't have paperwork to prove you need it. My son is labeled aspergers and I am glad that he is in a setting that works for him. If you read my blog you'll learn that the 1st 6 months of kindergarten were sheer hell for him and me and his dad. He got suspended once, and sent home every day for meltdowns. Tell me I'm not relieved to have a label that gave him the setting he needed to remove the stimuli that caused all this! If you had to walk in my shoes you'd understand so yes you are right - they need to deal with it.

  2. "Why do we feel the need to pursue these therapies? Why do we not just accept our children for who they are and deal with our own issues?"

    I find that attitude rediculous. Would the parents of typical children consider opting out of school and just "accept their children for who they are"? For crying out loud, the other week in the NYT there was an article about achievement obssessed parents spending SIX figures a year on tutors to make sure that Janie and Johnnie are exceptional. That's an extreme example, but the compulsion to groom children into models of success is epidemic in the culture today. Why is it only socially acceptable for parents of ~typical~ children to do things to influence their childrens' outcome? Absurd.

    If you have diabetes, you take insulin and do other things to improve your prognosis. If you have heart disease, likewise. It's beyond illogical to put a stigma on treating a neurological illness. As if the condition itself wasn't hardship enough. People who spout this kind of nonsense are utterly ignorant, and spreading it around makes them instruments of grief and maybe worse things than that.

  3. The more that I think about it, that attitude is no different than the pre-civil-rights attitude that there is no point in educating minorities. It's bigotry. And we should call it that to anyone who is ignorant enough to say such things outloud. Although I doubt a lot of them would have the sense to be ashamed of themselves.

  4. When my son was first diagnosed with autism, I was so devastated by the label I couldn't even say the word aloud.

    My father, a psychiatrist, got me over it with two sentences: "Don't be afraid of "autism," honey! That's the magic word!" The label opened doors to myriad services and assistance that would have been completely closed to us otherwise.

    ASD doesn't define my child. It's something he HAS, and something he needs help living and coping with -- possibly for the rest of his life. If your child had diabetes, would you deny him or her insulin? I don't really see much difference.

  5. Yeah, I'm with you on this. (I even have a category label on my blog called "I am not afraid of the word Autism") My son officially carries a PDD-NOS diagnosis, but I say "he's autistic" or "he has autism" all the time. I don't think it's a bad or limiting thing, I think it's descriptive.

    And also? It links us to a community, and you know, there is power, support in numbers. To me "autism parenting" is a place where I find commonality, kinship, comradeship.

    It doesn't change who my son is to label him. But it has gotten him vital services he needs, gotten him into the right school, and helped us to find a community that embraces us. None of these are bad things. I would never use it to limit my field of vision for him, to limit my expectations, my hopes and dreams. That is not what labels are for, anyway.

    And without labels and classifications? Science is impossible. It is the judgment, not the label that is the problem. Thanks for this lovely, thoughtful post.

  6. I once did an in-depth feature story on a prominent major league baseball player - who asked I not say his daughter had austism because he didn't want her "labeled" because they were hoping through therapies and diet she would outgrow the diagnosis. I of course respected his wishes, but found in interesting.

    If my son was not labeled as speech delayed, then we wouldn't have qualified to get him free therapy. It's a no-brainer to me.

  7. I'm with you, Cheryl (and @mommypants Cheryl too). I don't think of it as just a label, but as a diagnosis. Moe gets the services he needs because of the diagnosis. Originally the regional center told us that Moe didn't have autism, but that it didn't matter - they treated the symptoms regardless.

    But we pursued a diagnosis privately and when we got the autism DX, we were offered more services, including 1:1 ABA, OT and speech. The label was the best thing that happened, and if he does grow out of it, he can stop wearing it.

  8. Labels are necessary to get the services some kids need. I have worked with parents that fail to see their child as anything but their label. Every aspect of the child is attributed to the label rather than that quirkiness you love so much, or it becomes an excuse for the child to act however they want and not learn those important social skills you are teaching your daughter. Like everything, it's what you do with it that determines it's value.

  9. Good for you for moving forward and getting the help your daughter has benefited from!

  10. Here's my label: "Senior Citizen"

    I qualify for a lot of discounts and services and fun stuff, too. Just don't try to label me "elderly" or "old fogey" or "past my prime." I am lots younger than my age!!

  11. I cannot stand judgemental mothers. They drive me insane. I really want to tell them to kiss my ass.

    I tell people that my son has Aspergers. If that offends them, oh well I guess.

  12. I am always surprised when people are judgemental toward other parents who are just doing their best. None of us know another persons story unless or until we have lived their life and and in their shoes. And that is impossible.

    It's funny how the negative comments stick with us and the positive ones are never, ever quite enough to combat the pettiness.

    I've gotten old enough that I don't apologize anymore for who I am. When someone makes a comment or remark that could be construed as negative or judgemental I now simply say, "Gosh, why would you say that (write that) to me?"

    Thanks for this thoughtful and thought provoking link to Alphabe-Thursday!

    Personally, it sounds to me like you're doing just fine!


  13. It sounds like you have made good decisions for your daughter and the results are something to be thankful for. That's all you need to think about. If others are judgmental about any part of your life, that's their problem.

  14. Very, very good post. I hate labels too. On anything. Blogs, fb, anything.

    I'm glad your daughter is doing well.

  15. You do what you need to do to get the best help for your child. I know people can be really hurtful. It is sad that this happens. In my 21 years of work as a forensic nurse in the field of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, I constantly had phone calls from victims, parents, partners who were devastated by well meaning ( ? ) others about how they should proceed in caring for their loved one,etc. It is so easy to offer advice, especially when you haven't walked in someone's shoes.