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Opinion: Be Cautious in Labeling Underperformers

Opinion: Be Cautious in Labeling Underperformers

In the latest post for the Guardian's Secret Teacher, one teacher is discussing why she believes her peers should be less quick to label under-performers with a suspected learning disability.

"The range of options available to the discerning child-labeller is growing: social issue, learning difficulty, behavioural need, obsessive tendency, food intolerance or – my all time favourite – being 'on the spectrum.' As a teacher I find this immensely frustrating for a number of reasons," she writes.

The teacher, who says she is a class teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator, finds that by being quick to label kids struggling with class material with learning disabilities, teachers are doing a disservice to both the child and those who are actually diagnosed.

"[T]he diagnosis is often performed by someone with no skills, qualifications or expertise – a well-meaning colleague, an over-concerned parent, a kindly friend. The only requisite is that they have access to the internet or have seen a TV programme about the condition in question," she said.

She discusses her encounters with parents and others who frequently are quick to deem young children as suffering from ADHD or dyslexia, but warns that those concerned should look into alternatives first. She explains that more research needs to be done before coming to conclusions from a preliminary look-up of symptoms.

At parents’ evenings, if I mention that any child is struggling to read or spell I know dyslexia will crop up. I’ve heard all sorts of reasoning...I want a conversation about specific areas of concern and ways we can help, not dyslexia. Of course it may be dyslexia – let’s not rule that out – but by jumping to conclusions we could overlook other possible causes and deprive the child of more holistic support.

What this anonymous teacher wants is for the "natural variations" that make each child unique to not be labeled with negative connotations or as a defects "in need of special treatment," but rather as simply a part of the education process.

"The more we pander to it, the worse it seems to get: my school’s list of children’s individual needs gets longer every term, and we now have a slot in the weekly staff meeting to help us keep abreast of them all."

She says she understands the importance of helping children succeed, but that this can be best done by letting children know its important to embrace differences and not fear them.

Read the Secret Teacher's full post here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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