Welcome to “On the
Issue 70: The Limits of Labels: Evaluation Results That Really Matter
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A Note from Nicole: Warm Welcome to New Friends from the ASA Conference
Idea of the Week: Play with Water Balloons
Feature Article: The Limits of Labels: Evaluation Results That Really Matter
The Horizons Team Recommends: Therapy Shoppe® ; Learning as We Grow
Upcoming Events: CORE Approach Parent Teleseminar; Sibshop
It’s the start of another incredibly busy week at Horizons as we continue with summer camps and get ready for our Extreme Makeover: Autism Education Edition Workshop later this week. Erin and I spent part of last week in Chicago attending the Autism Society of America annual conference. We hosted a table in the exhibit hall and met many wonderful parents and professionals. I want to extend a very warm welcome to the hundreds of new subscribers this week who attended the ASA conference. It was great meeting you in person, and we look forward to sharing with you each week through our newsletter.
The featured article this week addresses the very important topic of
evaluation. I make the argument that we should focus more on individual strengths and obstacles as opposed to getting hung up on the names we give things. Many people have told us this article is a favorite of theirs, and I hope you enjoy it as well.
Have a wonderful week!
Looking to the horizon,
Play with Water Balloons
Play with water balloons together.
Fill up a bunch of different sized water balloons and toss them back
and forth from different heights to see what will happen. Drop water
balloons onto different surfaces and see how easily they break. You can
even just have a good old-fashioned fun water balloon fight!
The Limits of Labels: Evaluation Results That Really Matter
By: Nicole Beurkens, M.Ed.
When a child is not developing as expected, the first thing most parents and professionals attempt to do is figure out a name for what is going on. The assessment or evaluation process is often viewed as the path to
determine an appropriate diagnosis or label for individuals.
Disability labels become the gatekeepers for services and supports in
schools and the broader community. Parents and professionals therefore become very invested in the name that is given to a child’s condition, both to understand more about the child and to secure treatment. This is a completely normal reaction for parents, as they want what is best for their children and must seek it in a system that provides or denies support based on their child’s label.
It is important to recognize the two very different systems of labeling or
classifying individuals. In the medical realm, with which most parents
are accustomed, tests and procedures are conducted in order to provide
a medical diagnosis for a condition. The treatment that follows is
based on the presence of the particular condition that was diagnosed.
In the realm of psychological evaluation, however, the scenario is
quite different and unfamiliar to most parents. The purpose of these
evaluations is to determine how an individual is functioning, and
whether or not their particular patterns of skills and behaviors meet
the criteria for disorders in the realms of thinking, behavior, and
emotions. This type of evaluation process is often less precise than
medical testing and diagnosis, and is typically not directly linked to
What often gets missed in the process of categorizing an individual’s conditions is that labels can only begin to describe the complex mix of strengths, obstacles, personality traits, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions within that individual. Labels, or diagnostic categories, are the method used to characterize general subgroups of people with certain types of symptoms. They are open to a significant amount of subjective
interpretation, and cannot capture the entire essence of any
individual. It is not uncommon for an individual to receive one
specific diagnosis from practitioner A, a different diagnosis from
practitioner B, etc. This can be extremely frustrating and confusing
for parents and professionals, and may lead them to wonder why we would even label people in the first place.
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