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The Advantages and Disadvantages to Labeling a Student



Many students struggle in school and unless they are diagnosed with a disability they will not receive special education services.  Without a diagnosis, the teacher may incorrectly assume the student has a behavioral problem or not give the student the attention they need.  Many parents are also concerned that if their child receives a diagnosis that their child may be treated differently or be bullied because they have a label.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the United States.  The IDEA act was signed into law in 2004. The IDEA program ensures states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.7 million children and youth with disabilities in public schools across the nation.

Because of the IDEA act, many students with disabilities have made significant gains in public schools.  “Labeling students with a specific disability has led to the development of specialized teaching methods, assessment approaches, and behavioral interventions that are useful for teachers of all students.” (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1982).  It can also create more tolerance of the child with the disability, whereas without the label the child may be criticized.  Labeling also allows professionals to communicate with one another based on the category of learning characteristics.

Some drawbacks of labeling are that a teacher may have preconceived ideas of the child’s capabilities based on the label and may not teach the child to their fullest capability.  This can create ineffective schooling.  Another drawback is the teacher may stereotype student and forget that each child is unique and learns in their own way.  “Labels often put the blame (and the guilt) for a student’s learning problems squarely on the parents’ shoulders. In many cases, this is unjustified because students may be mislabeled or teachers may not fully understand the many different causes of mild disabilities,” according to an article from

Either way, labels can be both good and bad for a student.  With the IDEA act, however, the only way a child can receive special services in the public school system is if they have been diagnosed with a qualifying learning disability.   If your child is struggling in school we recommend seeing a specialist and pursue a diagnosis.  Many children, when they receive special services, will blossom and benefit from an individualized educational program.  A little extra help can go a long way.



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  2. There are certainly arguments on both sides, but thanks for sharing this information very clearly.

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