Many people worry that attaching labels to students with disabilities may not be such a good idea. They feel that the label may negatively impact the self-esteem of the student, unintentionally send the message that he or she is inferior, or influence others to treat them differently. Despite these concerns, many educators still label students with disabilities for a variety of reasons.
Categories of special needs continue to be used mostly because the advantages of doing so outweigh the disadvantages. Members of the same category, while different in many ways, share common characteristics. This allows teachers to generalize the promotion of academic and social development of students in a certain category.
Another reason for labeling students with disabilities is to encourage the creation of special interest groups. Special interest groups are support systems that can provide valuable information about a specific disability, and even facilitate state and federal legislations to help these students. An example of a special interest group is “The Autism Society of America.” Without categories for disabilities, there would be no special interest groups. Without these support groups, many people would be unaware of how to help these students.
The main reason that many educators still label students with disabilities in the United States is that federal funds are only provided when a student’s particular disability has been identified. Therefore, if there were no categories for students with disabilities, there would be a lack of funding for programs to help them.
In conclusion, educators label students with disabilities to help them, not to make them feel inferior or different. While a student may feel he or she is being defined by his or her disability, there are ways to minimize this effect, such as by using “people-first language” when referring to a student with a disability. This article was written using people-first language, which means that you refer to the person first, not the disability.