Benefits vs. Drawbacks of Behavior Disorder diagnosis

I am really concerned about the pending evaluation of my son. I’ve never been one who liked “labels” for people – especially children – yet I’m coming to the realization that a “label” (via evaluation) is the only way my child may get the added support he needs in school. At 6, it’s difficult for me (and I think professionals as well) to ascertain whether his behavior is truly out of the “normal” spectrum.

Considering all of this, might we be better off to delay an evaluation and pursue a formal behavior modification plan through the school (this is an option in my district)? I have always heard that emotional disorders were looked “down” upon by schools and that a learning disability “label” was preferred – is this true? How have each of you come to a point where you were comfortable with a diagnostic label for your child (or children). Is it really the only way to receive assistance with “special” needs in the school system? If a child learns to effectively deal with, say ODD, is the diagnostic label still a part of his/her permanent school file and will it always follow them?

Sorry for all of the questions and I hope they haven’t offended anyone. I’m just at a bit of a crossroads – wondering what the best course of action might be – and attempting to educate myself as much as possible.

Thanks for any and all of your input!


Dana, in hindsight, I regret not pushing for a psy evaluation when difficult child began exhibiting aggressive tendencies.
I would persue Behavior Mod AND a full evaluation. It would have saved my difficult child 2 years of turmoil, confusion and upheaval if I'd been more persistent then.
As to effective self-control on the part of an ODD child, and the diagnosis staying on his record: I'm not sure that you can or should have this type of information removed; this is based on my state's regulations & my personal opinion. I believe that my school system will support difficult child's gradual transition back to main-stream, however, I think all future teachers, administrators and others who have daily interaction with my difficult child should know that the disorder exists - I frankly don't give a hoot if they don't "approve" of him having an emotional disorder. So long as they treat him with the compassion, respect and consistency that he deserves.
Again, just my opinion. But 4 IEP's, 4 schools, 6 classrooms, 7 teachers, 1 PNE and 5 Psychiatrists later...I'm really kicking myself for not being persistent in the beginning.

L.A. Guy

New Member
I for one do not care about "labels" they can call my difficult child a giraffe if it helps him get help. It does seem that people are more willing to help if there is a label. It might be because they have a name for what is going on. Over the years my son has had several labels. I really do not think any have actualy "stuck" with him. In the beginning they told us difficult child had intermittent explosive disorder, then ADHD, then Oppositional defiant disorder, then general mood disorder, and finally bipolar. It does seem that the more severe the diagnosis. the more help we have received.


Dana, I looked up specifically for my state's record keeping/destroying...
I can ask them to change info in difficult child's record if I think the info is wrong, misleading or violates the privacy or other rights of difficult child. If they choose to not change the info, I can include a statement in difficult child's record "correcting" the info and the reasons I think the original info is incorrect. I may also ask the school to destroy difficult child's records if they are no longer needed for educational purposes. THEY can also destroy difficult child's records if they feel the records are no longer needed, however, they must notify me first of the intention & reasons.
NM is pretty politically correct...I imagine most states have similar policies, but again, I'm unsure.
I found this info in a booklet entitled "Rights to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as Required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)" Subtitle is "Parent & Student Rights in Special Education". Hope you can find something like that to verify your specific rights.


New Member
If avoiding the label means that you never
get help for the kid, what have you achieved,
the label is a means not an end.
Generally I prefer to talk about issues. ODD
tells you what he does and not why. I talk about my kid having a short fuse, easily frustrated , need to feel that he is control
overfocussed, there are no mood factors associated with his behaviors, concentration
good etc no learning or speach difficulties
try to understand these issues and deal with them. The label means often that the kid is not a brat and manipulative but lacking certain social and thinking skills, so a front-end teaching form of behaviour modification is needed. A label also means that you are not a bad parent.

laura mz

New Member
this is an age-old question. to label or not to label. unfortunately it is most often the fact that the doors to appropriate services will NOT open if your child does not have the *label*.....they cannot recieve state or federal funding for non-labeled (diagnosis') kids whether it be an ED label or an Learning Disability (LD) label.


New Member
A label is just a name for a pattern of behaviors. It's a way to summarize what is going on. To get special services in school, you need a label. The label expedites the process and treatment plan.

I have heard, too, that if you're going to have your child labled to get services, to go for the Learning Disability (LD) or OHI label and not ED because it's less of a stigma. But, if your kid is in need of Special Education services than you sortof take whatever label you child's pattern of behaviors warrants. If your child pulls out of the negative pattern of behaviors, over time, with maturity, or whatever, then your child can be dismissed from his label and his IEP.

I fought against a label, an IEP, until my son was at the point where he couldn't continue in his education without it. He was "okay" for Kindegarten and in 1st he never progressed in reading or writing. 2nd was just going to put him further behind. At that time, the end of 1st, I told the school about his ADHD label that he had received the prior summer but I never told them about, hoping he could pull it together. He immediately was given an IEP. Now in 2nd, he is still reading and writing on a pre-K, K, level but since he has his IEP they are working with him, modifying his work, saving his self esteem. How else could he survive in a 2nd grade classroom at his level?

The pros and cons of a label -- we've all walked this road before. It's a difficult one.

Every time an evaluation was done on my son, I was hoping it would show "no problem" and feel comfortable with-that finding. Wouldn't a solely "strong willed" child be easier to deal with? And wouldn't it be easier to read a book or two, maybe take a parenting class and, waalaa, magic?

The bottom line is that if your child has a problem, it's highly likely the problems will continue to mount left untreated or unsupported. They're not going to go away -- current problems will be compounded by anxiety, self-esteem issues, perhaps falling behind in school, relationship problems, etc . During the interim, a parent looses valuable time in getting appropriate support and treatment in place -- not only in the school, but in the home, and with-the docs.

The window of opportunity for getting some types of effective treatment is very short for some disorders -- but a parent doesn't know what type treatments are necessary unless the underlying cause(s) of the behaviors are known. Adequate support in school is just one piece of the puzzle.

I firmly believe in being proactive. But these type of decisions are strictly up to the parents; they're the ones that know their child's needs best.

If you can get your SD to implement a behavior modification plan without a diagnosis, more power to you!!

I know mine wouldnt, but we are in the 'backwoods' here

As for the label issue... I had to practically force the school to share the diagnosis (adhd) with everyone who comes in contact with my child. They were taken aback, as most parents dont want anyone to know. While I can understand that perspective, He was having problems with 'ancillary staff' if that is the correct phrasing,like the librarian and the weekly music teacher, etc, not understanding, and being unable to use behav. mod with him (or anyone else , I'm sure). He was getting into trouble only in areas outside of his classroom, so they needed to know, and I had to make them share the info!!

I can also say that I was a teacher at church and stepped down due to the stress of several girls who were just "wild" - preteens and teens, and who just wouldn't listen, and couldn't control themselves.
Imagine my surprise at being told several months later that one of them has ADHD, and one has a learning disorder. (their moms told me. one is a teacher- the mom of the adhd girl). She told me this when we were discussing school problems related to my autistic step-son.
Imagine my surprise! They didn't feel that there was any reason to share that info with someone who was dealing with their kids regularly (and pulling my hair out!)

I think it's necessary for those who deal with your child to know the major issues. If your child's issues can be dealt with successfully with behavior modification alone, then go with your gut.