Forgetting the Label to the Glory of God ~ Brenda Fischer
So many families are facing the hard and perplexing reality of having their child diagnosed with a developmental disorder. Acronyms like PDD-NOS, ADHD, RAD, FASD, OCD and ODD are scribbled onto a child’s records with increasing frequency. Almost one child in 100 has an autism spectrum diagnosis. A diagnosis is helpful in some ways for families. It can open the door to receiving medical, therapeutic and educational support. A diagnosis also sheds some light and gives helpful insight to parents or others who are in a child’s life. On the flip side, a label can lead to heartache and deep hurt. All parents want their child to be loved and accepted as a unique individual, not put in a box.
With all these labels flying around, it is tempting to pick out children and refer to them with a label and then mentally place them in a category. After all, it’s true that with autism there are patterns of behavior that lead to the diagnosis. Also, in the case of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), children have brain damage that affects their ability to respond and cope with life. Yes, each diagnosis has accompanying characteristics; yet as Christians, this world of labels can collide with who we know we are in Christ. Our God has “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) every child with a heart and a soul. The variation in who each child is as a person is as big as the ocean. Any human-contrived label is too small for God.
Since so many children are impacted by labels, it is helpful to learn about specific disabilities while always acknowledging God’s great and unrestricted ability to work in the heart and life of each person that He has designed. Michelle Schreder shares in her book The Unexpected Gift—Raising Children with Disabilities*,
A diagnosis doesn’t really change our child in any way. It doesn’t change their interests, their likes and dislikes, their
sense of humor, their unique personalities. A diagnosis simply provides clues about how to help our kids, but it
doesn’t define them.
Your children, and my children, are bigger than their diagnoses-they are so much more than a list of symptoms and
disorders! They, too, have been made in God’s image, have been gifted by Him, and have eternal souls.
A diagnosis may change the way we express love to our children so that they can receive it… but it never changes our love for them and their need for our love, any more than our human ‘disabilities’ change God’s love for us.
*Schreder, Michelle. The Unexpected Gift: Raising Children With Disabilities. Sisters, OR: VMI Publishers, 2004.