Educate the Child, Not the Label

Recently I was scanning through my professional articles when the title, “Educate The Child, Not the Label” caught my attention. This blog post written by Haley Gottlieb on the ASCD Smart Brief blog had me sit straight up with full attention. For the past several years I have felt passionate about this topic. Quite often you may hear me ask, “ Ok, so now that we know this diagnosis/label, what are we going to do differently for this child?” Our belief and philosophy is to teach the whole child. This means we look at each child’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. If we only look at one area, one label, or one assessment, we are not meeting the needs of our children.

Gottlieb (2014) states: “As a therapist in the school setting, I’ve come to realize the importance of preparing curriculum and therapy activities based on the whole child instead of one characteristic or attribute. You wouldn’t want people to define you by one characteristic, so why would we do this with disabilities? A person with autism or with a speech delay is much more than one specific attribute.” (

By building relationships with our students and families and taking the time to collect a variety of assessments, we are able to target each child’s strengths and areas that need improvement. Over the years we have found that there are many variables that impact learning. Some of our students lack sleep; some have an iron-deficiency; some have a vision issue; some are fearful to make mistakes or take risks, etc. If we did not take the time to take a close look at these factors, we might have missed the very strategy that would make an incredible difference to the success and learning for each student.

In society, we are consistently measured and measuring ourselves by numbers and labels; height, weight, GPA, SAT scores, salary, etc. While in the area of special education there are necessary aspects of using a diagnosis or label, it is imperative that we are using all information obtained as a tool to help ALL children rather than using that label to define children. I truly believe in a label-free learning environment.

Job (2001) states:
“Every child is unique, with needs and abilities specific to himself, and labels can obscure that fact. Labels should be used as the jumping-off point to begin discovering how best to help students in the classroom when taking into consideration all of their other qualities.” (

With each and every one of our students, I want us to continue to look at the whole child, never assume anything, and always maintain high expectations. We must all remember that any type of assessment should be used simply to drive our instruction. We must use the numbers to develop a plan to help each child grow in his/her education. Our students always rise to the occasion with love, support, and guidance.


H. Gottlieb (2014, April 7). Educate the child, not the label. Retrieved from

J. Job (2011). Changing the focus from label to need. Retrieved from

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