Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Using Labels on Children

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: The school where my five-year-old son attends is confusing us. At one time they labeled him gifted and then later they suggested that he might be mildly autistic. He is a normal child in every way. Though he does not like rough play, he interacts well with children whose play is mild. He speaks very proper English and has been reading since he was two years old. What can we do?

A: What you must do is find out if your son has a problem or not. Who are the "they" who first labeled your child gifted then mildly autistic? Are they highly qualified professionals capable of making these diagnoses? Or are they teachers searching for a way to describe your child?

Autism typically appears during the first three years of life. Its symptoms and characteristics can vary from mild to severe. According to the Autism Society of America, children with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. For more information on autism, go online to the Autism Society of America website.

What was the criteria for calling your son gifted? Was it the result of an IQ score, or because he is far ahead of other children his age in specific areas of academic performance? Most gifted children learn to read easily, often before entering school, which your son accomplished. To learn more about giftedness, visit the National Association for Gifted Children website and the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.

Many people don't realize that there are gifted students who have disabilities. In fact, this is a whole new area in the educational field. Educators are now trying to identify gifted students with specific disabilities and improve the interdisciplinary cooperation between the gifted and special education departments. Fortunately, gifted students with disabilities are not that common; however, they are two percent of the school population.

Your son may require more extensive services from the school in order to develop to his full potential. It is absolutely essential that you request in writing that the school evaluate him for learning disabilities. As the school will not be able to initiate the testing process until next year, you may wish to talk to your child's pediatrician now about the validity of the labels the school is assigning to your son.

More on: Expert Advice

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

8 Products to Help Your Family Go Plastic-Free
How can you minimize your family's exposure to harmful chemicals and lessen your impact on the environment? Try swapping out some of your everyday plastic products with these non-plastic alternatives.

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks