Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Update From the Wolf Den: A Label's Lable

The world of behavioral health was turned on its ear today with the release of DSM-V, the 'bible' of the psychiatric profession. In revision for over a decade, the DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition, is the source professionals, the government, and yes, the insurance industry utilize as a tool for diagnosing mental illness. Many parents and I know it simply as The Book.

The Book has figured prominently in our world, the first time in 2006 when an educational specialist dug it out after a particularly intense question and answer session with Yukon and I. She said "listen to this" and read from The Book under a heading titled "Asperger Syndrome". Another year would pass for an "official" diagnosis, delivered then to the Insurance Company and subsequently the State of Alaska, to whom a DSM label made all the difference.

According to today's announcement, The Book now labels my son a bit differently. In black and white, in that tiny, doctor-speak language that takes a true scientist to decipher, DSM places Asperger Syndrome out of its own limelight and into a flush of similar, but sometimes more upsetting, diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorders. NPR did a number of interviews and stories today about this fifth edition; talking with parents of children diagnosed and labeled and thus receiving services or being ignored, depending upon the point of view.

Lifesaver or liability, The Book nonetheless makes the rules. I understand the battle many parents will wage for the sake of protecting a high-functioning child from a spectrum that spans a plethora of abilities and disabilities, fearing less will be done to help, less caring will be had, or fewer options will available to choose. Parents of kids who suffer from long-term disabilities and/or illnesses know the pain of a label; we've all heard them. Wierd. Freak. Faggot. Retard. Many just can't take one more. They will fight. Hard.

Labels are what we allow them to be. I choose mine, carefully:

My son. God's child. Book or no.

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