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Children Who Are Labeled Unfairly May Start Believing Their Labels. Labels Are Harmful. My Labels Were Shocking!

Don’t use labels to define a child. Children should not be predetermined to fail. Labels can follow a child for years to come and eventually define them. Words have great power that can reinforce positive or negative value. The labels that I received while in foster care did not stop me from achieving greatness in this life. I proved all the professionals wrong!

As I was reading my psychiatric, neurological and speech and language reports, I could see a lot of effort was put into describing my personality and mental capacity. They basically prepackaged me for failure. If an adequate foster home was not found for me, I would be sent to the institution. They even labeled me “not adoptable”. I am here to tell you that every child is worthy of love and a family. One of the most disturbing words the doctors used in describing me was “retarded.” I realize that word is not politically correct and that I may offend some of you for even saying it…but I have a right to use it as I was diagnosed with that label in two of my reports. I believe that this word, along with loser, stupid, and dumb, are some of the most damaging words in the English language. These words are extremely harmful to kids. What we think we can become, we usually can become.

I believe labeling a child can become a self fulfilling prophecy. If a child is constantly getting cut down and labeled, I believe he will lose the will to try and become something better than expected. Yes, I had slowness in development and yes, I had a lot of emotional problems. But if everyone hastily slaps a label on a child, he or she will eventually live up to that characterization. How can somebody grow if it’s already assumed their growth is stunted? This applies not only to children of all ages, but adults as well. We all need positive reinforcement. Don’t let anyone’s thoughts identify us and tell us what our limits are. Don’t let anyone design you and fill your head with doubt, you stand up proud and determined to become the architect of your mind and soul. You are the master of your own mind.

These hurtful words and labels do not uplift children. They are meant to demoralize them and make them feel like lesser beings. Even when kids bully or joke about being a “retard” or saying “I am dumb,” or, “You are stupid,” it gradually instills that negativity in their minds. The result is that oftentimes kids will have severe self esteem issues and may grow to fit that label. Their mental hard drive is being programmed, and these labels and words may never be erased. If you assimilate these limiting, destructive words, you may start believing what they imply.

And if everyone else believes in their accuracy, it can lead to various forms of self-destruction. You can see it in kids suffering from low self-esteem and lack of confidence. They just might be living up to a label somebody else has applied to them. What labels have you allowed to characterize yourself or your children? This labeling could have damaging effects throughout their life.

Watch motivational speaker, inspirational author and former foster child Derek Clark share some of his labels when he was in foster care.

If I had known how I was labeled as a child, I know I would have turned out very differently, and would possibly be in prison or even dead. Don’t let anyone use a label to turn you into something you are not.

While searching through my foster care records, my psychiatric and neurological evaluations shocked me when it stated that ‘Derek has the IQ of a 2 year old and is mentally retarded”. I dislike the word “retarded”. I believe mentally-challenged children are angels sent from Heaven to teach us the virtues of love, appreciation, sacrifice and selflessness. I have more respect for mentally-challenged people who overcome great obstacles than “normal, high-achieving” individuals. These special, mentally-challenged individuals are a gift. They are great teachers. We can all learn from them. Anyone with a disability is here to enrich our lives. Respect them, watch and listen to them. Even though some are unable to speak, we can still learn a lot from their silence. We are all connected as human beings. If your soul is open, it will allow you to see the little miracles working throughout our daily lives in mysterious ways.

Derek Clark knows first hand on coping with adversity and overcoming hardship. His 13 years in the San Francisco bay area foster care system reflected a life of humiliation, aggression, emotional distress and overwhelming anxiety. Having suffered unthinkable child abuse, abandonment, emotional distress and being wrongfully labeled, this has never held Derek back from accomplishing what he set his heart and mind to.

You can find out more about Derek Clark’s motivational speeches and books at


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