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To label or not to label

Psychologists should not be afraid of labelling learning problems, Bryan Kirkaldy of Fife, told his colleagues.

Fears about stigmatising particular handicaps have made this a controversial issue, and several fellow psychologists expressed unease.

Mr Kirkaldy was challenged by Ian McEwan, principal psychologist in Dumfries and Galloway, who suggested that labelling was a comfort to schools "who want to be absolved from responsibility for a child's failure by sticking a fancy label on it".

Mr McEwan also urged caution in applying labels to conditions such as autism, the incidence of which had increased in his area since the arrival of a GP with an interest in the subject. "Frankly I don't believe the figures."

Mr Kirkaldy stressed, however, that parents would continue using labels and psychologists had to "engage" with them.

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