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.