I was inspired to write this based on this TED talk! Children who are labeled in schools and even by us as parents as “disruptive,” “hyperactive,” “impulsive” or even “bad” are often dealing with individual differences in how their bodies regulate and react and perceive. Add environment stressors at home or school and of course sh*t can happen daily! But the truth is, kids who get this label are often differently wired, and we need differently wired kids—that’s where innovation happens! We need kids who think outside the box, who challenge authority and who have a different way of being in the world.
Yet too many children whose brains and bodies function differently than the school system or job force is designed for end up being treated as “bad” and “disruptive” or labeled and shamed. Too many parents have to face phone calls from school, their child’s dwindling self-esteem, and the sense that something is “wrong” with their child. I am here to tell you that nothing is wrong with your child. There is only a system and environment that is not offering the type of nurturance and support that your child craves.
Let’s talk about term neurodiversity! John Elder Robison has a great Psychology Today post unpacking this term. He writes that “neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.”
When I think about neurodiversity I think about the diverse way that each brain and body is formed, how we react, and how complex we are.
When it comes to myself, when it comes to the birth of my child or to the birth of your child I think: There are no mistakes. There is only a world that struggles to embrace the unexpected.
I identify as neurotypical. This means that based on no merit I can claim, I happened to fit in with the school system, I learned in the same way that teachers designed their curriculum to teach, and based on my biology and environment, I was able to moved through the wickets as expected. And for a while I thought that meant I was smart. Smarter than someone who struggled in school. But the more I learned from simply being with people, from listening, tuning in to experiences the more I realized that “smart” is so much more complex and is often invisible to someone who doesn’t know where to look for it, or have the patience to wait and understand.
So as someone who is neurotypical I feel that I have the duty to listen. To listen to those who identify differently to me. To think about what language I’m using, what diagnoses I’m labeling with, and to hear other opinions. Because we need new opinions, new ways of solving problems and seeing the world! When I meet you, your child, or your family I hope I can be with you in this mindset—with openness, curiosity and respect for who you are and how you see and survive in this world.