How to Talk to Kids about the Gifts & Challenges of Neurodiversity
This podcast is about the gifts and challenges of raising neuro-diverse children and how we, as adults, educators and typically-developing children can support, encourage and help atypically-developing children thrive. What do we need to know about ADHD, autism, giftedness and more? How can we reframe, understand and pro-actively plan to help neurodiverse kids show their gifts rather than ask them to conform? Debbie Reber, author of Differently Wired, will shine high beams on solutions.
Imagine being stuck in a world that doesn’t really “get” who you are. You’re different and in many cases, people see these differences as bad and something that needs to be fixed. My next guest, Deborah Reber, has spoke to us before about neurodiversity- and is back to talk more specifically about what she refers to as “differently wired” kids. We are talking about the one in five children with ADHD, dyslexia, Asperger’s, giftedness, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and other neurodifferences. One in five—20% of children are neurodiverse and they have many challenges they must face. And along with these kids, come the parents who love them but arean’t quite sure how to best help their kids but will try just about anything. They try to find the right school, teachers, therapists, medications, as well as the right parenting group and friends who will support them. It’s hard to know how to handle it all- but Debbie Reber is here to help.
Debbie Reber is a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of TiLT Parenting, a website, top podcast, and social media community for parents who are raising differently wired children. Her newest book, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World, came out just recently, in early June 2018. She currently lives with her son and husband in the Netherlands.
The podcast provides:
- The biggest challenges for parents who are raising differently wired kids.
- What’s really going on with kids who have ADHD.
- The challenges and gifts of giftedness.
- How to best support kids with autism—or what is sometimes still referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome.
- How parents and educators can pro-actively plan and help differently wired kids thrive.
- How “re-framing” and pinpointing hot buttons can be beneficial.
- How the book, Differently Wired, can help people who aren’t raising differently wired kids.
- Parents of differently wired children need to learn how to deal with the chasm between expectation and reality—it can cause anxiety and stress.
- What is at the root of your corrections? Are you worried about how others will judge your parenting? Are you worried about what people will say about your child? Is this all really important at the end of the day? Is this going to be negatively impact our child in the future?
- There are ways to gently remind or guide your child with regard to annoying behaviors. “The sound of someone chewing with their mouth open or crunching their cereal can really gross some people out and it’s something you may want to be aware of.”
- When our differently wired children misbehave or “over” react, it doesn’t feel good to them either—they don’t want to be doing this.
- Some people believe that ADHD isn’t a real thing. People seem to want to fix it because the behavior is disruptive in the school setting. But kids don’t want to be disruptive. This is just how they are wired. So kids with ADHD can feel like screw ups in a setting that isn’t really designed for them.
- Some differently wired kids outwardly look like they are not paying attention as they’re concentration looks different than their peers (doodling or looking at the window)—but they are, in fact, paying attention. As Debbie’s son says; “the minute I have to stop doing that other thing and look at them, I am so focused on not doing that behavior that I can’t hear anything they’re saying!”
- There are at least 20% of kids who are differently wired—so change will come.
- Get creative! Many schools are willing to try things are different things to meet your child’s needs.
- Giftedness is a trigger. There’s an assumption that giftedness is the golden ticket and this is not the case. They can be more emotional. They need to be shielded by things on the news because it can be highly anxiety-provoking. Support who your children are—and let them dive deep into their interest.
- Watch asymmetrical development—meaning that they may be at a higher intellectual level but a lower emotional level that their peers when it comes to development. This disconnect can be hugely unsettling—this is a very real thing and sensitive to this.
- Not understanding the social dynamic can be really challenging for kids with autism.
- Talk to your children about what they’ve seen in the world—“did you see what that child on the slide was doing? What did you think of that? I have a feeling that he’s working on understanding personal space. He really wanted to be right on in there and I could tell it was making people uncomfortable…what did you notice?” And underscore that everyone is moving through the world in a different way. My hunch is that he is dealing with X just like you are dealing with Y. We don’t want our child to be making a negative judgment about another child.
- Those who are neuro-typical, many have a drive to fit in so the kids who are neuro-diverse may stick out in a negative way.
- In public situations, the stakes are high. We must proactively plan. Make a list that reliably cause havoc and bring up issues and challenges. Work with your child on a solution. Prep for the plan. Role play and rehearse. It makes everyone more relaxed even if it doesn’t work perfectly the first or second time. This is giving them great skills—self reflection, self awareness, problem solving and perseverance. It’s a win, win for everyone.
- “At the root of the things that drive us crazy about our child may be concerns about what other people might be thinking. What are they thinking about our parenting? What are they saying about our child? Get to the root of that trigger. In order to accept who our child is, we need to notice what our trigger is and ask ourselves, is this really about my kid or is this my own issue?”
- “I am often reminded of that great quote from Dr. Ross Green; ‘Kids do well when they can.’ It’s a great reminder they are on their own timeline, sometimes they have lagging skills, sometimes they respond in a way they don’t like—but they are doing the best they can with the tools they have at the time.
- “ADHD is one of the most maligned and stigmatized neuro-differences. It’s treated as something that needs to be corrected while there are lots of other neurodifferences like dyslexia where we accommodate and support the child and give them tools. But with ADHD, people look for ways to fix the behavior because the behavior can be challenging in a school setting.”
- So many kids ADHD feel like screw ups because the school system is almost designed to highlight their challenges.”
- “It’s up to parents like us to compassionately educate teachers.”
- “We have to make a ruckus in a compassionate way to align with our kids’ teachers and help them to understand how our child pays attention and what that looks like and work with them to come up with some solutions.”
- “There’s an assumption that giftedness is the golden ticket and this is just not the case. Gifted kids often feel different from their peers. They experience the world in a more intense way. They think about things so differently that they can have trouble finding other kids who ‘get them’ experience the world in the same way. So you can kind of feel like an alien walking around.”
- “So much learning in elementary school is happening by watching what your peers are doing. A kid who isn’t reading those social cues, watching their peers isn’t going to make any impression on them. So kids with autism tend to do their own thing. Peers notice this.”
- “When it comes to autism and other neurodifferences, we need to educate our neuro-typical kids to better understand and be aware that people are moving through the world in different ways. When we know what’s going on, it’s just a difference. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just what is.”
- “Neuro-typical kids can be the best allies for kids on the spectrum.”
- “We don’t want our child to be making negative judgments about another child when that child is simply expressing who they are. Use situations that happen as opportunities to expose our children to neuro-differences and plant the seed of compassion for other people and the way they are experiencing life.”
- “There’s such a high value on conformity, unfortunately.”
- “There are ways to be present and joyful even in the midst of the hard stuff and that’s something that every parent wants to experience.”
- “Differently wired kids are not broken. They don’t need fixing. Our job is not to get them to conform to our standards or to what society has deemed normal or right but to help them nurture their gifts and gain the self knowledge to be who they are and who they are meant to be.”