Nov 13, 2023, Psychology Today: Why We Should Be Thankful for Neurodiversity Personal Perspective: Parents can learn a lot from their neurodiverse children. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/mythbusting-adhd/202311/why-we-should-be-thankful-for-neurodiversity?amp
KEY POINTS Neurodiverse thinking is an asset, and we should embrace it.
As parents we need to appreciate all the positive characteristics in our neurodiverse children.
Raising a neurodiverse child is both challenging and rewarding.
In an article for The Atlantic, journalist Harvey Blume wrote “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will be best at any given moment.” According to ADHD expert Dr. Russell Barkley, parents who have neurodiverse children are blessed. I happen to agree. My life would be far less exciting without an intelligent, creative, emotional, risk-taking whirlwind of disorganization living in our home. Neurodiversity is something to embrace, and during this time of thanksgiving, I want to share with you why I am thankful to be the parent of a neurodiverse son.
I learned to be more patient and accepting
Raising a neurodivergent son with ADHD has been no easy task. It took a lot of trial and error as well as patience. One of the biggest struggles for my son was remembering to write down homework or project assignments for school, resulting in many incomplete assignments and failing grades. Convincing my son to write down assignments in a planner was like trying to squeeze water out of a rock; it just wasn’t going to happen. He did, in fact, have a planner that was filled with awesome doodles, but not one, single homework assignment. Over nine years we tried countless strategies to help my son remember school assignments: different types of planners, pop-up reminders on his smartphone, a whiteboard calendar, and a neon-colored assignment sheet in his school folder, just to name a few. Over that period, I learned to be patient and to realize that he was trying the best he could to manage his school assignments; eventually, we would find that one strategy that would work for his ADHD brain (a calendar that was visible and could be updated on all of his devices).
My son taught me it’s OK to jump in with both feet
When my son was younger, he had a T-shirt that said “I do all my own stunts,” the perfect saying for a boy who fearlessly plunged head-first into unknown situations with no thought given to consequences or dangers. My son’s risky behaviors would often get him into trouble. My introduction to the new principal at his middle school was a call to inform me my son was no longer allowed to use his smartphone at school since he was trying to bypass a firewall intended to block student access to various internet sites. My son’s actions were not intended to be malicious; it was the challenge that was fueling his behavior.
I admire my son’s willingness to take a chance, rise to a challenge, and be fearless.
Although, sometimes these behaviors can be nerve-wracking to a cautious mom like me. But this mindset has enabled him to learn to fix a car, repair electronic devices, try exotic foods, ski expert trails (always trying to break his top speed, of course), and discharge a microwave capacitor in our driveway (ensuring me nothing bad would happen as he held a wooden dowel with a screwdriver taped to the end). My son is more adventurous and more worldly than a lot of kids his age because he isn’t afraid to try or learn about something new.
My son is fiercely empathetic and compassionate
All parents want to raise good-natured, compassionate children. Kids with ADHD are especially compassionate and empathetic, although their ADHD symptoms may mask this characteristic, quite possibly because of their diverse thinking. I remember one of my son’s teachers in elementary school mentioned how it made her day when my son noticed a new necklace she was wearing. Similarly, my son will be the first to compliment me on a new haircut. I am most proud of my son’s empathy towards others with ADHD. His willingness to talk openly about his ADHD comes purely from his desire to help others like him and to let them know they are not alone. My son is currently sharing his experiences with ADHD to help a company design learning tools for neurodiverse students.
My son and I have a close relationship
Despite the countless number of arguments over homework, messy backpacks, practicing piano, and never putting anything away, my son and I have a close relationship. He was diagnosed with ADHD in third grade, and we have had a lot of discussions/brainstorming over the past 11 years to help him manage his ADHD. I believe these open discussions and normalizing his ADHD have made us closer. He isn’t afraid to express his feelings or to reach out when he needs help (although this can sometimes be a challenge for kids with ADHD). Maybe if my son wasn’t used to the constant dialogue from a young age, our relationship would not be so close.
One word: hyperfocus
My son’s ability to intensely focus on something he is passionate about is amazing. I admire the endless effort he puts into learning about a topic of interest. For my son, it’s his passion for learning about all things related to space travel and technology. Did you know the astronauts on one of the early manned spaceflight missions snuck a pastrami sandwich into space? My son is a wealth of these obscure facts, which makes talking to him so fascinating!
My son’s passion led him to become a national finalist in a NASA-sponsored contest about living and working on Mars and to attend an aeronautical university where he is thriving both academically and socially.
I am thankful for this challenging and rewarding journey I am on with my son; if he was neurotypical my life would be way more boring.