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Welcome to the Journey - Parenting Your Neurodivergent Child, Pt. 1 of 3: THREE REASONS TO CELEBRATE

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.” - Henry David Thoreau

You’ve just gotten the ‘official’ word - your child is dyslexic, or has ADHD, or is autistic. Perhaps they’re gifted as well, and the psychologist used the term twice-exceptional (2e), which sounds to you like a euphemism for some other dreadful thing you’ve now got to understand. You’re in fix-it mode, scrambling to figure out what to do next. You may even have some grief.

Welcome to the journey. I’ve been there. And I’m here to tell you now to pause. Take a deep breath. It’s time now, right from the beginning, to recognize everything that is great about this new world you’ve found yourself in. I’m here to tell you ‘congratulations.’ Really. For three reasons:

Reason #1 - people who are different are AWESOME. Jonathan Mooney said it best with the title of his book, “Normal Sucks.” Jonathan Mooney’s thesis is more than just a rant about ‘normal’ vs. something else. In fact, what he is teaching us with this book is something fundamentally critical - that we really are all different and there is no such thing as ‘normal.’

But it is also critically important that you know that there are incredible traits associated with these diagnosis labels of which you might not be aware. For instance, many dyslexics credit their dyslexia for their enhanced visual-spatial abilities, including Dr. Beryl Benacerraf, who attributes her success as a radiologist to her dyslexia, writing, “I live in a world of patterns and images and I see things that no one else sees.” Dr. Ned Hallowell, an expert on ADHD, describes ADHD individuals as having “ferrari brains.” Both dyslexics and ADHD individuals are very often extremely creative and charismatic leaders and as such make fabulous and successful entrepreneurs. Autistic people tend to be honest, logical thinkers whose passion for their interests and attention to detail are incredible assets. Look no further than Greta Thunberg, climate change activist.

Much of this has to do with the unique brain wiring of neurodivergent people. But I believe it is also attributable to the second and third reasons this is such great news:

Reason #2 - diagnoses are empowering. This diagnosis is like a flashlight illuminating your child’s path. Think for a moment about your current professional life, and what it took for you to get where you are today. Was it a straight path directly from your childhood to your current level of success? For most of us, the path isn’t straight. It’s full of twists and turns, ups and downs, side careers, and detours.

Because here’s the thing - anyone who think that success looks like this:

a straight line up and to the right

Is most likely only just down at the beginning:

a straight line up and to the right

Now that you know what the path will look like, you’re ready to embark on a meaningful and directed partnership with your child, school, and community.

Which brings me to the third reason:

Reason #3 - challenges breed resilience! Imagine for a moment that you want to train for a marathon, and you have two practice tracks you have to choose from:

Which road would be better for you to train on?

The squiggly one of course! Training there is going to be awesome - having all of that road to travel will be great exercise! You’ll get so fit! You’ll get so much more training in and be so much better prepared than if you just had that measly straight line.

Sure it will be hard; training successfully will require grit, determination, perseverance, and resilience. But these are traits that we want for our children, and that we recognize will make successful adults.

It’s great to have as squiggly a line as possible - because it means you’re going to have a ton of opportunities to flex that grit and determination, perseverance and resilience.

As parents of - and individuals with - these squiggly paths, you’re going to need grit and resilience. Because for you the path may not just be squiggly... may be more like a four-dimensional knot from a graduate mathematics dissertation!

I believe in this very strongly! How strongly, you ask? So strongly that I have “Ad astra per aspera” tattooed on my feet. I first heard this phrase in my 6th grade Latin class, which translates as “to the stars through difficulties." Ad astra per aspera has resonated with me all my life, and in 2017 I had it tattooed on my feet, so that I could see it each day, as I put one foot in front of the other.

Your children have awesome gifts. Knowledge is empowerment. And your journey will breed resilience, which translates to success. So let’s get to it! Now that we’re excited to start navigating our road, head over to part 2 of this series, where we will dive into how to start building your own roadmaps for this journey.



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