Just Because My Child Doesn’t Function Like Everyone Else Doesn’t Mean They Are Stupid
Those of us who have been blessed (challenged) with the parenting of children who are not neurotypical either figure some things out or we are in for a very long road of parenting challenges. Which kids am I talking about? I am referring to all the children with social, emotional, learning, or sensory glitches. We are talking about Autism Spectrum (ASD), Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, ADD, anxiety, learning disorders, dyslexia, depression, oppositional, defiant and all the hypersensitivities and sensory integration or hypersensitivities to sound, light, touch, etc.
If you are parenting such children, you have realized they are struggling to fit in, to learn, to self-regulate and to conform to expectations. When you focus too much on fitting in and acting like everyone else and demanding progress that is just simply not possible (yet), many of our children shut down or panic. They often start beating themselves up (low self esteem) and acting out due to frustration.
There are many approaches, and I encourage you to get plugged into as many as you can until you find the combination of things that will help your child. Start with an integrative medicine, functional medicine, or naturopath with experience in this area. Seek out sensory integration occupational therapists, get knowledgeable on dietary interventions, and prepare yourself for a parenting journey like non-other. Parenting approaches that might work for most kids may not work well at all. You are charged with keeping a finger on the pulse of your child’s emotions. No one else will do that for you.
Make sure above all else you are nurturing them, loving them unconditionally (that means that just their presence in your life is enough- no accomplishments necessary).
Realize that in there is a genius. I have seen non-verbal, no eye contact, severe autism kids break into full sentences when completely gluten free for a couple months (rare but it happens). I have seen teens failing all classes due to severe inattention (ADD/ ADHD) become straight A students from either the right structure or medication.
There is without doubt a superior intelligence in most of these challenged children. It’s like they are trapped inside a brain filled with too many inputs.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.
— Albert Einstein
If you take the view that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience here on earth, then perhaps there is much our children can teach us. In spirit there is no judgment, only love. Building your child’s self esteem will help immensely with their joy, happiness, and willingness to cooperate with your guidance. I encourage you to get the book “The Conscious Parent” by Shefali Tsabary or her latest book “Out of Control: Why disciplining your child doesn’t work… and what will”. She advocates for a high level of parent involvement that focuses on helping a child develop a sense of personal responsibility leading to respect and ownership of one’s life.
The innocence of a baby or young child can teach us much on how to behave. As we guide our children, they need structure and there are certainly boundaries and “rules”, but rather than punishment and negative we should model good behavior, and calmly and honestly express our disappointment as we reflect on things they may have done that upset us.