Some time ago my coach asked me to write my manifesto; that is 'why I do what I do to empower people with learning and life challenges.' At this point in time I have scattered notes and circles and doodles all mapped out, but I have not been able to bring them all together. Probably because of my OCD and perfectionism.
So I thought I'd flip it a bit on it's head and come at it sideways. Instead of declaring what I want to do, I will declare what I want to end.
So here is my list of 'The 5 Things I'd Like to Stop:'
1) Needing to explain your brain. Why are people with LDs/ ADHD (and 'other') put on the spot to explain how their brain works? You've all heard it (or said it )...'But why do you leave your tea cup by the computer for days! Don't you see it? Doesn't it bother you? And why are you able to step over your laundry but not pick it up? ...You always forget things, why don't you just write notes in your planner?...What do you mean you can't find your planner?...Why not?'...'How come you need to straighten everything?...That's just weird.'
So here's the deal....it is just what it is. All these things can annoy you but asking for an explanation will only make a person feel like an idiot. They have no idea why they do these things. They just do. Why do you like the colour yellow? Some things just can't be explained.
2) Being humiliated for doing something 'bad.' The best image I have for this one is when the school principal was talking 'at' my son, asking him what 'he was thinking' when he swung around on the monkey bars and kicked Ashley in the head. Here's the deal - he sure wasn't thinking 'I guess I'll swing around these monkey bars and kick Ashley in the head!' He was just swinging and having fun and being impulsively clued out on what was around him.
So here's the deal....when you treat someone like they intentionally set out to do something bad you are going to make them defensive. When you don't bother to understand why it happened and continue to demean them, you are going to make them really frustrated. Over time this frustration will build and they will become hopeless. They'll give up trying to explain that they are 'a really nice person, they didn't mean too, you don't understand' and slowly shut themselves off. I work with these people and have to build them back up. So next time, stop and think. Don't judge.
3) Being discriminated against. People with LDs and ADHD can be annoying and the things they do can be frustrating. Because 'we' don't like being frustrated (universal 'we' here) we want them to stop. So we look down our noses and tell them to stop being so loud, fidgety, absent minded, unfocused. We make them believe they are lazy and dumb, as if all this stuff was within their control.
So here's the deal...this is our problem, not theirs. If a kid is fidgety, then let him move! If they are unfocused. give them a quiet place to work. You, being annoyed by it, is your problem. We know what discrimination typically stems from - ignorance and fear of something we don't understand. This in turn makes us uncomfortable so we cut the person down. Short story - it's mean. Stop doing it.
4) Being shoved into a cookie cutter world. Within the current school system, thankfully, there are a lot of great teachers and resource people and advocates who 'get it' - who excel under the circumstances - but all in all, the system just doesn't work well for highly independent thinkers and quirky types. There are choices - there are some cool independent schools out there for those who can afford them (In defense of these schools charging fees, they are not getting rich, they just aren't funded) - but most of us have kids in the regular system and actually want our kids to be there. Over the years I have met with school officials and presented some really great programs to enhance the learning experience for quirky students, many with evidence based research behind them, but it was akin to banging my head against the wall.
So here's the deal......saying that it is all about money just doesn't wash. If there was a will, there could be a way.
5) Being fixed. The number one question I was asked about my older boys, who were born weighing just over a pound each, was 'when are they going to be normal?' I had no idea how to answer this question, for so many reasons, but mostly because I didn't know what it meant. What's normal? Is having a pretty outside but a tormented soul normal? Is looking freakish but being brilliant better? Who gets to decide what normal is? The universal 'we'? For years I did everything to 'help them'..'to fix them.' Clearly some of the life and death things were important but when we started working on their neurotransmitters and tweaking with their brains, then it got tricky, Who's to say they aren't exactly as they should be? Like any mom, I want them to be happy and have good and productive lives, but beyond that, let's face it. we've all got something. Even the 'we's' that don't want to admit it. So why does one thing get to be better (more normal) than the other? And who decides?
So here's the deal....Albert Einstein was a freak. A fabulous freak. He had neurotransmitters buzzing in all different directions. He did not walk a straight line. And what would the world look like without his contributions? How about we stop trying to fix people and just let them shine!