Written by: Rachael Berringer, LAC
Many learning environments today do not provide our neurodiverse children with opportunities to tap into their unique strengths, but rather unintentionally create barriers and obstacles for our students to learn and flourish. We are all uniquely wired and sometimes our children need a little extra help finding their gifts and tools to chanel them appropriately. It’s important that we stop pathologizing and looking for “cures” and start celebrating neurodiversity and the unique differences that make our children who they are. Shifting the way we think about our children’s innate characteristics may help us see the whole child and start to uncover unlocked potential, or “superpowers.”
The strong-willed or bossy child as determined and courageous. We want our children to grow up to be strong, independent thinkers. Often times, these children are self-motivated , inner- directed, and may be prone to power struggles. This is because they are experiential learnings and like to “ do” for themselves. Providing choices within a boundary, actively listening, providing opportunities for independence, and setting up consistent rules and routines are all positive ways to help promote growth without breaking their will.
The distractible child as creative and imaginative. The current standard seems to place value in students being seated, attending and looking straight ahead in a learning environment. This is not how many of our children learn. It’s important that we tailor the way we teach to meet the needs of our children’s unique learning styles. Using children’s passions as a way to enter into their world is an effective tool for growth and engagement. Children need to learn in environments that facilitate their unique talents in order to strengthen their self- esteem and foster their creativity. Plus, how boring would life be if we didn’t have individuals who thought outside of the box?
The Overly-sensitive child as perceptive. Often times, highly sensitive children may be viewed as emotionally-intense and demanding or on the other end of the spectrum, calm and introverted. This trait can be wonderful and valuable. Sensitive children can be extremely intuitive and empathetic. It’s important that we help to provide an outlet for our children to explore identify, understand, and express their emotions early on. Validation is key in helping our children navigate emotional situations and maintaining self- esteem.
The Impulsive child as spontaneous or energetic. Who wouldn’t love a ton of energy and to be a bit more spontaneous? In a classroom environment, this may be disruptive and off-task if not planned for proactively. It’s important that our children have positive outlets to exert their energy effectively. We also want to help our children see the power in completing a task of high motivation and translate those skills into completing non- preferable tasks as well. After all, even successful entrepreneurs have to complete parts of the job that may not highly motivating to create a successful business. Giving our children ample opportunities to express their creative thoughts and ideas will help strengthen their executive functioning skills.
There are many celebrities who publicly discuss growing up with different “diagnoses’ that have turned their challenges into strengths and are doing pretty well for themselves today. I personally love the child mind institute's #MyYoungerSelf campaign where a prominent public figure shares messages of hope and wisdom in order to end the stigma around mental health. In sharing his story about growing up with ADHD, Ty Pennington states,
“Your confidence is not at an extreme high right now, but things are going to change. You’re going to realize that you have an amazing talent of creativity and that you can use your hands, and that’s going to lead to you believing in yourself, and when you believe in yourself, the whole world changes.”
In order to raise confident children we need to be reflective of our own experiences. What is your unique superpower and how did you channel it successfully? What would the younger you want to share with your own child ? Children will flourish in environments that afford them the opportunity to display their superpowers. As practitioners, diagnoses can help us communicate effectively with other professionals and provide a common language, however, they shouldn’t be limiting. They should serve as a starting point for us to work together as a team to create a toolbox to help our children find and grow the superhero that lives inside all of us.
Image from: Pexels
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles