Sometimes when I meet a new potential student at my taekwondo studio, the parent will introduce their child as a series of lettered disorders or characteristics.
My daughter is ADHD, ODD.
My son is on the spectrum.
I am not a medical professional, child psychologist, or therapist. So, I’m not here to diagnose or treat any physical or mental illness.
I know that when working with doctors, teachers, therapists, etc. that parents can get into a mode of “explaining” what’s going on with their child to help them get the support they need. I’m certain that it’s exhausting.
But please, help us all. When you introduce your child to me, tell me their name before you tell me their diagnosis. Tell me what they love. How they play. Their favorite joke.
I feel like when we look at children and see problems or obstacles, our kids feel like they are the problem, that they are the obstacle. And, as I often experience when I hear their diagnosis before I hear their name, the child thinks that’s the most important thing about them. And it breaks my heart.
A diagnosis of any kind is supposed to free your child, not imprison or limit them.
You have ADHD? Great. Let’s get you the support you need, so you can thrive.
You have an ASD? Okay, what modifications do I need to make to this learning environment to make it work for you?
I know this is easier said than done. And I know it’s easy for me to say this from the comfort of my computer desk.
But, if I had a magic wand I would tell every kid (and inner child) that there’s nothing wrong with you. Nothing. Even if they do experience a lettered disorders from the DSM-5, there’s nothing wrong with your child.
They are who they are supposed to be.
With children and behavior and expectations, children are as different and have different needs as plants in a garden. Like little plants, they want to grow and thrive. Some plants grow easily in some climates (I have five pineapples joyfully growing in my garden with little attention on my part, but I can’t tell you how many tomato plants I’ve scorched and drowned in the last 5 years). Some have thorns. Some plants are cacti (and still bloom with lovely flowers) Some take years to bloom. Some need lots of fertilizer, water, and love to grow. But they’re all valuable, necessary and beautiful.
Our job isn’t to make all kids into commercial corn crops. It’s to figure out what kind of plant we have and help adapt the conditions of our lives to be more nourishing to them and to help them thrive in the climate they’re in.
We don’t need to helicopter or snow plow the world for them so they never experience any challenge or obstacle in their life. But, we can water their garden so they can develop deep roots in their sense of self. We can support them so the winds don’t blow them over. And most of all, we can delight in who they are rather than what challenges they face.