I know a lot of kids with labels such as autism, ADHD, bipolar, and more. I think such diagnoses were given, in part, to help others to better understand how these kids are “different.”
But that’s where I disagree.
I actually think we’re way, way more alike than we are different, and we do a great disservice to kids when we present them as being unlike the rest of us.
I can already hear the protesters to that statement. After all, how can a child with autism be like others if he hits himself until he bleeds?
But is self-injurious behavior really unique just to those with autism?
No. Self-injurious behavior is common among many people. There are those who hurt themselves by staying in toxic, emotional relationships. There are those who hurt themselves by doing drugs. There are those who hurt themselves by starving themselves to be thin. The list goes on.
We also often think nonverbal or kids with limited speech are different because they don’t communicate they way we do. But who says talking is the only way to communicate? And why do we assume that not being able to talk is synonymous with not being able to understand what’s being said?
Yet, I’ve had parents insist their nonverbal child doesn’t comprehend what’s being communicated, which then justifies why they don’t talk to these kids in the same way or as often as they do everyone else.
But none of us understand what’s being communicated all the time. Who hasn’t known a spouse or friend or teacher who wasn’t really processing what we were saying?
Then there’s the belief that kids with diagnoses get over-stimulated. Yet, all kids (and adults) have a breaking point where they need a sense of calmness and quiet in order to regroup.
Likewise, we’re all the same in regards to sitting still. While the amount of time we’re able to do so may differ, the need to get up and move—after sitting for a period of time—is universal.
And what child wouldn’t feel pride after taking on a challenge or gain confidence when given new responsibilities? What child doesn’t want people to accept and honor him for who he is—right now?
Sometimes, I think parents of kids with diagnoses forget the common thread among all kids. For example, what child hasn’t experienced being excluded or feeling disappointed? Such experiences are not unique with labels. And what child wouldn’t exhibit out-of-bounds behavior if people always excused such actions and didn’t believe he was capable of anything better?
So it comes down to . . . are kids with diagnoses really different than the rest of us, or do we make them different by how we interact with them?
That’s why I propose a new way of thinking. I believe we are most alike in that we are all different, unique human beings.
Why does it have to be more complicated than that?