My son is almost 13 years old. He forgets his backpack in the morning, forgets to take off his clothes before going to bed and does lots of other things I don´t understand – boy do I learn a lot from him!
“Where’s your backpack?” I asked my son as he gave me a goodbye hug at the bus stop. Unlike many other boys his age, he has no problem showing affection in public.
In the rush to catch the yellow school bus, he forgot his backpack. That’s how it is with boys and girls like him. Despite the fact that there are two sheets of paper with bullet points on the bathroom wall, one for morning and one for evening routines – “brush your teeth, eat breakfast, pack your backpack” etc. – one must remember to read the list in order to do the things on it.
He has a green tote bag with white bubbles for swim practice.. I’ve written words inside the bubbles to make his to-do list not stand out too much. “Swim trunks,” “flip flops,” “towel,” and other essentials he needs to remember for practice.
With our hearts exposed, parents of neuro diverse kids are fighting for our kids from the sidelines – against thoughtless kids and adults who will or cannot embrace differences.
Routines, schedules, constant reminders are a natural part of our life – for neurotypical children, basic everyday skills and activities they carry out with ease and without giving them any thought. To my son, it feels like the first time he hears it – despite the fact that we remind him of the exact same things every single day.
It is not easy to be neuro diverse in this world. Imagine the effort it must require to get through a school day.
Researchers state that these kids catch up – it just happens a later than for neurotypical children. While I wait, I guide and sometimes nudge my son in a direction that doesn’t embarrass him when he is out in public and met by other people’s prejudices and wondering looks. With our hearts exposed, parents of neuro diverse kids are fighting for our kids from the sidelines – against thoughtless kids and adults who will or cannot embrace differences. Add my son’s nonexistent filter – what he thinks and feels comes out of his mouth uncensored – you have a potential for an avalanche of misunderstandings.
My son does not always know what is appropriate to say or ask. At home, we barely notice – we know him and have no problem answering questions some parents would cringe to hear. We know that he is not rude, crude, or insensitive – quite the opposite. But out in the world, in which he increasingly moves more independently, the reactions are different. That’s why we have a secret word. Since most Americans don´t understand Danish, we have chosen the word “carrot” in Danish which lets him understand that he must pause and stop what he is saying – without Americans understanding our verbal red flag. We cannot just gently let him know, since he doesn’t understand subtle hints.
But it’s not just us adults who have to teach him how to behave in a world that is unfortunately not as embracing as those close to him would like. We are the ones witnessing the consequences of the outside world´s reactions and what they do to a sensitive soul and a mind that experiences the world through a lens colored differently than most.
I am learning an immense amount from my son. That day was no exception. Since I am not a morning person, dad usually is on morning duty. He has more patience towards our bouncy ball, scatter brained son in the early hours. When I picked him up after school, I apologized for being short-tempered that same morning.
“Mom, I always make it to the bus, I finish my homework in time. I am never late. Our goals are the same, but we do things differently,” he replied. I was in awe and had tears in my eyes. Because that´s how it is: we do things differently and how boring it would be if we were all the same and did things the same way.
Livet med en adhd-dreng er aldrig kedeligt. Til gengæld er det lærerigt
Min søn er næsten 13 år. Han glemmer sin skoletaske om morgenen og glemmer at tage tøjet af, når han skal i seng – men hvor kan jeg lære meget af ham!