Fostering Self-Acceptance in our Differently Wired Kids

KBear has been talking about playing baseball for months.  She’s never played baseball.  Her dyspraxia makes me cringe a little at the thought of her trying to hit, catch, and throw a small hard object like a baseball, but we’ll never know if she can handle it if we don’t give it a try, right?  And she’s been persistent.  I did some research and this is the conversation we had tonight:

Me:  KBear, are you still wanting to play baseball in the spring?

KBear (face lighting up):  Yes!

Me:  OK – I looked into it, but I wanted to make sure you were still interested before I signed you up.

KBear:  Definitely.  What will it be like?

Insert a bazillion and one intellectually intense questions here.  After they were sufficiently answered:

KBear:  Mom, will they know about my wiring?

Me:  I don’t know.  Do you want me to tell them?

KBear:  Yes, please, I think it will help the coaches know me so they can give me stuff to do that isn’t too hard, but isn’t too easy, either.

Oh the insight of this little girl amazes me sometimes.  I am so proud of the fact that she is self-aware enough to consider the ways her wiring will impact her activities and is seeking out appropriate accommodations.  My main goal in parenting differently wired children is that they grow up to accept their differences while knowing that the differences don’t make them better or worse than anyone else.

The fact that she can so nonchalantly ask me to share this information with her coaches, tells me that we’re accomplishing our goal.  I know we still have a lot of child-rearing years ahead of us, but here’s how we’ve gotten to where we are.

First, we have talked to KBear openly about her abilities and disabilities from the very beginning.  When we went for her initial OT evaluation we explained where we were going and why.  When we’ve received diagnoses, we’ve shared those with her and her brothers.  We’ve talked about what those mean and how they might impact her life and our family.

Second, we have emphasized the positive aspects of her wiring.  From very early on we’ve labeled some of her differences as her superpowers.  She has super-hearing, super-smell, and an inability to get dizzy.  When we were riding on one of those giant swing amusement park rides, I intentionally leaned over to her and made a big deal about how I wished I had her superpower because I was getting nauseas.  After a few months of this type of conversation, I randomly asked KBear for 3 things she liked about herself.  First thing she listed, “I have superpowers!”

Third, we acknowledge and commiserate over the difficult aspects of her wiring.  We do not take the Pollyanna approach.  We talk about the pain we experience watching her struggle with her wiring stuff.  We allow her space to express her frustrations.  When she cries, “I hate the way I’m wired!  I don’t want to have this anymore!” we don’t give her platitudes or say things like, “we love her the way she is.”  We express empathy and tell her that it must be really difficult.

Fourth, we openly discuss the ups and downs and provide education and information to anyone who will listen.  We advocate for understanding.  We speak out for acknowledging and embracing differences, calling spades spades, and reminding everyone that these differences do not determine worth.

And finally, we include her in the problem solving.  We’re a team.  We all seek resources together.  We all determine what works and doesn’t work.  She is empowered to be her own advocate and to be just as much a part of our team as anyone else.