Updated: May 30
Several years ago, I had a pivotal experience as the mother of neurodiverse children. My child’s flag football team was playing a game and all of the parents were at the sidelines cheering on the kids. We were new to the team and really didn’t know anyone well. Suddenly, a father of another child on the team approached me and accused my child of a particularly bad behavioral choice (my kid was 6 at the time). I was caught unaware and offended by the level of extreme anger this man had toward my child and me. In no time, the father with his booming voice had drawn a crowd around us who were supporting him and taunting me. I felt like an unwanted stray dog being kicked so it would leave. I could feel the anger rising in me, but I felt helpless to stop it. He had attacked me in one of my most vulnerable places---the opinions others held of my child. This shameful, isolating vulnerability caused me to act in ridiculous ways. I behaved poorly by booming back at the man and responding to his threats in kind. I was suckered into anger in a feeble attempt to save face and to demonstrate that I was not a bad person teaching my child to become one. Within a short time, my kid’s coach arrived and stepped between me and the man. We left the field and as I drove away with tears in my eyes, I vowed to be better and do better in the future. After all, I was studying to become a clinical psychologist and had gotten my undergraduate degree in Mass Communications. If I couldn’t manage a tense conversation with another parent, then who could?
My children are teenagers now and over the intervening years I have thought a lot about how difficult it is to overcome the stigma, shame, and social isolation we families feel when faced with raising a neurodiverse child. Now, as a clinical psychologist who often assists families struggling in similar ways, I routinely bear witness to the fact that it is often an uphill battle to manage your child’s behaviors and to have your family be understood by the public. I believe individuals who are neurodiverse and their families need a voice and a gentle revolution in the way the public perceives us. This blog is dedicated to the sometimes challenging task of advocating and communicating effectively for the respect and needs of the neurodiverse. I want it to be a sounding board, a place of support, and inspiration. Will you join me?