“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day”
Sometimes for some of us or perhaps for all of us, life pushes us beyond our comfort zones. Let’s pause here and think about why we feel pushed beyond our comfort zones? Often times, we feel so when people or circumstances are not conforming or compliant with the social norms. In psychological terms, conformity means compliance with rules, standards, and laws. It is the likelihood of converging to a group norm.
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In the context of parenting, parents who have a child born with or who develops a condition which deviates from the majority of the so-called normal is certainly pushed out of their comfort zones. Imagine a day in the life of these parents who are pushed to think, understand, feel and communicate with their child in ways that are beyond the so-called normal! Speaking for myself, I deeply believe these children who are diverse (not disabled) are here to teach us something and they are here for a reason. Most parents have created a ‘new normal’ space in their minds and in their life with the experiences they have with these children. I believe, we have an obligation to acknowledge, accommodate and value their presence in our society. This obligation is not only for parents or professionals who are in this space but also to all of us as ‘human beings’.
Like musical tones, each one of us has an individual signature and when we come together we create a symphony. Let’s become one by uplifting and empowering each other as we are already one from the realms of higher consciousness.
Society needs a paradigm shift
A paradigm shift means an important change is brought about progressively when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new or a different way. The theory of Ptolemaic system (the earth at the center of the universe) to the Copernican system (the sun at the center of the universe) was an example of a major paradigm shift. Moving from Newtonian physics to relativity to Quantum Physics is a progressive paradigm shift.
Do you think the society has to make this paradigm shift from the older ‘disabled or disordered’ view to the ‘new normal’ paradigm by presuming competence in persons who are differently wired?
Mr.Sanjaya Ganesh, parent of Appu, a 7-year-old child who is on the Autism Spectrum says, “Firstly, it is important to understand that most skills are functions of the brain. Skills are as diverse and numerous as the possibilities that brain can generate. Any specialized wiring of the brain creates lot more possibilities for interesting skills. Our learning is that presuming competence is key to understanding special needs kids.
When you presume competence and approach with the idea of how to extract that competence – rather presuming incompetence – a whole new world of possibilities emerges! This is the fundamental shift needed – presume competence and find ways to extract it rather than presume incompetence which is what the world is doing now.
Secondly, accepting special needs kids is nothing more than basic humanity. Any difference from the norm is as simple as a difference in gender, caste, colour, creed, and class. Hence it becomes as important a part of basic humanity as accepting the differences in caste, colour, and gender to also accept special needs individuals”, he writes.
Here is an example from his experience on how a paradigm shift worked in favour of his son.
“We have had an interesting journey. Our son had a special educator who presumed incompetence in special needs kids. Our son hated going to school at those times. We knew he had extremely exceptional alphanumeric skills including the ability to write spelling of any word and do even quadratic equations at as young as 7 years of age. However, a teacher in the school was adamant about making him write. It is obviously a skill which he can never achieve even if he tries for years. It only builds up frustration in him more and more as his motor skills are so severely affected he just can’t write. Not being able to write even alphabets was considered incompetence and he was getting more and more frustrated.
As we progressed things changed favourably wherein the specific special educator was replaced by a far more skilled senior educator at school. She figured out his skills in less than a week. She started questioning him using computers, multiple choice questions, and many interesting new ways. All she did differently was presuming competence and starting from that premise. Within a matter of a couple of months – he was solving complex math problems and English problems with her. She stopped making him write and switched to newer ways. Results were unbelievably amazing!”
Creating a New Normal
A ‘New Normal’ arises when parents and professionals see neuro-divergent children or persons as not flawed.
“New normal is always when something is looked upon from outside world. When you see the world holistically you realize that everyone struggles with something or other – money, power, position, basic needs. Everyone struggles to fulfill desires. Even a 100-billion-dollar company owner struggles to fulfill his desires daily. There is no movement that happens in the world without desires. And everyone leaves the world with nothing in hand. Once you understand this, a new normal automatically will fall in place” says Mr. Sanjaya.
In response to how he has created a ‘new normal’ life with his child on the spectrum, he writes, “We try to collaborate more with like-minded parents. Nothing much changes – you still have your fun, your travels, your special occasions with a lot more bonded community than a community that just struggles to compete against each other on the scale of achievements. Getting a like-minded special needs parent community together can be far more enriching than a very boring rustic world which just runs on achievements and exhibition of those achievements. It touches you far deeply within and gives you immense satisfaction and great friendships which move beyond what one’s material achievements are”.
Self-Reflection: To every parent who has a neuro-divergent child, in what ways has your child influenced you and your insights about life in general?
“First and foremost, our child helped us see the world holistically, see the struggle in every quarter driven by desires and see happiness in quarters where you least expect. He helped us see the same source of all beings in every species as you see in yourself. You shift your focus to making his life a better one today than what it was yesterday. You start seeing every moment as the only moment you have and start enjoying and working on it. Past and future won’t make much sense to you – as they only help in creating the least productive negativity in you. Once you learn that, we started living in the present moment more and more. It certainly was not a one day, month or year shift. Years of practice helps to reach that very easily. We owe to our kid for all these.
Secondly, our entire lifestyle, food, and diet habits shifted to very healthy levels. With absolute no junk foods, no packed items, no sugar, no processed salt and food, no milk or gluten with focus on specific nutrition has helped us gain a lot of our health back – and feel more energetic than what it was a decade ago” says Appu’s father.
Neuro-divergent children are not a misfortune!
Appu’s father makes concluding remarks by saying, “Everything happens for a reason in the world whether we like it or not. From a worldview, everything is perfectly designed. Why does the sun rise? For a reason. Why does universe function? For a reason. Why do ants and humans exist? For a reason. We know the reasons for some and don’t know the reasons for others.
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Classifying something as fortune or misfortune is purely from a mindset of achieving material desires of individual egos. It has no meaning for the world. What is a fortune for one may be a misfortune for another? We all have situations that we deal with. Classifying them as fortune or misfortune does not help in any way. Special kids certainly are here to teach humans a special lesson beyond material world”.
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