A shout out to all the kids who will never be on stage accepting a prize.
I celebrate those kids lucky enough to be born with the right brain and abilities and personality to fit into our educational system. And those who work hard to tick those boxes. I do. I know and love many of you up on those stages accepting prizes. But I am not worried about you.
The differently wired kids, the twice-exceptional (2e) kids, those living with anxiety disorders and/or sensory processing disorder and those learning to live with the aftermath of trauma or loss. Them, I worry about.
Especially those that are undiagnosed in a system that needs labels, those that don’t have access to the coaches, medications, therapy or assisted technology, and accommodations in the classroom. Or who need to be homeschooled but can’t be. Those that are labeled instead with ‘lazy’, ‘dumb’, ‘troublemaker’ or are ‘too sensitive, too much, too slow’ or are bullied for the brain they are born with.
Shout out to the kids with sensory processing stuff going on, for whom school is overwhelming and something to be survived. I see what it costs you to get through the day.
Shout out to the kids with ASD, some of you aren’t able to be in school but would like to – and the others who are doing their best in an educational setting that was not designed for you. I see you.
Shout out to the kids with ADHD- Inattentive, Hyper-Impulsive and Combined – my heart goes out to you all, working so hard on executive functioning, knowing the huge effort required to do some aspects of life, comes so easily to others. I salute you.
Shout out to ALL the differently wired kids. Those with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, math anxiety (yes, it’s a thing), slow processing speeds. All of it. All of you.
Shout out to parents supporting their differently wired kids. Having to pester schools to advocate for their kid's learning needs, being accused of being helicopter parents, glared at when your child acts unexpectedly in public. Etched with the pain of seeing your child stolen by extreme anxiety for months at a time or bullied. Working extra hard to pay for all the appointments and special diets and all the things and maybe (often) navigating the curveball of their own DW diagnosis too. I wish there were a stage to award you all prizes, because that shit is hard and you keep turning up, day after day, year after year with your love and support. You are amazing.
We have a narrow definition of success in the modern world. One that grew from capitalism. We desperately need to confront our expectations of our children. The way we are starting to challenge the mainstream cultural definitions of beauty? We need this for our brains too.
I wish there were more educational options for our kids, that homeschooling and unschooling were more widely known and embraced, that there were more support and resources available to support those who fall through the cracks of the education system. We've homeschooled for years and the stories I hear are heartbreaking.
A message to these kids: You’re all brilliant. The world needs you and what you have to offer. Hang in there. The limited definitions of academic success are just that, limited, and there is so much more to life. Research all the DW folks who have done cool things, created a life that works for them. You will find a way to shine. Find your people. Discover what rocks your boat and do that. Cuddle kittens, geek out on whatever it is your hyperfocus is, stim, disappear into other worlds through that book, do whatever it takes to get you through. Hang in there.
Heroes come in many shapes and forms and to me, you are all heroes. I know something of the bravery it takes to navigate a world that is not designed for you. Your challenges are invisible, but you are not. I see you and all your gifts just waiting for a chance to shine. I see you. You are magnificent. To me you are up on that stage. Your time will come.
Words by Anissa Ljanta
Photo credit to Giorgio Trovato