Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Differently Wired - Deborah Reber

Title: Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World
Author: Deborah Reber
Publisher: Workman Publishing, 2018 (Hardcover)
Length: 278 pages
Genre: Adult; Parenting
Started: August 16, 2018
Finished: August 21, 2018

From the inside cover:

Today millions of kids are stuck in a world that doesn't embrace who they really are. They are the one in five "differently wired" children with ADHD, dyslexia, giftedness, autism, anxiety, or other neurodifferences, and their challenges are many. And for the parents who love them, the challenges are just as numerous, as they struggle to find the right school, the right support, the right path.

Written by Deborah Weber, a bestselling author with a twice-exceptional son, Differently Wired is a revolutionary book - weaving together personal stories and a tool kit of expert advice, it's a how-to, a manifesto, and a reassuring companion for parents who can so often feel that they have no place to turn.

At the heart of Differently Wired are 18 paradigm-shifting ideas - what the author calls "tilts," which include how to accept and lean in to your role as a parent (#2: Get Out of Isolation and Connect). Deal with the challenges of parenting a differently wired child (#5: Parent from a Place of Possibility Instead of Fear). Support yourself (#11: Let Go of Your Impossible Expectations for Who You "Should" Be as a Parent). And seek community (#18: If It Doesn't Exist, Create It).

Taken together, it's a lifesaving program to shift our thinking and actions in a way that not only improves the family dynamic, but allows children to fully realize their best selves.

As soon as I saw an ad for this book on Shelf Awareness (which is an awesome newsletter that everyone should read), I knew I had to read this. Not only was I not neurotypical as a child, I'm raising a daughter who is neurodiverse as well. Being differently wired in an age when people expected me to shut up and deal with it, and raising a differently wired child in an age of increasing awareness to conditions like these gives me a rather unique perspective on things. Not only does this author perfectly capture what it's like raising a neurodiverse child, but she also nails the mindset needed not only to survive the unique challenges children like ours pose, but to help our kids thrive.

This book is an awesome choice for all readers regardless of what diagnoses their children do or don't have purely due to the first section: explaining the different kinds of conditions that fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity, like ADHD/ADD, giftedness, learning differences, autism, twice exceptional, anxiety, sensory issues, etc. Despite the fact that 1 in 5 kids are neurodiverse (a number that is spot-on in my experience as a teacher), stigma and misconceptions still run rampant in regards to these labels, which I've experienced first-hand, to the point where I've had to spell out certain things at my own daughter's IEP meetings, and listened in horror as colleagues would spout the same stereotypes about gifted kids in our workroom. For reasons like these, I'm glad the author included this first section.

Later on in the first section, the author goes on to describe several unique challenges families like these experience. It was as if the author had read my mind and written directly from my own parenting experiences: being afraid your child would get kicked out of pre-school, the financial strain of having to pay for your child's assessment out-of-pocket, the anxiety of worrying how badly others are judging you and your child for behaviour they can't always control, lack of choices enjoyed by other families, and the utter isolation you feel. Reading this chapter would be quite eye-opening if I wasn't already living it, so if anyone is faced with a judgemental individual who dismisses your family's experiences, just direct them to chapter three of this book.

The second part of this book is one that isn't quite as relevant for me at this stage in my parenting journey since I already had to come to terms with most of the "tilts" through baptism by fire so to speak, but would be really beneficial for someone just beginning the process with a toddler or pre-school aged child. The "tilts" are 18 ideas to live by for parents raising a differently wired child:

1: Question Everything You Thought You Knew About Parenting
2: Get Out of Isolation and Connect
3: Let Go of What Others Think
4: Stop Fighting Who Your Child Is and Lean In
5: Parent from a Place of Possibility Instead of Fear
6: Let Your Child Be Their Own Time Line
7: Become Fluent in Your Child's Language
8: Create a World Where Your Child Can Be Secure
9: Give (Loud and Unapologetic) Voice to Your Reality
10: Practice Relentless Self-Care
11: Let Go of Your Impossible Expectations For Who You "Should" Be as a Parent
12: Make a Ruckus When You Need To
13: Align with Your Partner
14: Find Your People (and Ditch the Rest)
15: Recognize How Your Energy Affects Your Child
16: Show Up and Live in the Present
17: Help Your Kids Embrace Self-Discovery
18: If It Doesn't Exist, Create It

Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but the author does delve into details for each one. She does operate from a place of privilege for some of these though, particularly in regards to talking about options for schooling, but at least she recognizes it in her writing. Almost all the anecdotal evidence comes from parents who either homeschool or send their child to a specialized school that supports differently wired students. Not only do many of these schools simply not exist in many areas (I wish they did in mine), not every family can afford private school or give up an income and homeschool their differently wired child.

Some of the tilts I still haven't completely mastered yet are relentless self-care and finding your people. I still have to make an effort to schedule things for myself so I don't explode from the stress, but I'm working on it. In terms of finding our people, my issue is with the "ditching the rest" part, as I find it hard to let go of past friends or family members who don't care enough to be compassionate about our experience.

If you're already a seasoned parent of a differently wired child, you'll love the shared experiences to be found in this book. If you're a parent just starting on this challenging journey (or perhaps a concerned friend/family member/teacher), you'll definitely want to pick this up.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the red and white colour scheme, and the image of the kid going off the path to make a snow angel is an apt metaphor for a neurodiverse kid.

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