When your child with learning differences start to wonder and compare themselves to their cohort, this is the best time to start the conversation about how they are different, what those differences are, and how it does not have to define who they are as individuals.
How do you tell your child about their invisible disability? This is a question that parents with children with learning differences come to at some point in time. When you become a parent, there’s lots of conversation that you are going to have with your child; however, talking about disability may not have been on the radar.
Are you Ready?
First thing on the list is for you as the parent to determine, if you are at a place to have this discussion with your child. As the parent, you have had a ton of control with your child’s medical health, and their mental health history. Are you ready to relinquish that level of control?
When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, we decided to tell her and teach her about how her ADHD symptoms impact her learning and social development. After my husband and I returned from the developmental psychologist’s office to review the results, I took my daughter out to get frozen yogurt and discussed the findings with her. At that time, she was six years old, the conversation was based on her developmental stage and comprehension. When our conversation was over, she walked up to the cashier and said I have a superpower called ADHD.
We did discuss how she has this superpower but must be aware of when to use it and when not to let it control her. But at that moment, I realize everyone she meets from this point would know she has ADHD. Discuss with your spouse and also yourself and determine if you are ready for the cashier at the frozen yogurt to know what your child’s mental health history is.
Children with invisible disabilities tend to feel like an outcast. Physically they are blending with their neurotypical peers. However, they know that something about them is different, but they don’t know what it is. Teaching your child about how they are different will help them cope and help them learn how they process information. Learning how your brain operates gives you the ability to make adjustments when needed.
My ADHD daughter is exceptionally chatty; she talks all the time and non-stop about everything and nothing. She lets me know that silence is tough for her, and she gets bored quickly. Our home is filled with atypical brains. We celebrate neurodiversity; however, we don’t allow it to rule over us. When my daughter wants to talk non-stop, we set a time limit and teach her to be okay with the discomfort that silence brings. She has also learned that listening to music is a way to fill the silence and be okay with not speaking.
Celebrating the way your child is different only comes from true acceptance. Talking to your child about how they are different should not be a negative conversation or the limitation that they will have. Instead, focus on the positive aspect and the uniqueness of their brain.
Our household is filled with superheroes. My son has Autism, and his superpower is the ability to hyper-focus and task completion. The awareness has brought both my kids’ peace and acceptance with who they are and their full capabilities. It also helps them learn that they have limitations that others may not, and it’s not fair for them to judge themselves based on others. It has helped them keep positive self-esteem and keep their confidence up when they are experiencing a bad day. Their mental health diagnosis is part of their identity; however, it does not define who they are.