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Are You Homeschooling a Child who is “Differently Wired?”

Do you have a child who is “differently wired?” Perhaps he or she has an official diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, learning disability, giftedness, difficulty with executive function, sensory processing disorder, etc., or maybe you simply know that your child is different without seeking an official diagnosis. In either case, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World should be added to your reading list.

Deborah Reber is the founder of TiLT Parenting and the mother of a son diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and disruptive behavioral disorder not otherwise specified. She invites you to rethink parenting and work to change the world’s perception of children with neurodifferences.

One in Five Children is “Differently Wired”

“According to the latest estimates, approximately one in five school-aged children is in some way neurologically diverse, meaning that how their brains function is ‘atypical’ from what’s considered ‘normal.’” That means that “20 percent of today’s kids are struggling to fit in at school and in society because the way they think, learn, and show up is inconvenient or presents challenges to the status quo.” Reber offers no discussion of reasons why these neurodifferences are appearing with greater frequency, instead focusing on the reality of the situation.

Admittedly, each one of those one-in-five children is unique. Reber isn’t offering an instruction manual for how to parent a child with one particular diagnosis (there are many such books available). Rather, she is offering a way of reframing how we think about parenting a child who may very well appear “normal” until their behavior demonstrates otherwise.

A New Way to Think About Parenting

She argues that we need to create a new parenting paradigm, “one that embraces difference and uniqueness in children, rejects fear-and-guilt-based messaging, authentically reflects our families’ realities, and provides options for us to access or design the ideal education for our child’s needs.”

Like a growing number of parents of differently wired children, Reber has chosen to homeschool her son because a traditional school system didn’t meet his needs. However, she does offer many suggestions for working within a school system for those who must or choose to remain.

Reber provides 15 ways to rethink how you approach living with and parenting a different child. Some of these include letting go of what others think, stopping fighting who your child is, parenting from a place of possibility instead of fear, letting your child be on their own timeline, creating a world where your child can be secure, finding people who will understand what you are growing through, and helping your child embrace self-discovery.

Reber is a mother of one. Parenting multiple children, whether differently wired or not, offers additional challenges. In the book, Reber does include insights from moms parenting more than one child. Differently Wired is also written from a purely secular perspective. As people of faith, our first parenting guideline should always be to pray for ourselves and our children. God made our children. He has the user’s manual. She also maintains that children shouldn’t have to apologize for being who they are. To a certain extent, I agree with her. However, there are times when they do have to apologize for their inappropriate behavior.

Nevertheless, as a homeschooling mom of three differently wired children, I appreciated much of what Reber has to say. I encourage all parents of neurodivergent children to read Differently Wired and/or visit tiltparenting.com because we need all the support and encouragement we can get on this challenging parenting journey.

Image copyright TiltParenting.com

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Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her eleventh year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Catholic Baby Name Book" and "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother." She blogs at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com