Have you been wondering how to communicate to your child that they are uniquely wired? If you are raising a child with special needs – be it autism, ADHD, sensory processing, oppositional defiance disorder, dyslexia, anxiety, or any other neurodivergent brain structure – the questions can feel endless.
In ways, your child can sense they are different, especially if the behaviors are more extreme. We want to communicate what is going on with them in the most loving and effective way.
Honest and open yet gentle communication about their unique wiring is important for understanding and building into the parent-child relationship.
Let me first say that I am not a therapist. I am just a mother and former teacher who cares about this topic. We have sought out answers and therapies. Through personal experience, I can share with you my own thoughts on how to communicate to your child that they are uniquely wired.
How to Communicate to Your Child That They are Uniquely Wired
Some kids are going to automatically know they are uniquely wired because of the more extreme nature of their special needs, and there are outward signs that something is different.
However, there are many “hidden” diagnoses. A child struggling with sensory processing can feel in their body that something isn’t right, and their actions will often reflect the aggravation within. That said their outward appearance would never suggest that there is this wrestling inside their bodies, unless their behaviors are extreme. This is true for so many children.
As I was talking with my child the other day about this topic, she said something very wise. She said, “If I were diagnosed with a special need, there would be no need to be ashamed. It’s just like having asthma or something.”
Her words were a catalyst for today’s topic.
So many parents resonated with this post about the struggle of raising a child with special needs. Mothers, fathers and care givers of uniquely wired children are their own kind of super hero as they seek to sacrificially love, help and serve neurodivergent children. Part of their super hero abilities including wanting to research and wanting to do the best by their children.
I am sure that many, after learning a diagnosis, wonder how to communicate to their child that something is different. My daughter’s asthma comment is the perfect starting point.
This is Not Your Fault
One of the things that you want to communicate to your child is that the struggles they face are not their fault. They were given a certain set of challenges that other children might not face, but it’s because their brain is wired a bit differently not because of anything they’ve done wrong.
Just like a child might have asthma, gluten intolerance, or allergies, this is the way their body was created. There does not need to be shame involved in a diagnosis.
Acknowledging that, they will still need to learn how to operate better in the body they were given. I don’t want their diagnosis to be an excuse to continually tolerate poor behavior without growth. It just takes more time, tools, help, and hard work to make improvements. Assure them you are there to love them and help them along this road of refinement.
Everyone is Uniquely Wired
While we are discussing more neurodivergent children that require more unique parenting and schooling techniques, we need to point out to our children that every single person on this planet is uniquely wired. Everyone comes with their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Absolutely acknowledge that certain struggles feel harder and require more effort to overcome because of their particular brain. That said, It is important for them to recognize that everyone is wrestling with their imperfections.
It is often easy to recognize the struggles of someone with special needs because of outward manifestations. However, we need to acknowledge that each human being is struggling with their own kinds of sins and shortcomings. Some people can be better at hiding it, but we all struggle. Life can just be hard.
The “perfectly” beautiful and talented individual that your child puts on a pedestal could be dealing with extreme perfectionism that, unchecked, could lead to its own kind of disability – like OCD, an eating disorder, or anxiety. Maybe they have pressure from their parents that makes them wrestle with their worth apart from their achievements.
I observe that each strength can come with its own weakness. The type A, perfectionist might have everything in line, but they struggle to deal with out-of-the-box thinking and flexibility. The big-idea person with enthusiasm and creativity might struggle with the finer details. The individual who cares deeply about others often takes on the pain of those around them and can get bogged down by their concerns for the world.
The different ways we are wired create a kaleidoscope that actually makes our world more beautiful. We can be strong where others are weak and visa versa. It’s why in the church, we are all called be different parts of the body.
So, while some personalities or people seem more desirable, the fact is that everyone is uniquely wired facing their own challenges.
In Psalm 139: 14 it says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” God shows his intentionality and purpose woven into each person.
Christianity points out the innate value a person has just because they were created. Knowing that we are each wonderfully and fearfully made shows us that our lives have meaning, no matter how we are uniquely wired or the shortcomings we exhibit. Help your child see their worth.
Because of Being Neurodivergent, You Will Have Unique Obstacles to Overcome
What kids need to hear is that being uniquely wired does give them more challenges to overcome. While this can feel hard and bad, learning grit through the process is actually what will help them become the better version of themselves.
“It’s the rocks in the bed that give the stream its song.” I love this quote. While suffering is not what anyone enjoys, it is often in our hardships that beauty takes root.
In Romans 5: 3-5, the Bible teaches, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.”
Do you know how much beauty has come through the ashes in this world? Businesses, ministries and better human beings and are often established through the pain and suffering one experiences.
We can teach our kids that they have so much power within them to see growth in their own lives as they develop skills and maturity. They can use their hardships to make this world a better place.
One of the family counselors we have seen is Dr. Jeff Hansen. We learned much about the power of the brain and the ability to rewire it through hard work. Here are some of his well-researched papers on a variety of mental health topics.
Because each person’s situation is unique and the level of disability varies greatly, I am not going to say there is a blanket answer for rewiring the brain through cognitive therapy or choosing to develop different pathways in the brain. Some will need to find solutions through other counselors, therapies and medications. However, this particular doctor we saw believes we don’t give our brains enough credit for what it can overcome. I’d consider that as you are finding solutions for your family. It can provide real hope for your neurodivergent child.
I don’t put oodles of weight into celebrities, but I think it helps to point out that there can be an amazing future and much hope as one learns to embrace their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.
Beyond celebrities, I’m sure you can think of people in your own life.
My brother-in-law owns two successful PT clinics despite his struggle with dyslexia.
I know someone whose son was severely autistic, but through his therapy, you wouldn’t know it now. His intelligence and artistic skills are what people see.
On a personal note, I can’t begin to explain the growth we have seen in our child. Much of this, by the way, had to be addressed in our own parenting shortcomings.
I want kids to understand that there is hope to overcome the struggles they face.
Because of Being Uniquely Wired, You Have Certain Strengths
While children too often focus on the deficiencies that come with their neurodivergence, I want them to be able to begin to hone in on their strengths. This is a true statement for those who are neurotypical too. All children…all human beings…benefit from recognizing their unique talents, abilities and intelligences they possess.
While I would never want to say, “All ADHD kids have the amazing ability to…”, I do want to recognize some common strengths of uniquely wired children. There is no overarching statement that would be helpful, but there are trends we can see.
Strengths of Children with ADHD
“Children with ADHD have many talents and strengths: creative minds, curiosity, boundless energy, humour, courage, leadership abilities, physical abilities, stamina and often show amazing gifts in specialized areas like computers, math, music, etc” – read more here.
Strengths with Children of Autism
Children with autism can be extremely talented in the arts, have an exceptionally good memory, feel highly motivated and focused in areas of interest, be loyal, and have great attention to detail. Read more about the strengths of children with autism here.
Strengths of Children with Dyslexia
Dyslexic children can often be big picture people and have lots of great ideas. They can be great at spatial and pattern recognition. They are often highly creative, visual and have entrepreneurial tenancies. Read more about the strengths of children with dyslexia here.
Whether your own child’s strengths fit into the categories above or not, it is so important to focus on their strengths.
As parents, we are often trying to fix what we feel is broken. While there is a place for working on the harder parts of the unique wiring of your child, really focusing in on all their abilities, talents and gifts will be transforming to a child. Because of their neurodivergence, they will have distinctive special abilities that make them a valuable contributing member of this world. Always look for ways to compliment and praise.
Take Time to Listen
As you are talking to your child about their special needs, take the time to ask them questions and listen. They are often hurting. They probably have questions. Do everything with warmth and love.
I would love to hear more about your own story and experience with how to communicate to your child that they are uniquely wired. There is a community that would love to hear your “works for me” moments. Please leave a comment here.