Last night on the children’s news, little sister Nathea told Sweden to put on mismatched socks today, to point out that being different is great. Her older sister Noelle has Down’s Syndrome and younger sister Nathea has got very upset at how poorly people treat her sister and her getting bullied for… you guessed it, BEING DIFFERENT!
This morning, I instructed my children to put on mismatched socks instead of standing digging for matching pairs, in our clean laundry basket, full of massive amounts of socks. It’s a nightmare to sort them so more and more get added every week, till someone gets the idea to attack the impossible task of sorting them all, in to matching pairs. Till that day, we stand in search every morning! Very stressful. But of course this morning, it was just to grab two socks belonging to oneself, no matter how mismatched they were.
“Boo” and I watched the news yesterday, but I am not sure he fully understood what they talked about and “Kitty”certainly had not seen the news, having been out on the playground instead with “Gubby”. So I told them at the breakfast table about this girl Noelle, who gets bullied because she looks different from everybody else and because she acts different too. But that it is alright to be different and that the socks were to tell the world that.
The discussion of course led us over to my boys’ handicaps. Because what does it do to a child to be referred to as handicapped. I tried to explain the word to them and realized that it is not easy at all to explain it. Not like I have not found that out through the years. It is a nightmare to explain what disabled or handicapped means, to your child. What their different diagnoses mean. You have to explain why they have been labeled with ADHD or Autism, what it is in their behaviour which is different and at the same time, not tell them that this will limit them anyway in the future and still make them feel good about themselves. I will admit that I have not been good at this at all. I have never sat them down to talk about things, because it is too hard. You get so scared that you will say the wrong thing. That you will do damage instead of doing something good. So in my case, they just get it piecemeal, when there is something they do, and their siblings object and wonder why they do this and that.
Today I felt forced to say something though. In Swedish, one is not supposed to say handicapped anymore. The word has been changed to “funktionshindrad”. Which in English becomes disabled. But is it any use in using these words? To a child it does not mean anything. What is a handicap? You can have a handicap in golf. What the new word means, in a way, is worse. Hindered from functioning. Not able to do things, in English. Well, they are hindered from doing some things the normal way. But often they find new ways of doing things. Or they do things their own way. Is our normal way so much better than doing things in some other way?
I told my boys who were eating, that what disabled or handicapped boils down to is really just being different, but that different is not wrong. I told them that they must not say “I can’t do that because I have ADHD or autism”, but that they must think or say, “But I can try to do it in my own way”. I hope that they will understand that nothing need to stop them from doing whatever they want to do in life. Life does not end with a diagnosis. Talkink to “Kitty” I told him the following: “Last night, I
watched Jamie Oliver stand and make a cake. He is married and have four children. He teaches people how to cook and he has set up a hole system in Britain, teaching schools how to cook food for the children, which they like and which is nutritious. His ADHD has never stopped him from doing all the things he has wanted to do!”
I also told him about Winston Churchill. I showed him a book with THE man on the front cover and asked “Kitty” if he knew who he was. He said no. ” Winston Churchill was the leader in Britain during WWII. He wrote amazing speeches, which he is famous for. He gave his people courage to be brave and continue fighting, when the rest of Europe had given in to the Germans. They were bombed every night, but he gave them the will to want to continue as usual and not give in. He also wrote books and got the Nobel Prize in literature. He was a journalist. During the Boer War, he was captured as a POW but decided to escape, which he did. This man did not let his ADHD stop him. When he was not in power anymore, he was having ants in his pants and did not know what to do, so he went, like his children and told his wife, ‘I don’t know what to do’. Her being used to giving her children suggestions to kill boredom, told him to go and paint. So he did, he started painting and they are beautiful pantings!!!
I did not tell him how Churchill was a workaholic and forced everyone else to work as hard as himself. I did not tell him how Churchill had a difficult time sleeping as well, like “Kitty”, how he was addicted to nicotine and alcohol, just like kids today with ADHD get addicted to computer games. Nor did I tell him that he was good at multi tasking and wanted everything right so. Another time. The only thing “Kitty” needed to head off for school with, was that only yourself will stop you from achieving. If you say ADHD makes it so I can’t do this, then you will not achieve. You have to try to beat your difficulties, to go where you want to go.
“Boo” was listening in and asked if there was noone famous with autism. What could I say? Something I just read some days ago: “Yes, Einstein had autism. He was a math genius and thanks to him we have nuclear power and the atomic bomb. Remember those little dolls that nodded their heads, in ‘Night at the Museum 2’? That was Einstein!” -“All of them?” “They were just dolls in a souvenir shop, but that is what he looked like.” “Cookie” pointed out that the atomic bomb was nothing to be proud of, but of course he did not do things in order to kill humanity, it is other people who have used his discoveries for not always good purposes. I also told “Boo” about another famous person with autism, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But I did not have the time to point out which music he created. The most important thing I wanted to send my boys off with this morning, was the knowledge that a diagnosis is not the end of the world and that different can mean that one actually can succeed where everyone else stick to set boundaries and never venture outside the box.
When we got home today, out of curiosity, I googled which other famous people have had ADHD and autism. I must tell “Kitty” that Walt Disney and John F Kennedy also had it. Look at what they did and became! Many, many are found in the autism spectra like H C Andersen, Andy Warhole, Michael Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton… This one page had mixed ADHD and autism so I can’t say who had what but it claimed that Napoleon Bonaparte, Leonardo da Vinci, Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, Alan Turing, General Patton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Galileo and lots and lots of others, had all the symptoms. But of course it was in the time, when there was no such thing as a diagnosis. They were different and perhaps did not fit in too well in he society around them, but they were remarkable achievers!!! And why? Because their brains did work different. They did not get bored with a task which took months or years to crack. And they wanted answers to all the questions and topics their minds wandered off to. And because of autism, they did not waste time on socializing but stayed focused on the task instead. Today we think that what they did was amazing! Not thinking about how they got there, how misunderstood they were in the world they lived in, because they were DIFFERENT! So next time you see a child which is different, well, you might just have met the next Winston Churchill or Einstein!