How We Embrace Our Neurodiversity as a Family
There is no way of describing my family other than neurodiverse. We have many diagnoses including dyslexia, dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder, autism and social communication disorder. Our needs vary in complexity, and therefore the level of support and intervention each of us need varies.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia with possible dyspraxia when I was 25 years old. The psychologist said only possible dyspraxia because I would have needed an additional test to be sure, but from my dyslexia profile it was highly probable. At this time, I was already a mother of two and had started studying psychology at university. It became apparent within my first term at university that I would need to self-refer for a dyslexia assessment. I was struggling with the amount of reading that was expected, and found organizing my work extremely difficult.
As a teenager, I was pretty sure I had dyslexia. I was very aware that the way I thought and the way I composed my writing was different from my peers. My ability to read written words is mostly unaffected, but processing and remembering what is written is compromised. What I find most frustrating is that the actual process of reading exhausts me. I love to learn, but it’s difficult when reading for any length of time and remembering what is taught takes me such a long time.
I was relieved when I received my diagnosis. I no longer felt “stupid.” I accessed the specialized teachings, the university provided and I accepted my diagnosis and my difficulties for what they were. I praised myself for my average grades (that I felt never truly reflected the knowledge I’d acquired) and I spent this time learning about myself. I also realized around this time that I have sensory processing difficulties which affect my attention and mood.
During my time at university I learned so much about myself. I learned I could “keep up” if I used scanning strategies the specialized dyslexia tutor taught me, and that exams were so much easier when I could move the text around on a computer to organize my thoughts. I found out I attend better to what is being taught when I tap a pen between my fingers or tap my foot on the floor, and I need regular breaks so I don’t become overstimulated. But I didn’t realize at the time how much this journey of self-understanding would later help me as a parent.
Out of my three children, one is diagnosed as on the autism spectrum, and the other is awaiting a diagnosis. I learned about autism through my degree. But most of my current understanding has come through self-directed study (always the way I have learned best) as well as learning and responding to what my children need as individuals. It is very true when people say no two children are the same, and each of my children need different support to maintain their learning and well-being.
Understanding my own differences has enabled me to in turn embrace and celebrate my children’s differences. We may not have the same strengths or struggles, but we do have a shared understanding that we are different from our peers. We may need to work harder to achieve in different areas, but I hope that in my acceptance that this is OK, my children will also grow to believe the same.
Being different from your peers is not a “bad” thing. I would never have guessed when I was at school that I would love to write and continue my learning throughout my adult life. I hope to continue to teach my children their differences are a gift, and that thinking differently can be a wonderfully positive thing. For it is within our differences that we find our uniqueness, and within our individuality that we shine.
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