The other day I was analysing my children carefully. They are so different but so similar at the same time. Natalie is gifted in areas where Diego struggles and vice versa, Diego is gifted in areas that are challenging for Natalie. I attended the parent-teacher conferences for both recently. It was a great opportunity to see my children through another person’s eyes.
Having a neurotypical child and an Autistic child puts me in a special place. It helps me understand that children, no matter how their brains function, need the same basic things to be happy. The drawing below is my attempt to name what those basic things are.
Natalie’s grades came out perfect, literally, she got the highest scores in absolutely everything that the school measures by numbers. Diego’s scores on the other side came out far from perfect. Does this mean that Natalie is right and that Diego is wrong? Absolutely no. I can tell you that scoring so high is a challenge for Natalie, she feels lots of pressure to perform at the level that everyone expects from her. This generates stress and the idea that she can never make a mistake. Natalie suffers when she does something that is considered wrong, normally small unimportant things. Diego’s stress on the other hand has nothing to do with his academics, even though they’re not “perfect”, it has to do with how his brain is wired and with the way he processes the world through his hypersensitive senses. Diego’s main challenge is staying self-regulated under the daily stimulations that life generates such as sounds, light, movement, people’s interactions…But regardless of Natalie’s and Diego’s challenges, they’re both happy kids.
My children are happy regardless of their academics and regardless of their neurological landscapes, because they are loved and respected by their Mom and Dad and by other important people in their lives. Because they feel supported when a problem arises. Because they have the freedom to be who they are. And because we encourage them to explore and to express their unique natures. As a Mom, I want them to understand that the things that are really important (such as happiness) cannot be measured like you measure grades. I want them to understand that being imperfect is just perfect as long as we’re happy with who we are.