ADHD. ODD. LD. Physically Disabled. Labels, acronyms, stereotypes, and physical differences affect us all. There is a great deal of negativity associated with these types of words — and their meanings — perhaps because they focus on only one aspect of the person.
James Lehman wrote that “Hypodermic Focus” puts too much attention on one detail or incident. When we do this as parents, we are using a very limited view of the problem at hand. It follows that this kind of faulty thinking impacts all of us, especially when there is a diagnosis or visible difference, such as a wheelchair or prosthetic limb. We focus on that one aspect of the person, without looking further.
How many of us take the time to find the similarities we may have with that person? Are they a musician, a graduate student, an athlete? Or do we stop at ADHD with a heavy sigh and think of them as only ADHD?
In graduate school, we learned the importance of separating the diagnosis from the person. This took practice. It wasn’t “the Autistic child” anymore, it was the “child with Autism.” The message? The diagnosis doesn’t define the child.
The truth is, differences can be celebrated. Someone has dyslexia, but what if we flip it and focus on how cool it is to be able to read letters or words backwards. Can the rest of the students do that? Can students, now that they understand what it’s like, be more helpful? How do you dance in a wheelchair? Congratulate the courage it takes to ski on one leg. Can a two-legged person do that? None of it is as easy as it looks.
So how can we start a movement that not only separates the label from the person, but puts a positive spin on it? “Wonderfully flawed,” “fabulously slow,” or “refreshingly quick” come to mind. Can we look at what we consider “deficits” and turn them around so they become part of someone’s many assets? I’ve decided to celebrate my own humanness, too — my faults and my mistakes — with love and kindness. I want to extend that to others as well. What phrases can you think of to add to this list?
Beautifully bold, delightfully emotional…
About Holly Fields
Holly Fields has worked with children with emotional and physical disabilities for more than 15 years in the home, at school, and in rehabilitation settings, as well as therapeutic riding programs. She was with Legacy Publishing Company as a 1-on-1 Coach for two years. Holly has a Masters Degree in Special Education. She has two adult children, two rescue dogs and one cat.