Kids, especially teenagers, don’t want to stand out. They want to seamlessly float along, incognito among their peers. Like oatmeal. Or vanilla ice cream. Or tofu.
But they can’t.
They have asthma, acne, frizzy hair, autism, ADHD, depression, eczema – a secret many try to hold close, but some are unable to. You know those kids. You parent those kids. You were that kid.
What if we all taught our kids that everybody has something? You don’t always know what it is, and you don’t need to. Just know that their something is real and it’s makes them sad, scared, unsure, embarrassed – it causes them pain inside and out. What if we taught our kids that everybody’s something may be called by a different name, but it’s really not that different from their own? What if we taught our kids to think first of the something’s impact on its person before pointing, laughing, blaming, tripping or gossiping?
Adolescence is hard. For kids on the spectrum it’s really, really, really hard. The easy social exchanges, the friendly banter, the jokes and slang terms of others can whirl around in their heads, leaving them dizzy trying to keep up and catch up. By the time they process the last conversation, the other kids are three conversations down the road. It looks weird. It feels weird. It appears weird. Then the kid is called weird. It happens in a flash, leaving a humiliated child in its wake.
What if we taught our kids to be patient, and thoughtful and insightful? What if we took the time to explain the somethings to our kids? Knowledge is a powerful and wonderful thing. Maybe if we remove the mystery around all the somethings, we would find that behind them are some pretty terrific kids. Not just terrific kids, but also good friends, wildly talented, smart, funny, goofy, creative and, yes, a little quirky.
And isn’t that worth teaching?
Stacey Weddington is the Director of Community Impact for AutismOklahoma.