I’m a sucker for a TV show or movie about kids with disabilities. I glean hope from success stories and a feeling of belonging and validation when I see other families with similar struggles. In that vein, I’ve been watching the new A&E series, “Born this Way.“ The show focuses on the everyday life experiences of seven young adults with Down syndrome.
I wasn’t sure there would be a lot of similarities to my own life, since Down Syndrome is a very outwardly visible disability, and “high-functioning” autism and ADHD are very much invisible disabilities. I was happy to be wrong about that. While every story on the show isn’t similar to my own experience in a literal sense, raising kids with ADHD, autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities and raising kids with Down Syndrome are a parallel experience in many ways. I can really relate to these parents, and that’s so validating.
The most impactful aspect of the show for me actually comes from one of the adults with Down Syndrome, Megan.
Megan is a 23-year-old adult with Down syndrome. The reality show follows her wholehearted mission to live independently, which she craves sooner rather than later. Independent living is a common desire among adults with Down syndrome, but very, very challenging for them to achieve successfully. That knowledge doesn’t stop Megan from reaching for her goal though.
In school, Megan had to write and give a speech. She wrote “Don’t Limit Me,” and a video was recorded of her presenting the speech and published on YouTube. The video went viral and she began accepting invitations to present her speech to many different audiences.
“Don’t limit me.”
It sounds so simple, but it holds a transformative message for parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. We think so much about our kids’ weaknesses — their limits. If you’re like me, you make decisions for your child based on their diagnoses or their current symptoms and struggles. You write off activities that they may have not done well in the past, or that you don’t think they can be successful at given their needs.
What Megan taught me is that those decisions I make are defining my son’s limits. By doing so, I am limiting my son.I shouldn’t do that. I don’t want to do that.
I’m now operating with a bit of a new perspective when it comes to my son. If he wants to try something, no matter how much of a disaster I think it will be, I want to let him try if at all possible. I don’t want to limit him.
We want our kids to excel, right? To achieve what neurotypicals achieve? If we think they can’t, and we let that guide our parenting decisions, we’re cutting them off from a lot of potential growth and successes.
Don’t limit your kids — even when their neurology insinuates that you should! That only does them a disservice.
Think about all the ways you may be limiting your son or daughter with ADHD and/or autism. What steps can you take to change that?