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Am I encouraging masking when I teach Wonderfully Wired kids to play by the social rules?




I am part of a civil rights movement fighting for neurodiversity. My life's work is about helping people see that some individuals just think differently. This isn't inherently good or bad—it's simply a fact. I call these individuals "Wonderfully Wired," and they need both the development of their extraordinary gifts and support for their particular challenges.

Can we fight for a Wonderfully Wired child's right to be accepted exactly as he is without requiring him to change to 'fit in' to the majority, WHILST AT THE SAME TIME encouraging growth and skill development?


I believe I can be an activist by advocating for the right to be different while also promoting a growth mentality.


Zak’s Insights

My Podcast guest this month, Zak Judge, seems to have found this balance well. He shared how his mom made him realise that some of his behaviours were getting in the way of what he ultimately wanted. Here's a quote from Zak:

"My mom was instrumental in the fact that she was blunt. She genuinely didn't want me to be a vegetable (Zak's vivid phrase, not mine or his mom's!) who needed monitoring. She wanted me to be independent. My dad gave practical ways of becoming independent. My mom broke it down logically for me. She said, 'If you continue like this, you're not going to function, you're not going to get a wife, you're not going to get friends.' That forced me to say 'Okay, well, I want all these things. If I continue like this, I'm not going to get them. So I need to stop what I'm doing and do what my mom tells me to do.'"

Zak's mom helped him understand that his lack of certain skills was misrepresenting him and hindering his ability to connect with others. She didn't want him to change, she wanted him to grow in the areas that unfairly hid his true self.


I am also excited to announce that Caroline Maguire, the author of “Why Will No One Play With Me” and the “Play Better Plan”, will be my guest in Season 3 of the podcast.


The Public Relations Campaign:

Caroline Maguire's idea of a public relations campaign can be applied here. Caroline, the author of “Why will No on Play with me?“ and the “Play Better Plan” tells children: Maybe your brand is suffering because people around you are assuming things about you that aren't true. The key difference between masking and what Caroline and Zak are talking about is crucial:

Masking: Trying to be someone you're not because you believe your true self isn't accepted.

Learning Social Rules: Understanding the rules of social situations to avoid being misunderstood.

In this scenario, a lack of awareness about how you're perceived doesn't serve your desire for connection and relationships. Your lack of skills misrepresents you.


Consider these examples of how Executive Function can help socialising:

Mental Flexibility: A child learning these skills might be more willing to go along with social situations rather than being a stickler for rules, which can alienate others.

Reading Social Cues: The ability to notice when someone loses interest and adapt may can help give you another chance to speak about what interests you with this friend in the future.


Conclusion:

Zak’s journey is an example of someone who has learned the skills needed to live well with his brain while still embracing what makes him unique. He enjoys and values the parts of his brain that are an asset and a worthy contribution to the world. This combination of acceptance, joy, and strength, along with the courageous development of skills, is what I want for Wonderfully Wired kids.


Key Takeaways for Parents:

•Advocating for Your Child: Advocating for your child's right to be who they are does not exclude developing social skills.

Growth vs. Masking: Growing skills is not the same as masking who you truly are.

•True Advocacy is nuanced: When you help your child grow their skills, you are advocating more powerfully than just emotionally defending them.

By understanding and implementing these ideas, parents can transform the way their children relate to others and help them thrive (and better yet, advocate for themselves) in a world that may not always understand them.

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