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How to move forward from what you thought parenting 'should' look like

I read the first part of Debbie Reber’s book, Differently Wired - Raising an exceptional child in a conventional world and bristled.

Debbie says the predominant culture does not embrace and celebrate “anyone who learns and thinks in a way different from the expected norm.” This is easy enough to swallow. But then she dares imply that we, as parents of Wonderfully Wired kids, keep that status quo!

The most annoying thing about it is, Debbie is on to something.

Debbie’s story, like mine and yours, was gloriously interrupted by an exceptional kid. Debbie was growing a career as an author and making a name for herself in the media world when her son Asher was born. His birth would change the direction of her personal and eventually, her professional life.

In Differently Wired Debbie vulnerably tells us about the first years of raising Asher. The little guy’s extraordinary brain became apparent when he read early and voraciously, and delved deeply and passionately into interests from marine-biology to space exploration. He energetically questioned the world and everything and everyone in it.

The world didn’t like that.

Debbie tells of moving between schools and of how teachers struggled to understand, manage and unlock Asher, making him angry, anxious and volatile. “My new job,” she writes “was educating Asher’s teachers about how to manage his behaviour.”

As Debbie describes her passion, frustration, exhaustion and isolation in the early years, I got a lump in my throat. So many of us know the sadness well and are overwhelmed by the dramatic disconnect between the sweet, smart kids that we love and their seemingly doomed path in conventional schools.

If we are very honest, there is also the roadblock of our own antagonism, our longing for ‘normal’ and our unwillingness to let our children be who they are.

Debbie’s book is not a shaming. It’s an invitation.

She invites parents like you and me to stop being stuck in denial while aspiring for our children to be typical.

We move forward when we become very honest about our different situations and our different kids. We grieve the loss of whatever we thought family lives and parenting should look like and instead embrace who our kids really are and what kind of parenting would best unlock their thriving.

And it’s an invitation to join a revolution.

“ I ask(ed) you to imagine a world where you could ditch the worry, fear, and guilt; where you could talk openly about who your child is without worry of stigma; where you could bring empathy and respect to your parenting; where you could feel present, secure, confident, and, yes, even joyful in knowing that you are exactly the parent your child needs.”

As you and I join the revolution of parenting exceptional children in a conventional world we need to be equipped and encouraged to be able to do so confidently. Reading Differently Wired is a good start.

The second part of the book gets very practical with 17 shifts in your thinking about your child and about being their parent - Debbie calls them TILT’s. She has us ‘questioning everything’ and ‘letting go of what others think’ and urges us to trade fear for possibility. She helps us ‘become fluent in our child’s language’ and ‘practice relentless self care’.

By the time you get to Tilt 12 ‘Make a ruckus when you need to’, and Tilt 18 ‘If it doesn’t exist, create it’, something has changed. The loudest voices of worry and fear have given way to the blossoming new idea that thriving as different isn’t only possible but even likely.

I think that is because:

  • Debbie is honest about how tough it really is - no shame and no denial.

  • Debbie points us consistently to community and redefines parents of Differently Wired as a large brand of Normal, not as divided huddles of separate labels.

  • Debbie points us to deep wells of information and guidance to equip us on the journey - our neurodiversity librarian.

  • Debbie questions what could be - because she dares to eliminate the “shoulds” that we all have in our parenting assumptions.

By the end of the book I wasn’t so annoyed - I wasn’t even so cross at myself for not knowing what I didn’t know before I knew it.

That happens to me often.

I was ready to be signed up for that revolution, convinced that my children need it and also that the world needs what our children have to offer.

Here’s what you ’should’ do next!

  • Check out the conversation I had with Debbie on the Wonderfully Wired podcast this month here

  • Check out the ReadbyElle book summary of Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World here - I have no doubt that you’ll quickly discover that you need the meat around the bones of the summary and get your own copy here.

  • Listen to the Tilt podcast and check out the Tilt Parenting community here.

  • Invest the price of two cups of coffee I wish we could have together per month in your professional development as a parent by becoming a premium member on That way I can keep pointing you to voices like Debbie’s to bolster and equip you on your journey of raising a Wonderfully Wired kid.

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