Parents of Differently Wired Kids: Your New Best Friend

Kathryn HaydonBooks We Love, Outlier Thinkers, Parents

Parents of Differently Wired Kids: Your New Best Friend

By Kathryn P. Haydon

Books We Love, Outlier Thinkers, Parents

What if the rise in square-peg kids is a modern-day evolution? 

That’s a question posed by Deborah Reber, Founder of TiLT Parenting, in her must-read new book, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World. 

What if the rise in square-peg kids is a modern-day evolution?

If enough of us are willing to accept this question as a possibility, I believe it could help turn our world from broken to brilliant. I imagine that this would be the ultimate “tilt.”

For at least the past decade, those of us in education have been witnessing a steep rise in kids who don’t fit in at school. Reber’s data show this proportion of kids is at least one in five, or 20 percent. When kids don’t fit, we find ways to explain why. The answers increasingly lie in diagnoses like ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, anxiety, or sensory and executive functioning issues. Today more than ever before, high creativity and intellectual giftedness are paired with disorders. Which means that at least 20% of today’s kids are growing up believing something is majorly wrong with them. 

In her book, Reber does not argue about whether these neurodifferences exist. She is acutely aware of them from her own up-and-down journey figuring out how to raise her complex, bright, sensitive, ADHD son, Asher. However, she does suggest that we start viewing neurodifferences, well, differently: 

It’s time society stopped looking at our kids’ neurodifferences as things in need of ‘fixing’ and instead considered the possibility that today’s increasingly large population of atypical children may actually be a modern-day evolution. It’s time for our children to be seen and celebrated for who they truly are. (p. 17)

How might we start to see and celebrate atypical kids who don’t fit it? The first step is to know we’re not alone. Differently Wired is an understanding friend woven with Reber’s own experience, a narrative full of emotions familiar to many parents:

Emotionally, I was a wreck, experiencing some form of embarrassment, shame, anger, or confusion on an almost daily basis, mostly stemming from pressure I placed on myself to handle everything in the ‘right way.’ (p. 8)

The book is honest and straightforward and doesn’t mince words: 

The usual parenting approaches simply don’t work for us . . . It’s difficult, lonely work, our only markers occasionally helpful therapists and self-help books offering disorder-specific tools that serve as a constant reminder: There is ‘something wrong’ with our child. (p. 16)

Reber provides an inclusive and welcoming community of support to any who wish to join: 

‘Differently wired’ isn’t a scientific or a diagnostic term—there are no specific criteria to determine which kids fall under this label and which don’t. So how can you know if your child is differently wired? Both for the purposes of this book and how I define this phrase within my community at TiLT Parenting, here’s how I suggest you approach this question: If you believe your child is differently wired, then he or she probably is. (p. 23-24)

The book holds up a mirror to show us that we need to be brave and deal with our own stuff, too, if we want to progress with our child: 

Together, Asher and I fostered a new relationship while I grappled with my own insecurities about what it meant for him to follow an unorthodox educational path. (p. 12)

It’s a leveling, an acknowledgement that the world is changing and that trying to fit people into a standard mold simply doesn’t work. And perhaps this is for a reason. We need people who can think differently to help move the future forward: 

Right and wrong. Whole and broken. But there’s no room for that kind of thinking anymore—it’s becoming increasingly clear that different ways of being are more normal than most people realize, and that is truer with each passing year.  (p. 21)

Differently Wired is a call to action: 

How many people have to receive diagnoses of ‘disorders’ before we start realizing that maybe there’s something else going on here . . . an influx of children with creative gifts who have the capacity to positively change the world? If anything, our uniquely wired children, with their sensitivities and gifts, are the new normal. (p. 17)

And a rallying cry: 

But I still believe we need to get vocal. Because when we don’t, our kids may begin believing they’re not okay, no matter how loving or supportive we are at home. (p. 166)

But most of all, Reber goes chapter by chapter, weaving her funny and serious, emotional and successful parenting journey through each of 18 Tilts, or thinking shifts that parents can make to free themselves to parent their atypical child more authentically and without the stress of constantly trying to fit in. 

This is an argument I have been making for over a decade. Having worked with hundreds and hundreds of kids, I have seen a clear pattern. Those who have the coveted 21st century superpower of being able to think differently tend to diagnosed, deemed behavior problems, or written off. It is a pattern backed by decades of research. Reber makes this case so powerfully, so personally, and she provides the steps for a clear path forward.

She is brave to share her story and to call for change. Her writing is kind, lifting the “shoulds” where most parenting books pile them on. She is inclusive, allowing people to self-select their differently-wiredness. Yet, she puts the responsibility on us in a way that invites possibility, change, and freedom. 

Join me at Debbie’s book tour stop in NYC on June 26, or in a city near you. Register here.


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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