Self-awareness is something we all want to teach our kids, both neurotypical and neurodiverse. We worry a lot in our hyper-social world about the right thing to do and say. Maybe this isn’t true for you, but I ALWAYS worry about making other people comfortable. Many years ago, while discussing an impossibly critical supervisor, a colleague at work asked me “Why do you care so much about what other people think?”. It was like an alarm going off. Was there any other way to be?
Over time, I’ve realized that making other people comfortable may not be as important as I thought. I think the way for people to be happiest, is to make themselves feel comfortable – through self-reflection and self-acceptance. Of course, it is important to treat others with respect and kindness, but once we’ve done that, if we can’t win their approval, let’s move on.
Something happens in the first two days at Camp Alsing. Our kids realize that they are the best at being themselves. That their brain, and all our brains, operate uniquely. My brain makes socializing pretty easy, but even I get nervous. Other brains are stronger at drawing landscapes, or making pasta from scratch. The important thing is for our kids to know that whatever their brains make easy, they should be proud. And whatever their brains make hard, they can work to strengthen that muscle.
I think about one of our campers from last summer. He was so nervous meeting me at his home that he barely spoke. The anxiety presented by the prospect of two weeks away from home might have been too much for him. But when he arrived at camp, and soaked in the surroundings, and the feeling that he was okay, that this place was okay for him…he blossomed. He was funny and made friends, and even started some new traditions that Camp Alsing will keep forever. That is the power of self-acceptance. Knowing that you are okay, even if we live in a world that sometimes tells you otherwise.