Month: December 2016

Under the Big Circus Tent of Normal Variation

I live in the land of analogies and metaphors.  Something is always reminding me of something else and an image gets created.

One of my favorite metaphors is thinking of kids as under the big tent of  “normal variation.”

Under this circus tent you see a wide variety of behavior and personalities, doing all kinds of things.

  • There are the ones that are distractible
  • There are the ones who overreact to tags on their shirt.
  • There are the ones that don’t read, spell or write too well.
  • There are the fidgety, inattentive ones that bother the others sitting next to them (and their teacher).
  • There are the procrastinating ones, with poor time management, who never seem to get started on a task.
  • There are the homework avoiders and ones that lose the homework even when completed
  • There are the ones that are overly bossy and pushy.
  • There are awkward ones who have trouble fitting in with other kids.
  • There are the nervous and insecure ones.
  • There are the rule breakers and the rigid rule-followers.
  • There are the video game – Youtube obsessed ones.
  • There are the ones who don’t read social cues very well.

The list goes on.

We ask kids to do a lot of stuff that they often aren’t equipped to handle.   Even something like having lunch in a noisy, overstimulating lunchroom or lining up and riding on the school bus can lead to a certain amount of stress if you’re one of those types that has trouble navigating certain waters.

The Point

There’s tremendous variation in childhood. By definition, kids are developing, unfinished products.  There are going to be a lot of rough edges.  Patient understanding goes a long way to helping with these edges.

Be careful about pathologizing this thing called “childhood.”



“One Man’s Ceiling…”


This week I couldn’t shake singing to myself,  “One Man’s Ceiling is another man’s floor,” Paul Simon’s song reminding us it’s all a matter of perspective and relativity.

What inspired this song running through my head?

Let me tell you about Bradon, an 8 year old brought to see me because the school kept insisting in subtle and not so subtle ways, that while they were not “doctors and could not diagnose,” they suspected something may be happening with Bradon that only a medical doctor could detect.  (Translation –  “Your child is ADHD and should be on medication.”)

When I met Bradon I was immediately charmed.  From the greeting in the waiting room to his energetic  pictures drawn on the board (“wow, a white board, can I draw?”), to playing with cars and engaging with the structured activities (“These blocks are really cool.”), what I got from Bradon was unbridled enthusiasm.

As I worked with Bradon, it was clear that he needed some redirecting and his attention wandered a bit at times, (some of the tasks are flat out boring), but I was just seeing him as a fairly typical 8 year old boy who was on the spirited side of the continuum.

At some point in the assessment, I started to look at the teacher’s comments and ratings:

  • Fails to follow directions.
  • Calls out and interrupts
  • Doesn’t sustain, “mental effort.”
  • Acts quickly without thinking.

The teacher went on to say, “Bradon, has trouble with self-governed behavior which can interfere with his learning.”

I finished my testing of Bradon.

Did he have some rough edges that needed smoothing out?   Were there times when Bradon may have been better served to turn down his “enthusiasm dial” a bit?   No doubt.

Did I alter my view that he was largely a spirited 8 year old boy and not “disabled?”


Takeaway Point

“Remember, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”


Latest Posts