There is not much I really believe. I am not especially religious. Though I hold plenty of opinions, I have changed my mind many times as I am exposed to new arguments. I am open to persuasion, and a scientist by education, trained to value data, analysis, and skepticism. So it’s ironic – or is it perfectly consistent? – that what I really believe in my heart is what I can’t prove.
I believe my children are gifted. There is no evidence for this, but that’s irrelevant. My boys only look average. I know that they have capabilities yet unrealized, talents I can’t even imagine, depths that tests will never show.
My oldest son has learning disabilities. He has attention deficit disorder and difficulties with reading, writing, math, and organization. School will always be hard for him. His impulsiveness affects his social life and limits the activities that might make good outlets for him. We have tried one therapy or diet or intervention after another in an effort to manage his condition and channel his energies towards something positive. It’s a common story; there are millions of families dealing with these issues.
I feel lucky to live in a time and place where kids like my son are not automatically dismissed as dumb and lazy, but can get treatment and some of the special attention they require. Nevertheless, the old prejudices are very much with us. Many times strangers have told me that my son is a brat and that what he needs is more discipline, which of course I am failing to provide. And I can’t blame them when he can’t keep his hands off anything or stop kicking the seat in front of him. Some people have probably concluded that he is doomed to failure. Of course, it’s not true.
On the other hand, it is conventional wisdom in special ed circles that high-maintenance kids grow up to be extraordinary adults; that disabilities are gifts in disguise, merely differences in thinking that come with great creativity and innovativeness. Of course that’s not true, either. For every Thomas Edison, whose ADHD brain was perhaps predisposed for inventiveness, or Temple Grandin, whose autism comes with unusual insight, there are a dozen for whom it is only a scourge. Nature is random in the distribution of her goodies and does not compensate for good luck or bad.
…But with all that said, I believe it IS true of MY child! He has an extraordinary mind and ADHD is part if it. If he learns to put it to work for him, there is no predicting what he might do.
I believe my son is going to do something very interesting some day.
In contrast, his younger brother has not tested us yet. So far he shows no extraordinary talent except for enjoying life. Now there’s a child who can do anything!
So that’s what I believe and no one will ever convince me otherwise. With that understood, now we can talk about the easy stuff – gun control, drug policy, land management, school funding – where data and rational argument can, and should, prevail.