A trip down a bookstore aisle will reveal that there are as many different approaches to parenting as there are books to choose from. For every approach, there is an expert and a book to go along with it. In this modern age, there is probably a blog, too. The common theme between all these books is a problem to fix, a habit to address, or an issue to figure out.
Then there is Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World, a book as differently wired as the children it refers to.
While it will be on the same shelf as a book about dealing with a “problem child,” Differently Wired isn’t a book about problem children — it’s about exceptional children, the ones wired a little differently than the rest, and how to raise them well. This distinction is more than semantics. It provides a core basis for a book that, in this reviewer’s opinion, has the potential to empower a very stifled, frustrated group of parents and their exceptional kids.
Author Deborah Reber pulls on her real life experience as a mom of her own exceptional child and as founder of TiLT Parenting to open a dialogue with readers about “differently wired” child — the one with ADHD, autism, giftedness, anxiety, and more. In a refreshing, down-to-earth, and highly researched approach, Reber’s book is the equivalent of a long coffee chat with a box of tissues, encouragement, and useful tools for parents who are at their wit’s end. As Reber puts it, “The stigmas of raising different kids drive us underground to suffer in secrecy.”
It is this suffering in secret that Differently Wired seeks to end, evidenced early on by Reber’s commitment to not only providing a dialogue, but also solutions, tools and support. “Raising different kids in a parenting culture that thrives on sameness and conformity doesn’t leave room for us to openly share the reality of our experience,” Reber says before sharing the journey with her son, Asher, that brought her to this place of redefinition. From this place, she shifted her perspective, or as she put it “tilted,” and leaned into raising an exceptional child rather than a special needs one.
The book is broken down between the establishing of context and their family’s story and what Reber calls the 18 Tilts, a section aptly entitled “How Everything Can Change.” If the first section draws in the reader and creates a shared foundation of experience, this second section provides the meat and the resources that so many in this position are seeking.
While tinted with some classic self-help verbiage, e.g., “Let Go of What Others Think” and “Show Up and Live in the Present,” these Tilt steps are far from mere platitudes and affirmations. The steps given are a deviation from the standard parenting lines, including the straightforward “Question Everything You Thought You Knew About Parenting” and “Stop Fighting What Your Child Is and Lean In.” These chapters are equal parts encouragement and empowerment, putting the child back at the forefront rather than the at the center of challenges.
Tilt 11, “Let Go of Your Impossible Expectations for Who You ‘Should’ Be as a Parent,” could very well be an entire parenting seminar in and of itself, exceptional children aside. Reber’s own experiences have produced a commitment to authentic, shame-free parenting with an acceptance of limitation rather than a resenting of it. Each Tilt could be studied on its own, but when applied in tandem with the others, this is a fully loaded weapon against the isolation, stress, shame, depression, frustration, and discouragement that so often characterizes the homes of these exceptional kids.
As the aunt and guardian of a gifted child, the Tilt steps alone are enough to make a parent or caretaker exhale in relief. Reber has masterfully provided the real, functional steps to raise an exceptional child in a world and parenting culture that makes it more of a challenge than it should be. While the content itself is exceptionally well put together, supported by personal story and widely applicable across a wide variety of situations, Reber herself is a treasure. Her voice as a mother and her voice as an expert on the topic blends beautifully in such a way that I wanted to keep reading, keep understanding, and keep engaging with her and her experience. This particular voice keeps this book out of the self-help realm and moves it to the self-empowerment realm, leaving the reader feeling like they are enough, not by changing who they are, but by leaning in to their own reality, their own homes, and their own precious little ones.
Differently Wired is just the right mix of truth, story, honesty, grit, and resource to be a quiet but profound gamechanger for exceptional parents raising exceptional children in this modern world, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World
Hardcover, 278 pages