I wish someone had intervened…

little princessAbove:  Conventional school made this creative-creature very, very miserable.

Every time I read this story, I get a bit emotional…

Gillian was only eight years old, but her future was already at risk.  Her schoolwork was a disaster, at least as far as her teachers were concerned.  She turned in assignments late, her handwriting was terrible, and she tested poorly.  Not only that, she was a disruption to the entire class, one minute fidgeting noisily, the next staring out of the window, forcing the teacher to stop the class to pull Gillian’s attention back, and the next doing something to disturb the other children around her.  Gillian wasn’t particularly concerned about any of this – she was used to being corrected by authority figures and didn’t really see herself as a difficult child – but the school was very concerned.  This came to a head when the school wrote to her parents.

The school thought Gillian had a learning disorder of some sort and that it might be more appropriate for her to be in a school for children with special needs.  All of this took place in the 1930’s.  I think now they’d say she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and they’d put her on Ritalin or something similar.  But the ADHD epidemic hand’t been invented at the time.  It wasn’t an available condition.  People didn’t know they could have that and had to get by without it.

Gillian’s parents received the letter from the school with great concern and sprang to action.  Gillian’s mother put her daughter in her best dress and shoes, tied her hair in ponytails, and took her to a psychologist for assessment, fearing the worst.

Gillian told me that she remembers being invited into a large oak-panelled room with leather-bound books on the shelves.  Standing in the room next to a large desk was an imposing man in a tweed jacket.  He took Gillian to the far end of the room and sat her down on a huge leather sofa.  Gillian’s feet didn’t quite touch the floor, and the setting made her wary.  Nervous about the impression she would make, she sat on her hands so that she wouldn’t fidget.

The psychologist went back to this desk, and for the next twenty minutes, he asked Gillian’s mother about the difficulties Gillian was having at school and the problems the school said she was causing.  While he didn’t direct any of his questions at Gillian, he watched her carefully the entire time.  This made Gillian extremely uneasy and confused.  Even at this tender age, she knew that this man would have a significant role in her life.  She knew what it meant to attend a “special school”, and she didn’t want anything to do with that.  She genuinely didn’t feel that she had any real problems, but everyone else seemed to believe that she did.  Given the way her mother answered the questions, it was possible that even she felt this way.

Maybe, Gillian thought, they were right.

Eventually, Gillian’s mother and the psychologist stopped talking.  The man rose from his desk, walked to the sofa, and sat next to the little girl.

“Gillian, you’ve been very patient, and I thank you for that”, he said.  “But I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient for a little longer.  I need to speak to your mother privately now.  We’re going to go out of the room for a few minutes.  Don’t worry; we won’t be very long”.

Gillian nodded apprehensively, and the two adults left her sitting there on her own.  But as he was leaving the room, the psychologist leaned across his desk and turned on the radio.

As soon as they were in the corridor outside the room, the doctor said to Gillian’s mother, “Just stand here for a moment, and watch what she does”.  There was a window into the room, and they stood to one side of it, where Gillian couldn’t see them.  Nearly immediately, Gillian was on her feet, moving around the room to the music.  The two adults stood watching quietly for a few minutes, transfixed by the girl’s grace.  Anyone would have noticed there was something natural – even primal – about Gillian’s movements.  Just as they would have surely caught the expression of utter pleasure on her face.

At last, the psychologist turned to Gillian’s mother and said, “You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick.  She’s a dancer.  Take her to a dance school”.

I asked Gillian what happened then.  She said her mother did exactly what the psychologist suggested.  “I can’t tell you how wonderful it was”, she told me.  “I walked into this room, and it was full of people like me.  People who couldn’t sit still.  People who had to move to think“.

She started going to the dance school every week, and she practiced at home every day.  Eventually, she auditioned for the Royal Ballet School in London, and they accepted her.  She went on to join the Royal Ballet Company itself, becoming a soloist and performing all over the world.  When that part of her career ended, she formed her own musical theatre company and produced a series of highly successful shows in London and New York.  Eventually, she met Andrew Lloyd Webber and created with him some of the most successful musical theatre productions in history, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

Little Gillian, the girl with the high-risk future, became known to the world as Gillian Lynne, one of the most accomplished choreographers of our time, someone who has brought pleasure to millions and earned millions of dollars.  This happened because someone looked deep into her eyes – someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs.

Someone else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.  But Gillian wasn’t a problem child.  She didn’t need to go away to a special school.

She just needed to be who she really was.

From the book “The Element – How finding your passion changes everything” by Ken Robinson

The reason why reading that story (and many other beautiful stories like it) tears me up – is because it resonates so strongly and so deeply within me.

I was that child… I was that “Gillian”… and, especially in high school.  I was always SO bored… I hated school SO much… I was always in trouble, always in the detention quad, always in the school principal’s office – being threatened with expulsion.  The teachers were always telling me to “stop daydreaming!” or stop doodling in my workbooks.

And I felt like such a loser – and so, so stupid. Like something was deeply wrong with me. Because I just was not in the slightest bit interested in maths, science or accountancy.

If only somebody had said to my parents:  “Your daughter isn’t stupid, Mrs. Patterson… she’s an artist and a musician.  Send her to an Arts School”.

If only someone had intervened.

And if only I had gone to Art School instead.  I would have excelled in an art school!  If I had been allowed to create music, harmonies, pictures and stories… I would have excelled – and I think my self-esteem would have soared in the process.

But – in my school – art and music were seen as silly, superfluous things – as ‘hobbies’.  I was bad at all the things I was supposed to be good at – and good at all the things that weren’t considered important.

And that’s why Ken Robinson’s book resonates with me on so many levels… and comes highly, highly recommended!



Update:  I have a big, fat, crazy dream… and have written and illustrated a book titled “How Heather got her Hat’ness back” – with the hope… the very hopeful-hope… that it will inspire somebody – somewhere – to embrace their beautiful uniqueness and to be themselves. I hope it also inspires parents to think twice about attempting to squish their little creative-creatures in to a mould that may not fit.  Here is the link to view the first couple of pages of the book.

If you like what you see – you can buy it on Amazon, here.

137 thoughts on “I wish someone had intervened…

    • I know that some will see this as beating a dead horse but this story illustrates exactly why we need a more libertarian society. All this really means is the freedom to be different. To excell at being ourselves without having to conform to societal norms that so often stilfle us. This is good for everyone. We have a cookie-cutter mentality which is strengthened by govt. Standards. WHO is standard ? I was tested reading at an eleventh grade level while in the fourth grade. I didn’t get math at all. Still don’t. I had VERYfew teachers who had the interest, training , time or, perhaps luxury of looking at me as an individual. I suffered in school. MANY of us did. There are as many ways of educating our kids as there are kids to educate. Adult mentoring. More sophisticated shop training. (I would learn far more math learning to work in a machine shop than I ever learned in school) craft schools;; the list is endless. Adults with passions involved in helping others find their passions. I wrote my first poem in the fifth grade (ok, that’s not so special). The point is, the teacher accused me of copying it out of a book! She didn’t believe I wrote it. I COULD have been, perhaps a good (I don’t say great) poet. Who knows? We have millions of great (fill in the blanks) among us, that will never be- to the detriment of us all. The freedom to experiment. That would be great. This response could go on forever. I trust that most of us get the point. Just a thought.

      • Oh, I completely agree with everything you’ve written, Ed. Everything needs to change. The current system is failing us all and the world continues to complacently march to the cadence of the “normal”. I think we – as a society – need to wake up from our comfortable slumber. Perhaps that’s why it’s so important that Gillian’s story… my story… YOUR story… need to be told and *heard*… (thanks for your comment).

      • If libertarianism stopped at letting people be themselves, I would agree with you.


        Unfortunately, sometimes a person “being themselves” means they’re a danger either to themselves or to people around them. I don’t WANT to let those people be. I want to stop them.

        Also unfortunately, libertarianism doesn’t stop at just letting people be themselves. It’s all about the worship of property rights. Never mind that having no access to property means you can’t feed yourself or take care of yourself and family. Property ownership trumps human rights, period.

        You may hate government but I want that impartial referee. Right now the government isn’t that, because a bunch of corporations and lobbyists “just wanting to be left alone to be themselves” have bought it out and are controlling it. But *some* kind of government could play that referee role, at least in theory. I can’t think of any better candidate–the church already failed, and the individual only works out until he’s Jeffrey Dahmer.

    • Enjoyed this article and agree with your remarks. I absolutely relate to Gillian and your experience. Although I stayed out of trouble (not because I was good but because fear was my dominant restrainer), I too, always felt “slow” and stupid. Today, I look back on the entire awful experience as one that has somehow molded compassion and mercy into my soul. I see that God has, in your life – brought you the gift of writing for the soul purpose of encouraging others. Obviously, “they” were wrong about you (and maybe me); you are an accomplished child of God who is being used for his purposes, not the worlds. Blessings to you. 🙂

      • Kmoon 70, I just wanted to say I bet you are very talented and creative. I have been through similar situations and I know how it feels.

        I was often expected to be someone that I am not. I also stayed out of trouble mostly because fear was my dominant retainer as well. And in my adult years I am realizing it is okay to be myself. It feels so awesome and powerful to use our creativity and talents to do good things 🙂

        It would be awesome to see the amazing talents and creativity you possess in action.

        Never mind the nay – sayers bother you. I bet you possess more talent in your big toe than they do in their entire bodies.


      • Hehe!! Thanks… I guess we all have our different gifts. I lean more towards creative pursuits (art, music, writing, photography, storytelling). Maths, science, accountancy – well, that’s NOT where my strengths lie. I’m glad to hear that you’ve realised it’s okay to just be YOU. In fact, not only is it okay – I think it’s the ONLY way to thrive. Thanks for connecting. 🙂

      • Meryssa, thank you for your encouraging words. I have to say though, my big toe is, well, rather small…😜. I’d love for you to check out my blog at journalofasinner.com and website at kimberlykmoon.com. I certainly agree with you and Heather…Embracing our God given talents is nothing short of freedom! Blessings to you, Meryssa!

      • I agree with you kmoon. I’m her mother. I’m a creative creature too, living out my dream helping other broken hurting people, because of the hurt and brokenness I have experienced in my own life. When she was growing up, the ‘System’ didn’t understand Heather, and didn’t make place for people like her. At the time we had no other option but to send her to school though we were well aware of her being different. Money and distance made it difficult for us to send her to Art School and there was no other solution, so I made sure that in her leisure time there was lots of opportunity to explore her creativity and let loose and be herself – in fact I encouraged it. All these years later, because of the struggles she had in the past to fit into the ‘system , she is able to identify with and help so many others who feel misunderstood – because her own negative experiences have given her a passion to change things. This seems to be the case with many of us, our negative experiences drives us to make a difference.

      • Thanks Linda for the reply. So glad Heather had a mom that recognized her giftedness at an early age. You did a great job. I fully accept and understand that God uses our own suffering , in which He comforted us – to then, comfort others. Blessings to you and you and your beautiful, thoughtful daughter.

      • Omigosh… wow! And you know… that’s all your son needs: a parent who *sees* him… who *gets* who he is – and who he’s not – and supports him wholeheartedly on his journey. Thanks for sharing that.

    • this story has talk me a lot about myself as I was growing up even through High school I didn’t know where I was going but i’m a very bright person who is very smart today than i was back then and this story brings back a lot of memories Thank you for sharing

    • I am Gillian! But on top of being “difficult” in school, I was beat like Hillary Adams on a daily basis by a man who was in his own words, “Mad at the world and took it out on me at every turn.” I often wonder how I survived. I can tell you I have faced the most horrible, gut wrenching depression. I have wanted to die more than not throughout my life, only to realize the shame and hurt I feel would be expelled from me, onto my children if I was to take the easy way out. I couldn’t bare the thought of passing this on. So I crawled in my hole, under a rock and existed. I existed out in the real world for 25 years this way. I lived in hell. I am 55 years old. Now I live on the outskirts of hell but I do have to travel into town every now and then. I am starting to embrace my creative self. It feels awkward but I try. Nothing will ever be as awkward as my childhood, or existing under that rock. Today I live…

      • Dwain… I don’t know where you are in the world – but I wish I could reach out and wrap you in a giant, warm hug and let you know that you are VALUABLE… and that your life matters… and that I am overwhelmed that you have shared your story so openly and generously. Thank-you! Thank-you! Please… EMBRACE your creative self. EMBRACE that uniqueness that makes you… YOU. And yes… LIVE! And share your story with the rest of us… because you are NOT alone on this journey. We can all learn from each other… I have certainly learned SO much over the course of the last couple of days (reading and responding to the comments on this thread). Again – thank-you!!!

    • I had a very shy quiet daughter who sat in the classroom and never said very much, her levels were very low. She never done her SATS, she was observed by Educational Phycologist, he told me she can read ( she found it very difficult to retain information) he said she can dance ( I definitely new this) she went to dance classes twice a week and had been in shows, taken exams and the quiet girl passed an audition to appear in Snow White. She went to high school with a very low level, she was still a very quiet girl, she still got ignored, she was bullied because she was nice and could dance. Maybe this wrong of me ( I worked in Primary) so I decided to be an angry loud aggressive parent just so somebody wouldst listen to me, I fought for help for extra time in exams, tried so hard for her to be assessed . She tried so hard with her and worked so hard, the only bit of happiness and peace she had in school was in the dance studio and outside in her dance school, I loved to watch her, she was a different person on stage, she told me one day that is the real Lucy on stage. Her predicted grades were Es, they still refused to assess her I still fought and fought, they finally did on her sixteenth birthday when. She had sat her GCSEs. I was disgusted and I carried on to be an angry parent, I sat in front of teachers, heads of years, SENCOs, Chair of Governers nobody really cared . When we got her assessment back it didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already new. As parents we decided to take our daughter of education, her results were Cs and Da…. A star in dance. She auditioned for a private Dance College has done amazing well and has had merits and distinctions for college exams taken, she is going to take her first DDI TEACHING EXAM, she is so happy and so are we, her mum and dad. I’m glad I became an angry parent, Lucy didn’t have that voice or bad behaviour. I’m now a happy calm parent, who never worries and neither does Lucy she is so happy . Sometimes teachers would say she is to quiet, if her behaviour was bad she would of been noticed. Your story was great and well done to you, I always said to Lucy follow your dreams x

      • Thanks so much for commenting and for sharing your story. The part that jumped off the computer screen, was where Lucy told you one day that… the REAL Lucy… is the one dancing on stage. I *get* that. I so, so *GET* that!!! The *REAL* Heather is “Hat”. The REAL Heather is the artist / musician / adventurer / risk-taker / tomboy. It frustrates me… enormously… to know – that this whole System continues to plod on… unchallenged… whilst kids who just don’t FIT are made to feel like there’s something WRONG with them. When, of course, there’s nothing wrong with them at at. I’m so glad to hear that you fought for your daughter… but I am DELIGHTED to hear that she is now relaxed, happy and doing what she LOVES… and she can now just be the REAL Lucy – with no limitations. Thanks again for sharing! x

    • It appears this girl had a mother that cared for her and a supportive environment, not all kids have this and money to go join a ballet. There are deeper problems with kids.

    • I hear you. I know SO many artists, musicians and storytellers who could never *fit* the conventional mould – and like me, felt stupid in school. One of the best dancers I know couldn’t get his thoughts across (verbally) unless he was simultaneously moving his body. He stuttered if he was forced to sit still – but could speak eloquently if he was moving his whole body. I loved this unique part of him – but it got him into a lot of trouble when he was a kid….

  1. I am a lucky one, who had parents that encouraged us (4 children) to sing, play music, drum on furniture, dance, create with any medium we desired! This story also resonates because I see it now as an educator. I reference Sir Ken Robinson as I teach future educators in the hope that they too will see these children in their classrooms and encourage movement and creative exploration.

    • Thanks for sharing… great to hear of parents who encourage their children to explore creativity. Also glad to hear that you reference Sir Ken Robinson – I have such respect for his work! Thanks for reading – and responding. 🙂

    • I think it’s a familiar story for many of us, Nate. And I’m glad she found someone who *saw* her talents – and even better, that her mother took the man’s advice and sent her off to dance school. I’d love to hear more of THESE kinds of stories… rather than kids being squished into little one-size-fits-all boxes. There’s so much diversity and uniqueness and talents that need to be recognised and celebrated… and the sooner we (the world at large) understand that, the better. 🙂

  2. beyond inspirig i had to repost too on my fb wall. Jst found ur blog and i might be lurking around for more. Thanks for having the wonderful heart to share this too! 🙂 cheers!!!

  3. “All of this took place in the 1930’s. I think now they’d say she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and they’d put her on Ritalin or something similar. But the ADHD epidemic hand’t been invented at the time. ”

    1) The condition that we now know as ADHD was first identified in the 1800’s.

    2) Stimulation medication was first used in the treatment of what we now call ADHD in the 1930’s.

    3) ADHD is not invented. Our brains are organically different than the brains of neurotypical people. It’s like calling diabetes invented.

    • I agree (I’ve been diagnosed myself with ADD – and I’ve been enormously helped by the medication that my psychiatrist has put me on). However – I think within the context of Ken Robinson’s story… he does have a point. He later (in his book) goes on to say that it’s not that he doesn’t think that ADD exists… but he DOES take issue with the massive amounts of ADD diagnosis and medication dished out to kids… simply because they can’t sit still or focus in an environment that may not be conducive to their specific manner of learning. The dancer child being a case in point.

      • But Heather, Robinson’s is the most trite cop-out going — “It’s not that I don’t believe in ADHD, it’s that I take issue with the massive amounts of blah blah blah.”

        It’s B.S, because it almost always comes from people with some schtick to sell. They’re trying to have it both ways: not being seen as a complete anti-psychiatry crank while still selling their schtick.

        Robinson obviously has done a lot to get support for creativity in the schools, etc. At least that’s the public image; I don’t know his work. I do know that he calls ADHD a “Fictitious epidemic” and calling the medications “dangerous drugs” that “anesthesize children.”

        If he were pressed, i bet Robinson couldn’t tell you the barest scientific facts about ADHD. He doesn’t know if it’s under- or over-diagnosed. He’s just selling a line. It’s quite a popular marketing technique these days, to trash the ADHD diagnosis as a “conformist agenda to turn children into compliant drones.”

        He’s an educationalist, not a neuroscientist. He apparently gives a rat’s posterior about all the children who will benefit from “no intervention” because their ADHD will go unrecognized and they will under-perform, under-achieve, and remain convinced they are stupid. Nice job, Ken!

        I also don’t believe much in that Gillian story, anyway. Maybe the broad strokes are true, but I find it very hard to believe that the details of that psychologist visit were that accurately remembered. I suspect he embellished quite a bit. And that’s dishonest.

        It is a shame that Gillian’s mother did not see her child well enough to recognize that she loved to dance.

      • I guess I’m not an “either/or” kind of person. As an adult with ADHD… (my psychologist said that I’m the “poster child” of the condition)… and as somebody who finds the meds tremendously helpful in managing my focus… I am still not offended by Ken Robinson’s scepticism over ADHD. If I had to only read the books… or listen to the stories of folk who are 100% aligned with my views, I would have a very empty bookshelf.

        I have read 2 of Ken’s books… and ADHD is certainly not high on his agenda for things-to-discuss. Mostly, the books contain stories… which I find inspiring and moving.

        I’m sure Gillian’s story wasn’t a *perfectly* accurate account of what happened so many years ago… but that would be true of ANY of us sharing a powerful memory from our childhood. I’m sure I get a number of the facts wrong when retelling my childhood stories… but, the sentiment remains.. and Gillian’s story moved me (and moves me still).

        Also, when I look back and recount my regrets and my sadness from those years… I have never thought: “I wish my mother put me on Ritalin when I was at school”… I have never regretted not having access to the meds during those years. But I still regret that I wasn’t valued for the *different* individual that I was (and am)… and I regret that I was damaged by teachers, school and society that tried to squash me (and many others) into a box that just didn’t FIT.

        Gillian’s story (and many of the other stories Ken shared in his books) resonate strongly with me… because it helps me to see that I’m not alone… and that I’m not *broken* or *stupid*… and that it’s OKAY to be different.

        That being said, I *do* hear and understand your frustration at those who don’t understand ADHD. Sometimes, I wish I could invite people to walk-a-mile-in-my-HEAD before they judge my decision to take medication to manage this condition. But, I’ve also made peace with folk NOT understanding or approving of my choice (makes it soooooo much easier on my emotional wellbeing just to… breathe and, as the Frozen people say… “let it go”…)

    • EXACTLY! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! It is so refreshing to see at least one person using critical thinking skills and not just letting themselves get dragged by the waves of their emotions.
      I have ADHD and I am very creative. I struggled in school with my behavior and also lack of creative outlet. However, there is a difference between personality and neurological/learning differences. Ritalin and other stimulants have been a life saver for many of us, including my son who has the problem too. The big difference is that, although I was diagnosed early in life, I didn’t receive treatment but until adulthood. I suffered in school the retaliation of teachers mad at me for my difficulty to pay attention when I needed to and sit still and I know that things could have been easier for me had I been given treatment at an early age. My son’s story was different, I was determined to not let this happen and I intervened early and he FLOURISHED. His creativity got even better. It is irresponsible to be shaming people for needing medication and accusing them of having “made up illnesses”.

      • Such a beautiful post. I love reading these stories and absorbing these perspectives… My “dysfunction” was met with harsh destructive brute force. I think about how much different my brain would be today if I had had Gillian’s parents. Unfortunately my biological father reacted with furry like Hilary Adams father. He tried to literally pound me into conformity. I don’t know how but somehow I instinctively knew I had to fight, not to pass this onto my children.

        If you haven’t heard of Hilary Adams, search her name on youtube… It’s unfortunate that many from my generation suffered this harshness… I love life now but it’s taken a long time to get here… These kinds of outlets help tremendously. I would like to make a documentary on this subject someday and share my story so others might relate and come clean with themselves about their inner dysfunctional horror that we not only suffer from on a daily basis, but hide from the surface of our being…

        I am at peace with it all now. Gillian was allowed to be at peace with it almost from the start. Thank you Heather Costaras for this introspective… And thanks to everyone who has shared their thoughtful and personal perspectives on this blog… I love it…

      • Exactly, Ana. And it’s people like Ken Robinson who have influence on public policy. He calls ADHD a “fictitious epidemic” and the medications used to treat it “dangerous.”

  4. This article reads like a textbook for my life. Almost every one of my elementary teachers (except for my kindergarten teacher, who was a saint) told my mom I had ADD and needed to be on medication. She knew otherwisr and just flat out refused.
    I was an hyperactive, fidgety, loud, obnoxious child that was the “Pied Piper” of the playground, was addicted to music, creating stories, and in general being creative. Throughout my career at school, I always got in trouble from my teachers. A select few loved me, but most found me as wild and a delegate, and would go out of their way to embarrass me in front of the class, which in turn made me hate school all the more. Now I have a phobia of school because only 3 out of my countless, countless teachers saw me for what I was and not a juvenile delinquent. I never graduated high school and I now work at a minimum wage job I abhor because I can’t bring myself to go back to a place where I always felt unwanted.
    Almost everything creative I try, I succeed at. I am a genius in the creative world but because of years of bullying from adults who “knew better,” I am an idiot in the “real world.” If someone had told my parents specifically to put me into a specialty school and how, I think my life would have gone a lot different. I am stuck in a rut in the real world because how I function is blasphemy and idiotic. There must be something wrong with me because I don’t fit the norm.
    Thank you for posting this. To say that it brought a tear to my eye is an understatement, for the way it described my life was all too accurate and tragic. I would love to contribute and be a part of some sort of movement to prevent children from suffering the way we have suffered. It is unfair when a child, who is more unique than any, isn’t given any opportunity to show what they are truly capable of. Imagine the changes to the world if teachers and parents were able to recognize these diamonds and set them on a path of success, something they are supposed to do with all of their children. It is a failure on their part when they tread upon the child, rather than letting them blossom. Alas, only those who “fit the mould” are given chances to succeed.

    • Wow… I am truly sorry to read your (all too common) story. I can truly relate… in many ways. School tried to squash me in a mould that was never designed for a creative creature – and, in doing so, there was tremendous long-term damage (specifically with my self-esteem and feeling like such a loser because my strengths were… *different* than the strengths that the school Powers-that-Be considered important). I – too – find it terribly sad (and immensely frustrating) to see so many children forced through a one-size-fits-all system… which promotes the chosen few – and demotes those who just… don’t… *fit*. I also think our society – in general – has bought into the idea that money and time should be spent on “fixing weaknesses” – rather than focussing on – and investing in – natural strengths. For this reason, my parents spent a lot of money sending me off to extra math lessons in the afternoons (after school) in an attempt to “correct” my math weakness. Of course – none of it mattered in the long run. None of that supposed “knowledge” was ever truly learned or retained. I’d keep the information in my head long enough to pass the standardised test and then – poof – it was gone. Besides, I always knew that I wouldn’t be seeking out a numbers-related career. I sometimes wonder though… what would have happened… if all that money and time was focussed, instead, on my natural strengths… (?) In retrospect – it all seems SO obvious. Anyway – I truly wish you the best… and I hope that you’ll find a way out of that rut and seek out a fulfilling career that suits your natural gifts. Oh – and thanks for connecting – and for sharing your story! I think it’s important that stories like yours are told… and *heard*.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this. Both of my girls had trouble being still. I had many conversations with teachers and staff in public schools when they were young because of it. It was later discovered my youngest was dyslexic. The end result was I took her out of public school when she was a freshman to home school her. She later received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in theater. My oldest has a double major in Political Science/Journalism. Both girls are talented singers as well as musicians. The oldest plays the viola, the violin and the guitar. The youngest plays the cello. Artistic expression was vital to their development.

    • I’m always happy to read stories about parents who RECOGNISED their children’s uniqueness… and different strengths… and different ways of operating – and then DID something about it. As you say…. your multi-talented and multi-dimensional girls NEEDED that artistic expression – and that is true of so, so, SO many of us.

    • That is so awesome they went on to do creative things they love!!! For my own self, I feel like my life really started to change in a positive way once I was finally done with high school. It can be a mundane challenge for a creative person!! Once school was over, I had the freedom to begin slowly pursuing my passions. My daughter sometimes struggles with having to stay still and be quiet all day long as well in school. She is a very curious child, which I absolutely love and appreciate, and she enjoys asking lots of questions and sharing her thoughts. She is also very creative.

      • Hi Krissy… yes… as I mentioned in my reply to mariner2mother – Ken Robinson’s book, The Element – is actually packed with these really super-inspiring stories of how people found their way… in SPITE of school. I’m one of those people too. There are MANY of us – who only found ourselves after the “school” season was (finally!) over.

  6. I’m a HUGE advocate for these creative learners! Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since Gillian’s day…it’s probably much worse for these creative souls. It’s why I continue to write and reach out to people to educate parents and teachers about how these children learn and how best to support them. Here’s one such a post describing why these children need to be engaged in their creative outlets to be fully expressive and alive: http://www.therightsideofnormal.com/2013/03/20/the-creative-outlets/

  7. As a parent, people think I am crazy for doing so much for my 12 year old son. I just want him to succeed. I have recently decided to put him on meds to help him sleep and he is in counseling to deal with his impulsive behavior but he will not agree to play an instrument or join a choir even though I know he would do well at such things. He is trying to fit in where he does not belong. Sometimes, even when we do notice how amazing our ADHD loved ones are, it is them who choose their path. My younger sister chose illicit drugs to quiet herself.

    • I don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to help your son. It’s every parent’s desire to see their child succeed. I guess – the deeper question is: what is your definition of “success”? Is it the same as his? Does he define success in the same way you do? Perhaps you both want different things for (his) life – hence the push-and-pull. I wish you both the best on this journey.

      • This is an excellent point you make! My son is now 20. I’ve had to reevaluate my ideas of success, and what I want for my son a number of times over the years. All I truly want for him is a happy life, which I believe means one where he is productive in the manner of his choosing. I had to get out of the way so he could figure out for himself what that means for himself.

        Also, there’s a big difference between playing an instrument and how deadly boringly many people teach kids how to play them!

  8. I was homeschooled. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I loved it. I could have done just fine in school, but I thrived at the ability to do my schoolwork independently while sitting barefoot in a mulberry tree nibbling on the berries. My daughter, especially, is a like a noisy little hummingbird, always dancing and singing and touching and creating. I was raised so unconventionally that it is okay for me, but it would not go over well in a conventional school setting. She loves to learn and learns quickly, but does it in such an active way that it would get her in such trouble daily. For now, homeschooling works best for us. I don’t want to stifle her spirit, although she will obviously have to learn the art of stillness eventually. 🙂

  9. I have a nine year old boy that I am homeschooling this year for the first time. When he was in public school he was always in trouble for being up and moving when he was supposed to be sitting. Part of his “problem” was that he finished work early, and part of it is just that he needs to move more. Now that we homeschool we take a lot of movement breaks. I let him do his work in creative ways. His reading level is approximately ninth grade, but getting him to write essays or answer questions in written form is like pulling teeth sometimes. He now writes songs and makes up dances for his book reports, and writes stories during handwriting time. It is amazing how much easier life is when he is happy with school!

    • I hear you! It’s SO much easier (and definitely more pleasant) for everyone… when learning is fun, interesting and exciting… (instead of being viewed as something forced and boring). Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  10. I can relate to what you are saying in some of your experiences in school. I wasn’t getting in trouble or anything but I was terribly shy and socially extremely lacking in confidence. I was the kid who never got invited to parties or picked for teams, etc. I guess I could look back and say if only someone had noticed that and had helped me, etc., or recognized I had potential in sports or art or was just really shy and needed a confidence boost. It was admittedly a tough part of my life from 4th grade through 9th. Instead, I choose to look back on my life and look at everything as an important part of the puzzle pieces that make up who I am today. I succeeded in spite of all of that – I am a stronger person because of it. I eventually did connect with people who saw my potential and encouraged me but still held me responsible for my own success. I ended up getting the physical fitness award in boot camp becoming a US Marine and other physical fitness achievements after that, which is certainly more credible than a place on the grade school field hockey team and as far as art, I am now making a living as a metal artist. I have done a lot of things in between but its funny how things work out. I do believe you can’t look back on your life and go “if only my parents had done this,..” If only I had gone to this school or that school…” What is stopping you from changing things about your life now?? With regard to my current career as a metal artist – that is a result of my changing careers to welding at the age of 37. You have to have a good attitude and not play the blame game. Read the book, sure but if you are unhappy with your life – change it and don’t dwell on the past. Everything in your past makes you who you are today. Embrace that.

    • I agree. Absolutely. I think we can LEARN from our past… and it certainly helps us to UNDERSTAND certain things – and *why* we are the way we are. I also think it can help us identify where certain toxic mindsets – or limiting ways that we deal with the world… and if we can identify those things – and understand them – then we’re all the more ready to embrace change and move FORWARD. Another reason why I think it’s important to look back and understand… is because we don’t want to make the same mistakes with OUR kids. We don’t want to see them hurt in the ways we were hurt. We don’t want to send them down a road – or force them into a system – that will make them feel stifled and manipulated. But all that being said – you’re right. Once we’ve made peace with the past – we need to march confidently into the future…. and not allow the past to cripple us in any way. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. I LOVE this Heather, and to this day I struggle having not followed my path but working desperately trying to carve it out. Knowing what the psychologist knew here, I encouraged my children to follow their hearts. My daughter is still in high school and a paint crew head on all the sets and in addition to many other creative outlets writes her own blog “HaleyHere” on wordpress doing all of her own video and photography…my son is in his first year of college (a dyslexic they wanted to label ADHD and give drugs…I didn’t let them) studying cinematography. He taught himself guitar and piano via the internet, and after his first semester at college won the CMF (college moviefest) awards, the silver tripod for production design, the audience award and the jury (judges) award and has been invited to go to Hollywood this summer for a chance to compete nationwide…he smiles all the time and is truly one of the kindest people I know. All because I let him…as for me, I pay rent on a 10X15 storage unit that houses thousands of dollars worth of props for my dream. That door never seems to get opened. I am satisfied knowing I did the right thing for them, now time for me. I will repost this for you on my facebook page to spread your beautiful words to those that need to hear them. I could hug you for posting this. Kathy

    • And I could hug you for writing such an awesome post, Kathy! I LOVE your story about your son…! My husband is a filmmaker (also self-taught)… in fact, almost every adult in our circle is self-taught. I think it’s flippin’ awesome that you RECOGNISED his gifts – and discarded the boxes and labels that others tried to put on his shoulders. Even MORE awesome that he clearly has found his gift – and his niche – and is growing and going places! As you say… all because you LET him. And YES!!! Time for YOU!!! That lovely dream awaits….!

  12. I am a teacher, I have children in my class who find it hard to sit still and I wish that there was a way that I could help other people see them the way they are. Not uncontrollable, not unkind, just lively and loud, with their very own special strengths and weaknesses. Sadly whenever an inspector or someone higher up in the school system comes to observe me I am judged on whether or not those children are sat attentively, looking straight at me and not doodling or humming under their breath.

    It’s exceedingly frustrating because I know that some of my children learn better while they’re humming and doodling, as I did at school, but to others I’m allowing them to cause mild disruptions, upsetting the learning of others. Until society as a whole allows us to accept ‘ mildly disruptive ‘ children as normal children who have different more active needs and the means to have more staff so that everyone can learn their own way, we are such between a rock and a hard place. After all children with or without ADHD usually prefer an active style of learning which is sadly hard to provide on a daily basis.

    But I can definitely say that the word and idea of being stupid in my class is banned, no one is stupid. Whenever a child says ‘I can’t do it ‘ in my class they are usually told by a class mate, ‘ there’s no such thing as can’t, there are just things that are harder than others’.

    • Thank-you for writing… and thank-you for being an educator who *sees* and appreciates and understands that all kids are NOT the same… (and neither do they learn the same). I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for someone like you that have to deal regularly with the Powers-That-Be who seem to have such a limited (and completely bizarre) idea of what being-a-child actually is… or even – what *learning* actually is. Thanks for swimming against the flow in your career. The world needs more like you.

  13. Ohhh, this article and the comments struck a huge gonging chord with me. I spent my time at school, particularly high school, daydreaming, off in my own world, and only really enjoyed arts and crafts and literature and language. A few years ago my mother presented me with a whole load of my school reports, and I sat and cried as I read them. I am crying now as I think of them. They are full of ‘Corinna could do better’ ‘Corinna must pay more attention’ and so on. On one my mother has written ‘Seldom have I seen such a depressing document’! She also told me, as an adult, that I should have gone to private school where the things I enjoyed would have perhaps been focused on rather than the things I was not interested in. I played the class clown and entertained [and got people into trouble] and as a result of it all, I was downgraded from the A stream and did not go to university, although it is doubtful if I would have been allowed to follow my more artistic and written leanings, as my father did not see the worth in such things in respect of earning a living – he was into figures, maths.

  14. Tears. I am the Mom of one of these kids. He is an artist. He was never not an artist. The journey…..remarkably exhausting for us both .In addition, I have taken on the role as tutor to an 11 yr old Chinese boy, a failure in the school’s eyes. He has an engineer’s mind. Preserving their feelings of worthiness, possibility and importance is a struggle. You validated their journey, it is not any one else’s journey. Thank-you.

    • And thank-YOU for connecting and for sharing a bit of your story. And well done for working to preserve those (vitally important) feelings of worthiness and possibility!! I think the number one thing we can do for our kids is simply to *see* them – for who they truly ARE… and you’ve done this. I wish you all the best on your journey together.

  15. Thanks for this, its the most amazing timing to read it this week. My son is going through these struggles, he hates school, thinks he is dumb when he is actually amazingly quick thinking and has refused to go to school for the last week. We have seen psychologists and were lost for what to do, now I think we need to look for a school that allows him to be himself. He is 10 and an amazing skier, he wants to be a freerider when he is older. Trouble is all the ski academy schools are in the US and we are in Europe but you have inspired me to find a way. Thanks

    • Thanks for writing, Eileen. I hope you find a school or solution that works best for your sons needs and caters to his unique strengths. Another great resource to search for alternative schools (all around the world) is AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organisation) http://www.educationrevolution.org There may not be ski academy schools in there… but you might get some ideas of potential solutions? I wish you ALL the best – and thanks for connecting! 🙂

  16. Pingback: Really Listening. | WriterMeetsMommy: Heart on my sleeve... [& some vomit]

  17. Simply stunning….
    I am SO frustrated with how they system wishes to squash all the children into one box. With three beautifully creative blessings and no recourse to fancy arts schools etc… uuuurrrggh – lol!
    SO – I support them and allow those times they spend at home for their natures to run wild and free –
    Still – kinda wish there was another way and often wonder if I am missing something.
    Thanks for a beautifully inspiring read! (the quote you used here is one of my favourites – I too was a fish expected to climb a tree and STILL feel it sometimes 😉 )

    • Your comment reminded me of something… I often say to people that what “saved” me during those school years – was my home life. School was an awful nightmare – and I think that (if that was *all* there was in my life) – I would have lapsed into a VERY dark place. BUT… what saved my sanity was my home-life. My mother was a stay-at-home Mom who went out of her way to ensure that I could be as creative and free as I wanted (at home). We lived on a smallholding (small farm) – and I could ride my horse down country roads… and I could play my piano for as long as I wanted… and I could climb trees and have rotten apricot fights… and I could write stories, draw pictures, build forts, play dress-up, write and rehearse plays… and I could just *BE* me. It saved my sanity. And – interestingly – although I have long forgotten everything that I supposedly “learned” at school (and especially high school)… I still – to this day – use the skills I learned during home-time and free-time… and I still make use of what I taught myself – at home – as a child (i.e.: taught myself to play the piano, taught myself to play the guitar, taught myself to type and write stories, etc, etc, etc)… So! Be encouraged! The system DOES suck… but your 3 creative creatures have YOU – and that’s what they need most of all. 🙂

      • Thank you. REALLY. Your words ARE encouraging. I have considered lately going to find work – which both hubby and I agreed from word go was not what we wanted…. but lately with the ‘social pressures’ – it has become a thing on my mind A LOT. Just today It was really bugging me again…. so somehow – I was meant to find you here today – oddly enough via my aunt sharing it on FB! yay!! Thanks for your precious time and loving words.

  18. Wonderful! We have 4 children; our 2nd child started bringing home similar notes. The school worked with me and we redirected his energy for the most part. Then our 4th child started bringing home similar notes in the 4th grade. We demanded she be tested. She tested gifted. Where are they now? Shane is in medical school on his internship and Emily is in law school. They were bored and unchallenged until we had facts not opinions to deal with. Parents need to take charge and focus on parenting not just be led blindly.

  19. As a public school teacher stories like this inspire me to try harder. I care a lot about my kids, yes, every child in my classroom is my kid, but I often feel like my hands are tied. But, you know what helps the most? Parent volunteers! I have had some amazing parents come into my classroom over the last 15 years of my career. Some that are timid and just do whatever I ask and others that have come in and volunteered ideas and activities that they thought of. But every single one of them have enabled me to spend that extra minute or two that it takes to help a child that doesn’t fit the mold (btw, that’s most of them) find a way to succeed. Please volunteer in an elementary, junior high and even a high school! We all want BIG change but meanwhile LITTLE changes can be made for the benefit of kids every day.

  20. What a wonderful piece of writing. I wish someone had intervened too. But now you are getting to do what you want, yes? I am so glad. When I retired from teaching, I wrote a book about memorable students called It Wasn’t in the Lesson Plan. There was a story in there where dance and music made a difference for a child. I will include it here.
    Jahara Gregory was the first student I observed where the arts had a profound effect on her. Once she was involved in dance, her whole demeanor changed and she was able to grow from a frustrated student who lashed out into a mature young lady who knew how to express herself and overcome frustration. I have since witnessed this phenomenon no less than five times in the intervening ten years.

    During my years in the school district, I have had many job titles; substitute teacher, preschool teacher, science teacher, kindergarten teacher, second grade teacher, Elementary Math Resource Teacher, Prescription Learning Lab Coordinator, Program Support Teacher, Small Learning Community Coordinator, fifth grade teacher, mathematics curriculum writer and professional developer. The most interesting job had to be Program Support Teacher. I held that job for a few years, coordinating activities for three grade levels, supporting teachers, giving demonstration lessons in classrooms, and stepping in as ad hoc disciplinarian when necessary.

    I met Jahara in my role as disciplinarian. She was a fourth grader in a class with a very good teacher, fair but didn’t take any nonsense. Jahara was an emotional mess, unable to deal with the least frustration. She would scream, kick, yell, or cry when frustrated. Which happened often, almost every afternoon. Her teacher would call me, telling me she was sending Jahara out so she could teach. Another pupil would bring her work to my room as I waited for her to grumble down the hall.

    Jahara would reluctantly come into the room and pace back and forth, railing about how her teacher was so unfair and the work was too hard and how everyone was picking on her and how lunch didn’t even taste good. You get the idea. By the end of the year I was beginning to realize that Jahara seemed to actually enjoy our one-on-one time, and perhaps it was being staged at this point. She had calmed down a bit, and I was only seeing her once a week by year’s end.

    The following September, the federal government had cut our budget by 25% and I was out of a job title. My seniority in the school district as well as in the building allowed me to stay at the same school and take another position. Having supported two classes of fifth grade students in Math, the principal felt that I was equipped to be a fifth grade teacher and assigned me to a third floor room. My excitement took a tumble downward when I read my class list, Jahara’s name was there along with 25 others. Excitement turned into trepidation as the first day of school rapidly approached.

    Jahara had grown into quite the young lady over the summer, and I found that I really enjoyed her in class. My fears regarding her behavior were unfounded. Academically, however, she was far behind where she should have been. All those afternoons in my office and all those days on suspension in third and fourth grade had taken their toll. She was in the lowest reading group, among six students who needed an astounding level of support. These were students reading a full two years or more below grade level.

    I leveled with them from the start about where they were starting, assuring them I would try my best to move them up to a fifth grade level by June. That way they’d be only one year behind instead of two at the beginning of sixth grade. It was going to be rough, a lot of reading and discussing and demands on my part. Homework had to be done, effort had to be made and each child would have to dig down deep and find persistence where perhaps none had previously existed. They would have to treat each other with respect and not laugh at mistakes. But if they could meet me halfway, I promised them I’d show them the road to success.

    Jahara didn’t buy it at the beginning, but stuck with me, making the best effort she could. She was improving but not enough. Toward the middle of the year, one of our classroom assistants established an after-school dance class for fourth to sixth grade girls. Jahara signed up, and the change in her was almost instantaneous. This quiet, frustrated young lady blossomed into a confident person eager to tackle the hard task of reading. After-school dance practices had taught her the discipline of persistence, which then carried over to her schoolwork. By the end of the year Jahara was at a sixth grade level, having moved three grade levels in one year. She had a slew of friends, and was becoming a choreographer for my class. The transformation was unbelievable and nothing short of miraculous. She continued her academic and social successes in sixth grade and left our school in good academic standing.

    Jahara was the first of my students who proved to me that music has the power to change lives for the good, a power that I have continued to wield ever since through singing in class and teaching after-school music. This was an especially useful tool when the music teacher in school got laid off.

    Music and movement make a difference.

    • Thank you for sharing this! I think it’s so important that the Powers-that-Be in the world of School Authorities understand how diverse and different each child is… and some (like me) don’t just *like* the creative arts – but we *NEED* it. To this day (I’m now 42)… I feed off the arts and creative expression. I often tell people (and I really, really mean this): If somebody had to lock me up in a small room… in solitary confinement… for a number of months, I’d quickly lose my mind…. UNLESS… they left me with pens and lots of paper. Then I wouldn’t go mad… because I could draw, write and compose poetry and songs – and my sanity would be preserved.

  21. I’m a children’s librarian. One of the most common worries I hear from parents is, “My child isn’t a reader.” I always respond with, “It’s okay, now tell me what they are,” and almost every time the parent starts listing all the wonderful things their child can do well. It’s amazing how much we focus on the negative and with a little gentle guidance we can truly see our children. By the way, I was not much of a reader as a child, but I loved (and still do) information, math, and science. It’s okay to do things on your terms.

    • Thanks for writing, Kathleen… and it’s SO true! I think, as a society, we’ve grown up to believe that it’s our so-called “weaknesses” that require the most time, money and attention… and yet, in the meantime, we ALL have so many strengths! As a child, my parents and teachers spent a lot of time (and money) attempting to *fix* my issues with maths. Maths – and number-problem-solving never came easily to me. I struggled with it. I didn’t *get* it. And to this day – I still need a calculator (or my fingers) to work out sums that others might consider basic. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if all that time and money had been spent – instead – in investing in my natural strengths (art, writing, poetry, design, storytelling, theatre, etc) Another issue arose with all the forced-maths… is it made me FEAR maths… and HATE maths. It didn’t *fix* my deficit – it merely highlighted them – and made me feel even MORE stupid and inadequate. Thanks for responding… and keep reminding those parents that “It’s OKAY… it’s OKAY… it’s OKAY….” 🙂

  22. As a grown up ‘Hat’, I urge you to finish. I need to read your book and see your pictures. Brilliant insight. I want to follow your progress and help in any way I can. If I only encourage you to succeed and it takes care of itself, that will be my contribution to your journey….do not stop moving toward this dream. You are on a very ‘right’ path.

    • Nancy…. thank-you for this. I’ll put you on my little e-mail list – and I’ll share my progress. And encouragement – is a HUGE contribution… it is SO valuable to me – more than financial contribution. So… THANK YOU. You’ll hear from me again soon! x

  23. It is much more than OK to change directions, leave a job, a relationship, and follow your passion, your dreams and the best of who you are. It may, in fact, be necessary in some cases for survival, let alone the opportunity to soar and sing or dance, or paint, or write or just live on the beach somewhere.

  24. I loved reading this and the replies. I want to share a bit about my very normal “different” daughter. We adopted her through foster care when she was an infant. She had been a drug baby and we were warned to have very low expectations. Officially, she has dyslexia, dysgraphia (bad handwriting) adhd, sensory integration dysfunction etc. etc. But she does not know that. We found out early her passion for animals, especially horses. We have homeschooled her at her own pace and now, at 11, she reads on a highschool level (lightbulb went on one day and she declared “I think I love reading now” and has not stopped.) She does not have time for “normal” school because of her riding. But most important, she is compassionate, kind, and attracts everyone to her with open accepting personality. I know she would not be the girl sh is if we were forced to put her in “normal” school. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who feels this way.

    • Thanks for responding, Bridget… and you are definitely not the only one who feels this way!!! 🙂 And I especially love that she found out (early) what her passion is… animals and horses. I think a lot (if not most) of us go through life never truly resonating with a passion – or being able to say: “THAT’s what I want to do! THAT’s what makes me come alive! THAT’s what I’m passionate about!”. So – I think it’s great that your daughter is already in a great place (and especially since she has your support!). My kids (aged 9 and almost-7) are still trying out all sorts of things and experimenting with different ideas. I think Morgan will follow the family tradition of starting her own business (she’s very responsible with money and has a lot of interesting ideas)… my son is already exhibiting profound storytelling skills… so who knows – maybe he’ll be a filmmaker like his dad…(?) For now – we’re just watching their progress with fascination and loving our journey with them. 🙂

  25. Because of people like you, many more have hope. I’m excited to see your posts and am realizing that there are MANY more of us out her than we imagine. It’s our right, no, our duty to put an end to the cookie cutter world and show ourselves. Thanks for insipiring!

    • THANKs for that! 🙂 And I like how you put it: “Show ourselves”… I like that. To step out of the shadows and SHOW ourselves – and who we truly are… with all our weirdness, weakness, warts, WHATEVER… and to NOT be ashamed of our uniqueness and quirks – instead to EMBRACE those very things that make us who we are. In my case – to EMBRACE the wild-child-tomboy… to EMBRACE the messy artist… EMBRACE the scatter-brained musician… and to say: “It’s GOOD to be me. I actually don’t WANT to be anyone else!” …. thanks for writing! 🙂

  26. In our present situation, the strengths of finding abnormalities in children overwhelms our system of “normalicy”. Schools are teaching children via a curriculum called The Common Core. That speaks for itself. My children were tossed into the unteachable group for various, still unknown reasons. I am one of the blessed, because GOD did us a kindness by getting our children out of the faldaral happening across our country. I encourage my children to dream, to play, to invent, to try, to try again, and to ask questions! To box a child in and limit his scope of imagination is beyond heinous! Individuality is how GOD created us, and I am a firm believer in BOTH.

    • Thank-you for sharing! It makes my heart soar when I meet people (whether online or in person) who are DOING what they LOVE… and at age 77, to still be going strong – that is so awesome and inspiring. Thank-you so much for sharing! 🙂

  27. Ritalin a joke of medical science. Did you know in some people who were given Ritalin and other ADHD drugs will leed to develop Parkinson’s. I am 1 of 4 people that I am aware of, that had taken Ritalin in the past and now have early onset Parkinson’s. A woman in A Parkinson’s Facebook group who took Adderall in college and now at 26 has Parkinson’s. Just imagine all those poor people who were give ADHD drugs today. Talking about a epidemic, but no worries you can not catch this illness, you just suffer with it!

  28. Hi Heather ~ I too am an artist, musician and writer, with self diagnosed ADD. I grew up at a time when the arts were still considered important in school. I am so thankful for that and that my mother is a professional artist. All my grade school report cards said I talked too much and I know I did more than my fair share of gazing out the window. But I had an art class and when I got into middle and high school there was also choir to look forward too everyday. My mother put me in dance classes form 6-12 years old which I loved.

    My gifts were recognized from first grade on. At an assembly (1st grade) I and two others were asked to stand at easels and draw with chalk what the choir was singing about (“Climb Every Mountain”). In third grade my teacher, who was hopeless at art, had me draw and cut out the pilgrims for the bulletin board. There were many other such incidents that let me know who I was and what I was here for. There were also art classes in all my school grades, and I tolerated the rest of my classes because I had an outlet and a recognition that I was a good kind of different.

    My senior year was the pinnacle of my school experiences. I had choir, drama and art class (history, English and study hall) which was as close as I would get to being in a school for the creatively gifted.

    What I experienced should be the minimum stand now in schools and it should be even better. I’m wistful that there were no arts magnet schools for me to go to, but I am so very grateful that I had as much as I did! Thank you for sharing this story. Someday, if enough of us share our experiences, things will change. ~Ann

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ann. I think that the thing that, in a sense *saved* me… was that my mother acknowledged my creativity and made sure that I had a rich home-life filled with art, drama, music and all the stuff I loved. Home was my sanctuary. It’s where my piano and guitar lived… it’s where my art supplies were… my dress-up box… my huge bookshelf, loaded with all my favourite books… a typewriter for me to type my stories… and, because my mom was a potter & dressmaker… there was always blobs of clay, beads, scraps of material… just general creative mayhem. I also went to after-school art-classes, drama club and choir. To this day, I’m soooo grateful for my mom and for the effort she made to encourage and nurture my creative gifts… and yet – I feel so (frustrated!)… that STILL… so many kids are withering in the School System… and ESPECIALLY kids who are creative or “different”. And you’re right… I think the more of us who speak up and share our experiences (and the experiences of our own children)… the better! Thanks for connecting! 🙂

  29. Pingback: I wish someone had intervened… | Living Differently | Musings of a teacher, amongst other things.

  30. I love this. I am a writer, and in Pre-K the teacher told my mother I’d never go to college (I did, and I exceled). My son is a gymnasts, and little Gillian reminds me of him so much! Thank you for sharing. I cried so hard reading this!

    • Thanks for connecting. I also had a number of teachers say things about me (and to me)… like: “You’ll end up a street sweeper one day”… and “All you’re good for is selling cheese in Checkers”. So (*sigh*)… I certainly know what it feels like to be undervalued. I think that Gillian’s story (and I’m forever grateful to Ken Robinson for sharing it)… strikes SUCH a powerful chord with so many of us. Hopefully, (as one of the earlier commenters said)… if enough people tell their stories… and enough people speak up… (well, let’s just say I remain cynically hopeful)… 🙂

  31. Wharvis the book title of Ken Robinson please? i can connect so much to what you are saying… i am still in search of myself though…

  32. Gillian’s story is so hopeful. I wish for my son that it would be as easy as popping him into a different school. His brilliance isn’t his physical abilities, and with struggles in reading, writing, and math, and anxiety on top of it all, school is a big challenge for him. My son’s brilliance is his unstoppable creativity. Yes, he hyperfocuses, and yes, when he wants to learn or do something there’s no stopping him. And for now, our public school system is teaching him the basics so when he’s older he’ll fly. Thank you for writing this.

    • Yes, I also love Gillian’s story. Actually – Ken Robinson’s book, “The Element” has quite a few similar stories… it really is such an inspiring book. Thanks for connecting… and for believing so firmly in your son’s creative brilliance. And yes… with your continued support and belief, of COURSE he’ll fly! 🙂

  33. I absolutely loved this post. At two years old people are already judging my daughter. She loves to dance but apparently that is a problem for everyone. I know she is smart and will do great things 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    • Uh… I get so frustrated with this whole ridiculous idea that there is only one “RIGHT” way to be… it’s such a limiting, damaging mindset! What counts is that YOU believe in your daughter. And YOU have her best interests at heart. And YOU know what’s best for her. As for everyone else… what they say or think is irrelevant.

      • There really is only one way to be… And that is be yourself! It took me some 50 years to learn how to undue the prejudices imposed on me as a distracted, misguided, mismanaged and abused child. At least your daughter has a fighting chance as parental awareness is the key. Keep fighting and your daughter will be rewarded the fruits of your hard fought, frustrating battle… My daughter was a mess early on. I worked with those saying this and that. Together with my intuition I found a balance. Now, my daughter is graduating from high school a year early and is fully focused on collage…. Remember, the most important resource for your daughters growth and prosperity comes from no other place than you. And that resource is love… A love felt child is a confident child and confidence is the key to succeeding in this confusing ambiguous world. Love her. Don’t be afraid to push her into some discomfort from time to time. My daughter just recently said that the teachers she has learned the most from are the ones that didn’t sugar coat and didn’t worry about hurting student feelings in a polite way. It all comes down to one simple adage, “Do you want me to lie, or do you want me to tell you the truth?” Kids love the truth. Love, push and be truthful with her about her performances and efforts. Tell her all about the good and politely point out where a little effort can make things even better… Here is Kayla doing what she loves, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pifvekPT3GU

  34. Thank you so much for this. Our society puts so much pressure on us to fit into boxes. We tell our children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. I wish being themselves was one of the things we wished for the most instead of doctor, fireman, president.

    • SO true!!! So… SO… true! “I wish that being themselves (ourselves) was the thing they (we) wished for most”. I want the same for ALL of us. For our kids… and for ourselves. The most liberating and freeing place to be – is to be 100% Authentically OURSELVES! 🙂

  35. Reblogged this on As He is…so are we and commented:
    People need freedom. They need to connect with who they are. Our spirits are designed to interact with our selves and to do that exploration is necessary. What makes you come alive? What makes you move? What speaks to your inmost being? Do it and thrive!

  36. I know of a little girl who was put on retalin, her teachers said the same things about her. I saw the dancer in her and I got her a scholarship at a local school. One of her caregivers opposed because of the expenses incurred in dance school such as costumes and gas to transport her twice a week to school. The injustices in life. I was so upset for a while and now I read this article.

  37. I just came back to read this again. My mother is probably the worst out there in crushing my spirit, when at the age of 15 I told her I wanted to sing… She laughed at me and said I cannot sing. All my life I’ve been told: “Everybody wants to be something, but we can’t always do what we want, so you must do boring jobs to survive.” Also, I was never given the chance, because I could not do ‘well’ in school, I wouldn’t do well in any other area either. “If you can’t do well in Maths, you won’t do well in Arts”. I look at my 3-year old, and I see so much of myself in him – if ANYTHING, I WILL NOT allow him to go through what I did. The worst is it’s not like my mother could not afford to send me to an arts school, she actually could’ve… But she didn’t WANT to. Even to this day she’s trying very hard to conform my son, judging my decisions on my way of parenting him… “You grew up in an apartment, there’s nothing wrong with that”, we’re living on a farm right now and I know my son couldn’t be happier! He has the freedom to run and play as much as he wants. I’m such an emotional mess right now it’s not even funny, but I’m slowly starting to pick up the pieces of the puzzle of WHO I REALLY AM. I hate maths, I hate accounting, I hate doing boring, mundane repetitive tasks. I LOVE creating – writing stories, designing gorgeous personalized birthday cards, I had such fun the other day making a little town for my son to play with his cars out of boxes – anything really that a creative mind loves. That’s ME. He LOVES to draw, he loves to sing and dance, he is loud and noisy, is always on the move and that’s OKAY with me. I hope to still come out of this painful rut I’m currently in, and make the best of both me AND my son – we deserve it!

    • Thank-you SO much for sharing this very vulnerable (and painful) story. It sounds to me that in spite of your circumstances (and in SPITE of your mother’s constant negativity) – that you’ve been able to make some very wise and brave decisions regarding the way you raise your son. Well done!!! EMBRACE your beautiful, unique YOU’ness! You don’t *have* to “do well” at maths and accountancy!!! We ALL have our different strengths and weaknesses. It is not a bad or shameful thing to suck at certain things. We all suck at stuff!!! I suck at cooking (and maths, and budgeting… and administration… and I also suck at keeping my house neat and tidy). Big deal – so what! I might not be naturally good at those things… but I’m GREAT at a whole bunch of OTHER things…. and I truly-truly believe – THAT’s where you need to invest. Invest in your STRENGTHS! Invest time / money / energy in YOUR strengths and in your son’s strengths. This is what builds a healthy self-esteem… building on what we’re naturally GOOD at (and passionate about)… instead of constantly trying and striving to *fix* our perceived weaknesses. But I’m sure you know all of this already. In spite of the pain in your note – I see so much hope. I’m delighted that you’re figuring out who you really are… and even more delighted at your last sentence… because yes – YOU DO DESERVE IT!!! x

  38. Why did the author of that book need to castigate ADHD in the process of sharing Gillian’s story?

    That screams “agenda” to me.

    I’d like to share with that guy, and your readers, the stories of thousands of adults with ADHD who “wish someone had intervened” and identified their challenges as being ADHD-related — which meant there were answers, solutions, and strategies.

    This is simply more anti-psychiatry ranting, gussied up in the “live against the flow” rhetoric.

    Without balance, it’s simply self-serving, schmaltz, and self-indulgent.

  39. This reminds me of my disappointment at a very early stage in school when English classes changed from a place where you could do creative writing to a place where you could only dissect other people’s work or study the history of the language. In all but a small number of subjects, strict curricula and a need to constantly test seems to = all the fun, creative bits get dropped. Which is a loss for everyone.

    Wishing you all the success with your dream!

    • I absolutely agree. I have a similar school memory. My favourite tasks in English class was ALSO creative writing. I loved that. And poetry. One teacher had us journal about our lives – and I loved that too (I still have the journal). But slowly… all the creative stuff slowly disappeared… and English (which used to be my most loved and favourite subject) became a loathsome bore. Which – as you say – was such a pity and such a loss. Thanks for sharing… 🙂

  40. Take the world, make it a better place.
    For you and for me and the entire human race.
    Allowing people to be who they are because they are, and loving them and honoring them for that.
    Love this article 🙂
    Thank you ❤

    • Thanks for that..! And yes – I think we all have a role to play… to make the world a better place. And a great place to start is to be who we *ARE* and having the courage to be SEEN for who we truly are – and then… encouraging others to be who THEY are too!!! Thanks for connecting… 🙂

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