For Teachers

Words of Encouragement for Neurodiverse Students Can Spark Magic

I had always praised my daughter’s artwork and ADHD creativity, but hearing positive feedback from a teacher changed the way she saw herself — and her future.

Doodle by a girl with ADHD who loves art

My young daughter has never liked school. She is intelligent but her grades don’t show it, and that has a way of eroding self esteem. She tries hard — harder than many of her neurotypical classmates — but I know she will never make the honor roll.

When it comes to art, though, she is exceptional. She thinks outside the box to create eye-catching and surprising drawings. We both attribute that to her ADHD brain. She spends recess time drawing in one of her notebooks. Classmates, amazed at her artistic abilities, ask her to draw them. One day, a teacher who was on schoolyard duty asked if he could see her drawings. As he flipped through the notebook, his eyes widened. He told my daughter that he’d be right back, and he left.

When he returned, he gave my daughter a sketchpad and told her that she was very talented. This teacher taught art in the upper grades, and he asked if he could keep one of her drawings to display in the art room. My daughter, speechless, said yes.

When she came home from school that day, she was on Cloud 9 — and so was I. I had praised her work, but getting validation from a teacher struck a deeper chord. Lately, she says her dream is to become an animator for Disney. I hope the art teacher knows that his words changed the way my daughter sees herself. A generous word from the right person can make a tremendous difference in a child’s life.

[The Art of Happiness — and Self-Esteem]

Updated on August 15, 2019

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  1. I appreciate the article as I am still parenting myself. ADD wasn’t a reason 40 years ago. In one sentence it said “I know my daughter wouldn’t make honor roll.” (Loosely quoted) School was a bad dream for me. When I got to college I received a letter after my second semester. I thought I was found out and being kicked out. It was from the dean. It took a bit to understand and it made me cry. I was on the deans list. We can get honor roll when the playing field is leveled. It did take me 40 years and many starts and stops but I graduated. I value my PhD. Words are Magic. Never say never (:

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