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brian_finalMy youngest son Connor was showing off his math ability the other day by telling me that 10 + 5 = 15 and so on. My response to Cathy was, “Yep, that’s what my calculator says too.”

The reality is that it wasn’t a joke. It’s no secret in my family that my math skills are atrocious. So much in fact that I often need to solve the most simple math problems by counting on my fingers. My struggles with math are a product of my many learning disabilities.

Here’s another reality, sucking at math made school more difficult but not life. How does that work?

Think about your every day life and who you go to on a daily basis to help you solve the problems of your life. Off the top of my head I can think of my doctor, dry cleaner, accountant to name a few. Of those three there’s only one I look to for superior math skills and I also suspect one of the things that led her to that career was that she both enjoyed math and was great at it.

I chose social work instead of psychology as a career path, why? One main reason, less math.

Its no secret that our school system is behind the times in that it insists on molding every student into cookie cutter generalists in a world increasingly populated and run by specialists.

That’s why when Connor needed help with his math homework last night (which involved decimals) I broke out the calculator. His teacher wanted him to do it the old fashioned way (in his head) but with me as his guide the result would’ve been two confused people instead of one.

One of my rules for life is that it’s more important to be resourceful than it is to be right. She has her way of solving the problem but I simply needed to go with what would work.

For some people a calculator is a time saver, for me its a life saver. For some its the easy way, for me more often than not, its the only way.

What the world needs

Temple Grandin has said, “The world needs all kinds of minds” and she’s right. We need mathematical minds but we also need artistic minds. My mind is highly verbal and in my adult life I’ve learned to focus more and more on that ability and the result has been a degree of mastery in both creative writing and public speaking. Two skills which have allowed me to make a living, provide for my family and help others.

In order to become very good in these areas I needed to be very honest with myself about the skills I simply wasn’t good at, then give myself permission to make peace with that. Most importantly, I needed to give myself permission to allow others who were better at those things to help me so I could focus on refining what I was truly gifted at and more passionate about pursuing.

I coach so many parents and special needs students who have clear areas of giftedness that are being allowed to atrophy in a classroom compelled to make them generalists. What ends up happened is that the child learns that s/he is in general “stupid” instead of specifically brilliant and that is a tragedy.

But school as it is is a reality now isn’t it. So what do we do?

The advice I give my own children and my clients is this, if you aren’t good at it then find a way to get through it. You don’t have to be good at it.

The world rewards the specialist who can solve specific problems in a way only a specialist can.

Our kids have it within them to accomplish great things, and they don’t need to show their work in algebra to get there.

Thanks for being you.


About the Author:

As a cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, A.D.D., the father of three sons on the autism spectrum as well as someone who lives on the autism spectrum myself, I’ve learned something very critical. That success in life has nothing to do with circumstances but everything to do with strategies.

I’ve learned that Fear and Excitement are the same feeling, the difference being whether you decide the feeling means that “I can’t” or that “I’m ready!”

I’ve become a master of turning Problems into Possibilities and Obstacles into Opportunities and I’ve learned to teach my clients to do the same thing using what I refer to as “The Effective Factor.” A laser focused ability to make small shifts that create massive results in every area of your life.

I look forward to serving you,

Brian R. King LCSW


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