Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Indigo Children - a reality or ASD/ADHD or just bad parenting?!

This post is on a subject I have recently given considerable thought to.

I've struggled with son number 2 for most of his 8 years. He does have a variety of diagnoses to his name including Autism and ADHD and I invariably notice similar traits all too easily in others, and in my other children also. That is not to say any of the other three would deserve similar diagnoses but since the Autism Spectrum is just that - a spectrum -  many of us share some of the aspects which combine to warrant a full blown diagnosis in those more profoundly affected.

What I also notice in my younger two in particular is how sensitive, aware and opinionated they are. They are old for their years in so many ways, bright and able yet certainly less socially adept than my eldest was at 4. They are intuitive and impatient with those less so, have their own agenda and can be alarmingly vocal about it. This is not an immaturity  typical of a child two years younger, exhibiting tantrums borne of communication difficulties. And unlike the child on the Autism Spectrum, who shares many characteristics with the so called "Indigo Children" my twins can tell you exactly what they need and want, communicate their feelings in great detail and are acutely aware of others' feelings also. They are far more self assured than I was at their age for sure, yet I have parented them in the same way as their older siblings!

I read The Indigo Children recently having been kindly sent a copy. To be perfectly honest, I'm more a science-based kind of girl, preferring Dawkins and Schrodinger to crystals and New Age theories. I prefer to view the world in all its complexity through the concepts of science rather and have absolutely no time for auras, the paranormal or synesthesia  which is how Wikipedia prefers to classify the Indigo concept. But the books I have read on Indigo Children are slightly unsettling - because the certainly do describe familiar traits which I see in my children. 

Many children labelled indigo by their parents are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tober and Carroll's book The Indigo Children linked the concept with diagnosis of ADHD. Their book makes the case that the children are a new stage of evolution rather than children with a medical diagnosis, and that they require special treatment rather than medications. This I can understand, some prefer to consider a "problem" as a desirable variant of "normal" . Certainly the number of children receiving a diagnosis of ADHD and/or Autism is on the increase and discussion of this generally accepted fact is frequently in the news and professionals are keen to determine whether this is better recognition of both conditions or an increase in their manifestation/occurrence which would be somewhat disturbing. Advocates of the concept of the "Indigo" child would respond that this is due to a surge of "old souls" (old before their time - self assured, confident, opinionated, not reincarnated) born since the 1970s who are misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

But I don't see ADHD in my younger two, some ASD traits yes but none more than your average 4 year old with a brother on the spectrum and I really don't feel comfortable with the "Indigo" label. Which leaves little else other than parenting style. As an historian with a keen interest in social history and in particular the social history of children I know the place of children in society has been revolutionised. From the early modern idea of children as essential, unavoidable and lower status providers to the family economy to the Victorian opinion that well-off children should be "seen and not heard" and poorer children were an economic resource or an inconvenience the lot of the child in history has - on the whole - been secondary to that of their parents and other adults. Many children never saw their first birthday, let alone their fifth and whilst loved and cherished by their mothers rarely attracted the fawning over we see today.

I see it everywhere, through the advertising of children's toys and luxuries, the play schemes and activities and in the attitude of many parents who live their lives through and for their children. I'm as guilty as the next in becoming caught up in the desire to give my children a good start, hoping for if not the best certainly a desirable close second in the many choices we make for them. I've resisted the rooms full of toys though, the luxury parties and excessive wardrobes of clothes but my four don't do badly! But I do expect respect and good behaviour from them and will not tolerate demands and tantrums. Yet despite our attitude at home the rapid elevation in society of children to a status far above that of their parents (at times) is infectious and has to have contributed in some way to the behaviour issues so many of us see so often today. The way we are encouraged to leap on every little issue, meet every single need at every level and don't even get me started on the concept of "safeguarding" which has legitimised society-wide interference which further devalues parents. 

The pendulum seems to have swung too far the other way, precipitating a child-dominant culture which has nurtured and encouraged the Indigo type. I actually think the Indigo personality is a reality (I suspect I have two borderline Indigos here!) but I honestly believe this is a product of the social changes we have seen since our economic circumstances have enabled a radical remodelling of our children's role in society. Parents have been under fire for too long, for ignoring their child's needs at their own expense when a little balance would satisfy everyone's basic needs. Indigos are only here to stay if we perpetuate the necessary environment for them to flourish in. There is a HUGE difference between a smart, opinionated kid with an advanced awareness of their place in society and a child with ADHD and/or ASD and confusing the two does a huge disservice to the latter group. Indigos are a product of the social changes in recent decades in my opinion and different (rather than bad (or good)) parenting and a clear reminder of the direction we find the world heading in.


  1. This is really interesting. I've never heard the term 'Indigo Children' before, but will follow some of your links to find out more! We started pursuing an ASD diagnosis with my son but as he was mid-ish on the scale we've decided to hold off and see how he gets on in school. Lots of food for thought in your post, thank you.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Regarding your son I would say that a diagnosis before school will attract considerably more support than after starting. Sadly all too often children on the spectrum fail to have their additional needs met at school unless diagnosis and a Statement or IEP are in place before they reach school age. Whilst I dislike labels per se, they are a passport to services and without a diagnosis you may have to figt the system every step of the way if your son should have difficulties.

  3. Sorry, I only just picked up your response! I was actually angsting about this (not getting support right from the very beginning). We have our very first parent / teacher conference in a couple of weeks and his teacher seems pretty clued up, so I'm looking forward to her take on him. Thanks for your advice.


Many thanks for taking the time to comment, I really value your responses.

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