My Child’s Different

How positive parenting can unlock potential in children with ADHD and dyslexia

By: Elaine Halligan


Or purchase digital products from our partners:

Ebook Audio Book

Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 216 x 140mm
Pages : 192
ISBN : 9781785833281
Format: Paperback
Published: August 2018

Elaine Halligan’s My Child’s Different: How positive parenting can unlock potential in children with ADHD and dyslexia explores the enabling role that parents can play in bringing the best out of children who are seen as ‘different’ or ‘difficult’.

Foreword by Dr Laura Markham.

Society favours children, and adults, who conform. The notion that our children may be shunned for being ‘different’ breaks our hearts, but there is plenty we can do to help such children develop into thriving, resilient adults.

In My Child’s Different Elaine shares the true story of her son Sam, who by the age of seven had been excluded from three schools and was later labelled with a whole host of conditions – ranging from autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) to pathological demand avoidance (PDA), before finally being diagnosed with dyslexia. He had become ‘the Alphabet Kid’. His family never gave up on him, however…

Drawing lessons from Sam’s transformational journey from difficult child to budding entrepreneur, My Child’s Different offers encouragement to parents who may be concerned about what the future might hold, and demonstrates how – with the right support and positive parenting skills – their children can grow up to surprise and delight them.

The book chronicles Sam’s journey from birth to adulthood, allowing readers to spot past and present patterns that may be comparable with their own children’s experiences, and provides pragmatic parenting advice that will be of benefit to any parent whose children – who may or may not have a diagnosed learning difficulty – struggle with life educationally or socially. Elaine writes with warmth and compassion as she revisits the challenges faced, the obstacles overcome and the key interventions that helped instil in Sam a sense of self-belief, a drive to succeed and an emotional intelligence beyond his years.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are the reflections and insights of parenting expert Melissa Hood, who illustrates the key concepts from Sam’s story and shares practical positive parenting techniques to help parents better connect with their children. Also included are contributions from Sam himself – providing an additional, uniquely rich perspective that will help deepen parents’ understanding of their children’s feelings and emotions.

Suitable for parents, educators and anyone who works with children, My Child’s Different is a celebration of all the unique qualities that those who are different bring to society.

Chapters include:

  1. Us, and Our Blue-Eyed Boy (The Calm Before the Storm)
  2. I’m Sure It’ll All Be Fine (Pre-School)
  3. Naughty, Stupid Little Child (Primary School)
  4. There Has to Be Another Way (Out of School)
  5. This Changes Everything (Back to School)
  6. Revealing the Diamond (Secondary School)
  7. Moving On Up (Sixth Form)
  8. Anything Is Possible (Adulthood)

Click here to listen to the Parent Practice podcast.

Click here to listen to/watch Elaine Halligan offering some top tips to parents who are living with a child with special educational needs.

Click here to read Elaine’s interview in The Telegraph.

Click here to listen to Elaine’s podcast with The Extraordinary Business Book Club.

Click here to listen to Elaine’s podcast with How to Raise a Maverick.

Click here to listen to Elaine’s discussion with Conversations with Cyrus Webb.

Click here to listen to Elaine’s podcast ‘Late Night Parents’ on NY Radio.

Click here to listen to Elaine feature on ‘Top of Mind’ with Julia Rose on Sirius XM Satellite Radio/BYU Radio Network.

Click here to listen to Elaine’s interview with So Booking Cool!

Click here to listen to Elaine’s podcast interview with Teach Learning Leading K 12.

Picture for author Elaine Halligan

Elaine Halligan

Elaine Halligan is a director at The Parent Practice and has been a parenting specialist since 2006, helping parents raise competent and confident children through parenting classes, private coaching and keynote speaking in schools and corporate settings both in the UK and overseas. She is frequently quoted in the broadsheet press and regularly appears on Sky News, BBC world news and BBC local radio. Her mission is to help parents find the holy grail of parenting: keeping calm and bringing out the best in their children.

Click here to listen to the Parent Practice podcast.

Click here to read Elaine's interview in The Telegraph.

Click here to listen to Elaine's podcast with The Extraordinary Business Book Club.

Click here to listen to Elaine's podcast with How to Raise a Maverick.

Click here to listen to Elaine's discussion with Conversations with Cyrus Webb.

Click here to listen to Elaine's podcast Late Night Parents' on NY Radio.

Click here to listen to Elaine's interview with So Booking Cool!

Click here to listen to Elaine's podcast interview with Teach Learning Leading K 12.

Click here to read Elaine Halligan’s blog.



  1. The author has written hinestly and openly about her son, Sam, who by the age of seven had been excluded from three schools. Later, he was diagnosed with several conditions ranging from autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) to pathological demand avoidance (PDA), before finally being diagnosed with dyslexia. The book tells the of journey from birth to adulthood; from "difficult" child to budding entrepreneur. There is much in the book that parents will recognise, whether or not their child has been diagnosed with learning difficulties, and they will feel both reassured and empowered. Interspersed throughout the narrative are the reflections and insights of parenting expert Melissa Hood, who illustrates the key concepts from Sam's story and shares practical positive parenting techniques to help parents better connect with their children. I found particularly interesting the contributions from Sam himself providing a perspective that will help deepen parents understanding of their children's feelings, and provide useful reading for young people. An inspiring book with a very personal approach which other parents will find very supportive.

    Read the review on Parents in Touch website here.
  2. This book is a useful tool for for parents whose child is "slightly different", and who want to try and find out why. It can be a long road to diagnosis, but here you can find out some of the answers and learn about various neurodiverse conditions and their acronyms! Sadness, prejudice and reality sit alongside humour in this amazing book.

    This is a great book for anyone whose child seems to be struggling with life in general. It portrays the neurodiverse child with sensitivity, accuracy and a good dollop of humour, told from the perspective of the parent and the professional. Although not a long book, it is a good self starter for parents setting out on the uncertain road to diagnosis, explaining acronyms such as ADHD and IEP which all parents of such children are certain to encounter. The story of Sam is interwoven between the facts, and gives hope to parents worrying about how their child will cope throughout life. It ends on a positive note giving hope to both parents and children alike. I really enjoyed reading it!

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  3. Having a child that has high functioning autism myself, I was quite keen to read about the struggles another family had encountered and got through. A great read to anyone with a "special" child.

    This book is an honest account of how hard it can be when you have a son that is not considered "normal". A compelling and touching account of how one family never gave up on their "different child".

    Throughout the book, my heart went out to Izzy, Sam's sister as she was often overlooked due to the time focused on helping her brother and the effect it had on her long-term.

    Written with extracts from the perspectives of a parent, child and their support worker makes it a practical read as well as a heartfelt one.

    Many parenting tips and suggestions are also included.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  4. My Child's Different is wonderful. I am sure it will bring clarity and hope to a lot of parents .

    It provides a blue print for positive parenting which all parents can benefit from and an insight into the frustrations of both parents and children who are judged by a world that doesn't understand them.
  5. My Child's Different is inspiring, challenging and heart-warming in equal measure. Its short, chronologically arranged chapters chart Sam's story from infancy to adulthood, and Elaine Halligan's honest account is paired with useful and thoughtful annotations from both Sam himself and parenting coach Melissa Hood. Each chapter also offers opportunity for reflection and signposts to further reading.

    The book's overall message is one of hope, with a clear charge to schools and colleges to enable the square pegs to find a place of welcome and acceptance. A potentially life-changing read for parents and professionals alike.
  6. What a joy to meet the Halligans in this wonderful book. I love Sam and his setting free of animals and popping out of closets, and his mother's steadfast love no matter the clucking of the gossips and the mumbo jumbo of the experts.

    Brilliant, bountiful and inspiring, My Child's Different is sure to make you laugh, cry, and, above all, celebrate with joy.
  7. My Child's Different by Elaine Halligan is not only an inspiring memoir; it is also an informative and useful guide to positive parenting. Interesting and well-written!

    As a mother, grandmother and retired teacher, I was delighted to be given the chance to read and review My Child's Different by Elaine Halligan.

    The author describes the journey her family made to unlock her son's potential. Sam had a very difficult start, being diagnosed with various syndromes, but still being labelled as “naughty” and “disruptive”. Eventually, after a turbulent ride through the education system, Sam's parents found the right setting for him. By the end of the book, we see the young man that Sam has become - resilient, creative, well able to cope and thrive in the world.

    This is not only a memoir of a family trying to cope with a child with Special Educational Needs; it is much more. Each chapter includes a contribution from Melissa Hood, a parenting and behaviour coach, who gives her expert advice and guidance on how to support children as they grow - and often struggle - towards maturity. I was particularly interested in the sections about descriptive praise and emotion coaching. Seeing how these approaches were used with Sam was very helpful and encouraging - I wish I had been able to learn about these many years ago!

    The book is well written, interesting and informative. Not only a guide for parents of children with special needs, it provides strategies and ideas for all parents to use. Elaine Halligan has included a list of resources and books for further reading, which certainly adds to the value of this excellent book.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  8. A must read for any parent or professional person coping with a child with challenging behaviour.

    My Child's Different is an amazing insight into dealing with a child diagnosed with many of the acronyms we hear about today. ADHD, ADD, ASD - the list seems to get added to every year! Autism, dyslexia, tourettes, I'm sure many of us are aware of children with these -˜labels', plus those just known as -˜difficult' or -˜naughty'. For anyone who has a child like this, or for professionals who work with challenging children on a daily basis, reading this book would be an absolute must as it offers many useful strategies and helpful insights to transform the lives of both children and their families.

    The author's son, Sam, had been excluded from 3 schools by the age of 7, and if his parents, both intelligent professional people, hadn't explored every avenue to help their son, he could well have ended up in jail or a mental asylum. Their long and often difficult struggle is a testimony to parenting at it's best, and although there is never any -˜quick fix' when dealing with problems such as this, the good news is that if you stick at it and follow the correct advice, you can improve your child's life beyond recognition, and ensure a positive and productive future, as Sam has now proved.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  9. My Child's Different - a worthwhile read for everyone working with children and parents too

    As a mum of 2 who has worked with children in a variety of settings over the past 16 years, this was an interesting (and sometimes emotional) book as Sam and his family tried to find the correct educational establishments to meet his specific learning needs and to make his life less stressful.

    Thank you to Elaine and Sam for sharing their story so eloquently. Hopefully this book will inspire other families to keep pushing for their own child/children to find the correct school to help them. Having worked in the SENCO team in a Primary School, I believe our Education Secretary and Shadow Education Secretary need to read this too, to consider increasing the number of specialist schools.

    However this book isn't just aimed at parents and educators of children who are -˜different', but gives advice to all parents about using positive parenting skills to encourage their children to grow up into resilient adults.

    A worthwhile read for everyone working with children and parents too.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  10. Really insightful book which tells of a families journey as they navigate a diagnosis for their son Sam and the help and advice they receive on the way. Loved it. Makes you realise how every child is different and every family comes in a different size.

    I really enjoyed this book which was about the life of Sam who had many difficulties as he grew up and navigated our school system. Unlike a lot of books where you see the child's jouney through school this book goes beyond that through to adulthood.

    I found the narration told by his Mum very easy to read and could relate to bits of each chapter even though my children are both currently developing -˜normally' I loved Elaine's honesty and I loved the parenting advice from Melissa Hood at the end of each chapter.

    I think most parents could benefit from reading this book what ever their children are like as its a lovely honest read and fabulous account of one families journey with their son.

    Well done Elaine and Sam.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  11. It wasn't what I expected although I was able to read the whole book.

    I was disappointed in this book as I was expecting to have the entire story about Sam and how his parents, sister, friends and school coped with his numerous disabilities. He had so many disabilities that they called him the “ALPHABET KID”. Unfortunately, you only got bits and pieces of his journey. When you have a child in need of assistance, you really struggle first to get a diagnosis, then the right help for their child. It may take many tests and trials to find the one that works for you child.

    The way it was written was also unconventional. It would have been much better, I feel, if you had a chapter about a certain problem dealing with Sam and then a smaller chapter about how to deal with it.

    This book will be great for students who are going to be working with children and young adults in any capacity. It can teach them how to understand and treat them with confidence and a greater understanding.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  12. An interesting book purely because of it's difference.

    This is the story of Sam ...and his family.

    The author is Sam's mother a here she tells how Sam's list of conditions were brought out into the open by being given a name for society to hold on to. She tells of how the rest of the world seems to love the “perfect” child but because of ASD and dyslexia amongst other problems Sam and all the family have had to be as outcasts in a world that should understand. Schools have expelled Sam all due to non understanding and he is seen as the odd one out.

    The story tells of what Sam and his family have gone through in everyday life - from birth to growing into an adult this is a true life story of the trials and tribulations as well as the love of one family for their son.

    An interesting book purely because of it's difference. If you have never gone through this sort of life story then you can never truly understand. This book gives just a little inkling into life as others may know it and teaches you to be a little less selfless.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  13. A thought provoking refelction on the struggles of a family coming to terms with having a -˜different' son. A great read for anyone struggling with a -˜difficult' child.

    Elaine Halligan has written an accessible and engagingly honest account of bringing up a child with a range of learning conditions. The warmth with which Halligan writes makes My Child's Different a must read for any parent regardless of whether your offspring has academic challenges. By laying bare the struggles that her family encountered trying to -˜do the best' for her son, Halligan highlights the -˜trauma' that every member of a family endure when individual members don't conform to society's norms. In so doing My Child's Different allows the reader a new level of empathy for those parents with -˜problem children' and provides mechanisms by which we can all be better parents.

    The addition of closing analysis by Melissa Hood, a trained professional, for each section perfectly compliments the more anecdotal/memoir style of the author into a specific list of reflections and further reading. The reflections of Sam (the child in question) raises the understanding of the reader further allowing us to see inside the mental processes of a child who sees the logic in their own actions whilst external viewers can not.

    My Child's Different was a quick read but packed with real solutions for those struggling with children given often damaging diagnostic labels and perhaps teaches us all to be less judgemental and more tolerant of those -˜naughty children' we all encounter.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  14. An honest and inspirational true story of a family's journey in striving to discover a positive and supportive network for their son with special needs. The eventual result is a delight.

    When Elaine Halligan came to terms with the fact that her son's challenging behaviour was due to specific special needs, she and her husband, Tony, began a long and painful process in attempting to determine a diagnosis and to secure the best educational setting to meet his needs. Her writing is vivid, emotive and at times quite harrowing. I had tears in my eyes when I read her description of being in a packed train carriage where she felt completely out of control at managing Sam's behaviour and heard herself saying: “My child is autistic. I need your support, not your judgement as I am dealing with a disabled child.” When she got off at the next station miles from home, she sat on a bench and wept. Sam immediately comforted her.

    What makes this book different is that it is a highly readable story, yet acts as a self-help manual; each little chapter offers useful advice from Melissa Hood, a parenting expert, ideas for further reading and reflective comments from the author. Having worked with special needs' families, one area which often caused frustration for them was trying to find reading material which was -˜family friendly', not peppered with jargon or incomprehensible information and offered both comfort and support. Elaine's book meets that need.

    Having experienced a range of schools, each with varying ways of supporting children, and being excluded from three of them, it is a joy to learn that Sam found his own creative and innovative path and is now achieving great success and self satisfaction as an adult. I especially liked reading his reflective and insightful comments on his transformational journey.

    My Child's Different would appeal to any reader who is interested in children, education and the pressures of family life in modern society but above all to any parents who sense that their child is not like other children. I loved it!

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  15. My Child's Different is a frank and honest account of how one Mum and family fought for her son's education in order for him to achieve his potential. A real eye opener.

    My Child's Different by Elaine Halligan is essentially a diary of all the events encountered during her son Sam's childhood. Finding out why and how he is different to other children, how it impacted on him, the rest of the family, friends and his education. Reading this book was both interesting, emotional and educational. I found myself in tears on more than one occasion. The technicalities of Sam's diagnosis and how the family dealt with this ongoing onslaught of problems and hurdles to overcome were an eyeopener. There are many links to other information that may be useful. The fall out which affected Sam's sister in a big way as she was not ignored but certainly overlooked, and the strain it put on Elaine's relationship with her partner.

    An inspiring read which really puts forward the knowledge that a parent really does know what's best for their child told in an honest and thought provoking way. Many parents would benefit from reading this book whether they have a child with special educational needs or not as it promotes positive parenting and the strength required to keep fighting the constant battle to achieve an education that is right for your child and not just what the system decide is the easiest or cheapest option.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  16. An informative and thought-provoking book, written in an accessible style. Sam's journey from troubled, misunderstood child to thriving adult is inspirational. A worthwhile read for parents, teachers and professionals working with young people.

    This is an amazing book; both enjoyable to read and informative. It is written in a very accessible style and I liked the way that Sam's voice came through clearly. The story of his education is told from its beginnings at nursery right through university and beyond. He is obviously a remarkable young man, who has been supported all the way by inspiring family.

    The book would appeal to professionals who work with young people, as well as parents. The advice from Melissa Hood, parenting coach, at the end of each chapter is both succinct and thought-provoking. I am a parent and a teacher and it has made me think about the way in interact with both my own children and those in my class. In fact, it has piqued my interest in Elaine Halligan's approach which she shares via “The Parent Practice” and I am now following her Facebook page.

    Sam's journey shows how hard parents have to work to get their children's differences recognised and an appropriate way forward put into place. The story of this family is one of success and is heartening to read, but it made me think of all the children who end up being excluded from school.

    I would recommend this book if you have enjoyed Rupert Isaacson's Horse Boy books and also Arabella Carter-Johnson's Iris Grace, both detailing the lives of “different” but equally brilliant children.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  17. This book is about the struggles parents have with SEN children and the inspirational suggestions to help the child when they struggle.

    My Child's Different is truly an eye opening book about the difficulties parents have when children have special needs, the struggles they face not just with the LEA but with having to learn new parents skills.

    It is an inspirational book, brimming with ideas on how to encourage children that are different or who do not conform. As well as showing parents how to deal with difficult situations.

    I especially love the format of the book where you get the parents view, Sam's thoughts & then the professional opinion as well as follow up with further reading.

    After finishing the book I felt happy and hopeful for the future of my children & I will definitely be lending this great book to my friends to read.

    Click here to read the review on Love Reading's website.
  18. What a joy to meet the Halligans in this wonderful book. I love Sam and his setting free of animals and popping out of closets, and his mother's steadfast love no matter the clucking of the gossips and the mumbo jumbo of the experts.

    Brilliant, bountiful and inspiring, My Child's Different is sure to make you laugh, cry, and, above all, celebrate with joy.
  19. Most parents worry about how to bring up their children, especially if they worry that their child is in any way different. This book offers both comfort and insight to those in this position. It will really help parents, teachers and others relate to and better support those children who are different. A definite book to read!
  20. An engaging and page-turning read, My Child's Different will appeal to a wide readership and should be a required text for anyone working with children with SEN or in their local authority's department of education. And for those readers who are parents of children with SEN, the light at the end of the tunnel shines through in this book - offering hope, encouragement and plenty of sympathetic, wise and useful advice from a parent (and parenting expert) who, having experienced the dark days of despair and worry herself, knows what it feels like to be pushed around by officialdom just because their child does not -˜fit in', yet still, rightly, strives for the very best for that child. 

    The whole Halligan family should be thanked for their honesty and openness in writing My Child's Different, and I think this book will do a great deal of good.
  21. Elaine's journey with her out-of-sync son shows that the proof is in the pudding. Despite her fears and worries, her belief and trust in Sam paved the way for him to not only find himself but to succeed brilliantly.

    My Child's Different can provide us all with renewed faith in our own children, regardless of the difficulties we experience with them along the way, and offers plenty of professional advice that will be of benefit to any parent.
  22. My Child's Different is a wonderful guide to navigating the choppy waters of parenthood. With wit, warmth and wisdom, Elaine Halligan shows us how to help our children overcome the toughest obstacles to find their own place in the world.
  23. I love this book! Beautifully written with marvellous clarity and candour, Elaine Halligan's narrative shares the ups and downs, the daily challenges, the small sequential steps forward and the heartbreaks and triumphs of parenting Sam. 

    Sam's story is one of remarkable ultimate success, but the book is not a sugarcoated -˜Pollyanna' account - rather it is one filled with exquisite details of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back experience of raising a child with a significant disability. Further gifts for the reader include insights from Sam's therapist, and even commentary from Sam himself.

    Filled with humour, warmth and consummate honesty, My Child's Different is a wonderful testament to energy, to focus, to perseverance and to love.
  24. In My Child's Different Elaine Halligan has had the imagination and the wisdom to tell her story both as a mother and as someone with skills and training in parenting education. It is a mother's story told from the heart that many will identify with, and indeed learn many pearls of wisdom from.

    I found the book hard to put down; it's as if you're sitting in Elaine's kitchen over a cup of tea - hearing just how hard it was to raise her special boy with his complex needs, and learning of his transformation into the remarkable young man he has turned out to be. Melissa Hood's commentary also provides bonus points of knowledge and practicality that any time-poor parent would crave.

    I will be recommending My Child's Different to my clients, whether they have a -˜different' child or not. This book is simply a gem in the mountain of parenting advice out there.
  25. My Child's Different could only have been written by a parent who's been there and successfully come out the other side. It will inspire parents who may be feeling at their wits' end over how to cope and how to best support their -˜challenging' child.

    Elaine's deeply moving and personal account of her son Sam's journey - and how well he's turned out - will offer plenty to save parents from catastrophising about what will become of their child, and her guidance will instead put them into a more proactive mode to overcome the challenges faced. Any parent with a child who has been diagnosed with learning or behavioural difficulties, or simply feels that their child is in some way -˜different', will find great relief here.

    An important book that will undoubtedly change many lives for the better, My Child's Different is also a must-read for educators and anyone working with children so that they can gain a better understanding of how to support their challenging students, and be able to recommend this book to their families.
  26. Many parents raising a child with SEN can find getting the help they need a struggle, but in My Child's Different Elaine Halligan provides hope to these families. Written in an easy-going, down-to-earth tone, this book offers an incredibly insightful and honest account of her own family's journey and provides useful strategies that parents can use with their children.

    Every child is different and every child can reach their potential. My Child's Different just proves it. I will definitely be recommending it to parents I come into contact with.
  27. Compelling, engaging and eloquently written, My Child's Different is also brutally honest, as Elaine Halligan takes you inside the chaos of special needs provision and sheds light on the stark realities of social exclusion.

    Elaine and Sam's journey is an incredible story of hope, and its retelling in this book is perfectly balanced with positive parenting theory, practical guidance and the intense unconditional love that all parents will relate to. 

    Every parent needs to read My Child's Different.
  28. It is really important that we provide young people with the support they need to succeed, and to understand dyslexia as a different and brilliant way of thinking. Alternative thinking can spur creativity and innovation and has the power to change the world. This book shows how with the right support, young people can maximise their potential.
  29. Elaine Halligan's My Child's Different is a must-read for any parent bringing up a child who is seen as -˜different' or -˜difficult'. The unique combination of her personal account of Sam's troubled early years together with the contributions of positive parenting expert Melissa Hood makes this a practical, inspirational read for any parent worried about what the future looks like for their child.

Write your own review