The Movement of Imperfection: A Celebration of Human Differences

Imageby Mark Katz, PhD

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT OUR TRUE BEAUTY lies less in how well we can read or pay attention, and more about who we are on the inside? And that there are a lot of very important human qualities not captured in a grade on a school report card—qualities like courage, resilience, creativity, energy, and loyalty?

If so, then Gina Terrasi Gallagher and Patty Terrasi Konjoian (AKA the Shut Up Sisters) invite you to join the Movement of Imperfection. It’s a movement that helps “imperfect parents” of “imperfect children” learn to see their children’s differences in a new light. In a broader sense, it’s really a movement that helps all of us learn to see differences in a new light.

Photo: Patty Terrasi Konjoian and Gina Terrasi Gallagher speak about their Movement of Imperfection at the CHADD conference in Cleveland, Ohio, in October 2009.

Laughing our way to sanity

Blessed with each other and “the ability to find humor in almost anything,” Gina and Patty use laughter to bring home their message. “Of all the coping techniques we’ve employed, we’ve found laughter to be one of the most effective,” they say. “We are not alone in feeling this way. As many parents of special needs kids often say, we have two choices—to laugh or cry. We prefer laughter. It doesn’t create puffy eyes, and offers some serious health benefits.”

Shut up about your perfect kid!

Gina and Patty’s journey began soon after their daughters’ difficulties were given names (Asperger syndrome and bipolar disorder, respectively). Frightened, confused, and feeling alone, they didn’t know where to turn for help. School meetings felt like it was “us” versus “them.” Professionals would speak in a foreign language, using terms they couldn’t understand.

After reading books about their children’s disabilities, they would be even more depressed. Everyone seemed focused on what their children couldn’t do rather than what they could do. Then came the last straw: Having to listen to friends talk on and on about their high-achieving, “perfect” children.

Fed up, the sisters decided to create a movement, imploring people “to come out of their messy closets and embrace “imperfection.” A book—Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid*—soon followed, then a business, Shut Up Industries, Inc. And then the sisters began the Movement of Imperfection.

Learning to see differences in a new light

If you’re a child with learning or other differences who feels accepted and valued at school, then there’s a good chance your classmates see beyond your challenges and recognize your qualities. The same is true if you’re an adult with learning or other differences who feels accepted and valued at work. If so, there’s a good chance that your colleagues see beyond your differences and recognize the important contribution you make.

In their funny and irreverent way, this is what Gina and Patty are trying to help all of us achieve. If we learn to see beyond our imperfections and the imperfections of others, we can see our true qualities and all that we and others have to offer. Researchers in the field of human resilience find that our ability to see life’s challenges in a new light is a key ingredient in overcoming a range of childhood adversities. Gina and Patty are providing countless children, families, and adults a way to see challenges in a new light.

Interested in joining the Movement of Imperfection?

Gina and Patty have a few suggestions for anyone interested in joining their movement:

    • Submit a story. To submit stories about you and your amazing “imperfect” child visit our website.
• Show your imperfect pride by bragging about your imperfect child.
• Watch our silly YouTube productions. Visit YouTube.com and type in Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid.
• Become a Facebook fan. Visit facebook.com, and type in Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid.
• Follow us on  Twitter.
• Read our imperfect  blog on our website for your weekly dose of humor and more stories of imperfection.
• And you could also hire us to speak (and help us get out of the house).
To inquire about hiring the Shut Up Sisters for your event, email info@shutupabout.com


For those interested in reading the book sisters Gina Gallagher and Patty Konjoian wrote about being mothers of "imperfect" children, Three Rivers Press published the expanded and updated version of their book, Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children, in August 2010.

Mark Katz, PhD, is a clinical and consulting psychologist and the director of Learning Development Services, an educational, psychological and neuropsychological center located in San Diego, California. He is a contributing editor to Attention magazine and a member of its editorial advisory board, a former member of CHADD’s professional advisory board, and a recipient of the CHADD Hall of Fame Award.

From the February 2010 issue of Attention. Copyright © 2010 by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from CHADD is prohibited.
Posted in: 2010, February