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Indigo Children is a Misleading Label for Students with Special Needs

Updated on June 21, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.



The label “Indigo Children” is a lofty and well-meaning title. It’s also a term rarely used in special education - and for a good reason. Despite being used in a small circle of parents and special educators as a positive way to label students with disabilities (in particular, attention deficit disorders or ADD/ADHD), it is actually very misleading and dishonest.

In an age of improved methods for identifying students with learning disabilities - as well as a better way to understand and treat them - the indigo children designation simply doesn’t fit the trends happening in this educational field. The title’s connotative meaning suggests the student have magic powers that can’t be measured or treated. And, imaginary titles for students with special needs are the last thing they need.

Origin of the Term

The concept originated from the New Age movement of the 1960s and 70s. It was developed by Nancy Ann Tappe to refer to children with “special” powers – in particular those with telepathic or paranormal abilities.

Supposedly, Tappe claimed she could “diagnose” these children by the color of the aura of light emanating from them. Incidentally, according to the Skeptic Dictionary, another site, The Indigo Children Website ( claimed a woman – possibly Tappe – had a condition called “synethesia” when she made her scientific observations of these children (It should be noted that the site was in support of Tappe’s discovery).

According to Wikpedia, synethesia is a neurological phenomenon in which one sensory or cognitive pathways are stimulated and affect a secondary sensory or another cognitive pathway. There are several forms. The most common is known as color-grapheme synethesia.

People with this particular condition will view letters and numbers as being inherently colored (or see the colors emanating from these graphemes). It is a complex definition to understand; however, it's not quite clear the one affecting Tappe played a part in her observations and conclusion about Indigo children.


Symptoms and Diagnosis of Indigo Children

There have never been any scientific studies to prove such children exist. Still, popularity in the belief grew throughout the decades. In the 1990s, several parents and advocate groups tried to use this term in place of the ADD/ADHD label.

Also, new details – or diagnosis - were added. The Indigo Children Website listed several items such as:

1. They come into the world with a feeling of royalty (and often "like it")

2. They have a feeling of “deserving to be here,” and are surprised when others don’t share that.

3. Self-worth is not a big issue. They often tell parents “who they are.”

4. They have difficulty with absolute authority (authority without explanation or choice).

5. They simply will not do certain things. For example, waiting in line is difficult for them.

6. They get frustrated with systems that are ritually oriented and don’t require creative thoughts.

With such a positive spin offered by the Indigo Children label, it doesn’t take much for one to realize these appeals to several parents with children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD

In total, there are 10 (the rest can be found here). Some of the evidence listed appears to reflect the typical traits of a child with ADD/ADHD; however, as one site, The Skeptic Dictionary, states, most are vague and can refer to almost anything.

Several concepts have emerged from the use of the Indigo Children Label. According to one source, the book, An Indigo Celebration by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober, these children (again, this book focused on ADD/ADHD) are “a new kind of evolution of humanity.”

The general perception of those with ADD/ADHD is that they are heavily medicated on Ritalin, out of control, or not able to succeed at anything. With such a positive spin offered by the Indigo Children label, it doesn’t take much for one to realize these appeal to several parents with children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. For them, the Indigo Children label means their child isn’t stuck with something that makes them imperfect.

The Problem with This Label

However, labels don’t always reflect the truth. This movement for a positive label seems to follow the lessons of an old saying: A terrible truth is always better than a fanciful lie.

Critics of the Indigo Children label point out that it incorrectly correlates the child’s condition to some form of magic or that they are transcendent human beings. Also, they claim it only masks the reality that the child will need some form of therapy to cope with in social situations, or to learn through educational accommodations and/or modifications of his/her lesson plans. .

To date, psychologist, special educators, doctors, or school administrators at reputable sites have never used this designation. To put it plainly, the name change will not cure children of their condition, even if it makes them feel "special".

A chart that allegedly reveal the connection between Indigo Children and those with ADHD. Originally published in Carroll's and Tober's book "The Indigo Children".
A chart that allegedly reveal the connection between Indigo Children and those with ADHD. Originally published in Carroll's and Tober's book "The Indigo Children". | Source

© 2016 Dean Traylor


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