by John Leland
Published: January 12, 2006
New York Times
AT a coffee shop in TriBeCa one morning
two weeks ago, David Minh Wong, age 7, was in constant motion. He
played with quarters on the table. He dropped them on the floor. He
leaned on his mother and walked away.
"Tell him I'm strong," he said to
his mother, Yolanda Badillo, 50. She sat in a booth with a
neighbor, who was there with her goddaughter.
"I woke up at 2:16 this morning, and it wasn't raining," he
"I'm getting bored," he said.
At David's public school, where he is in
a program for gifted and talented second graders, a teacher told Ms.
Badillo that he is arrogant for a boy his age, and teachers since
preschool have described him as bright but sometimes disruptive. But
Ms. Badillo, a homeopath and holistic health counselor, has her own
assessment. To her David's traits - his intelligence, empathy and
impatience - make him an "indigo" child.
"He told me when he was 6 months old
that he was going to have trouble in school because they
wouldn't know where to fit him," she said, adding that he told
her this through his energy, not in words. "Our consciousness is
changing, it's expanding, and the indigos are here to show us
the way," Ms. Badillo said. "We were much more connected with
the creator before, and we're trying to get back to that
If you have not been in an alternative
bookstore lately, it is possible that you have missed the news about
indigo children. They represent,
"perhaps the most exciting, albeit
odd, change in basic human nature that has ever been observed and
documented," Lee Carroll and Jan Tober write in "The Indigo
Children: The New Kids Have Arrived" (Hay House).
The book has sold
250,000 copies since 1999 and has spawned a cottage industry of
books about indigo children.
Hay House said it has sold 500,000 books on indigo children. A
documentary, "Indigo Evolution," is scheduled to open on about 200
screens - at churches, yoga centers, college campuses and other
places - on Jan. 27 (locations at
Indigo children were first described in the 1970's by a San Diego
parapsychologist, Nancy Ann Tappe, who noticed the emergence of
children with an indigo aura, a vibrational color she had never seen
before. This color, she reasoned, coincided with a new
In "The Indigo Children," Mr. Carroll and Ms. Tober define the
phenomenon. Indigos, they write, share traits like high I.Q., acute
intuition, self-confidence, resistance to authority and disruptive
tendencies, which are often diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder,
known as A.D.D., or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or
Offered as a guide for "the parents of unusually bright and active
children," the book includes common criticisms of today's child
rearing: that children are overmedicated; that schools are not
creative environments, especially for bright students; and that
children need more time and attention from their parents. But the
book seeks answers to mainstream parental concerns in the
"To me these children are the
answers to the prayers we all have for peace," said Doreen
Virtue, a former psychotherapist for adolescents who now writes
books and lectures on indigo children. She calls the indigos a
leap in human evolution. "They're vigilant about cleaning the
earth of social ills and corruption, and increasing integrity,"
Ms. Virtue said. "Other generations tried, but then they became
apathetic. This generation won't, unless we drug them into
submission with Ritalin."
To skeptics the concept of indigo
children belongs in the realm of wishful thinking and New Age
"All of us would prefer not to have
our kids labeled with a psychiatric disorder, but in this case
it's a sham diagnosis," said Russell Barkley, a research
professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York
Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. "There's no science
behind it. There are no studies."
Dr. Barkley likened the definition of
indigo children to an academic exercise called "Barnum statements,"
after P. T. Barnum, in which a person is given a list of generic
psychological characteristics and becomes convinced that they apply
especially to him or her. The traits attributed to indigo children,
he said, are so general that they "could describe most of the people
most of the time," which means that they don't describe anything.
Parents who attribute their children's inattention or disruptive
behavior to vibrational energy, he said, risk delaying proper
diagnosis and treatment that might help them.
To indigos and their parents, however, such skepticism is the usual
resistance to any new and revolutionary idea. America has always had
a soft spot for the supernatural. A November 2005 poll by Harris
Interactive found that one American in five believes he or she has
been reincarnated; 40 percent believe in ghosts; 68 percent believe
in angels. It is not surprising then that indigo literature, which
incorporates some of these beliefs along with common anxieties about
child psychology, has found a receptive audience.
Annette Piper, a mother of two in Memphis, said that she had planned
to go to medical school until she realized she was an indigo, able
to tell what was wrong with people by touching them. Like a lot of
others who describe themselves as indigos, she was also sensitive to
chemicals and fluorescent lights. Instead of going to medical
school, she became an intuitive healer, directing the energy fields
around people, and opened a New Age store called Spiritual Freedom.
Her daughter Alexandra, 10, is also an indigo, she said. They play
games to cultivate their telepathic powers, but at school Alexandra
struggles, Ms. Piper said.
"She has trouble finishing work in
school and wants to argue with the teacher if she thinks she's
right," Ms. Piper said. "I don't think she's found out what her
gifts are. From the influence in school and friends she lays off
these abilities. She's a little afraid of them."
Problems in school are common for
indigos, said Alex Perkel, who runs the ReBirth Esoteric Science
Center in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a bilingual (Russian-English)
center dedicated to "the knowledge of ancient esoteric schools and
Eastern science," according to its Web site (www.esotericinfo.com).
Last year the center organized a class for indigo children but
canceled it when families dropped out for economic reasons.
"A lot of people don't understand
the children because the children are very smart," Mr. Perkel
said. "They have knowledge like our teachers. They don't want to
go to school, No. 1, because they don't need the knowledge they
can get from school. So parents bring them to psychologists, and
psychologists start giving them pills to take out their will and
memory. We developed a special program to help them understand
that they came to this planet to change the consciousness
because they have guides from a higher world."
Stephen Hinshaw, a professor and the
chairman of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley,
acknowledged that "there is a legitimate concern that we are
overmedicalizing normal childhood, particularly with A.D.H.D." But,
he said, research shows that even gifted children with
attention-deficit problems do better with more structure in the
classroom, not less.
"If you conduct a very open
classroom, kids with A.D.H.D. may fit in better, because
everyone's running around, but there's no evidence that it helps
children with A.D.H.D. learn. On the other hand if you have a
more traditional classroom, with consistent tasks and
expectations and rewards, kids with A.D.H.D. may have a harder
time fitting in at first, but in the long run there's evidence
that it helps their learning."
Julia Tuchman, a partner in Neshama
Healing in Manhattan, who works with a lot of indigo children and
adults, said it was important for their families not to turn away
from traditional psychology and medicine.
"I'm very holistically oriented, but
many people who come here I send to doctors," she said. "I'm not
against medication at all. I just think it's overused."
When parents take children to her for
treatment - she practices electromagnetic field balancing, a
touch-free massage that purports to tune a person's electromagnetic
field - she said that just telling the children that they have
special gifts is often a healing gesture.
"Can you imagine a child going up to
his parents and saying, 'I'm talking to an angel,' or 'I'm
talking to someone who's deceased'?" Ms. Tuchman asked. "A lot
of them have no one to talk to."
She, like others who see indigos, sees
them as a reason for hope.
Even disruptive behavior has a purpose, said Marjorie Jackson, a tai
chi and yoga teacher in Altadena, Calif., who said that her son,
Andrew, is an indigo. Andrew, now 25, was not disruptive as a child,
she said, but in her practice she sees indigos who are.
"The purpose of the disruptive ones
is to overload the system so the school will be inspired to
change," Ms. Jackson said. "The kids may seem like they have
A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. What that is, is that the stimulus given to
them, their inner being is not interested in it. But if you give
them something that harmonizes with the broad intention that
their inner self has for them, they won't be disruptive."
She said that schools should treat children more like adults,
rather than placing them in "fear-based, constrictive, no-choice
environments, where they explode."
Ms. Jackson compared people who do not
recognize indigos to Muggles, the name used by J. K. Rowling in the
Harry Potter books to describe ordinary people who have no
connection with magic.
"I would say 90 percent of the world
is like the Muggles," she said. "You don't talk about this stuff
with them because it's going to scare them."
In the TriBeCa coffee shop, David Minh
Wong continued to play with his coins and talk to his mother. Ms. Badillo and her neighbor Sandra McCoy said they have family members
who don't believe in the indigo idea. Ms. McCoy sat with her
goddaughter, Jasmine Washington, 14. In contrast to David, Jasmine
listened serenely, waiting for questions.
Yet Jasmine too is an indigo child, Ms. McCoy said:
"I always knew there was something
different about her. Then when I saw something about indigos on
television, I knew what it was."
Like many other indigos Jasmine is
For Jasmine, who often sensed she was different from other children,
especially in the public schools, the designation of indigo is a
"The kids now are very different, so
it's good that there's a name for it, and people pay attention
to what's different about them," Jasmine said.
Like the women at the table she said
that indigos have a special purpose:
"To help the world come
together again. If something bad happens, I always think I can
fix it. Since we have these abilities, we can help the world."