It’s important to be neurodiversity-affirming.
Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the range of neurological differences in the human brain. It acknowledges that people may have different ways of thinking, feeling, processing information, and communicating. These differences are not disorders, but natural variations in the human experience. There is no one ‘normal’ type of brain.
Neurodivergent refers to individuals whose neurological development and functioning diverge from what is considered typical or normal.
This includes autistic people, ADHDers, and other folks with other neurodivergent conditions.
Being neurodiverse affirming means recognising and accepting these neurological differences as part of the human experience. It involves embracing diversity and promoting inclusion, rather than stigmatising and pathologising neurodivergent individuals.
Not feeling accepted and constantly feeling like something is wrong with you can have a profound impact on autistic individuals. Constantly being told to be different, to act a certain way or to have needs like sensitivity to noise or smells ignored, is not neurodiverse affirming. Many autistic folk we work with have had hundreds of these experiences over a lifetime. Not feeling included and valued can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. It may also impact their ability to form meaningful relationships and succeed in academic and professional settings.
Why is it important to be neurodiverse-affirming?
As parents, it is important to be neurodiverse affirming for the wellbeing of your children. There are a number of benefits, some of the ones we see at The Therapy Hub include
- Improved mental health
Neurodivergent individuals experience higher rates of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and generally higher levels of distress. This is often due to the negative experiences they face in a society that does not accept or understand their differences. This can include bullying and exclusion as well as feeling like they don’t fit in or are understood. By being neurodiverse-affirming, parents can create a safe and supportive environment for their children, reducing the risk of mental health issues.
- Better relationships
When parents are neurodiverse affirming, they create a positive relationship with their neurodivergent child. This can improve communication and understanding, leading to better relationships overall. This includes understanding how they communicate and not trying to change it, showing interest in their hobbies and interests and allowing for adjustments when you go out or have friends and family over. It’s not using negative or harmful words to describe differences. It also sets a good example for other family members and friends, promoting acceptance and empathy towards all individuals.
- Increased self-esteem
Neurodivergent individuals often face societal stigma and discrimination, lowering self-esteem and confidence. By being neurodiverse-affirming, parents can help their child embrace their differences and feel proud of who they are. This can lead to increased self-esteem and self-acceptance.
- Enhanced academic success
Neurodivergent individuals may have different learning styles and needs. By being neurodiverse-affirming, parents can advocate for their child’s educational needs and ensure they receive the support they require to succeed academically. This can lead to improved academic performance and overall success in life.
- Promoting a more inclusive society
Being neurodiverse affirming goes beyond your own children. It involves promoting acceptance and inclusivity in society as a whole. By modelling neurodiverse-affirming behaviour, parents can help break down societal barriers and promote a more inclusive and diverse society for all.
So where to start?
- Educate yourself: Take the time to learn about neurodivergent conditions and how they impact individuals. Read books, listen to podcasts, and find things written by people with lived experience. Upskilling yourself is the best thing you can do for the health of your child and the relationships between you. Understanding the experiences and challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals can help you be more empathetic and supportive.
- Practice active listening: Give your full attention when communicating with neurodivergent individuals. Encourage them to express themselves in their own way, without judgment or criticism. If you’re unsure of something ask questions. It’s ok to ask ‘’Could I clarify what you meant’’ ‘’ I’m not sure I understood could you tell me a different way’’ Active listening can help build trust and strengthen relationships.
Being neurodiverse affirming is crucial for the wellbeing of neurodivergent individuals and for promoting a more inclusive society. By embracing diversity and promoting inclusion, you can help your children thrive
Some resources to check out
- About Autism – handy summary of common differences
- Why Everything You Know About Autism Is Wrong – short TedTalk by Autism researcher who is Autistic re: neurodiversity & their experience of being diagnosed with Autism
- Unmasking Autism – book by Dr Devon Price