What does it mean to be “neurodivergent”? While the word itself sounds scary, its meaning is far less terrifying. Someone who is neurodivergent simply thinks, behaves, and acts differently to the world than one who is “neurotypical”. This does not mean they have a disability, it just means that they have different challenges. The neurodivergent umbrella includes ADHD, ASD, and learning disabilities. Some challenges for those who are neurodivergent are social skills, sensory difficulties, learning, and patterns of thinking.
So, how can you meet our kid where they’re at? The first, is to simply observe what’s going in. What challenges are your kids facing? Do they get over-stimulated at grocery stores and shut down? Do they get anxious in certain social situations? In what environments do you notice your child having more difficulty than usual? When you, as a parent, can notice and observe your child with clear eyes and non judgment, you may be able to see patterns in their behavior that they’re unable to see themselves.
Second, we can ask our kids what it is they need in these situations. By helping them identify their triggers, whether sensory or otherwise, we can work collaboratively with our kids to overcome these challenging situations. Often, they know what they need but they may have difficulty asking for it. By creating a safe space for your child to share with you what they need, you’re teaching them to advocate for themselves. This not only helps them now in their lives but also as they age.
Third, advocating for our kids is vital to their ability to thrive with neurodivergency. Our kids want to know that we are on their side and that we support them. We have the ability to advocate for our kids to their schools, family, and friends. Sometimes our kids don’t have the words or confidence to ask others for what they need. This is when we come in to help. In this way, we are also teaching our kids how to advocate for themselves.
It’s normal to feel all sorts of emotions for our kids when we see challenges in the ways they react to and interact with their environment. Each child is different- whether neurotypical or neurodivergent- and with each challenge comes many more strengths. A child with a special interest in biology may have challenges when it comes to history class, but they will be the top of their anatomy class. A teen who gets overwhelmed with noises in a mall may be a talented violinist. The young child who has difficulty controlling their impulses is also the same child who has never met a stranger.
Neurodivergency shows up in many different ways. Of all the different ways to meet your child where they’re at, is the most important one of all: embracing and accepting your child for who they are. It’s the ability to see all the things your child is, rather than the things they are not.
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