By Rebecca Perkins
Understanding what it means to have a neurodivergent child.
Nothing beats the euphoric feeling of welcoming your newborn child into the world. You dream of a bright future with no boundaries. And why not?
However, when you are told that your child is not ‘typical’, your preconceived idea of a seemingly perfect world has to change.
With more information and research to hand it is becoming easier to recognise and diagnose kids (and adults). As a result, hundreds of Australian children are diagnosed with Autism, dyslexia and ADHD each year.
Many families walk through the ‘neurodiversity door’ with some fear and apprehension whilst they seek to learn more and try to find access to the hard-to-find information and support.
The negative way that neurodiversity is often reported and spoken about throughout society has led to many misunderstandings, confusion and a lack of acceptance. Thankfully, this is slowly changing, but there is still a very long way to go.
What is the Neurodiversity Movement?
Popularised by Judy Singer in 1998, the Neurodiversity Movement is a societal shift that highlights there are variations of the brain and that nothing is classed as ‘abnormal’.
Advocates for neurodiversity reject the idea that children (and adults) who are on the spectrum or have ADHD and other neurobiological differences are disabled. They passionately believe that their brains just work differently from others and celebrate this.
The goal of this movement is to embrace neurodivergent people as part of the mainstream, accept their differences and appreciate them for their uniqueness and their many wonderful abilities.
Here are three ways you can embrace your neurodiversity journey.
ACCEPTANCE – TAKE YOUR TIME
Once your child has received a diagnosis you need to take as much time as possible to learn and read information from positive sources.
It’s important to learn about the Neurodiversity Movement and what this means for you and your family.
Talk to your child about their diagnosis in a positive way using age-appropriate language. There is no need to over complicate things. It is really important when discussing a diagnosis with your child that you let them know about the many positives. Highlight that they are wonderful for having a fantastic unique brain.
When talking with family and friends, be mindful that you don’t need others to fully understand the ins and outs of your initial diagnosis. However, you do need them to understand that neurodivergent kids are wonderful, have many fantastic abilities and that they are just as worthy of acceptance as anyone else……Positivity is key.
AWARENESS – WALK THE TALK
We need to teach everyone in our lives that it is OK to be different.
As parents, we tend to focus too much on the deficits and do not appreciate the strengths of neurodiverse individuals.
By creating knowledge and understanding this will result in a positive ripple effect of increased awareness, acceptance and appreciation for our neurodiverse children; The key to the new mainstream way of thinking.
Be proud of who your child is. Talk openly with teachers, family and friends to make sure they have a better understanding about what neurodiversity means and how they can support your child.
Take the lead and the rest will follow.
APPRECIATION – CELEBRATE DIFFERENCES
Be comforted by the fact that a diagnosis is not a negative thing: it is just different. Accept that, with your unwavering support, your child will absolutely be happy and can achieve their goals.
We, as parents, need to learn how to reframe our thinking that neurodivergent children can be happy and achieve their goals and dreams.
Neurodivergent children often have incredible abilities, hopes and dreams. Sometimes they do things that they may not be proud of and may find difficult because their brain is simply different. But how does that differ to any other child?
There are so many incredible people that have shown that it is not only possible to manage their symptoms but that they can stand out from the crowd. This includes Jamie Oliver (celebrity chef), Justin Timberlake (singer/actor), Emma Watson (actor) and Sir Richard Branson (Founder Virgin Airlines/entrepreneur) to name but a few.
Make no mistake, there will be challenges and you will need to be prepared to take these by the horns.
You are never alone as there is a whole community behind you.
Always remember: Don’t look back, you are not going that way. Embrace the wonderful future in store for you.
Rebecca Perkins, Founder My Special Child