5 Ways to Support your Neurodivergent Child

5 Ways to Support your Neurodivergent Child

12 April 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

What is the one thing we crave? What makes us feel safe? When we feel vulnerable and open up about our feelings, what do we wish our partner or friends could offer us? Pure acceptance and love, right? We want to be understood and accepted for our true selves. We don’t want to hide our true selves from people we feel close to.

This is ultimately what our neurodivergent children want too. All children want to be loved for who they are, but it might be a little more of a wish for a child who feels different from their siblings or peers. They might notice that their interests and way of interacting are pretty different from the norm. Children are highly aware of their surroundings and even more so when they feel the people in these surroundings are looking at their every move on the more cynical side.

In what ways can we offer our support to our neurodivergent child? Here are five top tips: 

Indulge in their quirks

Your child might not play like most children, but if you take a step back and truly notice what they are interested in, you will strike gold on the “connection station.” They might enjoy stacking blocks as high as your roof or line up cars from the entrance to the other side of the room. Indulge in these activities – play along, smile, and show them that you want to engage with them. This will inevitably provide your child with comfort, which we require to feel free to express our true selves.

Expand on these interests

Doctor Temple Grandin is a professor in animal science and autistic. She mentioned in this interview (click here) that focusing on her interests helped her understand and accept herself more. Dr. Temple had a love for animals, and when her mom sent her to her aunt’s farm, she learned about cattle and was able to create a successful career from this interest. We need to not only focus on our child’s interests but help them expand on them and form friendships with people that share these interests.

Celebrate neurodiversity

There has been an increase in acceptance of neurodiversity, which is terrific. More people are opening up about their neurodivergent minds and ways of thinking. Some of these individuals, such as Elon Musk, Greta Thunberg, and Stephen Wiltshire, are incredibly inspiring individuals. If we positively explain neurodiversity, our children might easily find ways to turn their hyperfocused interests into career choices. They will become confident in their different ways of thinking and be more assertive in asking for specific accommodations they might require. Thus, they become more independent and love their own and true selves more.

Learn from others – you are not alone

Many parents are walking this journey with you. Find a support group (online or in-person) where you can share your worries and ask for ideas and support for your neurodivergent child. It is important to remember that we are all stronger together – we can increase awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity but an actual celebration. Also, make sure you follow neurodivergent advocates who share their lived experiences. Here are 5 Insightful Books about Neurodiversity to help you get started!

Find support that is right for your child and family

As a parent, you know what is best for your child. Your pediatrician might advocate 40 hours of therapy, but you know what your child requires deep inside of you. Leadbitter et al. (2021) advocate a more holistic approach when working with neurodivergent children. AIMS Global is a company I co-founded. We created a holistic support system in collaboration with autistic adults, which is essential in working with neurodivergent individuals – “nothing about us, without us.”

As a parent of a neurodivergent child, you are already doing more than most – you are going above and beyond to support your child and ensure they are set up for success. I want to thank you, from one neurodivergent individual to a parent of another, for everything you are doing.

Leadbitter, K., Buckle, K. L., Ellis, C., & Dekker, M. (2021). Autistic Self-Advocacy and the Neurodiversity Movement: Implications for Autism Early Intervention Research and Practice. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 635690.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental