Neurodivergent Children in a Neurotypical World: Part 1

Valerie Rice  | March 22,2021

Oh dear, I am using the giant words. For many parents, first time or veteran, the success of their children is a top priority. We want our offspring to grow up and be happy, productive members of society. Unfortunately, we are bombarded with so much information and unwanted advice that we end up having no idea how to actually do this. We also end up getting some pretty bad advice from the professionals in charge like school teachers and parenting experts. We also miss the memo about different types of developing brains. What? Different brains? Yup.

NEURO WHAT AGAIN?

Alright, I am going to start with the basics. Neurotype. This is just a fancy and super snooty way of saying “how your brain is wired.” I am not going to go off on a tangent right now, I promise, so we will stick to the 2 main categories. The first type, neurotypical, is what most people think of when they see the average human. This is the type of brain that does well in today’s society because all the rules, written and unwritten, were made for this brain. The second type, neurodivergent, is everybody else. In simplest terms these brains are just not like what society deems “normal.” I find this mildly offensive as “normal” should really be “common” because there is no normal when it comes to humans. Think of any mental health difference and it probably falls under neurodivergent. I’m talking about autism, ADHD, tourette syndrome, bipolar disorder, etc. So anything that changes how we see and interact with the world at a basic level is neurodiversity. These are not diseases but differences, like the differences between your PC and mac, or your android or iPhone. 

EFFECTIVE PARENTING

So now that you know your kid is an iPhone, you can stop trying to use the incorrect apps and, most importantly, the wrong charging cable. There is no cure for these conditions. There are, however, ways to help your separate worlds mesh. For decades the answer has been to medicate and treat the “problem,” or the diverse child. Recent studies have finally shown this to be the abuse most of us divergent people have known it to be. This is leaving typical people lost and confused. But I have tips, baby.

 #1 Start by reading your owner’s manual, or in this case, absorb all the psychoeducation you can from reputable sources. Yes, stock up on all the reliable information you can. I will leave you a list at the end.

 #2 Now, what is the number one thing every human needs to survive? COMMUNICATION. So start by learning to communicate with your iPhone. We don’t communicate the way the android does, so instead of trying to rewire our brains and make it more comfortable for you, learn to speak our language. It just takes time. Remember when that human of yours was a tiny ball of shrieking flesh? You were able to figure out what they needed then, so you can do it now. So you have to learn to speak in movie quotes and song lyrics, that’s okay, I find it rather fun. Of course, this is how I communicate verbally by default, because I am neurodiverse. Also, find the motivation. Money, praise, and other common reward systems can often have very little to do with neurodiverse motivation.

#3 Use your adaptability. That is one of your skills. For those who are wired differently, they have a harder time changing how their brains perceive and process information. You do not. So take the path of least resistance and adapt. Reach out instead of expecting drastic changes, it will be faster and more effective with fewer flaws and breakdowns. 

#4 Be the advocate. Once you figure out how your human works, make sure you advocate for their needs. Once they hit the age of social interaction and are forced to join society, be it in pre-K or what have you, the trouble is going to follow. Why? Well dear, the rest of the world is going to be uncomfortable and demand compliance. So advocate, demand, bring receipts, and make sure that THEY adapt to your person, and that your person is able to safely interact without trauma.

#5 Keep it up. Draw your line in the sand and don’t budge. Not only do neurodiverse people thrive on consistency, but conceding to ridiculous demands can cause irreparable harm to your human. So take your information, wear it like armor, and push your expertise every chance you get. At enrollment, make it clear that you have demands (a child’s needs) that must be met. Hold to it, and never punish a child for behaving like themselves. If your kid is spinning around a classroom singing one line from a nursery song and ignoring all else, they are probably anxious and something in the environment has gone wrong.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I believe that is enough info-dumping for now. The moral of my incredibly long story is: Never try to force connections where none exist. We are all humans and our brains, while capable of many things, are wired to interpret the world a certain way from the start (no, vaccines do not cause autism, do NOT get me started). Speculation is rampant about neurodiversity being a step in human evolution, the result of chemical use over time, or benign mutation. Who cares? Respect the differences and run with them. Be Well!

Published by vrice2010

A mother, an author, a nerd. After many years working in the fields of mental health and developmental disabilities, graduating from the University of Phoenix, and pouring my talents into my local community, I decided to spread my wings and reach a wider audience.

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