Valerie Rice | March 23 , 2021
Alright, I am going to stop comparing brains to electronics, because I hope we all get the point. A neurodiverse brain has different wiring than what one considers typical. My last post was filled with quite a bit of information and not a lot of guidance. I do that, it’s called info-dumping, and it is sorta my neurodiverse quirk. Was it fun? I hope so, because now I can go more in depth, and it will be a fun ride for all. Let’s go!
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Psychoeducation, or learning about mental differences, is the very first thing on the to-do list for a parent or individual with any diagnosis. I believe I promised a reading list. Well, in the spirit of annotated bibliographies everywhere, here it is. First we start with understood.org, a website that is designed to educate and bring awareness. It is user friendly and easy to understand. So no psychobabble. It is an excellent starting point for anyone fresh out of the gate. Next we have neurodiversityassociation.com, which is a little more technical and cliquish, but a reliable source of information nonetheless. We also have the book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, which goes over the discovery, history, and current research on neurodivergence in a way that most people can understand. Once you have a good base of understanding you will be ready to move on to NAMI, a website that is half psychobabble and half layman’s terms but is highly specific to individual diagnoses. But that’s not all! There is a super helpful list of books for children too. Check out this link for more. Psychoeducation is not just for the parent and child, it is for everybody. EVERYBODY. The goal is not just helping you and your family understand what is going on but also to reduce stigma. Click here for more about the “s” word.
IS THIS THING ON?
Once your crash course is over, you get to learn a new style of communication. Lucky you. The good thing is that you have been working on it since your child was born without realizing it. No matter which study you look at, all scientists agree that the majority of human communication is nonverbal. The percentage may vary between studies, but the fact remains the same. Words are only part of the equation. This is excellent news for people like us, because our words may or may not mean what you think they do. And every mother will tell you that she can determine her child’s needs by the sound of their cry. So take this lesson and transfer it over to your older child. If the words do not match the emotions or actions of your child, ignore them. Look instead for the context clues you did in infancy and build from there. Tone, body movement, level of distress, etc. can all indicate what your child is trying to communicate to you. My son, for example, loves to tell me that he is bored. What he ACTUALLY means, however, is that he is anxious and unsure what to do about it. I can tell because he has a higher pitch to his voice and a frantic look in his eyes. He uses this phrase most often when things are changing and his mind is unoccupied. Knowing this, I am able to both alleviate his anxiety by providing a sensory soothing activity, for him it is usually music, and explain to him what is happening in a way he understands. Your exact method of communication will depend on your child, their diagnosis, and your relationship with them.
So there is quite a bit here to take in and practice. As any good therapist will tell you, communication is key, and I am no different. It takes time, but you know your child best. Nothing is absolutely perfect. The better you get to understand your person the easier it will be when it comes to behavior. Most people won’t even realize there is a problem until the behavior becomes a problem, but trying to address behavior before communication is not going to end well for either one of you. So have fun on your learning adventure, and until next time, be well!