Raising a Neurodiverse Child: What You Need to Know
Updated: Sep 12
For too long, children with these differences, including those diagnosed with ADHD, have had their conditions viewed in somewhat of a negative light. Neurodiversity takes a different approach. As a result, it helps to eliminate certain stigmas around learning differences.
Neurodiversity can help both children and parents focus on differences, not disabilities. It promotes different learning methods and can help your child feel more accepted in social and educational settings.
If you’re new to neurodiversity or trying to figure out the best way to approach it with your child, keep reading. We’ll cover what you need to know to get the most out of it.
Accept Your Child and Their Diagnosis
Neurodiversity starts at home. If your child has ADD, ADHD, or another genetic or learning disorder, take the time to process it. You have to be the first one to adopt the “differences over disability” mindset. If you don’t, you can’t support your child in a neurodiverse way, and they won’t be able to support themselves, either.
It’s okay to experience conflicting emotions when your child receives such a diagnosis. There can also be a period of grieving that you experience as a parent as you process how your expectations vs actual experiences will change as a result. However, take the time to work through your feelings before reaching acceptance, so you can move forward with encouragement and confidence.
As a parent, worrying about a learning difference will only hold your child back. Instead, if you’re struggling with it, try to shift your perspective. Learn to embrace the possibilities your child could have, and focus on those instead of the fear over their differences.
Raise Your Child to Be Confident
Every parent’s goal is to raise a child with high self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. That can be hard with any child. But, if your child is atypical, it can become even more of a challenge. And you might be hyperaware of your child's social development with hopes that they will "fit in and be accepted". I personally think this is a universal concern for most parents and that parents can coach children regarding socially acceptable behavior, realizing that if you child is neurodiverse, it might take more work to help your child master some of these social skills.
It’s not uncommon for children with differences to struggle with their self-esteem. Unfortunately, just because you’re raising a neurodiverse child at home doesn’t mean the rest of the world will be so quick to accept their differences. That’s why it’s so important to encourage them and embrace their differences every chance you get. Self-esteem building starts at home and translates to other social situations. Talk to their teachers about doing the same thing, so their classmates and friends will see that their differences are what makes them special.
Encourage Their Skills
Many children with ADHD and similar conditions have very particular skills and strengths. Instead of focusing on weaknesses, work with your child to build upon those strengths. When they know they’re good at something, they’re more likely to be passionate about it.
That can build their confidence and carry over into other things they do each day.
You also shouldn’t completely ignore the things with which your child struggles. It’s just as important to let them work through the things they struggle with. But, by following it up with something they’re naturally skilled in, they’ll feel better about who they are and what they can do. And this will have the ultimate result of building a strong sense of self.
Prepare for Anything
What your child is dealing with probably wasn’t part of your original parenting plan. But, you don’t have to fall into the “old school” traps of stigmatizing brain differences. While helping your child to treat a condition like ADHD is important, it’s just as crucial to make sure they know they aren’t disabled - rather they are differently able.
The ultimate hope is that a neurodiverse child will see their differences as something positive. That shift in perspective and a self-confident mindset will help them grow as they eventually enter adulthood. So start encouraging them now and allowing them to see how special their differences are. Doing so will have a bigger impact on them than you might think.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.