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Finding Your Village: Parenting Neurodivergent Children and Teens in a Neurotypical World

Parenting is an incredibly rewarding journey, albeit filled with both joys and challenges. Although this journey is unique to each parent and child, typical parenting “tips and tricks”, books, and advice can be extremely helpful for many. But what if your child's needs differ from what is typically perceived of as "normal"? Parenting a neurodivergent* child in a world where most resources are tailored for neurotypical children and teens can be a frustrating journey, and one that requires deeper understanding and flexibility, as well as a celebration of the diverse minds that shape our world.

What does it mean to have a neurodivergent child? 

All human beings are neurodiverse, as our brains are different when compared to one another, but we aren't all neurodivergent. Neurodivergent is a term used to describe individuals whose neurological development and functioning differ from what is considered typical. This can encompass a range of conditions, including but not limited to autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and other neurodevelopmental diversities. Neurodivergent individuals may have unique ways of processing information, learning, and interacting with the world. Your neurodivergent child brings a unique perspective to the world, uniquely wired with their own interests, strengths and abilities. Plainly put, no two neurodivergent children are the same!

Young boy playing with a pop-it fidget toy while laying on the floor.

How is parenting a neurodivergent child a unique experience?

Embracing an individualized parenting journey is a crucial part of raising a neurodivergent child. Comparing expectations of neurotypical children and mainstream parenting advice can feel discouraging to a parent of a neurodivergent child. It can be frustrating to know that one parenting method can work so effortlessly for one child, and be counterintuitive for a neurodivergent child. One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to this type of parenting. Embrace an individualized approach that considers your child's unique strengths, challenges, and interests. Recognize that milestones may vary, and the traditional developmental timeline might not apply. Celebrate progress, no matter how small. Letting go of unrealistic expectations is certainly easier said than done, but will release unnecessary pressures on yourself and your child. Remember how your neurodivergent child's different brain wiring includes gifts, like creativity, joy in the unexpected, unique problem solving, and diverse perspectives that enrich both their lives and the world around them.

Embrace that events and gatherings might look a little different for your family, and this is ok! Maybe your child has sensory or safety needs, or you might have to discuss loving boundaries with friends and family and those who give well-meaning (but unsolicited) parenting advice. Unlike some parents, factors such as lighting, noise levels, and textures in both home and public spaces might be things that you monitor. Encourage teachers, family members, and friends to learn about your child's neurodivergent strengths and support needs. Fostering an inclusive mindset will promote understanding and acceptance, creating a supportive network for both you and your child.

What if the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?

In the process of understanding and supporting your child's unique journey, you may also find aspects of yourself resonating with their neurodivergent traits. It's not uncommon for parents to identify their own neurodivergent traits during this exploration. This realization can bring a mix of emotions, including curiosity, self-reflection, and sometimes a sense of clarity. Seeking your own assessment can be a natural next step. This journey is an opportunity for self-discovery and can foster a deeper understanding within your family. Embracing neurodiversity can be a shared and evolving experience for you, your child, and your family.

How do I find or build community around me?

Sometimes being surrounded by neurotypical families can feel isolating. Find your village by connecting with other neurodivergent families to build a supportive community. Share experiences, exchange advice, and celebrate successes together. Establishing connections with individuals who understand the unique challenges and triumphs of neurodivergent parenting can be incredibly empowering. Joining Facebook groups, following fellow parents/caregivers on social media, and reaching out to others in your local community hubs can help build connections.

Some Instagram accounts you may find helpful as parents of neurodivergent youth: 













And there are many more out there!

When seeking support, many resources are tailored to neurotypical children. In order to access the individualized services you and your child deserve, try to connect with organizations, online communities, and support groups that cater to neurodivergent families. Books, articles, and workshops centered on neurodivergence can provide valuable insights and strategies. This might require some extra investigation and research, but the good news is that these supports exist and are becoming more accessible as awareness increases in our world. Thankfully, the clinicians at WonderTree are experienced in working with neurodivergent children and families, and are here to help! We can provide single session or ongoing consultation to get you the information you need to make decisions that will be best for your family and your child.

Parenting a neurodivergent child in a world designed for neurotypical people may have its challenges, but it also opens the door to profound moments of growth, resilience, and love. By embracing uniqueness, seeking knowledge, adopting individualized parenting, and building a supportive community, you will pave the way for your child to thrive.

Reach out today!

*The term “neurodivergent” describes people whose brain differences affect how their brain works. That means they have different strengths and challenges from people whose brains don't have those differences. The possible differences include neurodevelopmental disorders (autism/ASD, ADHD), learning disabilities, and other conditions.

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